After you’ve researched your target audience, your niche, and your competition. You’ve learned how the app store search and recommendation engines work. You’ve optimized the visuals and descriptions on your app listing page, and used them to build trust with users. You’ve created a robust strategy for addressing app reviews. Now, it’s time to share your app with the world.
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While the shop App Store is a powerful marketplace, you are not limited to this marketplace when it comes to marketing your app. The marketing you do outside the app store is in fact largely responsible for defining how your app will perform, and can help you rank better in the app store itself.
Marketing strategies can take many different forms, all of which play a role in establishing your app as the right fit for your target users. In this section, we’ll look at the steps you should take to build a strong marketing plan and gain traction for your app.
1. Marketing your app: The marketing funnel
The basics of marketing revolve around something called the marketing funnel. The marketing funnel maps how your audience goes from strangers, to users. The basic marketing funnel has five stages: awareness, consideration, conversion, loyalty, and advocacy.
When it comes to app marketing specifically, conversion signifies the moment that a user completes the steps in adding your app to their store. As the loyalty and advocacy phases are post-install, for the purposes of this article we won’t focus on them (but this doesn’t mean they aren’t important—both are key parts of retention, and should be part of a post-install nurture strategy).
A simple marketing funnel via AWeber.
Before we get into more detail, here are some simple definitions:
- Awarenessis when a potential user becomes aware of your company and app.
- Considerationsignifies a potential user beginning to consider if they should install your app.
- Conversionis when the user makes the decision and installs your app.
Marketing plays a role at all stages of the funnel, but can especially be applied to these three stages as a key part of how to get more app installs. Your goal is to capture a large amount of qualified traffic (traffic that has the potential to convert), and nurture them through the funnel to conversion.
As mentioned in the research portion of this guide, remember that potential audiences can include more than solely merchants.
Gavin Ballard, founder and CEO of shop Partner agency Disco, explains in his article on how to market an app that hired help can also land in your marketing funnel.
“Don’t forget that shop merchants are often acting on the recommendation of technical experts such as freelance developers, agencies they’ve engaged, or their own in-house development teams,” he says. “The larger the merchant, the truer this becomes.”
Lean on the research you conducted to identify who your target audience is, and who the influencers and decision makers are. It’s important to get this research right from the start, as it will inform your wider marketing strategy, including the types of merchants—and potentially agencies, freelancers, and developers—who will be installing your app. Putting the effort into your research now will help you ensure that you aren’t missing any potentially impactful segments.
2. Marketing your app: Marketing channels
Marketing is a big world, with countless different approaches that can all lead to varying degrees of success. Understanding how your bandwidth, abilities, and resources play into creating a marketing strategy is key—but first, it’s important to understand what channels are available, and how they work.
Below, we look at the different channels you can leverage to market your app, and how to effectively put them to work.
One of the most effective tools at your disposal is content marketing via a blog (we’re biased, but it’s true).
A blog carves out a place on the internet where you can drive qualified traffic (traffic that has the potential to convert) and establish yourself as an expert in your field. A blog also provides an excellent opportunity for lead generation. Lead generation is the collection of high-potential contacts that you can enter into a nurture campaign to help move them down the funnel to conversion.
How does this work?
First, armed with an understanding of the problems that your target audience faces (from the great research you did at the start of your project), you can formulate blog topics that speak to specific issues among target users.
For example, if your app facilitates Facebook marketing, you probably realize that your potential users are merchants struggling with social media marketing. From that, an impactful topic for a blog post may be ‘10 Best Practices for Marketing Your Store on Social Media.’ You write an excellent post that addresses a common pain point among your target user, establishing yourself (and, therefore, your app) as a trusted solution to merchant problems.
A strategic blog post should also include a tactic for lead generation. Most often, this means including valuable, downloadable content that users trade their email address to access. This content should be high quality enough that readers are comfortable exchanging their contact information. Those email addresses are then added to your email tool to be used in drip campaigns—explained below.
An example of a lead generation tactic from the shop Web Design and Development Blog.
Once you have your post published, it’s important to distribute it. Much like your app listing page, your blog post should be optimized for search using on-page SEO tactics. This will help drive organic traffic to your blog post, increasing your exposure.
In addition to optimizing your post for search, you also need to actively share it. The internet is a busy place, which means that publishing your post and hoping for the best isn’t a viable approach. This brings us to the next piece of the marketing puzzle—social media.
Social media is a powerful platform for connecting with users, building communities, and sharing information.
