We take part in a variety of events and work with a wide range of customers, from beginners to large game studios. We see many great applications and games with lots of creativity and talent, time and money invested in them. Often we hear that the developer has spent months or even years planning and developing the app, but when we ask about their marketing plan, it turns out that there is neither a plan nor a budget to launch the app properly so the project is on the shelf until new funding has been found.
Often, the key problem that is holding the developer back from promoting their app, is that they simply do not know where to start. On the other hand, many of the app developers we've met have already begun to get users, but they do not know how to scale and start realizing results.
For these reasons, we made a five step "app launch check lists" that we recommend each developer to read, whether they're launching a new application or building on previous success. The list contains five crucial elements to help you plan what you are doing when working on the next great application.
1) HOW TO DO MONEY WITH THE APP?
This is perhaps the most important thing to consider before launching the application. If you want to make money with your app or game, but you do not have an effective monetization strategy, do not hurry with launching, but think about your strategy first.
There are several ways to build a monetization mechanism for your app: In-App Purchases (IAP), paid app, ads, and merchandise. The mechanism that you will select depends on the content and nature of your app. For example, IAP is good for games with multiple consecutive levels, but if the game is intended for children, the rules limit the use of IAP in the app. Then you have to think about the alternative monetization mechanism.
The benefits of each mechanism can be justified, but the key factor is to make sure that the mechanism you choose really works. The goal is to ensure that the cost of acquiring users (cost-per-install) is covered by the revenue generated by users using the application, i.e. Life Time Value. At the end it should, of course, also cover the hours and costs involved in developing the application or game.
Keeping the cost of user acquisition low is a key measure, as of course you want to keep the budget minimal, but it is very likely that:
2) YOU WILL NEED TO DO PAID USER ACQUISITION
The fact is that 99.9% of the apps and the games do not survive with only organic installations. You may get some visibility and downloads with reviews, PR or even app store featuring, but recent reports and our own surveys have shown that they only provide limited and short-term peak in downloads. The smartest thing to do is to strengthen the organic growth by using paid user acquisition.
The advantage of paid advertising is twofold when organic "flow" is already on:
You can increase brand awareness. As you acquire users through paid UA channels, you can also get organic users. As the number of downloads increases, the visibility of your app will be improve in the app store top-lists, which will increase brand visibility even more.
Your budget will go further. The impact of gaining organic users at the same time as paid UA is done means that you’re effectively lowering your CPI. It is much easier (and cheaper) to maintain a good listing ranking than trying to get it back after the investment has already dropped.
And especially, if you get featured in the app store and you're almost like a lottery winner. The recently released App Annie report showed that the peak benefit of a Feature occurs around the third day. If you double the paid user acquisition at that point, it can get a longer-term benefit, you’ll be able to sustain the benefit much further, rather than simply sinking back down with out a trace.
3) WHY SOFT LAUNCH?
The key thing in paid user acquisition is to make it profitable. If advertising does not bring money back, you need to find out what is wrong. For this reason, it's important to do a Soft Launch first so you can make sure your monetization strategy really works before you spend more time and money in marketing an app or game.
We generally recommend that the time reserved for Soft Launch would be at least four months. And of course, you must also take into account salaries, rents and other costs that must be covered before you’ll see a dollar from your game.
In order to acquire users in soft launch, you must use paid UA channels. Several games that want to get to the Top 50 charts in the US, for example, spend around $ 15-20k in Soft Launch - and that should get them around 2,000 daily active users or simultaneous users for testing.
During Soft Launch, it is also useful to try different marketing tracking tools which allows you to measure key performance metrics such as click through rate (CTR), conversion rate, cost per install (CPI), user retention, daily active users (DAU) and engaged MAU's, and of course Life Time Value, which is the most important indicator of your profitability.
Most tracking tools offer a free trial and provide support that will help you determine the metrics correctly and understand the reported data. Choosing the right services for your needs takes consideration, but with the right tools you can track how much your marketing consumes money on each ad channel and where you get the highest quality of users.
4) DEFINE YOUR SUCCESS
One of the key elements of an effective marketing campaign is a clear set of goals. From the point of view of launching an application, this means that you have an understanding of how to determine success and how you are going to achieve it.
Your most important question is likely to be: "How many users do I need to be profitable?" In other words, how much lifetime value of an active user is enough to cover the effective (average) cost of acquiring a user (DAU x LTV> eCPI).
Over time, you can also find out what is your optimal chart ranking in the app store. It's the app store ranking position where you can get organic users as cost-effectively as possible, given the share of "paid" users, and the long-term goal of course is to make your business profitably.
In order to grow, scale and maintain your success, you need effective user acquisition, stable retention and re-engagement strategy, which means you’ll also need to keep spending money on paid UA. We recommend to use revenue streams earned from business to boost your growth campaigns, rather than relying on credit or trying to raise funding by giving away equity.
5) BE PREPARED TO BE FEATURED
As mentioned, app store promotion can have a big impact on the success of the game at the launch phase. There may be many different types of promotions, such as "the best new application" or "the best free game", and each one has a different effect. At its best, iTunes App Store's "Editor's Choice" can deliver up to three million downloads.
There are also more "feature spots" than ever before, which is a great thing. The App Store promotes 15-16 Best New Games every week, as well as Best New Game Updates. Each app category also has feature spots, not just the top-lists.
App store featuring does not cost you anything, but you should still do your homework well so you can make sure that you get the spotlight. It is generally recommended that you invest in public relations with Apple and Google to make sure they get to know your application in time (if you do not know how, contact us and we can help you get in touch with the right people).
There are also a few key elements which you’ll also need to start thinking about from the start, if you want to have a shot at getting a significant feature:
Always introduce the new operating system features supported by your app, as they are also promoted by the hardware manufacturers.
Make a marketing plan, or how you plan to market your app or game. Apple and Google do not want you to rely solely on them, so telling the marketing plan is more specific. Think of unique ways to market your game.
Telling about the new value of your app or game, or interesting or unexpected features will help you get featured
Keep the platforms up to date with your progress and tell them when you are planning a soft launch because they can guide you through best practices and make sure you get the right feedback
BUT, DO NOT RELY YOUR WHOLE MARKETING PLAN ON GETTING FEATURED! While featuring can give great results, never plan it to be your only launch strategy. It is always worthwhile to have a plan B so that you are ready to build your user community quickly, even if you do not appear featured in the app store. Do a research on what are the best ways to "grow hacking" and ask for help and advice from experts (such as AppSampo) and experienced developers.