Developing Perspective

#87: Basic App Marketing.


00:00:00   Hello and welcome to Developing Perspective.

00:00:02   Developing Perspective is a podcast discussing news of note in iOS development, Apple, and

00:00:06   the like.

00:00:07   I'm your host, David Smith.

00:00:08   I'm an independent iOS and Mac developer based in Herndon, Virginia.

00:00:11   This is show number 87, and today is Tuesday, October 9th.

00:00:15   Developing Perspective is never longer than 15 minutes, so let's get started.

00:00:20   Starting off, I'm glad to announce that my weather app that I've been talking about on

00:00:24   the show and kind of walking through the steps of development was finally approved by Apple

00:00:27   sometime, I think it was early yesterday afternoon.

00:00:32   But so it's exciting and I think of things sort of moving along on track as I've kind

00:00:36   of been hoping it would be and as I've been talking about.

00:00:39   So as I, so now we're in this place, it's still planning to launch October 17th, which

00:00:44   is next Wednesday, so about eight days from today.

00:00:48   And the reason I'm doing it then and not immediately, you know, releasing it and unleashing the

00:00:52   the hounds and putting it out there is because I'm hoping to do a bit, you know, concerted

00:00:57   marketing push on this.

00:00:59   And that's what I'm going to be talking about today.

00:01:01   And I've had a lot, a lot, a lot of you to ask me about the App Store marketing, talk

00:01:05   about App Store marketing, talk, you know, please talk about it.

00:01:07   And it's like, I'll talk about it and I'm going to talk, walk through how I'm going

00:01:10   to go about it and what I'm doing.

00:01:12   I think I wanted to mention and emphasize those.

00:01:15   There is no, there is no magic sort of key to this.

00:01:20   There's no like, oh, if you do these 10 things in a row, your app will be successful, get

00:01:24   lots of buzz, and you'll make a million dollars.

00:01:26   That's not the way the store works.

00:01:28   That's not reasonable expectations.

00:01:30   That's not how this works.

00:01:33   What I'm going to talk about, though, is things that you can do that are reasonable, sort

00:01:37   of obvious, or obvious if you've been doing this a long time, which is perhaps a bit of

00:01:41   a conceited thing to say, but the things that you can do to give your app the best likelihood

00:01:47   of success.

00:01:48   At the end of the day, that's the best you can do, is you're just creating an environment

00:01:53   where you're not doing anything that's holding it back.

00:01:57   And that's kind of what I'm hoping to try and apply a lot of what I've learned from

00:02:00   a lot of different other app launches I've done.

00:02:02   I've done some with no marketing effort, with no press.

00:02:05   I've done some with lots of effort that have gone nowhere.

00:02:09   We'll see where this one goes.

00:02:11   But basically, why I did the thing I did where I submitted it, and then essentially I was

00:02:16   I was always planning to launch the app about two weeks after I submitted it.

00:02:21   It was roughly about two and a half weeks.

00:02:26   And so the reason for that is I want to, A,

00:02:28   know that the app is going to be approved and available when I'm starting to reach out to people in the press,

00:02:31   starting to do marketing efforts, when I'm starting to do all these things,

00:02:40   I want to be confident that the app is going to go out there.

00:02:43   And at this point, the app status in the App Store in iTunes Connect

00:02:48   is ready for sale.

00:02:49   And the only thing that's holding it back is the availability date,

00:02:53   which is set to October 17.

00:02:55   So you never know with Apple.

00:02:57   Things could change.

00:02:58   But pretty much, I'm 99% confident that my app will be available and ready

00:03:04   in the store on that date.

00:03:06   And so that's why I did it that way.

00:03:08   The other side benefit, which I'll talk about in depth later,

00:03:11   is that you can get your first set of promo codes for their application

00:03:16   uh...

00:03:17   the moment at the moment that the first version is approved

00:03:21   and

00:03:22   that

00:03:23   those codes even if the app isn't available in the store work

00:03:27   uh... which is kinda cool

00:03:28   which I'll talk about in depth later. So those are the two things that I did it that way

00:03:32   and I've actually already submitted my first bug fix release

00:03:35   I mean it's I'm

00:03:37   And I hope it'll actually be approved before the app goes live next Wednesday.

00:03:41   Because there's nothing major.

00:03:43   The app is pretty stable at this point.

00:03:45   It was just a few things I found in the nine days it took to be approved.

00:03:50   I found a few things.

