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A recipe for a successful mobile app marketing plan – the secret lies in the ingredients – part 2

DIY MOBILE APP MARKETING

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The optimal marketing activities mix for your marketing plan, considering your objectives, budget and more
This is the second part in a training series discussing the optimal activities mix for your app marketing plan, considering objectives, budget and more. Here we would dive in into the tools that you should include in your app marketing plan. Part 2 will specifically discuss Public Relations (PR) tactics…

Part 1 of the series included some important info. Click here to get a read it before you go on.

Some things to consider

When listing and going over the tactics going forward, we will relate to:

  • Budget – will mention the budget level required by each tactic 
  • DIY (do it yourself) vs. outsource – some of the activities are usually done through outsource only (e.g., agency), while many others can also be executed DIY style 
  • Needed time investment – while planning the execution of the full plan, you need to consider the time each tactic will consume 
  • Awareness vs. acquisition – each tactic has a main impact.. Either on increasing awareness or user acquisition. Sometimes it’s difficult to clearly determine where the main impact lies. Awareness tools are usually slow in impact; “late bloomers”, but with a solid and long lasting effect. Acquisition tools usually create immediate impact but a short termed one (in most cases), diminishing quite fast after the activity ends/stopped. So usually acquisition and awareness tools will be completing each other.    
  • Measurements – some of the marketing activities can be quantitatively measured, meaning it’s easy to accurately measure their impact. Others are qualitative by nature, and you will not be able to measure their exact contribution to the overall performance. 
  • B2C vs. B2B – each marketing tool is designed to match specific segments. Some businesses are targeting other businesses (B2B), some are focused on end users (B2C). Most apps are targeting end users. However, B2B tools are still very relevant, when bringing in affiliates, advertisers, or just to connect with industry leaders, and leverage them to create buzz.

First area of marketing activities to consider: Public Relation (PR)

When looking into PR, you should consider the 5 sub areas below:

  • Traditional – Formal press releases distributed to traditional news portals (through newswires, PR agency or DIY) 
  • Analyst relations – Getting your story covered by relevant analysts to support your B2B and business development efforts 
  • Industry Events – Speaking opportunities, exhibitions, conferences, sponsorships, etc. 
  • Network conversations – Blogs, professional and sponsored content, forums and so forth 
  • Social media – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. 

Traditional PR

By Traditional PR we mean getting your press releases picked up and covered or published as is in relevant, popular news channels (financial, technological, publications that are specific to your industry like travel, lifestyle, etc.). This is important in order to increase awareness of mass audiences. It is usually done through professional PR agencies as they hold close relationships with the important publications, journalists and blogs. They also take on most of the time-consuming logistics of scheduling and such and save you precious time.

BUT, using a PR agency can cost thousands of dollars a month (and sometimes more) and requires a long term investment, as it takes time to bring them on board properly. Reaping the rewards of this work also takes time (even Rome wasn’t built in a day!)

Once you start working with an agency, they will first need to familiarize themselves with your app, your objectives, go-to-market strategy, target audience, competition, your specific industry and so forth. This phase requires some briefing time and effort on your end. Then, they will start reaching out to relevant journalists, bloggers and analysts, inviting them to intro meetings to start building a relationship on your behalf, and create awareness and understanding of your app and its positioning. This activity is designed to make sure they will remember your app and start perceiving you as an expert in your industry so they will contact the agency in case of relevant news, asking for commentary (you are an expert, remember?) and will be responsive  to cover your news when released to the market. This phase is time-consuming and important, though coverage is not guaranteed at this point. But it is setting the ground for the future. Later on, once you have interesting news (launch, major version release or update, new business partnership, etc.), the initial investment will pay off with significant press coverage and hopefully a nice buzz.

You can try and save money by trying to build press relations and distribute press announcements yourself, but this may prove challenging and time-consuming as journalists are overloaded and tend to ignore such individual approaches. Still, we wouldn’t disqualify this as an option. This really depends on the size of the market you are targeting, the amount of publications out there, the size and level of interest in your industry, etc. In some cases it can be successful.   Based on our experience, and given that you’ve had good training (J), you can reach impressive results by yourself. If you are marketing your app in a foreign territory, however, you might want to spend some budget on an agency (we do not recommend a monthly retainer in this case, but rather a project-based engagement around launch or update) since you are probably not very familiar with the press in this country. It will provide a good starting point, introducing you properly to the market. Once the project is done, you can decide if you want to proceed on your own, or continue working with the agency.

Traditional PR is a relevant tool for both B2B and B2C work. You just need to focus on different channels / news sites (business technology, consumer news and so forth).

