If you're just starting out with a new app, chances are that you're going to need to do quite the marketing push to get the publicity you need to start making money. The trick is to figure out how to do it on a budget.
1. Create an Online Presence
Social media is, in a lot of ways, the most powerful marketing presence in the modern world. Having your work visible on platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok, and YouTube is a great first step to finding a consistent customer base. Of course, making good YouTube videos can require a bit of an up-front investment, so you'll probably end up on the production-quality hungry corners of the web.
Do you need to be on every social media network? No, you do not. In fact, if you're just one person you should probably stick to whichever one you like best, or whichever one fits your product the best. For instance, if you're marketing a wellness app, Tiktok might be exactly where you want to be, but an investment app might do better on Twitter.
Once you've decided which of the platforms to build on, you'll be laying the groundwork for the rest of your branding by choosing a suitable cover photo and profile picture. If the platform you're using has a contact now button, make sure that you check the email you connected to it often.
Now you'll need a content strategy. Your strategy will depend on your personality, the platform you're using, and the function of your app. Whatever it is, it should be engaging and interesting if you want it to find an audience.
Now that you have a plan, you'll need to post consistently and engage with your following. Most social media platforms promote pages that post consistently above sporadic ones, so this is very important. Engaging with followers will allow you to build a rapport with them and make them feel more comfortable with your app and/or company.
Once your app or company has grown a bit, you can start using free analytical tools to help strategize your future moves. All of this will help you to keep the audience you have and expand it.
2. Use App Store Optimization
App store optimization (ASO) is the process of making sure that your entry in whatever app store you're selling on is built to catch customers. This involves making sure the name of your app is descriptive and has the relevant keywords. It also involves making sure your app previews (screenshots and videos) help potential customers see the value in your app.
This is all much simpler than you might expect it to be. The most difficult part will be figuring out the right keywords to get your app in front of the eyes of the people looking for it. There are a couple of different methods for doing this, but the best way to avoid competition is to use long-tail keywords.
The term long-tail keyword does not, as it might seem at face value, mean a keyword that uses a lot of words. Rather, long-tail keywords are keywords that get fewer than a few hundred searches each month. This might seem counterintuitive since it means there will be fewer eyes on your listing. However, because you're playing to a more specific audience, the people who see your app will be more likely to click on it.
Making sure your page has a good description and previews is the next step. The description is where you get to really sell the app, so features, testimonials, and other things of that sort will all belong here.
Make sure that your screenshots are high quality. Taking them on the same device that you upload them to the website will help with this depending on the device. Grainy photos or overlays that hide important text are a no-no and will turn a lot of users off before they even get a chance to see what your app can do.
Adding a video works differently depending on whether you use the apple store or the Google Play store. The Apple Store will ask you to upload a video, while the Google Play store will want you to link a video on YouTube. Remember that Apple Store videos autoplay, so you'll want to be quick and to the point.
You can also link this app to other apps you've created. If customers like your old work they'll be more likely to give your new stuff a shot.
Finally, you can make your user experience better by responding to reviews people give your app, either thanking good reviews or following up on bad reviews so that you can fix the problems they are reporting.
Like when you keep up with your social media following, this will help your customers to feel good about supporting you, as it shows that you are involved in improving your product and listening to your concerns. This should also help encourage people to give you good ratings, which can make people feel safer taking a chance on your app.
3. Be Active On Forums
When you made your app, you became an expert on something. Go to Quora or Reddit, where people are asking questions that you are uniquely situated to answer, then plug your app. Most people don't mind if you do this as long as you answer their questions effectively and aren't too pushy about it.
You may even find situations where the answer to someone's problem is your app. If they try it and have a good experience, they might post back telling the rest of the community, which can help get you a lot of new customers.
This isn't nearly as big of a commitment as social media, and you can promote your work while genuinely helping other people which feels a lot better than other kinds of marketing for sure.
