How to Market an App
App marketing typically begins in concert with app design and development. A business defines a need, then designs, builds, and releases an app to address that need. Simultaneously, a business uses market research to determine the app’s target audience and crafts a plan to inform, engage, and ultimately convince those potential customers to download and/or purchase the app.
That plan starts with choosing a business goal (the Snapchat marketing funnel
and its three levels of engagement — awareness, consideration and conversions — is a particularly good resource for that purpose). As the plan evolves into action, businesses that succeed in their marketing maintain focus on interacting with customers throughout the relationship to develop an enduring, loyal base.
Global consumer spending on apps reached $170 billion in 2021. By 2023, the total revenue of mobile apps is projected to be $935 billion.²
In this blog post, we’ll cover 21 effective ways to promote your app:
App Store Optimization (ASO)
Online and offline advertising
Referral programs for existing app users
Online interest and app-development groups
Coupons, swag, free trials, discounts & promo codes
Tech blogs and niche writers
Video channels on YouTube and/or Vimeo
Use quality visuals to convey professionalism
Talk with one user at a time
Re-engage and cross-promote
Podcasts and guest blogging
21 Ways to Market Your App
1. App Store Optimization (ASO)
App Store Optimization (ASO) relies on factors such as keyword strategy, app store ranking, compelling visuals, strong ratings, and good reviews to maximize visibility and conversions in app stores (think Apple’s App Store for iOS apps and Google Play Store for Android apps).
The end goal of ASO is to get an app to rank higher in app-store search results. The better an app ranks in an app store’s search results, the more visible it is to potential customers. Any new app entering the market these days is competing against literally millions of others, so creating a listing that is as discoverable and appealing as possible is crucial.
Just like you want your website to use keywords that can send people to it when they do a search, you want your app listing to do the same. You also want to make sure that the screenshots you use are appealing, and include an app preview video if you can. You may also want to localize your app and its listing for other languages, so you can reach more people worldwide.
Organic app installs – meaning app installs that happen when someone discovers an app by searching for it – are the main driver for promoting a mobile app. Organic growth creates opportunity for a consistent flow of new customers while minimizing reliance on large budgets.
2. Online and offline advertising
Promoting an app online and offline covers all the promotional marketing bases and gives you the opportunity to coordinate efforts in both spaces for maximum effect.
Your primary goal is to make it easy for people to find and download your app. Start by unifying your messaging and design to ensure that you’re consistent in what you say and show, offline and online.
Whether online or offlines, direct interested people to one location whenever possible — usually a dedicated landing page on your business’s website or an app store listing. Use custom tracking in the form of unique URLs to connect your campaigns and discern where users are coming from so you can easily tell which avenues are most effective. Bring incentives into the picture to further encourage user action. Include links to your app website, blog, and social media channels in all your communications. Diligently review your analytics to understand how your users react and interact with your app.
Offline promotional avenues are still valid and, when executed properly, can get results. Keep in mind that those efforts are most effective in places where a lot of your potential customers live or socialize. Add a URL and/or QR code to all your offline promotional materials, such as flyers or brochures, so people can access and download your app as effortlessly as possible.
3. Social media
To properly flesh out your online advertising, create a dedicated presence for your app on every social platform that your target audience frequents (you know: platforms like Snapchat). Expand your audience by showcasing your app and brand through consistent and engaging content, and encouraging your followers and interested parties to share within their own circles. Be creative and authentic when engaging your audience, but not at the expense of brevity and usability.
For maximum effect, take advantage of both organic and paid means of social promotion. Research the best days and times to post based on your target audience’s online activity and behavior, then keep your organic efforts consistent in terms of both messaging and frequency. Since organic reach has dwindled across time, be sure to schedule your app posts to go out in keeping with your research findings so that those posts stand the best chance of being seen and shared by your followers.
Paid app install campaigns tend to vastly outperform organic, so focus your effort on creating and executing strategies predicated on accurate audience creation. Achieve the best ROAS (return on ad spend) by defining who your target audience is and what type of content they’re interested in, then give them what they’re looking for. Be sure your ads’ CTAs lead directly to your app store listing or a dedicated landing page to make downloading as easy as possible.
4. An SEO-savvy website
Support your app with a dedicated presence on your business’s website or a website of its own, either of which should provide relevant information about your app as well as quick access to downloading it. You want to get your app in front of a high-intent audience who is already looking for the solution your app offers, so use Search Engine Optimization best practices to help outrank your competitors and drive more traffic to your site:
Lean on target keyword research when creating site content.
Use effective titles, headings, and meta descriptions that adhere to search engine specifications.
Optimize all images and include ALT text for each.
Include links to both internal and external sources, and encourage other sites to return the favor.
Integrate a user-friendly, responsive (mobile-ready) design.
Use language that is relevant, conversational, and to the point.
Dial in your top/main navigation and be sure your sitemap is clearly laid out.