Traditional PR is mainly an awareness creation tool to help with the discovery of your app. Its impact tends to be slow relatively to other tools (though sometimes, significant coverage, like an article in a popular news portal, can create immediate effect; a big one!). We got real lucky a few times, pushing our apps – it creates a WOW impact with visible sky-rocketing numbers in the charts within minutes.

Traditional PR has a qualitative impact and it’s hard to accurately measure its ROI. You can feel, see or witness the buzz, but you can’t accurately quantify it. It makes PR value judgment quite challenging, so justifying the ongoing investment vs. evaluating other options may be difficult. It can also prove to be a hard activity to sell internally.   But let us tell you, PR is super valuable, important and effective in app marketing.

There are some advanced methods that can help with measuring PR ROI. These will be discussed in details in a separate training.

Traditional PR, while extremely valuable, demands significant budget when using an agency. If you are low on budget, consider doing your best on your own.

Analyst Relations 

Analyst houses like Gartner, Yankee Group, Strategy Analytics and many others are regularly publishing reports covering a wide variety of industries. They are well connected and considered to be objective and knowledgeable. In order to write the reports, they keep in constant touch with industry influences and players (each analyst with the industry he/she covers of course), and usually develop strong expertise in their area of focus. The end result is that everyone who is interested in a specific industry is reading and feeding off the information in the same reports. So naturally, you want to be included in these reports (those that are relevant to your industry).

You can meet with analysts at industry events; you can initiate a “roadshow” – a few days where you brief many analysts presenting your story face to face, you can conduct phone briefs, etc. The important thing is that you develop ongoing relationships with the analysts that interest you (of course, you need to take the time and identify them first). Make a special effort to update them on your news (maybe even ahead of an official releases, under embargo.. they will appreciate it for sure), be detailed and passionate when telling your story, show them your demo, have fun with them. Even consider issuing a special newsletter just for analysts, updating them on the latest and greatest on your end, in case they missed anything. Make them remember you. Provide a full press kit to make things easier for them (this is also true for working with bloggers and the press), if possible provide stats (they love it) and be available for questions. If you nurture these very important relationships, you will be covered in the right reports and get valuable visibility to your industry. Don’t forget that analysts are also talking to your competitors and other influencers, so they can share information if they feel comfortable with you.

As you probably figured out by now, analyst relations is a B2B tool and is designed to position you as someone who matters in your industry.  It can be a strong supportive tool for business development and bringing advertisers on board (or any other business model you need to build).

As with traditional PR, this is a qualitative tool and it’s hard to accurately measure its ROI. Yes, you can count the important reports you are covered in, but still it’s not an accurate ROI measurement.

Budget wise, again, this is a very similar story to the traditional PR above. If you have a PR agency, it’s very common to ask them to manage your analyst relations as well. They usually know and hold relationships with all the leading analyst houses. But as mentioned above, an agency requires quite a significant budget. Here too, you can do it yourself for a very low budget (but a heavy time investment, as per the usual tradeoff).

Industry events  

By industry events we mean conventions/exhibitions (e.g., Mobile World Congress), conferences, industry-focused gatherings, etc. Sponsoring an event will get you high brand visibility, probably a speaking opportunity, a chance to distribute written materials/giveaway and an opportunity to tell your story to relevant people, but it requires a relatively large budget. And here we are not even counting what is called “leverage money” that you need to put in when preparing the booth, the promotional materials, the giveaways, the design of the presentation and whatever else is needed for a successful presence at the event.  That is why event sponsorships are mainly used by large enterprises.

This is usually a classic B2B tool, but PR coverage of the event might reach end users news channels as well. Events are great places to meet with journalists, analysts, advertisers, potential business partners, and industry leaders and influencers.

If your budget is limited, know that many event organizers will consider barter deals. So, if for example, you have an app that can provide a useful service to event attendees, you can offer the organizers an exclusive, branded version of your app for the event, in return for a sponsorship of some sort. So, creative thinking can serve you very well here. In addition, you can try working with relevant associations that help app developers. They offer umbrella of services that many times include joint attendance at industry events. This will usually be much cheaper than going on your own. You can also try to apply for speaking opportunities by submitting abstracts to events that allow such submissions. Also, from time to time there are last minute cancellations, and the event organizers will appreciate you coming to the rescue.

Events are also a great tool for creating awareness. The key measurement is usually the number of leads generated (potential partnerships), though there are some additional measurement techniques which again will be discussed in a separate training.

For most events, you can prepare the materials yourself. For larger events, mainly those that require a booth, where you can safely assume that other participants are going to have beautifully designed booths, you want to avoid looking like an amateur.  If your budget is limited but you have a must-attend event, try looking for a potential partner (ideally one that has already committed to a booth at the event) and present your app in their booth.

