6 Strategies for Promoting New Mobile Apps

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With more than 30 billion downloads and 650,000 apps to choose from, it would be an understatement to say that Apple’s App Store is a crowded place. Still, businesses large and small are increasingly relying on branded apps to promote their products and engage customers on their mobile devices.

Although large brands can afford to hire publicists and use paid advertising to promote their apps, smaller businesses often struggle to help their apps gain traction among consumers. Without enormous marketing budgets, some companies never get the critical mass necessary to make their apps a success — regardless of how useful or groundbreaking their branded apps may be.

To find out what marketers, publishers, and brands should do to promote the apps they worked hard to create, we turned to the experts. Here are six tips that anyone can use to promote a new mobile app without spending millions in the process.

1. Create attractive screenshots and memorable app icons. Apps are usually purchased on a whim, and visual design is the most obvious signal of an app’s quality (after ratings). A great screenshot makes it obvious what an app does, it looks attractive, and it shows compelling demo data or content. Meanwhile, an app icon should stand out in the App Store. A great app icon will make a big impact with a relatively small investment. (Allen Pike, Steam Clock Software)

2. Utilize in-app exclusives. Brands should be giving consumers a reason to download their apps. By giving app users access to deals or features they can’t get anywhere else—or by telling customers that the only way they can get something or interact with something is by downloading the app — businesses can create buzz and motivate people to get on board. (Michael Schneider, Mobile Roadie)

3. Partner with third-party publishers. Developers looking to help their apps gain traction should reach out to third-party publishers. Publishers like Chillingo, which specializes in partnering with independent development studios, can use their influence to help apps gain optimum exposure on a global level. These publishers also help developers fine tune and polish their products, whether that means adjusting the title, changing the icon, or tweaking the content to be more marketable. (Kristina Gabik, Touch Studios)

4. Maximize social media output. Developers that add a social media component to their apps—usually by posting automatic updates on users’ Facebook walls or Twitter feeds when they complete certain actions or tasks — can create a new channel of promotion without paying a dime extra in advertising or marketing costs. Even doing something as simple as adding a gamification component to an app can increase the likelihood that users will spread the word about the app on their own. (Sebastian Vaduva, Appscend)

5. Target influencers and pursue media opportunities. Brands with small marketing budgets can increase awareness about their apps by proactively pursuing media opportunities. Resources like Help a Reporter Out are a great way to reach out to journalists. Meanwhile, bloggers are the No. 1 consumer influencer source, which is why reaching out to respected industry bloggers with information and pitches is always going to be time well spent. (Kristina Gabik, Touch Studios)

6. Offer something new. When it comes to helping an app gain traction, it really comes down to scarcity. Developers who want their branded apps to take off need to offer something new that users can’t get anywhere else. Any app that mirrors a company’s mobile site too closely is going to get overlooked. When people have a reason to care about the app—even if it’s something as basic as getting first access to new content — they are more likely to download it and use it regularly. (Michael Schneider, Mobile Roadie)

Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.