00:03:52   I made those tweaks, made those adjustments, added a few people's names to the acknowledgments,

00:03:57   beta testers who got back to me and provided feedback.

00:04:00   And I'll go ahead and turn that right around and submit it.

00:04:04   I very much have a view with Apple and approval of,

00:04:09   it's something that I pay for,

00:04:13   and so I'm going to take full advantage of that.

00:04:15   And so if I have a few fixes, a minor update,

00:04:17   that will never annoy any users,

00:04:19   you don't want to be constantly pushing out updates.

00:04:22   But I have no problem with,

00:04:26   I resubmitted my app with version 1.0.1,

00:04:28   probably within about 10 minutes of it being approved.

00:04:30   And that's, you know, so I'm back in the,

00:04:32   I'm going to put myself back in the beginning of the line,

00:04:34   work my way along.

00:04:35   That's just the way I'm doing to do it.

00:04:36   And hopefully they'll be approved,

00:04:37   and so a slightly better version will be available

00:04:40   next Wednesday.

00:04:41   All right, so marketing.

00:04:43   The goal of initial marketing for a new app,

00:04:45   and this would change if it was an existing app

00:04:47   they're doing the update for, those types of things,

00:04:49   but for a new app,

00:04:51   you're sort of, your goal is always to have

00:04:52   a big, explosive launch.

00:04:55   And first, obviously, there's the,

00:04:57   the first reason for that is your app is most interesting

00:05:00   when it's new, that the first day it's in the store, it's the freshest, it's new, no

00:05:06   one's seen it before, it's hopefully interesting and compelling, and it's not old, and new

00:05:11   is good.

00:05:12   So you want to get it in front of people as much as you can that first day, first week,

00:05:17   first month, because that's one of your sort of, you have these few opportunities to really

00:05:22   have a good, compelling story about it.

00:05:25   Another thing that's also helpful is, as I believe this is still the case, though who

00:05:28   Who knows, Apple's constantly monkeying around

00:05:33   with the algorithms.

00:05:36   But typically, ranking is some kind of a weighted average

00:05:37   of past day sales.

00:05:42   And so initially, you benefit from it only being weighted

00:05:44   on one day's sales.

00:05:48   So if that one day's sales are good,

00:05:49   it does better ranking-wise than it may otherwise

00:05:51   if it was being pulled down by previous day's sales,

00:05:54   if that makes sense.

00:05:57   It doesn't seem like they sort of count

00:05:55   your previous day's sales is zero and pull you down.

00:05:58   It seems like they kind of give you this little extra inertia

00:06:01   on the first day.

00:06:03   And so you want to have a nice big burst.

00:06:05   And so your first day launch, you're

00:06:07   trying to get everybody you know,

00:06:08   everybody who you possibly could reach out

00:06:10   to, to be interested in your app and to download it.

00:06:13   And that's the goal.

00:06:15   You want to have this nice big splashy launch.

00:06:17   You'll often see this happen when

00:06:19   an app has a big first launch.

00:06:20   And the interesting thing is you'll see them sort of go up

00:06:23   like a balloon.

00:06:24   Just fly up the ranks.

00:06:29   And then you're creating this opportunity where

00:06:31   if it's a really compelling, interesting, useful, awesome app

00:06:34   that's getting some word of mouth, getting some buzz,

00:06:37   it'll stay there.

00:06:40   It'll have some saying power, and you're getting exposure

00:06:41   to people who are just discovering it in the app store.

00:06:43   And that's awesome.

00:06:46   And if it's not so much, well, you'll have a big up,

00:06:47   and then you'll have a big down.

00:06:49   And that's okay, too.

00:06:51   You've made full advantage of your first day,

00:06:49   And you hopefully-- and honestly,

00:06:52   a lot of what I do as an independent,

00:06:53   my goal is that I want that first couple days,

00:06:56   I'll feel so much better if that covers my fixed costs.

00:06:59   The design, the artwork, font licensing,

00:07:04   all those kinds of things.

00:07:05   That if I can make sure that I've covered those,

00:07:09   I haven't necessarily covered my time in whatever that means.

00:07:12   But I feel a lot more confident if that happens.

00:07:16   If that doesn't happen, I'll be a little bit more nervous

00:07:19   about whether this was a good investment for me to make.

00:07:22   And so basically, the way I do that is this process started

00:07:25   probably about three weeks ago with sending out betas.

