How to Market a Mobile App

by | Nov 9, 2017 | News

By: Sarah Steimer

The app market is overcrowded, but the right outreach program can help even small businesses reach their audience

A recent small-business survey by Clutch found 40% of small businesses have a mobile app, a number that may rise to 67% by the end of the year. But with so many companies launching apps, it’s hard to find footing in an overcrowded market. Report author Michelle Delgado, a marketer and content developer at Clutch, offers advice for marketers looking to help their small company launch a successful app.

Q: How well are small businesses integrating brand voice into their apps?

A: For entrepreneurs or small business owners who view mobile apps as an opportunity to potentially create the next Uber, it’s important to manage expectations. Most of the popular apps that currently dominate the market had the backing of significant capital and custom design.

If that level of investment is inaccessible to most small business owners, some might wonder whether building a mobile app is worthwhile at all. In our research, we found that DIY app-builder software can provide a relatively low-risk opportunity to build an app.

It’s also easy to integrate superficial branding into app-builder software. Like popular website-builders such as Squarespace, this software allows users to select pre-designed themes and add their own text, colors and logos.

The bigger challenge is to build an app that complements a company’s existing brand strategy. This requires some deeper clarity. How will the app help customers achieve a better experience with your brand? How will the app extend your existing business goals? These are some of the more probing questions companies should ask and answer as they enter the app development process.

Q: What should businesses do to market their apps in an oversaturated market?

A: When a business decides to launch a new mobile app, it can be easy to get caught up in the excitement of the development process. But no matter how innovative or attractive an app might be, the marketplace is so crowded that it’s unrealistic to expect an app to take off without significant investment in marketing.

Companies should think of launching an app as they would any other significant marketing campaign, with a plan to dedicate both a distinct budget and staff time. Some app development companies can even work with marketers to provide clear, accurate descriptions of the app’s features and how they can benefit potential users’ interactions with a brand.

For example, a shopping app with push notifications might not seem initially appealing to a consumer, but what about a shopping app that uses push notifications to alert users when stock is running low, a product has shipped, or an item goes on sale? That might be the beginning of a marketing story that aligns with your brand in a way that could be intriguing to your customers.

In our survey, Clutch found that most app development experts recommend that companies prioritize social media and paid advertisements to drive awareness and persuade users to download a new app. In the case of the shopping app, a store could devote existing budget for print or broadcast advertising to an ad about the new app, while social media could provide screenshots or teaser videos of how customers can benefit from the app with a link to download.

Q: Should marketing the app be its own effort, or can it be integrated into the company’s marketing efforts?

A: Ideally, marketing an app will involve a distinct marketing effort that will complement existing campaigns. Launching an app creates a natural event to market, but longer-term marketing campaigns should focus on educating users about the app.

The story isn’t simply that your company now has an app; instead, marketers should dig into the app’s features and explain how the app can make users’ experience with a brand more convenient, faster or even less expensive. While these factors should align with a brand’s overall voice and mission, app campaigns should go a step beyond standard marketing to highlight what users will find compelling about the app itself.

During interviews for my report, experts cautioned that some companies under-invest in marketing and end up frustrated that their investment in a mobile app does not yield the conversions they hoped for. Although companies may be hesitant to spend on marketing after investing in an app, it is not an area where they can realistically cut costs and still get the same results.

Q: What else should marketers keep in mind when developing, launching and promoting a new app?

A: Marketers already know the hard work it takes to build a lasting audience. Unfortunately, marketers aren’t always included throughout the development process and may end up being handed a finished product to promote, despite the fact that earlier intervention might have yielded an app more consistent with other branding efforts.

If another team within a company is working to develop an app, marketers should insist on being included in the conversation from start to finish. This will reduce the need for internal training prior to an app’s launch and allow marketers to work with the confidence that comes from understanding how and why decisions were made along the way.

If that isn’t possible, marketers shouldn’t be afraid to connect directly with the development firm or app builder software support team. They may have helpful resources or ideas for how to market app features.

Above all, marketers should recognize that they are essential to an app’s ability to attract users and succeed in a crowded marketplace.


Author Bio:

Sarah Steimer is a staff writer for the AMA’s magazines and e-newsletters. She may be reached at or on Twitter at @sarah_steimer.


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