As an Indie App Developer, Marketing Terrifies Me

I’ve been working on an app for over 2 years now, and I feel like I’ve done a fair amount of research about how to market an app. Enough to know that I really don’t know how to do it. My chances of launching an app that anyone will download, much less pay for (through in-app purchases, my chosen monetization method), is slim. If you’ve done any research about common ways that apps fail, probably the most common is that the marketing didn’t connect with users, or there wasn’t any marketing done at all.

If you just build it, they definitely won’t come

It seems like there’s a fair amount of indie app developers with no marketing plan at all. No matter how great an idea, no matter how well an app solves a problem, if nobody knows about it they won’t be downloading your app. I think every developer would like to think their app is going to be the next Instagram – it’s so awesome that it simply markets itself.

The truth is, no app markets itself. And the version of Instagram in your head where it was so cool and awesome that no one had to do any marketing is simply an illusion. If you look into how Instagram was created, they had to do a lot of hard work and big changes to get anyone to be interested in it.

For my app, I know if I don’t have at least some kind of plan to market it, I’ll fall into that group of apps that good or bad, never get discovered.

App store optimization – does it do anything?

I understand App Store Optimization (ASO) to be the technique of trying to get your app to come up in search results when users search on the App Store. There are ways that ASO can be quickly applied, for example choosing the correct wording for the title of your app, as well as writing a good description with good screenshots.

But the more effective ASO techniques require hard work, diligence, and time. The app store wants to see, for example, that your app has lots of good reviews, that your app is updated often, and has a lot of downloads before it really starts showing your app in search results.

This presents us a chicken-and-egg scenario. How do you get good reviews and downloads if the App Store wants you to already have good reviews and downloads? I’m thinking that the answer is that ASO is not a good marketing technique by itself. There’s no special words or key phrases you can put in your app’s description that’s going to magically attract users to it. That may have been true early on in the history of the App Store when there weren’t so many apps and app developers. But now there’s lots of competition, and you really have to stand out from the crowd.

How to stand out?

If app marketing takes time and hard work, how do really successful apps launch themselves to popularity within a few days or weeks of launch? That kind of rocket-propelled launch doesn’t happen by accident. It’s almost always part of a carefully planned marketing campaign, using a number of techniques to draw attention to the app’s existence.

I think it’s safe to say that this marketing business is no easy task all by my lonesome, especially when most of my time is spent, you know, building the app. I need some help.

My plan

My plan has two parts:

  1. Do my own social media marketing
  2. Try to get someone with some influence to help

That’s about it. The other person on my team, my wife, has a Youtube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfms-4LkhJ3oR2Y4GbUy1xw, if you’re interested) an Instagram account, and a Facebook page, and we’re going to market the app there.

For my part, I plan to spend a few months to do some groundwork trying reaching out to some influencers that might be interested in promoting my app, and see what they want in return.

We’ll see what happens! Wish me luck!

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