(eM+C)—In the early days of Apple’s iOS App Store, dozens of developers experienced a gold rush of success as iPhone users raced to download new releases from a small catalog of only a few hundred apps. Some of the best-selling apps even made a few developers into millionaires within mere months.
Just three years later, the App Store is flooded with more than 400,000 apps and making money in this wildly popular mobile marketplace is now proving to be quite a bit more difficult. App discovery amidst this vast sea of products is the biggest hurdle for developers, but here are a few quick tips to help increase consumer awareness and sales for your iPhone or iPad app:
1. Start with a great app concept. No amount of marketing can turn a bad app into a best-seller. It’s important to spend time refining your app idea into a viable product that users will want. This requires performing plenty of competitive research to ensure there’s an audience for your app, designing an appealing interface that attracts new users and conducting extensive usability testing to polish your app’s functionality. A positive user experience will result in the most effective kind of app marketing: word-of-mouth recommendations.
2. Plan your marketing strategy before a single line of code is written. Marketing should never be an afterthought. If you wait to focus on marketing until after your app is already in the App Store, you’re missing out on countless prelaunch opportunities. Programming and marketing should never be viewed as separate, unrelated tasks. Incorporate app marketing and business sense into every aspect of the design and development process, as well as your online social media efforts. Doing so will give your app the best possible chance of succeeding.
3. Your app is your most powerful marketing tool. Use your app’s existing audience to help draw in new customers by employing grassroots community marketing tactics. Enable your users to easily spread the word about your app; share game scores and achievements by integrating in-app social networking support for Twitter, Facebook, OpenFeint, Apple’s Game Center, etc. You can also capitalize on your app’s captive audience to gracefully encourage positive App Store reviews, as well as cross-promote other apps, in-app purchases and premium content all from within your app.
4. Your app requires a viable monetization strategy. Figuring out how your app will make money may seem like a no-brainer. But in order to sustain a profitable, long-term business, your answer actually deserves more thought than one might expect. Sure, you could simply launch it as a paid app with a free lite version, but will that traditional approach get your paid app into as many hands as possible? How do you plan to continue revenue growth beyond new customers? Depending on your app’s feature set and target market, you may want to position it as a free app download that’s either supported by in-app advertising, in-app purchases of premium content or a combination of both.
Dave Wooldridge is an adjunct instructor at the New York University School of Continuing and Professional Studies.