Your app is not alone. Right now, there are more than 1 million apps in the App Store, vying for users’ attention in nearly every category.
Building a great product isn’t enough to make your app the next Angry Birds, and Apple knows it. Just last month, it introduced a “Best New Updates” section to improve the discoverability of apps long after their initial release. But to create a sustainable app, you need to build in solid marketing and distribution strategies to get your app into the hands of the people who need it most.
Take Everpix, for example. When the photo storage company closed its doors, it came as a total surprise to users. It was an excellent product that sorted photos with ease and stored an unlimited number of images for a small yearly fee.
Everpix had the potential to overturn companies like Dropbox and Flickr, but it made one major mistake: It put all of its budget into product development, leaving little money to sustain the company as it tried to grow its user base. While it seems unfair, the fact is a great product isn’t enough to succeed in the app marketplace. It’s important to strike a healthy balance between development and marketing to ensure sustainability.
Grow Users and Keep the Lights On
Here are five strategies to capitalize on the marketing and distribution of your new app:
- Release early and release often. You may have heard this refrain before, but it’s vital for growing your user base and attracting investors’ attention. Release core features, then leverage communities such as Hacker News and Product Hunt to grab early adopters before building out the kitchen sink. Look at it this way: If you don’t have a user base, how can you be sure you’re building something people want?
- Find your niche. You can differentiate your app in a crowded market in two ways: Introduce features that no one else has, or target a specific niche. These strategies aren’t mutually exclusive. Take QUAD, for instance — yet another entrant in the crowded mobile messaging market. QUAD focused on its unique ability to message more than 50 people and has heavily marketed its app to college groups like fraternities and sororities that have a real need for a bulk messaging system. By doing so, it’s enabled itself to live alongside other messaging juggernauts like WhatsApp and GroupMe, rather than compete with them.
- Be exclusive. Nowadays, it seems like everyone uses Spotify, but it wasn’t long ago that the company was just starting out in the U.S. and only available by invitation. While Spotify used invitations to make it easier to scale in a new country, it also had the added benefit of creating buzz around this exclusive new app. By capitalizing on word-of-mouth marketing, Spotify helped itself stand out in an arena that companies like Rdio and Rhapsody had been occupying for years.
- Optimize for the App Store. Much like the need to optimize your website for search engines, it’s important to make sure your app has the right keywords in its title and description so users can find you. It sounds minor, but if your app doesn’t come up when users type relevant keywords into the search bar, then it might as well not exist. That’s why app design and development companies like Fueled have started making App Store optimization an integral part of their development process.
- Build in social calls to action. Social word of mouth is one of the best ways to grow your user base. Build in social sharing so users can brag about what they’ve just accomplished, whether that’s leveling up in a game or logging miles in a running app.
It’s easy to assume your app can become the next Snapchat as long as you build a solid product, but what makes that app successful isn’t the fact that it exists — it’s the efficiencies it creates. By focusing on marketing strategies alongside product development, you can create an app that not only makes life better for your users, but also makes a profit for your startup.
Gideon Kimbrell is a Miami, FL software engineer and serial entrepreneur. His software engineering work has been praised by companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Barnes & Noble and St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Born in Montana in a log cabin, he entered university at age 15. By 16 he had programmed his first “hot or not” style website. He is the founder of InList.com. InList curates the most exclusive international nightlife and charity events.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.