00:07:29   And I think I've said before, the way I do betas,

00:07:31   start with people who love you, people who like you,

00:07:33   and then move to people who you respect.

00:07:35   And so I've been working my way out to friends and family,

00:07:39   to friendly co-workers, I guess you could say,

00:07:43   colleagues, people I know really well.

00:07:45   I've worked on projects before.

00:07:46   And I've kind of been working that out with the beta process.

00:07:48   I use TestFlight for that.

00:07:50   I'll probably be switching to hockey at some point.

00:07:52   I like the way HockeyApp works a little bit better.

00:07:55   But at this point, it's very convenient to use TestFlight

00:07:59   because so many people have TestFlight accounts.

00:08:01   And so it's very easy to get their UDIDs and everything.

00:08:04   People are updating their device lists and accounts and things

00:08:07   there.

00:08:08   So I use TestFlight, and that works pretty well.

00:08:11   Basically, you just do a build that you

00:08:12   can send out to a specific number of devices.

00:08:15   Everything's fine.

00:08:17   The next thing that I do is, now that the app has been approved,

00:08:22   I switch into the promo phase of my marketing effort.

00:08:26   And by that, I mean betas are kind of-- they work,

00:08:29   but they're really kind of annoying to do these ad hoc distributions

00:08:32   with the app store built.

00:08:33   You need someone's UDID.

00:08:34   They only work on certain devices, et cetera.

00:08:37   Now that I have promo codes, every version

00:08:39   that's approved of your app in the store has 50 promo codes associated with it.

00:08:42   And that's basically a little code.

00:08:43   You type into iTunes.

00:08:44   You type into the App Store, and you get a free download for that person.

00:08:50   And these work even if the app isn't available yet.

00:08:54   So I'm in the process.

00:08:55   I haven't quite started, but I'll be starting soon,

00:08:57   of sending out links to other people to expand my reach.

00:09:02   And I'm doing this with these little links that say,

00:09:04   hey, if you'd like a preview of the app,

00:09:07   it won't be available until next week.

00:09:09   But if you want a preview, enter this promo code or click this link,

00:09:12   you can format promo links with a way to do kind of a one-click use, which is awesome.

00:09:19   So people who did it, it's trivial. If they're on their phone, they hit a link,

00:09:23   and their app will start downloading. Or at worst, it'll ask them for their iTunes password,

00:09:28   and then it will start downloading. So it makes it super easy.

00:09:30   And ultimately, what you're trying to do is, especially as you move out to the more sort

00:09:34   of the press people, people who write for magazines, people who write for popular websites,

00:09:40   What you're trying to do is make it as easy for them to kind of get a taste of your app.

00:09:45   And so that's where I'm doing, a lot of people do videos and things sometimes for that.

00:09:48   Honestly for me what I'm thinking is, "Hey, if I can, if you click one link and my app's

00:09:53   on your phone, I've won at that point.

00:09:55   If you open it and you like it, great.

00:09:57   If you don't, then my app's not very good."

00:10:00   But I'm going to be able to tell you a lot, like you can play with it and get a lot of

00:10:03   flavor for it right away.

00:10:05   And so like I said, I'm kind of reaching out to the press.

00:10:07   The press is kind of a funny thing.

00:10:09   I mean, a lot of these big sites, I don't even really bother with anymore.

00:10:14   They have these kind of like canned forms where it's like, if you have an app that you'd like to see,

00:10:17   you'd like us to preview, enter a whole bunch of information.

00:10:22   And someone in our team may or may not look at it.

00:10:26   That may work one time out of a thousand.

00:10:28   I don't know. I've had very limited experience with success with that.

00:10:32   What I have success with, though, is trying to cultivate relationships with people in the press.

00:10:35   And this is one of those things that I'm going to say that if you've ever

00:10:40   listened to back to work, it's like, "That's fine for Merlin."

00:10:43   It's like, I've spent probably years now cultivating some amount of reputation in the community, so that when I reach out to some of these people, they know who I am.

00:10:46   And there's this funny part of this for marketing of one of the biggest things you can do in the marketing of your app is becoming famous.

00:11:05   becoming at least internet famous,

00:11:10   or becoming famous in a very small niche.

00:11:12   Because what you want is to be recognizable to these people.

00:11:14   And I can say from experience, it takes work,

00:11:18   it takes effort, but it's very doable.

00:11:22   About a year ago, when I was first starting developing perspective,

00:11:24   no one had heard of me.