Integrate semantic HTML by using header tags.
You can further advance SEO efforts by writing blog posts, articles, and landing pages that include essential keywords. Regular content updates contribute to your site’s score while establishing your business as a niche expert, making your app that much more attractive.
5. Influencer marketing
Influencer marketing leverages relationships with people who have engaged audiences for the purpose of increasing brand awareness and revenue — and in this case, app installs. The influencers you connect with become ambassadors for your business, pushing the promotional needle by marketing your app to people who already regularly pay attention and respect what the influencer communicates.
For best results, the goal is to associate your app with people who command respect and attention, who are in your target audience, and who are willing to speak and advocate on your behalf. Spend some time up front researching the influencer landscape to find personalities who are most inclined to support (or might be inclined to support) your app and what it offers.
Then invite them to engage with the app, provide feedback, and ultimately share their enthusiasm with their followers, who ideally will then re-share within their own circles. In doing so, you essentially create a team of co-marketers whose collective power extends well beyond your business’s sphere of influence.
6. Referral programs for existing app users
Because people not only trust but often act on recommendations from their friends and colleagues, word-of-mouth marketing is a well-established method of successfully promoting your mobile app. Combining referrals with a reward system incentivizes your existing user base to share their experience with your app with their personal and work circles.
As with influencers, offering a referral program in your app can expand your marketing workforce with minimal impact on your budget’s bottom line. In exchange for spreading the word, you can reward users who refer their contacts with early access to new features, redeemable points or coupons, digital badges, physical merch — incentives are only limited by what you consider valuable to your engaged, motivated app supporters and users.
7. Build relationships
Broad communication is key to a new app getting quick traction — and it’s free or very affordable to implement. Anyone who might enjoy using your app is a legitimate connection and potential advocate, so take the time to assemble a list of potentially interested parties and communicate with them on their terms: email, text, phone calls, letters, etc. Share the news, then follow up while remaining respectful of their time.
Beyond those connections, identify other people, businesses, and media outlets that could be candidates for support. Make contact, encourage them to download and interact with your app, and keep the door open for feedback.
Invite your networks to be among your early adopters and maintain open lines of communication thereafter, as they’ll help promote your cause, grow the foundation of your user base, and provide valuable, real-world insights you can use to improve and enhance your app. Along with a referral program, consider adding an in-app "tell a friend" feature so that your current users can easily and quickly share your app. Offer credits or discounts for every new subscriber someone brings onboard.
In-app purchase (IAP) revenue in the App market is projected to reach US$204.90bn in 2022.³
8. Online interest and app development groups
Locate and join online and offline interest groups relevant to your app or niche, and get actively involved to carry more influence and establish your business as a leader. Most of these types of groups facilitate some degree of self-promotion. Contribute to discussions, weigh in on interesting content, and share your own thoughts, app-specific or not, when relevant.
Remember that even group members who may not be attuned to your specific niche are absolutely worth engaging, as they can potentially provide fresh perspectives on how to improve your app. In exchange, offer to do the same for them.
9. Giveaways and contests
Give potential and existing customers the chance to win something in exchange for promoting your app. By adding a competitive element, users will be more likely to download and open your app for the duration of the promotion.
Create leaderboards and run a contest within your app. Tell your audience to complete a certain online or offline task, share the experience, and tag themselves across social media with contest- or app-specific hashtags and handles to help push awareness. There are online services that let you create and raffle off prizes to those who share your app, post about it, or complete other tasks. In all cases, make a point of rewarding the winners publicly to indicate you value their support.
10. Subscriber lists
Before launching your app, create a promotional teaser landing page and collect beta subscribers and other interested parties via a simple email submission form. Once your app’s released, make a big deal of letting your list know, and encourage and incent them to download and provide feedback. Post-launch, continue building your list by making sure you keep a signup form on your app’s site or page, as well as in your app-store listing content if allowed.
11. Coupons, swag, free trials, discounts & promo codes
Users are much more likely to download your app and engage with it if they can save some money or get some other additional benefit beyond the app’s primary purpose. Get creative and deliver something that is relevant to your target audience to increase downloads and engagement without taxing your budget.
Find a coupon service that’s relevant to your market, run a campaign, and track the outcome through the coupon codes. If your app is paid, build a relationship to bring customers onboard by offering a free trial to expose them to your app and collect their information you can use for following up. If your app involves in-app purchases, offer them at discounted prices at certain times, and be sure to keep potential and existing customers in the loop via push notifications (automated email or text communications that are triggered by pre-defined actions) or your newsletter.
12. Tech blogs and niche writers
Make a list of contacts and relevant blogs and media outlets, let them know about your new app, and pitch a story suggestion. If you don’t hear back within a week, follow up regularly (but not annoyingly) until you get picked up or they pass. These contacts can prove to be valuable down the road, so approach them with professionalism and convey that you understand the importance of their time and consideration.
