You’ve done your research and developed an app that you’re confident will provide a solution to your customers’ needs. How are you going to get people to download and use it?

First, you’ll need a marketing plan that sets clear goals for launch, acquisition, and retention and describes how to meet those objectives. But you’ll need to treat that plan as a living document and make adjustments to it based on the results of your efforts. Competition in the app stores is fierce, and you’ll have to play both offense and defense for what you’re selling in that crowded marketplace. 

We launched our Zutobi Driver’s Ed mobile app in 2018 and continue to see sustained growth to this day. Here’s our advice for marketing a successful app both before and after your launch.

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Set Objectives to Define the Purpose of your Marketing Efforts

Your marketing objectives should be as specific as possible and match your business goals. Note that your goals for pre-launch are going to look very different than the ones you’ll need once you’re an established player.

For example, before the app is available in the Google or iOS stores, your focus should be to increase awareness among your potential users and create buzz or excitement around the launch. The strategies and tactics for meeting those goals will not look anything like the ones required later on when you’re trying to bring back lapsed users.

Setting clear objectives and outlining the ways to meet them can help to organize your marketing tasks during all phases of your app’s journey to success.

App Store Optimization Puts Your App Directly in front of your Target

Following your pre-launch awareness campaign, you’ll have the chance to see how effective it was when your app goes live in the app stores. But awareness alone is not enough to command attention when people are searching for apps. App store optimization (ASO) plays a huge role in determining which app titles show up in a search and get downloaded.

ASO is similar to SEO in that they both work to optimize the position of your link to the people who are looking for what you have to offer. Your goal is to show up near the front of the list when someone types a keyword into the search bar. Since nearly two-thirds of app store users download an app after searching, it’s crucial that the keywords you use in your app title and description are the best ones for pulling in high-value customers.You can see ASO in action by looking at Zutobi's app page, where we optimized our app page to make it clearer that we’re a DMV practice test app.

ASO isn’t a one-and-done exercise. The keywords searchers use may change over time, or you might see that what you’re currently using doesn’t lead to enough downloads and installs. If the words you’re using are helping you to meet your goals, you’ll need to conduct further keyword research to better position your app listing.

A Smart Ad Spending Strategy Can Save Money in the End

You can’t rely on ASO alone for your acquisition strategy. Remember that pre-launch awareness campaign? It’s very likely that your target customers saw that ad and were so intrigued by your selling points that they went to the app store with your specific app name in mind.

Ads that include a targeted message and that are delivered to the places where your potential users live online can be highly effective for delivering on both your acquisition and retention goals. But online ad spending can also be very cost-efficient.

A pay-per-click (PPC) ad campaign lets you target specific demographic groups, and you don’t pay a cent unless someone clicks on the ad. Whether you choose to advertise on a social media platform like Facebook or you believe your customers are better reached on a search engine like Google, be sure to allocate funds for targeting advertising in your marketing budget.

Don’t Be Too Dependent on One Ad Network

If you’re seeing success with a particular ad platform, you may not think you need to expand to other networks. But using just one platform will not help to increase your user base.

Despite the ability of Facebook to offer very targeted ad buys, maybe some of your potential users don’t like social media and would be better reached with an ad on Google that directs them to your website. And if it becomes necessary to reach out to completely new markets, you’ll want to research the digital media platforms that are best targeted to delivering those audiences. 

Integrated Frameworks Will Help You Understand Your Users

Since you will need to be vigilant about monitoring the performance of your app, invest in the integrated frameworks that can provide a wealth of data about how your customers are interacting with it.

These frameworks are analytical tools that collect information about user activity and some even go as far as to help you analyze the data to make better decisions about targeting and messaging. Each of these tools offer different benefits, so carefully research them to see which would best fit your needs. There’s a variety of free and paid tools to choose from.

But remember that you should also use direct methods to understand your users’ needs. We reached out to our customers and found that they were interested to know common reasons people fail their driving tests, so we added that content to address those concerns.

Re-Target Users to Bring Them Back to the App

Retargeting ads are delivered to people who have downloaded the app but who haven’t used it recently. Current customers whose usage has slipped may just need a reminder or incentive to return. They’ve already indicated an interest in the app, so your messaging must be compelling enough to entice them to open the app again. The message you’ll use in your retargeting ads will depend on what you know your customer’s value. Maybe you’ve upgraded a feature that will let them perform a task more efficiently, or perhaps they’ll appreciate an offer to access premium content for free.

Sustained growth depends on both a healthy level of new customer acquisition and regular usage of the app from your current customers. It’s always going to be easier and less costly to bring back customers whose usage has lapsed than it will persuade new people to download the app. 

Make Sure Your Marketing Plans Include Some Flexibility

Remember what we said earlier about your marketing plan being a living document? The hard truth is that sometimes plan elements have to be killed if they’re not delivering. 

Customers’ needs may change or their behaviors might shift. A new technological innovation or an unexpected news story may demand that you change course.

But if you closely track and follow your app’s progress, and you have contingencies in place to switch out your current tactics, a change to your marketing plan can be a simple tweak rather than a major overhaul.

The bottom line is that between the Apple and Google Play app stores, there are nearly five million apps to compete with. Stay vigilant and remain flexible. Your marketing team must keep on top of your app’s progress, and they’ll need to be ready to make adjustments that defend against your competition and grow at a pace that’s in line with your business goals.

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Written by:
Tim Waldenback is the co-founder of Zutobi Drivers Ed, a gamified e-learning platform focused on online drivers education to help teens get their license. Tim founded Zutobi to make world-class driver's education fun, affordable, and easily accessible for all.