App complete, check. App tested, check. App submitted to Apple, check. Pre-launch promotion prep work done, check. Now what? It's all about the timing. Based on our experience in the AppStore, there are three things that contribute most to sales numbers: 1) Getting noticed by Apple (and being featured) 2) Word of mouth and 3) Launch Blitz. I discussed the strategy for getting noticed by Apple in previous 4 P's posts: make a great product, include new iOS tech, follow the HIG, have a polished icon and screens. Word of mouth is just the snowball effect—the more people own (and use) your app, the more they tell their friends, the more you sell. Ensure this by making a great product, providing excellent customer service, providing convenient ways to share your app with others and cross-selling, up-selling within your app. This post will focus on the third item, the blitz of promotion at launch, where you bring out all your promotional tactics at the same time, to get your app noticed in bulk.
You spend a lot of time on your app, so you want to get your name out there, and then maintain your sales over time. It's possible to constantly release new apps so you have a series of initial release surges, but it's much better to get a surge, and then maintain a certain level of sales. This way, each time you release a new app, you raise the water level of total revenue until you reach your revenue goals.
Launch Blitz – app ranks, rockets up the charts, and/or achieves higher search placement
Apple feature – supercharged launch blitz results (but out of dev control)
Word of Mouth – maintains rank gains and positions
The three items mentioned above feed each other. A good launch can propel your app into the top 100 or rank you higher in search, so more people see it, more people buy it, and more people tell their friends about it. Sometimes a successful launch can even help getting noticed by Apple. If you're noticed by Apple, then even more people buy your app, and more tell their friends. but recognize that an Apple feature is never guaranteed, so should not be key to your success plan or you're doomed from the start. Launch Blitz and Apple Features gain market share. Word of mouth sustains your market share. You can rocket to the top of the charts but will never maintain that position unless you have a great product, causing people to continue to use it and tell everyone through word of mouth. On the other hand, you can have a great product, but will never rocket to the top charts without promoting your product because no one will know it exists. It's a vicious circle, but a launch blitz is something you can control. Launch is each time you do an update, too—not just the initial launch, so all is not lost if 1.0 fizzles.
Last post I discussed all the launch prep—the graphics, the write-ups, the pre-review contacts, the launch pages, the plan. Now the key is to do everything at once to maximize the awareness of your app. Sometimes you get a week or two to finish up the prepwork while you wait for review, but oftentimes you only have a few days—don't get caught unprepared with a “Ready for Sale” email, especially with an update, which is usually a shorter review time.
Timing your launch is extra tricky because setting a launch date in iTunesConnect for iOS apps is still inconsistent. I've covered setting the initial release date in a previous post, but since updates are showing again with New Releases, sometimes the process doesn't go as I've outlined. If you are ready when the “Ready for Sale” email comes in, and your launch date is still out in the future, sometimes it just makes sense to change your date to the approval date and just go. Alternately, if your approval is late in the day, setting the date for the following date can have some benefits—your app will sit in a smaller New Releases list for a chunk of the day, as other apps are approved and go Ready for Sale. Updates allow you to do a developer controlled launch, but word is that the app shows up in New Releases on the Approval Date, rather than on Release date, so keep that in mind. If New Releases exposure is part of your launch plan, release on the Approval Date to guarantee results. If you are releasing on another platform, you have much more control of your launch timing—resist launching until you're ready for your blitz.
Is there a better day to launch apps? Many developers try to launch on Wednesdays, in hopes of an Apple feature, but this is a shot in the dark. If Apple is going to feature your app, the release date is inconsequential. Your app will get a bit of a bump from people browsing the New Releases list. If you want to pick a good launch day, look at the release dates over the past couple of weeks in your category—do you see a pattern of app volume on certain days? Logically, pick a day with the least amount of volume—your app will remain on the first pages in iTunes longer with less releases. One day that is probably least favorable to launch is Thursdays. Eyes are generally more focused on the refreshed features lists. By the time people take time to view New Releases, Friday app releases are up on the New Release list. However, launch dates are not as major of a factor as being prepared to do your blitz. If you're ready to go, even launching on a Thursday will go just fine. Some developers may say launching on a Thursday could build momentum for great sales on the app's opening weekend.
The “Processing for the AppStore” email comes in and it's time to go. Set up your press release and embargo it until the early the next morning, the best time to release it. Schedule your finished newsletter to also send out the next morning. Put your new landing pages live on your website, if you haven't already (it's ok to do this early—to create some buzz, as you've probably tweeted some teasers and previews). Add any new info to your Facebook page, if you have not already. Tweet that you're “Processing for the AppStore” and link to your landing page on your website and/or your trailer video. (Tip: use a bit.ly link to track all the RT's and clicks. You can also use TweetReach to see how many people you've reached—good to keep track of for subsequent releases.) Post a status on Facebook that your launch is imminent.
Download new promo codes (unless you grabbed the remainders of your 50 before submitting an update). Start going thru your review request plan and send out emails to sites and contacts for review requests. Put a blurb up on your blog and start your “postmortem” post if you want to write some content that can double as a promotional activity.
Once “Ready for Sale” comes in, tweet again, post to Facebook, update your blog post (or put up the blog post at this point). If you have news on your main website, update it for your launch. Now you can link directly to your AppStore page—less links to click through is better for sales. Use bit.ly type links again for tracking, and as soon as Linkshare links are live (for a new app), change your links to these (5% is 5%).
Be careful not to saturate your twitter timeline with reposts of promotion for your app, unless your twitter account is your main company account, otherwise people will unfollow you and you'll lose the benefit of reaching them. (Tip: if you retweet others' product announcements, they are more likely to retweet yours.)
Lastly, tweet a timezone retweet ~12 hours after your first Ready for Sale tweet—just to catch the worldwide audience, since most people don't read the entire 24 hours of their timeline. You'll probably annoy some, but if you don't overdo it, you'll be forgiven.
Keep submitting review requests according to plan. Watch for people who are talking about your app and retweet them, including reviews. If you feel comfortable sharing numbers, write another blog post on the subject for more exposure. Visit the forums where you participate and some of the popular mobile sites and post launch announcements (be sure to follow the rules). Ask your friends, colleagues, and beta testers to submit a review promptly if they like your app—an app with stars on New Releases stands out. Lastly, be sure to keep up on customer service—if a customer takes the time to write to you, they are less likely to post a frustrated-because-no-one-cares review and they could be satisfied and impressed enough to be motivated to write a 5-star review after helping them.
If you have some great launch activities you'd like to share, please post in the comments, or tweet me @justinepratt and I'll update this post. I'm sure I haven't exhausted all good ideas here.
In the next and (maybe) last post in this series, “Applying the 4P's of Marketing to Apps” I'll cover my experiences with advertising and other ongoing non-launch type promotions. If you have tried promotions such as banners, adwords, print, or others, please also tweet me @justinepratt if you'd like to share your experience/results. I'll compile my experiences and others in the next post. In addition, I'll finally post the final Marketing checklist for you to download and use, that will cover all the 4P's that I've discussed over the past months. I hope this series has helped in organizing your promotional activities alongside your development. It has certainly helped me get my thoughts and experiences on paper so I can also approach our future launches in a more consistent manner.
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