00:11:27   I was just at F. Smith.

00:11:29   I'd been making successful apps on the store for years,

00:11:30   but it was just something I never really put any effort

00:11:30   or interest in.

00:11:35   I was just a developer.

00:11:36   I wrote apps and I put them out there

00:11:37   and I hope they did well.

00:11:39   But at a certain point I decided,

00:11:41   "Hey, I want to make a name for myself.

00:11:43   I want to create a platform from which I can share

00:11:46   my experiences and hopefully help people along the way."

00:11:48   And so that's what I did.

00:11:52   I started writing a blog,

00:11:53   David-Schmidt.org.

00:11:55   I started this podcast, Developing Perspective,

00:11:57   and I started to become very active on Twitter

00:11:57   to try and find opportunities to help people,

00:12:02   to engage in conversations, to get into discussions.

00:12:04   And I think it's largely worked.

00:12:07   I'm not saying I'm super famous at this point,

00:12:09   but a lot of the people who I respect in the community

00:12:12   are people, you could say they follow me on Twitter,

00:12:15   they follow me on AppNet.

00:12:17   There's a bit of a reciprocity to that,

00:12:20   rather than it being just like,

00:12:22   I'm rather than just being a follower

00:12:25   of a lot of these individuals.

00:12:24   And that means that at this point,

00:12:29   I have a platform by which to share

00:12:31   the things that I'm working on with people

00:12:34   who I respect their opinions of.

00:12:36   And that's a great opportunity.

00:12:38   And the thing that's hard is giving that as advice.

00:12:40   And by saying it's sort of in some ways a prerequisite,

00:12:45   is it's not easy to do and there's no straightforward way

00:12:48   to do that.

00:12:52   It's just you have to make it something

00:12:49   that you're working on.

00:12:50   In the same way that you're working on Beacon, being a better developer, being a better designer,

00:12:54   having a better taste.

00:12:55   Like, all of these kinds of things.

00:12:57   One of the things you have to work on is your name and reputation.

00:13:00   And I guess if you were a company, it's like your brand recognition, your brand.

00:13:04   Like you have to work on that.

00:13:06   And you kind of see that.

00:13:07   And it's interesting how I find some developers didn't have to do that work necessarily.

00:13:13   I think of someone like Tapbots, who their apps are so distinctive and so well done that

00:13:18   eventually they just created that name for themselves.

00:13:23   But that took a long time.

00:13:26   I mean, the first app, Waitbot, was years ago,

00:13:29   and they've been consistently making really good,

00:13:33   high-quality, distinctive products.

00:13:35   And if you do that, I'm sure the App Store will find you

00:13:37   if you're making awesome, amazing, distinctive products.

00:13:41   But as much as we all want to do that,

00:13:44   we're all nuts.

00:13:43   We're all not Paul Heddad and Mark Jardine.

00:13:48   Some of us just don't necessarily play at that level.

00:13:51   Or that's not the style, and we don't want to be distinctive in that way.

00:13:56   And so we just do what we can.

00:13:58   Ultimately, your goal is just to be yourself and find people who think yourself is awesome.

00:14:04   And that's the best kind of marketing you can do.

00:14:07   In some ways, it's a funny thing.

00:14:09   Where like the show and the people I'm talking to right now, if you're listening to this,

00:14:13   I hopefully have developed some amount of rapport with you over the year I've been doing

00:14:17   the show.

00:14:18   And so when I come in next Wednesday when it launches and I'm like, "Hey, it's available.

00:14:21   I'd really appreciate it if you check it out," I'm hoping that a lot of you do that because

00:14:27   there's some amount of relationship there.

00:14:31   And of course, you want to be careful.

00:14:32   You have a limited amount of capital.

00:14:33   You don't want to overly do this too often.

00:14:35   You don't want to go to that well too often or it'll run dry.

00:14:38   But I don't do it very often.

00:14:39   It's been a while since I launched something new.

00:14:42   That was a big important thing for me,

00:14:43   and so that's what I'm doing.

00:14:44   I'm going to be doing all this reaching out,

00:14:46   and I hope it works.

00:14:48   All right, that's it for today's show.

00:14:49   As always, questions, comments, concerns.

00:14:51   I'm on Twitter @_davidsmith.

00:14:53   I'm on AppNet @justregulardavidsmith.

00:14:55   And otherwise, happy coding.

00:14:56   Have a great week, and I will talk to you later.