How to promote efficiently your app without a huge budget? This question worries a lot of indie developers and, surely, causes many sleepless nights. Creating a product on your own is a demanding task, but doing it without having enough knowledge, experience and funds makes it even more challenging. There’s widespread belief that marketing is something expensive, difficult and not very effective. However, it turns out that there are a few simple, easy applicable and proven methods, which will immediately help you to draw your potential customers’ attention and, finally, gain a big number of users for your application.
Just before we start, a few words about me. Basically, I started my marketing adventure with applications in 2012. After several unsuccessful and rather fruitless projects, I managed to discover the magic of product marketing; how great it is and how much pleasure it can give. Although the whole process wasn’t easy, now I can fully assure you that it is was worth it. I feel that nothing has ever been more rewarding for me than working as a marketing wizard.
Ok, enough of sentiments. Let’s get to the point of the article.
I would like to present proven ways and techniques of marketing your product that save your precious time and money (you don’t have). I’m pretty sure that this will help you to avoid unnecessary frustrations that always accompany working on a project.
Many applications are made for the need of developers, not for the needs of potential users. For this reason, often after many months of work it turns out that, to a developer’s astonishment, nobody wants to use your product. You ask why? Here is the answer.
In order to start working on creating a new product, the first step you need to take is to carry out detailed and accurate market analysis. You have to remember that you don’t create a product for yourself, but for people. If you focus on problems and frustrations of a target group, you are able to create a product that could affect their life. As a matter of fact, we’ve done with Proud.
First 1000 users
It’s the hardest part of the jigsaw puzzle. So, how and what to do to get your first potential clients? The development of Proud took us over two years. Building a mailing list and finding beta testers took me one and a half years. It was time-consuming, but frankly speaking I had a lot of my plate at that time; I was studying hard for my high school final exams and I decided to move out of my parents’ house. Hardcore, but doable.
First step: Find a place where people from your target group meet or spend time. But, before you start communicating with them, do your homework and get to know what rules you have to follow in these places. It’s really easy to make a bad impression and it is widely known that a tarnished reputation is hard to be rebuilt, and it is the last thing you need in promoting your product.
In my case, I looked for clients mainly on Social Media platforms.
Reddit — being active on subreddits connected with productivity, time management, goals, apps, etc.
Quora, groups on LinkedIn & Facebook — answering questions, sharing knowledge and insights on time management.
Twitter — contacting people who write about apps and they are really often the part of beta testing of products. I believe that Twitter is the one of the best places to make great connections and build strong relationships.
Dribbble — creating free content. As soon as a new Apple Watch was announced, we (my boyfriend and I) were absolutely sure that we had to make a good use of this in order to promote our own application. Therefore, we came up with an idea of free mockups packs (of course using Proud’s logo). Thanks to that we attracted over 10 000 people to our website. That was a smashing success for us. It is also worth mentioning that Dribbble is a place that connects top designers from all around the world. Not only did they appreciate the quality of our mockups, but they also praised the interface of our app.
Beta Family — finding beta testers. On Beta Family and other similar places you can submit your app (in a beta version) to gain new users (early adopters). Once you manage to gain trust on these channels, you can send personalized messages to selected people (I learned that from Mike Sadowski from Brand24. He constantly repeats it in his presentations). Learn how to tell the story about your product in a simple but compelling way. Set goals that you want achieve through these actions.
My aim was to gather e-mails or find engaged beta testers that could contribute a lot to the product. What will you be your goal?
Polishing your product
Thanks to good communication, engagement, building trust on the sites mentioned above you are able to create a group of people that will help you to build something special. Interestingly enough, you can be sure that they will do it very willingly. Why? For a very simple reason. People love to be a part of a greater vision or idea.
After many months of hard work we opened a public beta with over thousand testers from all around the world (mostly from US). It was that moment when our e-mail box was bombarded with millions of messages every single day. In this particular case I highly recommend you to:
— listen to the needs of your users
— implement changes
— make early adopters feel special and important; don’t forget to make sure that they know their impact on the product is invaluable
— repeat everything (I mean all these steps) all over again for the next couple of weeks
— be extremely patient.
