When your app is ready to start focusing seriously on user acquisition, digital advertising is the most effective way to quickly grow.
I recommend digital ad campaigns for 3 reasons:
- The ads are cost-effective; I doubt you'll find another source as inexpensive.
- You can collect data about your audience and message (and iterate quickly).
- You can quickly generate a large amount of users.
There are a lot of things to consider when you're ready to launch your app advertising campaigns.
I've outlined 3 important considerations as you plan your campaigns below.
- Plan to launch in phases
- Consider network effects
- Choose a geographic location
1. Plan to Launch in Phases
For a new mobile app, you likely haven't had many users actually test out the app, if any. This means your idea hasn't really been validated on a large scale, and you don't have data on your app's performance.
I'm a huge fan of Eric Reis' lean startup model. The idea is that you build the most simple version of your app first, get some initial users to test it out, collect data and feedback, and then you can iterate and improve it.
This prevents you from spending time and money on building an app that nobody wants. You can validate the concept early on, and start generating useful data that will inform your product going forward.
I recommend using this iteration model in the beginning of your app's development. Run a campaign to generate your first users, then wait and see what they do. Talk to your customers, get feedback, and look for patterns in their behaviour.
Then once you've taken that feedback into account, you can improve the app and make it better before launching your next ad campaign.
I worked with the Tonit app, a social network for motorcyclists. The initial vision for the app had many features including tracking rides, and sharing stats.
But after talking to their users and watching their behaviour, they decided to release another feature: clubs. Clubs allowed the users to form groups and meet up with like-minded motorcyclists. This feature was a huge hit and led to significant growth of the app.
The first version of Tonit was very simple with few features and several bugs to work out. But they launched early, listened to their customers, and built something incredible that now has a raving fanbase of very engaged users.
If you're not planning on launching your app until the final version is developed and ready, I encourage you to reconsider. Launching early and iterating is the best way to ensure your app's success.
You can use this calculator that I built to help you plan your budget for each phase of your launch depending on how many users you want to acquire.
2. Consider Network Effects
Paid ads are a great way to inject a large amount of users into your app at one time, which is especially important for apps that rely on network effects.
Network effects means that the app gains more value as more people are using it.
A social networking app, or a peer-to-peer marketplace app, for example, will not be as valuable to users without a significant amount of activity.
If your app relies on network effects, you will want to consider how to incorporate that in your launch plan. You may decide to allocate a larger amount of budget for the initial launch to make sure that you've got enough users to make the app engaging or useful.
You may also consider including initial incentives for people to take action in the beginning. For example, the Tonit app mentioned earlier included the most engaged users in a special community program where they got free swag and insight into the behind the scenes of the app development.
Marketplace apps will need to find a way to make sure they are filling up both sides of the marketplace. For example, an app that connects in-home caregivers with patients needing care will need to make sure they are reaching both caregivers and patients to ensure that the supply and demand are in balance. You may need a separate strategy for reaching each side.
3. Choose A Geographic Location
Where are you going to launch your app first? Will it be on a national level? International? Or even just at a city level?
I tend to recommend to my clients to choose a small geographic area (like a small city) to launch their app in first while they are still in the testing phases. This is obviously required for a marketplace app as the users need to be within a small geographic area in order to interact with each other.
But even for those apps who aren't limited to location, I'm still a fan of keeping the launch location small for several reasons:
- When you launch something in a small area, you get the potential benefit of word of mouth. For example, your friend mentions an app they downloaded recently, and you think "oh yeah, I've been seeing those ads too".
- You also get to test your app out in one controlled area to see how it does. If people download your app and it totally flops on the first try, you can try to launch it again somewhere else and get unbiased installs from people who haven't heard of you before.
- You have an understanding of the general mindset and culture of that city/location which helps to understand why it might be popular or not well-received. I've seen the same app perform incredible in some cities and awful in others.
Most founders I've worked with like to launch in the city that they are in. This makes it easier for them to provide customer service and talk to users in person if needed.
Launching in your own city means you can also leverage your local network and local press for PR. Plus in my experience, people love to download an app that was founded in their city!
There may be other reasons to consider certain locations as well. For example, with the Tonit app we had a marketing push in the spring and chose to target the southern United States first where the weather was warmer and people were already riding their motorcycles.
There's a lot of moving pieces to planning your launch. I have a lot more content coming soon to help you pick the best platform for you, and best practices to make your campaigns successful.
You can also hire me to work with you on your launch and create your campaigns. Click here to learn more about working with me.