Before starting up TestFairy we did some really nice mobile apps. We don’t do apps any more, and this is a great opportunity to write about some of the best mistakes we made along the way. These are not the biggest mistakes, just the ones that can turn into a good advice.
Before talking about apps, this one is about starts-ups in general and would probably be the best advice I can give to any entrepreneur I would talk to. If you have a new idea, go look for as many people you can talk to and tell them about your plans. Leah Busque CEO of TaskRabbit wrote a beautiful post about it: “Talk to every single person you meet about your idea. Talk until they tell you to shut up. Discover new questions and patterns so you can test and refine your idea. Then find more people to talk to.” I think that her post is a mandatory post for anyone that wants to start anything.
Think about the blogger you are trying to reach. In order to cover your story he will need to learn how your app works, take screenshots, find the icons and change their resolution, and if he is a video blogger he might even prepare a video by himself. Why don’t you help him? Have everything ready in advance including icons, screenshots, sample images and have them all in more than one resolution. Prepare your video files, youtube links and have your PR ready in a format that allows copying. Maintain a list of all the blogs that covered your story so far, so it will be easier for that blogger to start. For some bloggers this may be the difference between writing about you or writing about somebody else. Checkout these media kits. We made them too late and they are far from being perfect, but still they helped quite a few bloggers to cover our story.
Look at the calendar and find the best date for releasing your app. Think about holidays and days of week, make sure that there are no major events on that week that might attract all the media attention or maybe if it serves the purpose, do the opposite and use those events to promote your campaign. In any case, just check the calendar and make a plan, don’t just release the app whenever it is ready.
Two weeks before the official release start your quite launch. Contact bloggers, (email, twitter, Facebook, phone, meetups) send them your 100 words pitch including your youtube link, media kit, and let them try your app (Promo codes in iOS, apk in Android). Ask them not to write anything before the official release date. In our case all the bloggers we spoke to, respected our request.
You can not imagine how I felt when I spoke to a very well known blogger that told me that if StillShot would have been released on a Tuesday she would have covered it, but on a Monday she can’t because she has too many stories.
Apple gives every iOS developer 50 promo codes for every app. These codes are valid for 28 days and can be used once your app is approved by the Apple review team. There is a very important trick here that can help you a lot. When you upload your app to iTunes, do not set it for immediate release, but instead set it to be released in three months. Now, once your app is approved, this trick will hold it in the store with status “Pending Vendor Release”. At this point, the app is hidden from the public and is available only for those who have a promo code. This is the reason why promo codes are so important and that’s why you shouldn’t waste them on family and friends. You got only 50 codes, be smart and use them only for marketing purposes. On every app update Apples give you another 50 codes. The ones you get on updates, when your app is already released are the codes you can give away to your Facebook friends, this is the time for generosity, not before.
I’m a big fan of video marketing. I think that there are cases where a good video can do a better work than a whole marketing team. Your video must be simple and short – try to keep it below 40 seconds. Make sure the video describes really well the problem you solve (15 seconds) how you solve it (another 15 seconds) and include a very clear call for action – download url, app store keyword or anything else the user should do now. Make it just a little bit funny, so people will like it and enjoy sharing it. There are sites, books and schools that teach how to do it right. Find the right people that know how to do it and hire them. This is the best investment you can do with your marketing budget. This is one of the things that we did right, with the help of the great guys from Clutch animation studio.
In one of my favorite movies in all times, there is a guy that explains his secret in winning swim contests. He says “Start the strongest you can, and then slowly increase…” In our case as well, it is very important to start with a big blast. Having thousands of downloads in the first few hours may help you get into the top-25 list in the app store. There are users who check the top-25 list on a daily basis to see what is new. Once they find your app and get it, your numbers may increase and get you to the top-10. Try to make as much noise as you can at a specific day and hour. Schedule your release to 10am EST and ask your friends to post and tweet exactly at that time. Schedule your PR to that hour and if there are bloggers that are friends of yours, ask them to get your story in the morning. All this is just to get you as many downloads in the shortest time interval possible.
The minute you have released your app, is the time when everything starts. This is not the time to go to bed, this is not the time to get drunk. Be there when it happens! Stay online, listen to Twitter, reply to the tweets and get new followers. Google up your keywords (use the “Past hour” option) and see who is talking about you in real time. Your best coverage may come from a reply in a forum you never knew, a comment on a news blog or a new Twitter follower you just met. Make it really easy to contact you: Email, Facebook, Twitter, web contact form, Skype and phone. This is not the time to protect your privacy. This is the time to be reachable.
If you have more tips or any thoughts about this list, the comments below would be a great place for that.