Network conversations and content marketing 

Here we talk of spreading your story and messages through blogs, online discussion forums, talk-backs or any other platform that is free to actively participate in, excluding your social assets (which we will discuss later).

Most of us use these on a daily basis, without even registering many times what it is exactly that we are reading. For example, reading an interesting article (written by a service provider pushing his service through links or recommendations within the article), or being forwarded to an external service through a post or a response in a forum (e.g., “anyone heard of XXXXX, just used them and they rock!”).

Marketing pros are known for sophisticatedly using these tools, gently pushing the marketing messages, without being too obvious or intrusive. In-fact, it’s a wonderful tactic to increase awareness and establish brand identity, but it requires you to be patient and be ready for a relatively long period of investment until it finally pays off, similarly to other PR tactics. Be prepared to do some daily hunting of relevant network conversations (warning – may become tedious at times!)…

On the upside, no external budget is needed (yehiiii) apart from the human resource – the more active you are, participating in conversations, the higher (and probably faster) the impact is. If you or someone in your organization can get on it – seriously consider investing in this tool, it is highly recommended. No one else is available? No budget? Still you should probably engage in this activity to a certain extent, do it yourself style.

Some app publishers (like you) give a boost to this tool (adding budget of course), using content marketing. You can promote your content (create content first of course, also requires budget in many cases) through paid blogs, sponsored search results, advertorials, etc.). It is not a must activity, but rather a “nice to have” extra push. We, for example, worked with a specific blog, where we paid a fixed monthly fee in return for X number of items mentioning and linking to our app. In most cases, we couldn’t control the content itself (they insisted writing the articles themselves for the sake of integrity), but we did review many of the posts, prior to release.  That’s just one example of content marketing activity. We can’t say, though, we saw a massive boost from this premium push, so you will have to do some trial and error to see what works best for you…

Again, it is very challenging to accurately measure the impact of network conversations, but this tactic is an established, efficient awareness creation tool for both B2C and B2B apps (depending on the selected channels). In some cases (mainly promoted content) you can embed a unique link to your app within the content, and measure the traffic (clicks…) coming directly from that link (hence from this post) and evaluate effectiveness. You should also ask whoever you are paying to promote your content (and the app through it of course) for impressions/readership/clicks statistics. Asking for this is expected when paying for promotion. In many cases these statistics will be the basis for payment.

Social media

This is the last part of our PR discussion and it represents a huge set of tools. In fact, it is so broad that it’s many times regarded to as a separate category and not a sub category under PR. For the sake of being organized, we chose to talk about social media here.

To get us all on the same page, we are not covering social advertising (such as Facebook install ads) here at all, except some brief mentions.

We suggest that you read our free training digital and social strategy before you go on, to better understand the importance of a social strategy to the success of your app promotion.

When it comes to planning your social media activities, defining your exact target audience is crucial. You should start by asking yourself whose attention you wish to attract. If you wish to address potential business partners (or advertisers) the social networks you will choose to focus on  will most likely be completely different than the networks you will choose to be active on if you wish to target end users (though some networks are relevant for both). LinkedIn, for example, is presenting a classical “B2B” approach, so it is relevant for B2B targeting.  “Instagram” or “Facebook” on the other hand, are more on the B2C targeting end.

Facebook

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We are absolutely, beyond any doubt, sure that you are familiar with Facebook whether you are, or not (not?? Really??) a Facebook user. Everybody is on Facebook, everybody knows Facebook.

Today, our belief is that having a Facebook page is a basic must-have for any app.

Facebook page (and Facebook communication) are mainly awareness creation tools and engagement boosters. You can also use Facebook promoted posts to boost downloads or specific campaigns, by including a download link, or announce a contest offering a goodie, conditioned by downloads.

This requires a relatively low budget, if you thought ahead and included incentives for viral engagement inside your app in the design phase.

Otherwise, increasing your fans base may cost you as high ~$1 per like. Also, based on our experience, organic “likes” are not that easy to come by when it comes to mobile apps pages. So don’t rely on these to boost your Facebook presence without using promotions to point people in the right direction…

Until recently, Facebook had a rule where ruffle style contests (do this, win that…), known to be an efficient viral tactic, will be published only through a dedicated “Facebook app” (web apps built especially for the Facebook platform). Those apps were usually developed by outsourced agencies, therefore required some extra costs to be factored in. Lately, Facebook changed this rule (thank god) so viral activities such as ruffle contest are once again a relatively low cost tactic.