Product development is not only finding potential customers or beta testers?—?it’s mostly building connections with people that are actually bigger than you are.
In this case, Product Hunt and Twitter seemed to be the best places. During a couple of months I followed the best products released at that time. I was a participant of beta testing. I frequently shared my knowledge and I put forward some marketing ideas for the particular products. Afterwards, I created a document with the list of contacts that I made. When we launched Proud, I could contact these people and let them know that I had just launched my own product. Needless to say, I asked them for opinions, some constructive feedback, or simply support on Twitter. I took advantage of reciprocity and, believe it or not, it worked. 😉
The Proud launch took place on Product Hunt on the 2nd of January 2016. Initially, the premiere was scheduled just right after the New Year’s Eve, but… We did not wake up after the party. Paradoxically, that was the best thing that could happen. Frankly speaking, would any sane person check out the newest products early morning on the 1st of January? I don’t think so.
I published Proud on Product Hunt the next day. It was 9 a.m. in Poland and a few minutes after midnight in San Francisco. Clearly, we had some time before people from the other side of the ocean start browsing new products over a morning coffee. We got to the top 3 products of the day with several dozens upvotes. January was a perfect month to release a time management app. It is time when people reflect on life, when they make plans or undertake challenges, and no matter how clichéd it sounds, it is believed that a new year is like a new life.
To demonstrate disastrous product launch timing I would like to mention our game Mindivision. We launched it during the hype for Pokémon GO — the whole universe of Internet was obsessed with it. Our chances of a success were quite slim in comparison with the phenomenon of Pokémon GO. That’s why, make sure you have planned your premiere thoughtfully.
From the very beginning I have emphasized that Proud was made by a couple with love for making extraordinary things. Many people identified Proud with… my age. After the release I got many messages saying “I can’t believe you’re only 19! When I was your age…”. Read the article here: click.
Engagement of early adopters
I spent over 2 years building a community around Proud. I must admit that it actually helped us a lot in the premiere day. We received a lot of support on Product Hunt and great recommendations on social media which obviously helped us to promote our product.
Four weeks before Proud release I tried to reach out to journalists. It was December, so everyone was thinking only about Christmas and gifts. That was probably the reason why I did not get any answer back. So, I was forced to come up with an idea how to attract the media in other way. I wrote an article about the things I had done while marketing our product. The title was quite catchy (people like stories, especially on Product Hunt), more importantly, I presented a lot of valuable and practical knowledge. After the publication I got a lot of positive feedback. Naturally, generating a lot of buzz on social media attracted the press as well. If you want to read about this, click here.
Customer service as new marketing
To be completely honest with you, we did not have money for advertising at all, so we bet everything on extraordinary customer service (there’s no better thing than a happy and satisfied customer). We spent a lot of time answering e-mails as quickly as possible (Paweł Tkaczyk always talks about it). In many cases people asked us how we were doing, because they simply got attached to us. Thanks to such relationships? we could get to know how Proud changed the way they manage time, we could listen to numerous success stories and, last but not least, we could see that we achieved our goal. Priceless. Clearly, word of mouth marketing played a huge role in our marketing.
Working on your own project requires a lot of patience and persistence. While working on Proud we were about to quit the project several times because of problems and obstacles we encountered. Yet, we did not give up.
One of the most important advice that I want to give you now is to build strong communities. Maintaining relationships and proper use of social network is difficult, but definitely feasible. The sooner you start, the sooner you will see how much it will help you grow your business. Without social media, your customer and you are complete strangers. If you put enough effort you will be able to develop these relations, and who knows, maybe even make friends with your customers. Sounds fancy, right?
Don’t wait, just take the first step. As soon as you have finished this article! Send your first message, your first tweet!
Hard work and well thought-out steps allowed us create something valuable globally. We are a living proof that everyone can promote the product without a huge budget.