13. Video channels on YouTube and/or Vimeo
Establish accounts on YouTube, Vimeo, and other video-centric online outlets to promote your app via interesting content. Start with a video intro to your app that clearly conveys its benefits, features, and where a customer can go to download it. Then follow up with a tutorial series, development updates, industry news, user testimonials, success stories, and the like. Be diligent about always adding your main hashtag and handle and descriptive hashtags to maximize exposure on social media.
Get involved with and develop communities and community-based events, both online and offline, to build personal connections through which you can share your app. Surround yourself with people who share interests or who can benefit from your app and what your business provides. Attend app-centric conferences and tradeshows to promote your app, evaluate the competition, and enhance your network.
Investigate community options on social platforms and the likes of Meetup.com
, and proactively establish and nurture networks in your local community. If your app is meant to address a local audience, consider a mailer along with digital avenues. A welcome card is another great way to onboard new users. And always have business cards at the ready.
Total revenue in the App market is projected to reach US$430.90bn in 2022.³
Ask your users to leave a rating or review on the app store from which they downloaded your app, on your app’s supporting website if that functionality is available, and on their social accounts. In addition to the big tech blogs and media outlets, there are hundreds of app-review sites that can be instrumental in promoting and establishing a foothold for your app — just make sure to keep things relevant.
As submissions come in, respond to reviews and reviewers to indicate that you’re listening and actively making adjustments to address any issues they have called attention to. Retaining customers is vastly more affordable than acquiring new ones, so address negative as well as positive reviews and reach out to users quickly if they have any issues with your app.
16. Use quality visuals to convey professionalism
Your app can contribute to its own promotional success:
An eye-catching icon/logo will help your app stand out from the din of competitors. Design your logo or icon carefully, keeping it as simple as possible by using a limited color palette and minimal text. These graphical elements are displayed on top of each user’s device wallpaper, so make sure yours pops.
Add social-share buttons to give your users the ability to share content from or about your app on their social media profiles and groups.
Use professional-looking screenshots to ensure you’re not losing potential downloads because the app doesn’t look appealing.
17. Talk with one user at a time
Regardless of where you are with your app marketing, always seek and be open to direct conversations with users. To encourage loyalty and subsequent word-of-mouth marketing, referrals, and reviews, ask and answer questions, listen and respond to feedback, and provide decisive help as needed. Focused communication is equally important with small groups of enthusiastic, supportive customers such as beta testers, as their feedback can be instrumental in an app’s success.
Accessibility and responsiveness will inevitably create a pool of loyal customers willing to provide essential, valuable feedback to help you validate your app and improve its functionality and purpose. In that context, your primary marketing goal should be user retention rather than acquisition.
18. App launch parties
When you’re ready to roll out your new app, throw a launch party to amplify the release splash. Invite your core customers, potential customers, relevant press, influencers, and partners. Think outside the box to make it as memorable and impactful as possible. Host it at a physical venue, live stream it, or better yet do both. Be prepared to collect your guests’ contact information, particularly if your event’s strictly digital and open to the public. Also think about introducing your app online through the likes of Product Hunt
19. Re-engage and cross-promote
Tell your existing customers, clients, and partners that you’re building an app, and solicit feedback during the development process. Team up with another app where applicable and cross-promote to illustrate that you’re open to sharing the mutual benefits of collaboration. Once your app goes live, connect with that same pre-release community to let them know the apps available, to thank them for their initial support, and to ask them to share a download link.
20. Podcasts and guest blogging
Podcasts and blog appearances are two other resourceful ways of extending your marketing reach well beyond your own set of contacts. Record a podcast in which you discuss the problem your app solves, the solution your app provides, and the people who benefit from your app’s existence and purpose. Find external podcasts relevant to your business and connect with them to see if they’re interested in you appearing as a guest to introduce your app and answer questions in real time.
Pursue guest blogging as well, through which you can share your expertise and promote your app, while providing extra value for your host and their listeners. Many blogs will include a guest’s bio; whenever that’s the case, include a link to your app. And in all situations, have an informational or download link at the ready, and make a point of sharing it with listeners at strategic points in the conversation.
21. App awards
There are many organizations, award institutions, and online contests that recognize and award select new apps for their functionality, design, innovation, etc. — here’s a thorough selection to get started
. Compile your own list of applicable candidates, submit your app for consideration, and be prepared to go big with good news.
Promoting Your App with Snapchat
Snapchat makes easy work of marketing your app to a highly engaged, global audience. To build your user base, use the Advanced Create workflow
to choose a campaign objective, bid toward app install events, and create Snapchat ads that support app install attachments and deep link attachments in order to drive users to download or use your app.
You can track app installs and post-install events generated by Snapchatters who downloaded your app as long as you are integrated with an approved mobile measurement partner. This will give you access to metrics on actions like who’s signed up for an offer, purchased an item, or completed a certain level in a game. You can even measure custom events specific to your app.