DIY: We had the privilege of outsourcing the management of our Facebook activity to social agencies in some cases and manage the social activities ourselves in others. We enjoyed the service of wonderful and professional people in those agencies but their monthly retainer fees made us choke each and every time we received an invoice. The costs of the actual promotions (payment for media) and the prizes and giveaways were quite small, on the other hand. Having managed social activities ourselves, we can safely say it’s no rocket science and you can achieve great results yourself, you just need to learn the basics.

Promoting through Facebook (promoted posts for instance) will cost you some money, calculated by impressions or clicks, but since Facebook ads are very effective and present relatively high CTRs, you can promote posts with small budgets and still enjoy significant results.

So, in summary,Facebook is mainly relevant for B2C targeting. It can also be relevant for B2B sectors, but not as much.

Facebook activity requires relatively low budget and can definitely be managed DIY style, with no external help. There is a price of course, daily maintenance and attention.  

Facebook is a very important tool for raising awareness and increasing buzz, maybe the most important one when targeting end users.

Measurements are quite advanced for promoted posts but basic measurements are also available for all parameters on the page admin’s panel.

LinkedIn

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We bet you strive to be perceived as an expert in your field. We are pretty sure you are one anyway. Consider including LinkedIn in your marketing plan. It’s “THE” social network for professional networking. If, for example, you develop a GPS navigation mobile app, use Facebook to tell your users why you rock, but use LinkedIn to communicate to the industry why you are #1 when it comes to location services (GPS navigation) and why they just have to work with you and no one else. It’s that simple. You open a company page for your app, you post information on LinkedIn (news, events, opinions, etc.), participate in discussions running in relevant professional groups, or even consider opening a new group in your field, where you can lead professional discussions and attract industry influencers. You should also connect with relevant people from the industry (colleagues, potential partners, potential advertisers, investors and so forth) to make sure your posts appear in their LinkedIn news stream. Wherever they are, you want to be “in their face”. Trust us, after a while they will be sure you rule the world.

You will probably need to manage your LinkedIn activity through your personal user name (that’s the current rule and we really hope it will change soon, as that can give a real boost to their company pages which are currently way too limited and hopefully will be improved real soon). When it comes to LinkedIn, absolutely do it yourself. It’s currently too limited and narrow to be outsourced.. easy to maintain on your own.

Proper management of an activity in LinkedIn groups can consume some time though (mainly around writing updates, opinions on what’s being said and writing meaningful content). If you open a group and want to promote it in order to bring in users you may need to invest some budget, but nothing major, definitely not as intensive as in other social networks.

LinkedIn is an awareness creation tool, creating buzz in the industry, with low to no budget.  Accurately measuring LinkedIn results can be pretty challenging, although LinkedIn are trying to improve on that front as well.

Twitter

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Fewer barriers, less privacy, huge traffic. Spread the word, out in the open, hope someone sees (well, many) and engage… hope to become viral (retweets). It’s like shouting in a megaphone in the digital sphere.

Twitter is Low cost, DIY, B2B, B2C tool, used mainly for creating awareness and announce news. When you use Twitter-based promotions (e.g., getting celebs to tweet about you) you can create a “boost bomb”, massively impacting your app’s charts (short termed effect though).

In order to enjoy the benefits of twitter you should put in the time, learning how to use it properly. You must identify the right people to follow, hoping (or actively asking them in a private message) they would respond by following you back; write your tweets in specific ways to increase chances of engagement, add photos, hashtags (but not too many), eliminate unwanted followers and so forth.

In summary, activity in social media networks is a mustin any app marketing plan. That’s a no brainer. However, which networks to invest in, how to approach this activity (DIY or working with an agency), and how much weight to allocate to each network, requires some thinking.

Basically, the lower your budget is, the heavier you should (and would) rely on social activities (on the expense of other, more expensive tactics discussed in future parts of the series), and manage things yourself.

While time management is a challenge, when it comes to social media marketing, the effects in terms of awareness, buzz, brand identity and user loyalty make it all worthwhile.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Here we covered the social networks that would prove to be right for marketing most apps. Additional important social networks include Instagram, Google+, Pinterest, flicker and more.

Be sure to check out part 3 of our app marketing plan series, where we will discuss user acquisition campaigns. If you haven’t read part 1 yet, it’s waiting for you here.

Elli
Elli is one of AppGo2Market.com Co-Founders, a mobile expert and a mentor. Having years of experience in the mobile and marketing industry promoting popular mobile apps and B2B related services. Presenting specific expertise on users' acquisition strategies, PR, social media, product marketing, BizDev integrations and more
Elli
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