So you have been working on a new mobile app, and hopefully you’ve read my previous post about how to build an app and set it up in the app stores in a way that will ensure that your app will be found.
This post will outline best practices around how to:
- Beta launch your app
- Get app reviews, and
- Create a public launch strategy
All of the above is critical to ensure that your app gets the surge in downloads that are required to cement its placement in the app stores and its long term success.
Why is the app launch impact so important?
To get hundreds of thousands of downloads, you need to make an effort and get the app to “chart,” to blast up the App Store’s sales charts. This will get Apple or Google’s attention and you will potentially be listed in one of their “top” app lists.
Also both app stores look at the rate of downloads as an indicator of how you should rank in their app stores. Apps that have a huge kick at launch end up being successful, and those that don’t make a splash on opening day struggle to gain momentum and are subsequently hard to find in the app store and have lower lifetime downloads.
What do you need to prepare to get ready for your app launch?
The following items are essential for ensuring that you’re ready to beta and publicly launch your app:
- A landing page or website about your app
- A measurement plan (and installation of software) for both in-app actions and your app store rankings – to be added prior to your beta launch.
- A plan for which App store you’re going to launch in first
- Pre-release of your app to select beta testers and a plan to compile their feedback/make changes to your app prior to the press launch
- A press launch plan where you send out promotional codes for your app to be reviewed by press and other top bloggers. This will also include the development of press release materials.
- A public launch promotion plan that includes app directory submission, earned and paid outreach.
So let’s dig into the best practices around how to flesh out each of these tactics!
1. Setting up your app website/landing page:
Users who hear about your app are going to search in Google or Bing to find out more information. When your app is in pre-release stage, you’re going to need an app landing page or website to appear in Google search.
Your landing page needs to:
- Follow Google’s SEO best practices
- Have quality content (narrative around your app and it’s unique selling proposition), blog content with screenshots, and updates on changes to the app, etc.
- Have social media sharing buttons (the ones from each social media network vs. AddThis/ShareThis)
- Highlight a video of how the app works
- Display an email address where users can sign up to get the pre-release demo.
- Here’s an example of one of Tappity’s websites they made live 2 months prior to their app release: http://www.languagesapp.com/old/
- Support links
- Follow buttons for the social media accounts that you’ve claimed for your app
- (I would suggest Google+, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook – but only if you plan on running Facebook ads).
Supporting your landing page, you’ll need:
- A blog and social media editorial calendar to keep your users engaged
- An email marketing campaign plan for all those users who signed up for more information
- A social media monitoring and response plan for launch week so you can respond to user issues, reviews, and recommendations in a timely manner.
2. Establishing your in-app and app store measurement plan
As you’re finalizing your app, it’s critical to ensure that you have built in mechanisms to track usage (along with user feedback) so that you’ll get a sense of which parts of the app work well and which don’t – data that can help you further refine your app’s features and performance.
There are a variety of in-app analytics packages that would assist in this like Flurry Analytics, Apsalar and Google Analytics Mobile App Analytics. If you’re using Google Analytics for your website, Universal Analytics will allow you to track how those mobile app users move from the app to your website.
Related to tracking your app’s performance in the app stores, it can be difficult as both app stores are personalized to you. The solution is using software like StoreStats or Distimo or App Annie’s in store analytics.
3. Decide which app store you’re going to launch in first
Mashable recommends choosing just one app store in which to launch your mobile app at first. This should help you get the highest concentration of users and ratings possible. Additionally, you’ll be making lots of changes and improvements to your app during those first few weeks after launch, and having your app in just one store will help you streamline those updates as they roll out. Once your app is more established, you should expand it to more app stores.
Most mobile marketers recommend the Google Play store first as it:
- Owns 75% of all mobile app downloads
- Has better search functionality and will show apps even when people misspell the name or category
- Has more visibility and less stringent submissions standards (though developers also make less money than the IOs store, which is a factor to keep in mind if revenue is your ultimate goal).
Ultimately it will depend on your audience. Based on your initial research (prior to building the app) you should have a good sense of whether your target audience is Android or iPhone users.
4. Setting up a beta release strategy to get early feedback and build buzz
Getting early feedback from your users during the app development process will ensure that your app meets their needs, meets the high standards of the app stores, and will generate positive reviews once it’s released to the press.