4. Print Marketing
A lot of people think print marketing is dead, but if you've ever been to a coffee shop where the first visible wall in the building is plastered with posters for various local products and services then you know that death means nothing to the old gods of glossy paper and printer ink.
However, since you likely have a small marketing budget, the old gods of glossy paper have probably forsaken you and your best bet is likely to use the equally old but significantly less flashy normal, matte paper and black-and-white ink from your roommate's HP Office Jet Pro.
While your reach with printed flyers will be limited, you can use them to spread awareness for your app. You may pass them out to people on the street or leave them on doorsteps, but the most cost-effective way to use them will probably be to give them out to local businesses and universities. This keeps down the price of printing out new flyers and saves the work of handing them out.
Keep in mind that in some parts of the world, it is illegal to put flyers on the windshields of parked cars. A lot of people try to do this when they first start flyering people and end up getting fined, which is the opposite of free marketing because you have to pay money and you probably want to keep it a secret.
Flyers may be low-tech, but you can put a QR code on them for simple access either to your listing on the app store or your website. They can also have a description of your services to catch the eyes of people who may be looking for a service like the one you provide.
5. Guest Posting
Once your app is out there, you might look for blogs that have topics that are related to your app and ask for a chance to write a guest post for them about it. Many blogs are amicable to this idea as it usually includes free content for them along with some of that sweet sweet Google AdSense money.
Your guest post should be simple, to the point, and give readers an idea of how your app can help them. If you are able to do this, then it's likely that you can get a significant number of people on board with your app very quickly, as the blog likely already has some following (or at least a place on Google's rankings) and people are much more likely to trust sites that they already know and has recommendations.
You can also be a guest on podcasts if that's more your jam. Finding a podcast that's about the field relevant to your app might be difficult, but once you've found one a lot of podcasts will likely be willing to do at least a short interview with you if you approach them nicely and they find your app interesting.
Hiring a famous influencer is far out of your $0 budget. That's fine. There are plenty of people who have considerable fanbases but aren't full-fledged influencers, and for an app just starting out getting the word out to an audience of say, four-thousand people can be a godsend.
You can contact people with smaller followings who cover topics relevant to your app and offer to let them have a full version of the app to use for free if they review it and post something about it on their social media platforms. While you might not be able to pay them just yet, they get content out of the exchange and you get good publicity, especially if you've developed an exceptional app.
If you're making a for-profit app, then the goal is most likely that eventually, you can pay these people for the time that they spend reviewing your product. They deserve the money! However, at this point, you kind of have to take what you can get and hope that someday you can repay them for the favor.
You may think you know where this is going. Mass email lists are fantastic for marketing. Wrong! You probably don't have enough people who care about your app yet to start an informative email list, and any email list you send to a large number of people hoping that one of them responds will probably just be sent to their spam folder.
Instead, you can turn your normal correspondences with friends, family, and work acquaintances into marketing by adding an email signature that links to your app. This may seem like it would be annoying, but email signatures are pretty easy to ignore, so most people won't mind, and people who want to support you will probably be happy to download it.
8. Have a Good App
This may seem like a given, but as anyone who has ever studied marketing will tell you word of mouth is the most powerful form of marketing. Real people telling their real-life friends about an app that has genuinely helped them will always be a more powerful way of finding new customers than anything else. That's why it's critical to have an excellent product.
If the problem that your app addresses are the kind of thing that comes up in conversation often (meditation, banking, entertainment) then people will bring it up naturally without needing to be prompted if they feel like the app has some relevance to the situation. If it's a great app, this will be a positive thing. If it isn't, the best-case scenario is that they forget what it's called.
Quality will also help you retain customers, as people who feel like their needs are being met by your app will usually come back to it repeatedly without needing to consider possible alternatives. It will also help spread the word about your app because they will tell their friends about it.
While it's nigh-impossible to make a perfect app with no bugs, you can treat customer complaints seriously and come out with regular updates to keep your customers happy. Doing this will increase their positive associations with your brand.