Either that, or Risk Being Struck by a Vending Machine!
By John Casey
After recent articles I wrote for Mobile Marketing Magazine, and Smashing Magazine, and an interview I did here, I continue to be approached by developers about how they should be properly promoting their apps. The most common thread I’ve found among developers is the glaring lack of attention or concern to promoting. What follows are some of the litany of comments – or excuses – I’ve heard from developers about forgoing the PR process:
“We’re a start-up, so there’s no money for publicity.”
“We invested all our money in hiring a great designer and coder, so we’re going to rely on our network of friends and family to write great reviews.”
“Our app will sell itself and will go viral.”
Where do I begin to address these comments? Where you should begin: implement PR!
Start-Ups and PR
As a start-up, developers might pay heed to utilizing PR because potential investors are beginning to do the same thing! A recent NewYork Times article talks about how the process of promotion among VC’s, once considered “crass,” has done a 180 “as venture capitalists are hiring full-time public relations experts to tell bloggers and reporters of their investing prowess.” The article specifically cites the success of Andreessen Horowitz and how their public relations efforts have had a domino effect in the industry. The article’s key point to start-ups and entrepreneurs: “Mr. Andreessen and Mr. Horowitz based their firm’s strategy on a simple investment thesis: each year 15 deals account for 97 percent of all venture capital profits. To be successful, they would have to pursue those 15 companies. And they would do it by aggressively marketing their expertise to the reporters and bloggers who follow start-ups. And they would appeal directly to entrepreneurs in blogs and on Twitter.”
If VC’s are trying to get your attention, shouldn’t you be trying to get theirs? Thus, a smart mobile developer should earmark budget dollars early in the process to engage a PR person to determine ways to start promoting the company, its attributes, team and mission, and tease about upcoming projects. And, while those projects are being developed, blend in the PR person with the production team.
Designer, Coder, Promoter
Developers need to engage a public relations professional who can offer creative ideas, not only around, but perhaps within, the application that will help “sell” the mobile app once it becomes available to the masses. When I hear developers say “we’ve invested all our money on production”, my response is: “you’ve spent all this money and engaged all this talent, how are people going to hear about your app given the 999,999 other ones available?” This question usually elicits a blank stare — and for good reason.
The creative process in building an application should not be limited to designing and developing. There should be a third aspect to rounding out the team: promoting. Thus, it’s imperative for a want-to-be successful developer to have a trifecta of designer, programmer and promoter working together at the earliest stages of production to build an application that is superior in quality and marketability. The creative process shouldn’t stop with the graphics and functionality of the mobile app. Indeed, a publicist’s ideas might just enhance the application and make it even more applicable to your key demographic. In the grand scheme of promoting, the best way to kick-off an app is to get your niche demographic excited, and let them begin the word-of-mouth spread that gives your app the chance to go viral, the equivalent of winning the lottery in the app world.
Winning the Lottery and a Viral App
The Daily Beast recently did a story, “15 Things More Likely to Happen than Winning Mega Millions.” And, those same 15 things, such as death by a vending machine, having identical quadruplets and becoming President of the United States, are probably more likely to happen to a developer than striking it rich with a viral app.
Apps go viral for a reason, mainly because the core demographic for which it’s intended got excited about it, and started talking about it via social media. To spark this scenario is getting your key demographic to start reading and dialoguing about the app, usually via strategic articles by bloggers and reporters coupled with a comprehensive review strategy. Doing both requires a lot of creativity. And, that creativity starts with a thoughtful process that involves developing interesting story angles and pitches that capture the attention of reporters and bloggers first. Just because your application might be “the best” or “the first” isn’t necessarily going to cut it for a reporter or blogger who hears the same thing from thousands (sometimes daily!) of other app developers and companies all trying to “sell” them about their new app or product. A smart publicist will help determine ways to get reporters and bloggers interested in covering your application, that excites the key demographic about its availability and attributes.
Additionally, reporters, bloggers and reviewers will confirm whether or not your application is indeed “the best” or “most unique”, and thus lend the app some credibility. This is vitally important since comments by family or friends aren’t enough (and sometimes way to obvious) to start and sustain the word-of-mouth process.
Moment in the Sun
Getting favorable word-of-mouth, like arriving at a solid mobile application on the iTunes store, requires careful work and thought. To dismiss PR as a nuisance or a budget bloater is to deny your application a chance to have a moment in the sun. Late last week, we launched a book app by placing an article about its production value on TheHuffington Post, a story about its narrator on Wired, and garnering a favorable review on Smart Apps for Kids, a leading children’s review site. Getting this spark to occur took months of preparation, careful thought and planning, and we’re still at the early stages of promotion. Similarly, for developers looking to capitalize on a successful launch, and create some buzz around their applications, the promotion process and development process needs to start early and simultaneously. Doing so increases your chances of success. It’s either that, play the lottery, or risk being felled by a vending machine!
About the Author:
John Casey is a former PR/media relations executive with Toys “R” Us, Sears, Kmart and Macy’s, and is currently the founder of freshfluff, a Manhattan based PR/social media agency.