You can also position this beta testing group as free, exclusive access to your mobile app before it launches. You can even ask them to write a review of your app in exchange for that free, exclusive access.
This process should start early in the app development process by sharing with a beta testing group:
- Drawings of the first few screens that you think your customer should see when they use your app for the first time. The user test should be focused on how difficult the users think it is for them to take the primary actions on those screens.
- Clickable screens that create an interactive demo of your app.
- Here are a few software options to assist in coordinating this stage of the beta test:
- The Free POP app which allows you to take pictures of your sketches to turn them into an interactive prototype.
- UserTesting.com where real life people can test your app/website and you’ll get video of their experiences.
- Or you can use a service that will manage all of your pre-release activity like: Hockey App , Test Flight or PreApps.
You should collect and get input on your prototype from friends, family and potential customers (utilize your email lists!) and revise your designs based on their input. Remember to share some of this process via your social media channels as a teaser to your app launch.
Once you’ve incorporated all of the feedback you can add your app to the store for it to be approved, and follow the best practices around your app store
landing page as mentioned in the previous post.
5. Getting press to cover your App once it is approved by your selected App store:
Getting early reviews from the press will be critical to your app’s success, and you’ll want to start collecting them prior to your public launch.
Apple provides 50 promo codes that enable a reviewer to download the app in advance after the app is approved by Apple, but before it is available to the public (and for free, if a paid app).
With Android, you need to send the game build/APK file to the reviewer. There is a piracy/security risk associated with this, so only sent it to trusted reviewers. So you need to use a third-party service like Appia or prepare a special build just for journalists.
Keep in mind that with iOS apps approval for your app might take some time, and you’ll need the app approved prior to getting the reviews that will be so critical to your app’s long term success. Because of this, set your launch date 6 months after when your app gets approved.
When developing your press review launch list, keep in mind:
- Influential people who cover your app’s subject
- Influential folks in the iOs (or Android) industry
- Mobile writers for top blogs/publications: https://twitter.com/mikaelcho/mobile-writers-that-rock/members
- Technology journalists who cover apps, folks who work in Apple’s app store, or Google Play store
- Outlet or people that cover your competitors’ apps
After sending out the apps with the promotion codes to your select list of journalists, you should follow up with:
- an email thank you which re-iterates features that you’d like them to try
- a press kit with a press release
- folder full of screenshots
- the app icon in various sizes
- a link to a short app demo video showing your app in action
Hey [journalist’s name],
[Personalized message to the journalist and introduction to the pitch.]
Launching in a week, Languages is the fastest, most reliable and most affordable offline translation app to hit the App Store. Most translation apps
break down when you need them most: traveling without an Internet connection. Languages gives you the peace of mind that you’ll never be stuck without
reliable translation. While other offline translators charge $5 to $20 for a single language, Languages packs 12 common language pairs into one app for
- Price: $0.99
- Launch Date: Next Thursday, October 25
- Video Demo: http://vimeo.com/51481324
- Website: http://www.languagesapp.com
- Press Kit: http://www.languagesapp.com/LanguagesPressKit.zip
- Promo Code: WJ9HXJNAPL73
Please let me know if you would be interested in doing a review, and I would be happy to provide more information or answer any questions.
Tapity – Founder
Twitter: http:[email protected]
6. Creating and executing your app’s public launch
Now that you’ve started to get reviews of your apps as a result of your press launch efforts, it’s time to launch your app publicly. Your public launch plan should include:
- Promotion on your company’s and the app’s social media channels
- Email blast to your beta testing group and other relevant email lists
- An update to your app landing page
- Submitting your app to app review submission sites. Check out Moby Affiliates which has a huge list of mobile app review sites.
- Earned/PR pitching of the app to bloggers and journalists
- Paid promotion of the app
Are you ready to get started developing your app’s beta, press and public launch plan?
All of the steps might seem overwhelming but that’s often the challenge when trying to enter a crowded market.
If you have:
- Developed a killer app with user feedback
- Paid attention to your competitor’s activities
- Planned accordingly and are prepared to respond in a timely manner to user feedback on launch day and
- Have a strong long term support and update plan in place
You should be well on your way to announcing a mobile app that not only has a great launch day but becomes a well-used app by your target audience for months to come.