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Most people think that successful mobile apps get magically downloaded millions of times within days of launching. Think again! Just like any other business, website, or idea, you need to have a solid marketing plan to promote your awesome new mobile app if you want it to be downloaded. Unfortunately, most people also seem to spend every last dime they have on developing their app, and are unfortunately left with a very small marketing budget. This is the exact reason why I've compiled a list of tips to help you kick start your marketing campaign on the cheap!
METHOD 1: Twitter
Not only is twitter free, but it also can give you a direct connection to the people in your target industry who matter. So, make a Twitter account for your app, find the movers and shakers in your industry, and try to create a connection. If you are going after a contact who runs an app review site, keep in mind that those people tend to receive dozens of emails every day from other app developers, so sending a short and simple personal tweet can be a great way to get noticed.
METHOD 2: Make a Video
Videos are the perfect way to show people how cool your app is. Browsing through the App Store and looking at the 4 screen grabs that all developers tend to provide by default is a pretty tame way to decide if an app is worth downloading. Angry Birds doesn’t even look that fun in the examples, but millions of people find it a blast to play! The video doesn't need to be anything overly fancy (though it wouldn't hurt to add a bit of pizzaz), just setup your digital camera and record yourself using your app. Talk your way through the screens and make it clear why your app is worth downloading. Be sure to put it on Youtube, Vimeo, and any others you can find. You'll also get some SEO by tagging and titling your video with keywords that are related to your app like “iPhone” or "Android", “App”, and “Game”, and putting a link to the App Store within the description. If you don't mind spending a bit of cash to assist you with the video portion, the video above is a great example of an app video you can make using Sound Stage. It's only $4.99 in the Mac App Store. EightBit.Me did this perfectly!
METHOD 3: Create a Website/Blog for Your App
Blogger, Tumblr, and Posterous all give you a place to host a free website and you'll be able to supply this link to everyone if they want more info about your app. Templates and Landing Pages for your apps. Put the website URL in the App Store description, in the signature of all your emails, etc. Put social buttons like Stumble Upon, Digg, Facebook Share, and ReTweet all on your website so that people can tell their friends and community about your app. You should try to update the blog portion of your website often. Fill it with updates you just made, features you plan on adding, and allow for comments and feedback to be given. (If you didn’t realize this yet, your website is the perfect place to embed the video you just made :)
METHOD 4: Promo Codes & Giveaways
For iPhone app developers, you'll be able to download up to 50 app promo codes from Apple with each update that is accepted by the iTunes Store. For paid apps, these promo codes are a great way to start spreading the word. If you have an Android App, you can send out a link to your application's APK so people can download the app for free. If you give some promo codes to your friends, be sure to tell them they should leave a review - the more reviews your app gets the better! Use the rest of the promo codes to dish out to Review Websites so that they can checkout your app for free. They'll be a lot more likely to download your app if they don't have to pay money to see if they like it. It's the equivalent of buying a friend a drink before you ask for a favor. And that brings us to method number 5...
METHOD 5: Mobile App Review Websites
There are TONS of review sites that do nothing but write reviews about cool new apps. Google “app reviews” to see how many are out there. Some charge to have your app review fast tracked, but there are plenty of others that will do it for free. One strategy is to contact the smaller web sites first, like The Smartphone App Review and Tech Hackz, and ask them to write about your app before you contact the larger websites.
METHOD 6: Guest Posts
Lots of blogs welcome guest posts. This is a great way to let you write your own review, but be careful here! They won't let you write a fluffy puffy piece about how your new fart app is going to “change the world!” You’ll likely have to write a real post about something of value, and they’ll let you put a link to your app or website in the credits. This is still awesome, because any link pointing to your website is good SEO, so you’ll wind up with more traffic, more credibility, and all of that will equal more downloads. Here are a couple blogs that like having guest writers (be warned: some are harder than others to be accepted by).
METHOD 7: Get creative with PR
Let's say your app is a library of "cool new recipes" then you should contact websites that have to do with cooking. If your app has to do with golfing, then visit your local pro-shop and see if they'll let you place some flyers on the counter. Usually, the most successful marketing ideas are those farthest outside the box. Buying ads could be a waste of money. Putting a bumper sticker on your car about your new “car insurance finder app” could be a stroke of genius!
METHOD 8: Swap Banner Ads
After you get your website up and running, swap banner ads with someone else who has an app and a website. You'll get some free promotion on their website, and they'll get promotion on yours. Everybody wins!
METHOD 9: Hit the Streets
Bring your phone loaded with your app on the streets and ask people to try it out. Get some honest feedback. You'll get advice from a non-biased person (your mom is biased, trust me!), and you'll also be spreading the word about your app. Odds are, they'll go home and tell their friends about how they got stopped on the street on their way to lunch and were asked to play an Android game called “XYZ” and how fun it was. Plus, if you’re lucky, they’ll tell you what they didn’t like about it. It could be something you never thought of, like the navigation being too confusing to someone looking at the app with fresh eyes.
METHOD 10: Friends on Facebook
Tell your friends. Tell everyone. Be shameless! Post it on your wall, post it on your friend's walls. Post your app video on Facebook too. Things can spread like wildfire on Facebook, so don't be shy! Your mom and little sister are on Facebook too, right? So get them to post it for their friends to see!
I hope you enjoyed these tips on marketing your app without spending your cash. If you have any other ideas that I didn't mention, be sure to leave them as comments for others to see below!