Mobile App Marketing: A Step-by-Step Guide for Devs

If we’re all being honest…

Mobile app marketing is tough.

Depending on your app category, there are thousands or millions of competitors fighting for the same audience you’re targeting.

But it’s not all gloom and doom in app marketing…

Many mobile app developers and brands have risen from nothing to millions of users and revenue. 

You may know some of them — and the ones we’re mentioning here are all indie developers, yet they’re succeeding even more than many household-name app brands:

Noodlecake Studios Inc: 5,000,000 installs on Super Stickman Golf

Destruction Crew: 10,000,000 installs on Demolition Derby 

The list goes on and on. 

But you get the point here: mobile app marketing is a battle, yes, but it’s one you can win. 

So how do you promote your app?

Here’s a 6-step mobile app marketing strategy to get more users:

Step #1: Make a list of app marketing channels where you have an advantage

We’re starting from this step assuming that you’ve already sorted out your:

  • app preview video 
  • app name and icon, and 
  • audience

Once you have all those sorted, the next thing you need to do is select the channels you want to promote your app with.

There are a million and one marketing channels for every app. And they all work. But not all may work for you.

You need to know which channels you can use to your best advantage — the channels where you know how to pull engagement. Those are the channels where you’ll have the opportunity to get users.

For example, let’s say you know how to use Reddit to stir up upvotes and conversations like this:

Or this:

mobile app marketing example

Then you have an advantage with Reddit, and you can use it to promote your mobile app. In the same way, if you know how to use Instagram to get consumers to pay attention, then you can use it to promote your app. 

Bottom line: Select app marketing channels where you know how to drive engagement and use them to your advantage to get more users. 

For optimal results, use two to three channels where you can make a real dent and focus on them so you don’t have to spread yourself too thin.

(Author’s note: We share smart marketing strategies like this all the time, sign up to stay updated on when we share our next post).

Step #2: Prepare to work with the self-promotion rules of each channel

All platforms thrive by keeping users happy.

And to make this happen, they make rules — rules every user must follow.

For example, if you want to use Facebook groups for your mobile app marketing, every group admin has rules they’ve set to keep their community safe. 

So if you’re going to use their groups for promotion, you have to follow the rules they set or they could ban you. 

For instance, some group admins might have variations of rules like, “Don’t do any self-promotion without asking permission from the admins.”

On Reddit, admins of subreddits (Reddit groups) might say something like, “Before you post anything, make sure your account is at least a month old.” Here’s an example:

And if you’re running ads, there are rules as well — both written and unwritten.

For example, for Facebook and Instagram ads, there are advertising policies like:

This is just an example, though; they have a pretty long list of things they do and don’t allow on their platforms. And violation of their policies will prevent you from doing any app advertising through their assets. 

Bottom line: You need to understand the (written and unwritten) rules of the ad channels you’re planning to use for your mobile app marketing so you don’t end up wasting your time and money.

Step #3: Use cross-promotion to get users easily

We have another article on cross-promotion, but for app developers, cross-promotion is an app marketing strategy where you use other apps to promote yours.

The “other apps” could be yours or they might belong to other devs or brands. If they belong to other people, you need to form partnerships with them (more on this in a bit).

But if it’s your app, the process is straightforward: run ads for your app on other apps that you own. A free tool like SuperDevelopers will help you run cross-promotion. (Full Disclosure: SuperDevelopers is our product)

Let’s address cross-promotion with partners a bit further:

Most partnerships run on one of two key factors:

  1. Relationships
  2. Incentives

If you have these two at the same time, even better! But if not, use what you’ve got.

If you have a relationship (friend, family, work, etc.) with an app brand, owner, or developer who runs a successful app, reach out to them for a cross-promotion partnership. 

And if the relationship you have with them is good enough, they’ll at least want to check out your app and consider cross-promoting it to their audience.

But if you’re not able to use relationships, then you’ll need to provide an incentive. 

In this case, you have to offer what you have in exchange for a cross-promotion of your app to their large audience.