At the most basic level, it’s a place to build a following and share updates such as new blog posts. When used strategically, you can grow your business with social media by creating a community to bounce ideas off of, share insights with, and form mutually beneficial relationships on.
Social media is a two-way street—while you should share your content and updates specific to your business, it’s important to remember that listening to users, participating in conversations, and offering advice and guidance when relevant are equally important.
As Warner of Hextom shares, the feedback cycle of social media can have benefits beyond getting eyes on your app.
“You can use your audience to get ideas, and those ideas might inspire you to add a major feature to your app,” Warner says. Social media allows the kind of one-on-one conversation that can highlight missing features, or even a gap in the market for a new product.
“It costs time to build up those valuable audiences, so start sooner than later,” Warner continues. “This is one thing we actually regret a little bit; we didn’t focus a lot on social media. But now we think it’s quite important to have an audience, because that’s basically your innovation source.”
Like social media, forums are a place to share content, offer advice, and connect with users. Also like social media, it’s important to offer value, not just promotion. Merchants and other shop Partners use shop Community to seek guidance. Offering your expertise for free is a powerful way to establish your leadership in the industry and gain user trust.
As discussed in our section on finding merchant pain points, shop Community is a fantastic source of exposure for your app. You should keep an eye on the shop Apps board for opportunities to offer support and, when appropriate, to link back to your blog or website.
A selection of threads from the shop Apps board in shop Community.
In addition to shop Community, shop-specific forums around the internet offer chances for you to get your voice out there and offer great insights to users. The shop subreddit, for example, is a constant source of merchants seeking advice. Offering guidance and thoughtful shares of your content is a good way to build brand recognition and drive traffic to your website.
Once you’ve invested in creating great content, driving readers to it, and collecting email addresses, you should start to amass a viable email list. This email list is a powerful tool—it’s a direct line to your users, and should be treated like gold.
One important thing to remember: before you send any marketing communications, you must ensure your contacts explicitly opt in to allowing you to send marketing emails to their email address. In several countries, there are strict regulations against sending emails that users haven’t opted into.
“Before you send any marketing communications, you must ensure your contacts explicitly opt in to allowing you to send marketing emails to their email address.”
Be mindful of the laws in your and your users’ regions.
Your email list is the best way to communicate with invested readers. Email marketing is a practice all of its own, but there are a number of ways you can start small with your email list. Sending out a message whenever you publish new content is a start, as is sharing any important updates about your product.
When you’re ready to step it up, email personalization and email segmentation are key strategies to begin sending highly-targeted emails to specific users. These tactics allow you to consider what stage of the funnel your users are at, meaning you send them content relevant to where they are in their buyer journey.
Joining forces with other shop Partners is increasingly becoming a key determiner of success in the ecosystem. By building connections with other partners, you set yourself up for not only co-marketing opportunities, but also for fruitful relationships that help the longevity, retention, and growth of your app.
In her article on building partnerships, Ruth Even Haim, co-founder of StilyoApps, highlights how under-used this tactic remains among partners.
“Building exposure to new clients is probably your end goal when partnering with anyone,” Ruth explains. “Yet this is something that I see a lot of shop Partners, and specifically app developers, miss out on.”
Agency partners can recommend your app to their clients, include your app in store builds, and help your app become the go-to option in your niche. But the importance of partnerships lies not only in the mutually beneficial marketing and growth—it also plays a role in retention.
“If you are app developers, you should aim to integrate with as many other relevant apps as possible,” Ruth advises. “This gives you a huge advantage for customer retention—if a new, cheaper competitor comes along, your clients will think twice before moving to a service that doesn’t integrate with the other apps they are using.”
This gives you a huge advantage for customer retention—if a new, cheaper competitor comes along, your clients will think twice before moving to a service that doesn’t integrate with the other apps they are using.
An obvious prerequisite of building fruitful partnerships is connecting with partners, and one of the best ways to connect with partners is to meet with them face-to-face at events.
Up until now, we’ve looked at the different digital marketing strategies you can leverage to get more downloads in the app store. But real-world interactions are vital as well, and being part of the shop Partner ecosystem opens the door to a number of popular events.
But your options aren’t limited to shop—attending any industry event could be the spark for your business to grow.
As Caitlin Teed, Experiential Marketer at shop, shares, the secret to impactful business networking lies in your authenticity.
