The "if you build it they will come" approach may have worked for Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, but as most marketers have come to realize, this is a poor approach for marketing a mobile app.
While there is no one sure-fired way to ensure successful app distribution and adoption, there are seven things you need to ensure you include in your approach.
Plan Ahead. "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail." So said Ben Franklin, and while I don't believe he was referring to app marketing, he could have been.
When you plan your app build, you should also be planning your launch. Do competitive analysis, review paid media efforts to identify places where promoting the app may have little incremental cost, and organize your PR support.
If your app is available in multiple countries, make sure you are taking advantage of submitting to the applicable app stores to ensure widespread distribution.
Use existing customer touch points as much as possible. Before spending tons of media dollars, why not start by reaching out to those already doing business with you?
Touch points such as email, websites or billing statements can be easily enabled for promotion. For example, use a script on your homepage to alert mobile browsers to the availability of your app. Or follow the example of the app that put QR codes on room key cards at a hotel chain. Now is the time to think beyond the obvious.
Before spending tons of media dollars, why not start by reaching out to those already doing business with you?
Think of the phone as a magic wand. The phone is a nearly magical device for bridging the analog and digital worlds. QR codes, SMS codes, or simple-to-enter URLs promoting your app can be added to all forms of existing communications, from TV spots to billboards.
Identify your customers' behavior scenarios and then target real-world elements. Are you promoting a spirits app? Putting a QR code on coasters with a link to your app is an effective way to get people to download it. You can even get guerilla by offering helpful check-in tips for popular social media sites that promote the app.
Target wisely. In good, old-fashioned direct mail, you would never mail a full list of men aged 50+ for a product targeted to women aged 18 to 25, so why do it here? Organize your targeting so you can analyze pre-identified segments that make sense to confirm or disprove your initial prediction.
For example, create a segment of users that are targeted only when they are on WiFi and see how that impacts your performance. Many apps are on the larger side and coverage issues may impact a consumer's download decision.
Take advantage of location retargeting. Promoting a travel app? Airports, hotels, and rental-car locations are full of the frequent-traveler types you want to reach.
Me, my friends, and I. Social channels provide a great opportunity to promote your app. Facebook and Twitter both offer app-install ads. Foursquare does not, but it does offer the ability to create tips, and a tip can be a recommendation to get an app. Target locations that are in line with your app and promote it to people looking for tips.
Does your app have a tell-a-friend feature? Why not?
You scratch my app, I'll scratch yours. Business partners can be an excellent resource. Are you an airline? Talk to your hotel and rental-car partners about cross-promotion opportunities. CPG company? Look to your retailers to see if there are in-store opportunities you can take advantage of.
Be an ASO. App Store Optimization, or ASO, is a new subset of SEO. Companies like Distimo can provide you with important data related to improving your position within the app store by making sure that the information surrounding your app is relevant and well structured.
Now is a critical time to compete to get on the phone. Keep thinking about your audience and how and where they might be using your app, and don't be afraid to experiment to find innovative ways to promote it.