Obvious: How you reach out to them determines whether or not they’d be interested in your partnership. But here are three things you can do to increase the likelihood they’ll accept your proposal:

  • Put your partner’s benefits above yours: Start your email or call with what they’ll be getting from your cross-promotion partnership.

    For this to work, what you’re proposing they’ll get has to be something important to them. If you have an app, email list, Facebook group, etc. that has thousands of their app’s target audience, propose it as a cross-promotion benefit your partner can enjoy.
  • Assure them they won’t get into any trouble by partnering with you. Let them know how your app makes money and everything else that would boost their confidence and trust to want to partner with your app.

Step #4: Add app store optimization in the mix

Most developers and app marketers are familiar with this one…

App Store Optimization (ASO) has been one of the most effective channels for Android and iPhone app marketing, drawing millions of installs for apps per day.

But of course, there are right and wrong ways to go about ASO.

And you can either hire an app marketing service to do it for you or learn how to do it yourself. 

If you’re going the DIY route, there are two key factors to pay attention to:

  1. Research the keywords your potential users search on play store.
  2. Add your app’s keyword once in the app title or description. Generally, this helps to increase your app’s rankings in any app store — meaning more users will find your app.

These two main factors affect how your app shows up in play store search results.

What’s more? 

The more installs you get on the play store, the higher your app shows in search results.

For example, when you search “car racing” on the Google Play Store, the first set of results you’ll often see are apps with at least one million users. 

Aren’t there other car racing apps with thousands of users? 

Of course, there are. But Google and Apple app stores will often rank the ones with the most number of users.

Also, you’ll notice that the apps in the screenshot have “car racing” in their titles. It’s important to include the keyword your users use while searching so your app gets more visibility.

Step #5: Use app review sites to get more installs

App review sites are another mobile app promotion strategy that helps app brands get thousands of installs. 

Here are some app review sites you can work with:

  1. iPhone Life: Reviews for iOS apps
  2. ProductHunt: All types of product reviews 
  3. Pocket-Lint: Reviews of all types of mobile apps
  4. AppAdvice: Mainly iOS app reviews
  5. AndroidPolice: Reviews for Android apps

There are a lot more app review sites than these, but if you can get your apps on any of the five above, you can get thousands of users.

You’ll have to pay to advertise or get reviews on some of these sites, But some others — like Product Hunt — won’t require any payment because it’s a community-driven site like Reddit.

It’s not that simple, though. To succeed on Product Hunt, you need to get upvotes on your Product Hunt post. Essentially, you need to:

  • learn how Product Hunt users post their apps; notice the visuals and texts they use to post their apps.
  • get people to go to your Product Hunt page and upvote your app so it gets more views.

And the same goes for most other community-driven sites you want to use in marketing your app. But whether you’re using a paid or free channel, review sites can get you thousands of users quickly.

Step #6: Partner with influencers

You probably know how this works already…

Get an influencer (who has your audience as followers) to promote your app.

But of course, it’s not that simple.

Like cross-promotions, you need one of two things to partner with influencers:

  1. A relationship
  2. An incentive

And like with partnerships, it’s best to have both an incentive and a relationship. But if that’s not the case, use what you have.

If you have a friend, relative, or coworker who is an influencer (especially if they’re influential in your app category), you can ask them to review your app and share it with their audience. It’s an easy way to advertise your app. 

But if you don’t have a relationship with an influencer, then you’d need to give them an incentive — which could be (but not limited to) any of the following:

  • Free access to use the pro version of your app (but make sure it’s useful for them).
  • Offer to share their app, ebook, newsletter, etc. with your audience (especially if you have thousands of followers).
  • Feature them on your podcast or website (if you have one, of course).

Conclusion

There are several ways to market an app, and this guide has (hopefully) shown you how to get started to get tons of users.

To recap, here are major app marketing tips to take away from this guide:

  • Make a list of marketing channels you know how to use.
  • Prepare to work with the rules of each channel for self-promotion.
  • Use cross-promotion to get more users from partners or your other apps.
  • Add app store optimization to your marketing mix.
  • Use app review sites.
  • Partner with influencers. 

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