Launching an App: Part 1 – The Secret to a Successful App Launch

Even before your app is finished, you need to start thinking about your launch. Here's Part 1 in our series on the secrets to a successful app launch.

Image by Jerry Silfwer

Launching an app is a lot like a preparing for a movie opening. Well before a movie comes out, you get teasers, followed by full trailers, junkets, and actors and directors promoting the film left, right, top, and center. Often, they’ll partner up with all kinds of brands and you start seeing James Bond in TV commercials, dressed in Tom Ford, wearing an Omega watch, and drinking a Heineken (or, you know, Madagascar at McDonald’s). Movie marketing mavens start early, build momentum and collect throngs of fangirls and -boys long before opening night.

You have to do the same thing with your app.

The secret to a successful app launch is the same as launching any other kind of product or business – creating buzz, getting traction, and building a following before you even have the finished product. For a successful launch, you should start marketing about a month or two before your app actually hits the marketplace.

The Strategy: Get Hype Before You Go Live

1. Launch your website - As soon as you have the final name for your app, claim your that URL ASAP. Launching a complete site is great, but even if you just have a snazzy “Coming Soon” landing page, what matters is that users have a point of reference. You also want to be found on Google when your app goes public. This doesn’t happen overnight, so you want to make sure your site is indexed when you need it to be.

Creating a web site for your app is easy, and doesn’t mean you have to go out and spend more money on a web designer. Tools like WordPress make creating a web site a completely turnkey affair with little HTML or CSS coding required. Once you’ve setup a WordPress site, you can purchase and drop-in a pre-built template for creating an app marketing web site. Check out Templatic’s iPhone App Wordpress template which you can use to get an app marketing web site up and running in very little time.

2. Build “the list” - Your mailing list is your ticket to app stardom. Social media is great for staying connected, but email marketing is target marketing and thus get better engagement and conversion than other forms of marketing (this is how a good chunk of top bloggers make a serious living). Use a software or list manager like Aweber or MailChimp and you’ll have a great tool for email blasts and campaign analytics. Just don’t be spammy, mmmk? When done right, mailing lists are incredibly powerful (say it with me now, great power comes with great responsibility). Use. With. Caution.

» Set up a “Launching Soon” page + a mailing list the *really* easy way with streamlined platforms like LaunchRock and KickoffLabs.

3. Get social - You know the drill. Tweet, tweet, tweet… update, update, update… Everyone loves being part of the “in” crowd, so give your followers little nuggets and soundbytes here and there. Let people be a part of the development process and your journey.

There are few things more embarrassing than having a Twitter account for your app and only having 5 followers. Getting followers for your Twitter account is a combination of both creating interesting content people like to read and more importantly, seeking out people on Twitter to follow you. Tools like TweetAdder are extremely useful for finding people to follow on Twitter who are your target audience and automate following/unfollowing them in addition to generating tweets.

If you want to spend some dollars on a social media campaign, check out Google’s Wildfire platform. Wildfire lets you create and manage Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn advertising campaigns using your app’s profile page to drive people to “like” your app, visit your app web site and when the time is right, download your app.

4. Tap into your network - Let your friends, family, and colleagues know that you’re building the next big thing. Have them follow you on social media, give you feedback, and ask them to spread the word. Help them help you build an even bigger following.

5. Be a tease - No, not that kind of tease. Think screenshots and short video clips about how your app works, or just talk about new features you’re working on. Give folks a small preview of what’s to come and keep them wanting more. Put these on your app web site to improve your app’s search engine rankings and to start building a dedicated audience for your app.

6. Go blog-hopping - Guest post on a blog, contribute to a blog, get featured on blogs, whatever. Put on your thinking hat, bells, and whistles and show people that you are the go-to source for solving their problems and making their lives easier than ever. Position yourself as an expert on a topic or industry related to your app and market your new venture – you’ll gain trust and authority, but most importantly, a ton of visibility. Check out MyBlogGuest,  it’s an online community deigned to help people find blogs to guest post on.

7. Get some press - Send out a press release. Contact big name blogs and other online or print publications. Talk to influencers in tech and in your app’s niche. Get the right people talking and your app will practically create its own buzz. (Tip: Help us members of the press out with pre-release access to your app, i.e. via a free or beta version – but don’t forget to give us enough time to play with it).

If you have a bigger budget, think about working with a mobile app focused PR agency like Appular which focus squarely on helping newly launched helps gain attention and exposure in the tech media.

Next week, we’ll give you the inside scoop on getting press for your app and what you need to do post-launch to keep the momentum going.

About Sara Angeles

Sara is a copywriter, blogger, and content strategist for startups and lifestyle brands. She graduated from UC Irvine and has a background in law, finance, and business administration. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter. Her Google+ is lonely. Find out more about her at SaraAngeles.com.