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How to get noticed: Ten tips for a successful app launch

By Ivana Farthing

January 15, 2013 | 7 min read

How do you make your app stand out from the one million others on the App Store? Ivana Farthing, head of the mobile practice at Diffusion, offers some advice for getting your app noticed in 2013

Ivana Farthing

The 'Choose Well' app launched by the Welsh Government in August last year has been branded a "failure" by the Welsh conservative shadow minister for health, Darren Millar. Why? Because reports say it cost £26,000 to develop, but only 1,183 people have used it. That equates to £22 per user, which critics claim is poor ROI, especially in today’s economic climate. It’s a good app, designed to help educate people on the local health services available, so it’s unfortunate that after so much investment, it hasn’t had a significant number of downloads. However, this is an all too frequent problem encountered by both public sector and commercial apps launched in the UK.

At the end of 2012, Apple accepted its one-millionth app for sale in the App Store, and if figures are to be believed, one in four mobile apps downloaded is never used again. People are much less likely to stumble upon a good app today than they were a few years ago, so a well thought out launch marketing strategy is essential, adopting an integrated approach to using PR, digital and social media.

So whether you already have an app, or are thinking about launching one, here are ten important areas to consider for a successful app launch:

1. Identify clear USPs

With over 700,000 apps currently available on the App Store, and over 600,000 apps and games on Google Play, the chances are there will be another app out there which does something similar to yours. Yes, your app may be better laid out, or have enhanced technology, but it is crucial that you ensure it is correctly positioned so people know why it is a ‘must have’ from the outset. How is it different from competitors? If it’s a free app but your goal is to encourage people to make in-app purchases, make sure this is carefully communicated in any material. It sounds obvious but honing your PR messages can have a crucial impact on downloads – and what people do with the app once it is on their phone.

2. Content is king

Make sure any written copy is clear and concise. Every app needs a short and easy-to-understand description, without any industry jargon. Use images to ensure that people know exactly what the app is about, and reference any third-party endorsement (like positive reviews) to build trust. Generally people don’t read past the first few lines, so make sure it is clear what the app is offering straight away.

3. A solid seeding strategy

A review in a popular news site or blog can have a huge impact on downloads, so ensure the app is sent to key reviewers. Offer free trials and explain the relevance and benefit of the app clearly. An expert PR agency can manage the reviews process, by keeping in contact with reviewers on a regular basis. Often a negative review is simply down to poor communication, so by keeping in touch you can ensure that any questions are quickly answered and any problems are nipped in the bud.

4. Build advocates

As well as a solid reviews campaign, identify your advocates in the wider community that may want to use your app. Look at celebrities and social media influencers – we all know the power of word of mouth. Consider customers who could be turned into great case studies to support the campaign in future.

5. Tell the story

Generating app reviews is all part of a core PR campaign, but if you want to continue to build the buzz around your app, you will need to tell its story to ensure it stands out. Is there an interesting personal story behind the app’s development? Is it solving any bigger issues? Often a lot of information found within an app can also be found online. So why is mobile so important? Use research where possible to emphasise how it fits in the wider community, and how it addresses any problems.

Crucially, ongoing PR will generate coverage in the main news pages so can build awareness with general consumers, rather than just the early adopters who are more likely to focus on the technology specific pages and sites.

6. Keep it alive

Keep the story going once the app has launched. If there are significant updates, tell people about them. If figures are strong, issue momentum press releases highlighting growth, or any new partners that are on board. If you have a big community across multiple platforms, look at engagement rates and highlight any interesting industry trends or statistics that people may be interested in.

7. Look offline

Attend events, give out free promotional codes and think of ways to promote the app offline. Where are people using the app? If you’re a mobile concierge service, should you set up a pop up shop to offer shoppers or tourists help on the go – demonstrating its value in a real situation? Always look at the bigger picture and where people will be using your app to drive brand awareness.

8. Enter awards

If your app is ‘award winning’ that is a great stamp of approval. Pull together a list of upcoming technology and trade awards to see what you could put your app forward for. But make sure you develop your entry carefully – ensuring you tell the story and highlight any figures to demonstrate why you should win.

9. Integrate your campaign

Adopting a multi-channel approach is crucial for a successful app launch. PR should work hand-in-hand with a well thought out social media, marketing and advertising strategy – and make sure they go out at the same time. App launches can’t be done in isolation, so make sure there is a common campaign theme that integrates across all channels. Even though people will search for apps on the App Store, many will also search for tips on Google so good PR can help enhance your natural search ranking through link generation.

10. Be ready

Don’t hit go on a big launch campaign if the app is still in beta, or if it still has a few bugs. While you may be itching to get out there, make sure you only launch to a mainstream audience once you’re ready, because you only get one chance to make a good impression.


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