“The most important rule of engaging with the diverse partner community—and your key to successful networking at these events—is to avoid a sales-y approach,” Caitlin explains. “Start authentic conversations, ask for feedback on your product, and find opportunities in conversations to contribute and be recognized as a thought leader in your space.”
Start authentic conversations, ask for feedback on your product, and find opportunities in conversations to contribute and be recognized as a thought leader in your space.
Caitilin goes on to explain that this has proven successful for a number of other shop Partners.
“Many other companies in our app community have found success through this approach. Take Shashank Kumar, founder of PushOwl, for example. He spoke at shop Unite about how impactful attending events and marketing through relationship building was for his company—it was hugely successful.”
Vanessa Lee, Director of Product for Platform at shop, delivers a keynote on shop Unite’s mainstage in 2019. Watch all of the shop Unite 2019 keynotes.
shop-specifc events give you an opportunity to meet with other partners and merchants who use shop every day. Brush up on your networking basics and join us at:
- shopMeetups: Hosted locally by partners around the world, these are a great opportunity to connect with others in your region
- shopPursuit: Our international traveling conference series, where the focus is on learning how to grow your business from other shop Partners
- shopUnite: Our annual partner and developer technology conference
Depending on your niche, there are hundreds of different conferences, meetups, and events you can attend to widen your network and make connections with potential clients and partners. Some of these include:
- Smashing Conference: A conference about front end development, UX, CSS, JS, and more
- RailsConf 2019: For those who work with Ruby on Rails
- GraphQL Summit: The world’s largest conference dedicated to GraphQL
Whichever kind of event you choose, meeting with others in your industry and vertical allows you to swap notes, key learnings, and expertise with a diverse community of professionals.
3. Marketing your app: Making marketing scaleable
As we’ve seen, marketing is made up of many different channels, approaches, and levels of commitment. As a busy developer, incorporating all of these into your day-to-day might be a difficult task, despite how important marketing is to the growth of your app.
Thankfully, there are different ways to make this lift easier. In this section, we share tactics to make marketing your app faster and easier.
In addition to helping you craft video and visual imagery for your app listing, freelancers are a great resource to help support your marketing activities, especially when you are just starting out.
Upwork is one of the most well-known freelancer marketplaces, and sites like Fiverr and Freelancer are also good resources for finding marketing help. In addition, you can find shop Partners in the shop Experts Marketplace to help with marketing specifically.
Especially when starting out, investing in marketing help will play an important role in getting the word out about your app.
Ensuring that all your marketing channels work together to optimize your marketing is key. Marketing automation supports this by combining different software in a strategic way, meaning your users get relevant marketing materials delivered to them when it’s most relevant—no matter what stage of the customer journey they’re at. You still need to create the content, but your automation platform takes care of the rest.
There are plenty of marketing automation software options out there, but there are also ways that you yourself can begin this process before investing. Some options include:
- Cross post blog articles: If you have audiences in various places, it might be worthwhile to cross post your blog articles (for example, by syndicating posts from your own domain to a platform likeMedium). This can help increase visibility and reach for your content. Be mindful of using canonical URLs whenever possible.
- Pre-plan social media: Use software likeHootsuite or Buffer to map out your social media strategy in advance. These tools also help you collaborate with your team with built-in functionality for draft posts and approvals, so you’re all on the same page before going live.
- Use a tool likeIFTTT: IFTTT (If This, Then That) is a workhorse, allowing you to identify a reaction to take place whenever a trigger action occurs. These triggers and reactions can vary wildly, but it’s a useful tool for marketing. If, for example, you want to tweet a link every time you publish a new blog post, IFTTT can automate that process. Neil Patel shares how, along with some other good ideas for marketing automation, on his blog.
Investing time up front in streamlining your marketing process will give you channels to connect with your audience down the road as it grows—saving you a higher investment and lift as your app begins to get traction.
4. Marketing your app: Additional resources
- Essential App Marketing: 11 Ways to Successfully Promote Your App
- Building Partnerships: shopPartners Share How They’re Creating Long-term Value
- 3 Simple Ways Your Agency Can Use Content Marketing to Build a Better Brand and Find New Clients
- How Social Media Can Help You Grow Your Freelance or Agency Business
- Email Personalization: Using Analytics to Send Relevant, High Converting Emails
- 5 Ways to Use Email Segmentation to Target Clients and Grow Your Business
- The Power of Community: How Business Networking Can Nurture Your Growth
- Your Network is Your Net Worth: The Basics of Networking as a shopPartner