The power of promotion
This blog is about promotion, or to be more precise, my experience of it over the last 48 hours.
I have a number of apps in the Apple App Store. Most have done very poorly since they were released; a couple have done OK. None have been runaway successes. I know that my attempts to market the apps have suffered from my own lack of knowledge in the area, and I accept that.
My two most successful apps are kids educational apps (Tap Times Tables and Math Plus Minus), aimed at helping kids out with their basic arithmetic. Over the past 12 months, I’ve tried a bunch of “tricks” from the various websites and people that appear to know a lot more than I do about marketing.
Amongst other things I can’t remember now, I’ve tried:
- Changing the icon
- Changing the keywords
- Changing the app name
- Improving the screenshots
- Improving the iTunes app description
- Adding (and removing) disclosure artwork
- Paid advertising
- App Review sites
- Setting the app free for a day
- Adding functionality targeted for schools
- Being a part of targeted promotion at the beginning of the US school year
I’ve had some success, but for the most part, I think that the success of these two apps has to a large extent been related directly to being featured in the “New and Noteworthy” list at the beginning.
Apart from that, the single most effective thing I’ve done marketing-wise was to join the Moms with Apps / Parents with Apps community. Most of the other things listed above have had very little effect on day-to-day sales.
Being a part of the community of people at Parents with Apps is a must for anyone wanting to produce apps for the kids or educational markets.
Over the past 3 or 4 months I’ve been working away at a new game app called Claustrophobic. With it’s submission and approval going through without a hitch early in January it was time to start marketing….
This time around I was really hoping to take advantage of what I’ve learnt over the past 18 months with my other apps, plus all the reading I’ve done.
One of the greatest things that the PWA community has set up (thanks to the immense efforts of Lorraine Akemann) is the “App Friday” concept. This is a weekly phenomenon where a selection of apps by members of the developer community are discounted and made available for a day (or two). This is managed via a 1 hour party at 10AM San Francisco time each Friday, and is hosted at the facebook page facebook.com/AppFriday.
Every week there are around 20 apps available either for free or at a decent discount, and it is amazing just how many people wait for this promotion to get an app.
I regularly see developers expressing their gratitude towards the App Friday team for helping them get a (often significant) boost to their sales, if even only for a day.
I have taken part in this App Friday phenomenon several times now, but to be honest, most of those times I’ve been trying to jump in on the promotion without having my apps on the magic “grid” being promoted by the team.
What I’ve noticed on these occasions is that even though my apps might be discounted just as much as the other apps on the “grid”, they just don’t get any attention. Others seem to have the same experience. The one time I have had an app on the “grid”, it did very well, but that very well was only 100 odd sales.
So, back to Claustrophobic. I had previously organised for both Tap Times Tables and Math Plus Minus to be on the “grid” for January 18th 2013. Originally I was discounting them to $0.99. I had never set Tap Times Tables to free, and the only time Math Plus Minus had been set to free was less than impressive.
When Apple approved Claustrophobic for sale, I decided to try and be smart. I set it’s release date to the 18th of January as well. I figured that I could get some cross-promotion happening. Around this time, George, the current App Friday team leader, told the community that a relationship between App Friday and the immensely popular appadvice.com website had been setup. Each week, AppAdvice would, at it’s discretion, and based on a set of rules choose one or more apps from the “grid” to promote as a part of their “Todays Apps Gone Free” page.
When I read this I quickly realised that I needed to change my listings for the “grid” by setting both Tap Times Tables and Math Plus Minus to free. This was a bold step for me. I don’t like setting my apps to free; I think they are cheap enough as it is at less than the price of a cup of coffee. Nevertheless, I knew I needed to do this.
By getting AppAdvice to list one or both of my apps on their page my hope was to get some cross promotion for Claustrophobic; to help it’s launch day.
Next I created two videos and put them up on YouTube. The first was a teaser/trailer aimed at just eliciting some interest. The second was a brief demo of the game in action.
These were then incorporated into a press release that I put together using prlog.org. The press release went out at 9AM on the 18th (Australian time).
The next thing I did was start sending out promotional codes to 17 different Gaming or App Review sites. These sites were not the usual educational app review sites, but the big ones like AppAdvice.
Unfortunately, I have a lot of competition in the games genre, and getting noticed by these sites is next to impossible. Of the 17 promo codes I sent, only 4 elicited any responses, and these were all along the lines of
“Hey we’re busy right now, and we’ll take a look if your app looks interesting enough. In the meantime, why not pop over to our advertising page and spend some money to promote your app“.
There were three exceptions to this.
- When researching sites, I happened across the appspy.com article titled “Phobia as a Game Concept“. This was a nice find. It was completely unsolicited and had some nice things to say given they only had the trailer video to go by.
- The nice people at AppsRooster.com offered to share my teaser video with the following post Claustrophobic – An endless roller – iPad Game Previews
- Aaron, at pocketfullofapps.com offered also to post a link to the game play video at: ‘Claustrophobic’ Game Play Trailer Released
At this point there were perhaps 3 days before launch day, and I had no real confidence that any sites that would be truly helpful were going to take an interest. It wasn’t looking good.
So, I decided to pay the dailyappshow.com for a video. Now this wasn’t truly a review, more a game play demo. My thought was that it seemed to be the most cost effective way to get the game in front of a lot of people. I was wrong by the way. The video turned out to be very basic, and the results have been far from impressive.
So launch day arrived, and my math apps went to free. I was advised that AppAdvice had indeed chosen to include both math apps on their “Todays Apps Gone Free” page which was awesome. Beyond this, I received a lot of help from a number of developers in the PWA community in the form of some behind the scenes promotion. Several blogs also ran posts such as: