100k apps: don’t complain, get a brain, and develop a marketing strategy thats insane(ly great)

November 4th, 2009 Jeremy Jeremy

apps_fire_long_tail_nov09
ReadWriteWeb, one of my favorite tech blogs, recently picked up on Appfire’s observation that 80% of the 100k apps on the app store have hardly any installs.

I’m getting tired of the whining: “Why do so few of the apps get all the attention? Its just not fair!” I’m no Apple fanboy but I think developers are shooting themselves in the foot by blaming Apple for this.

I commented on RWW’s post and repeat here:

How can you expect Apple to get all 100,000 apps in front of user’s eyes? In my opinion, Apple is doing a decent job at showcasing some of the best apps.

What do we developers expect Apple to do? Make the home page one huge list of 100,000 random apps so that every body has equal attention? The takeaway from this shouldn’t be to blame Apple but to realize that the app store has changed: its not a marketing platform anymore (like it was when there were only a few thousand apps), its a distribution platform. Sorry.

If you want to get noticed these days, don’t bet on the app store. Get creative. Market your app like you would any other product. There are free, time consuming venues (Twitter, Blogging, Facebook, getting your app reviewed on prominent websites, etc.) and there are more traditional, expensive venues (namely, advertising). There are also creative combinations. I am about to implement a marketing strategy that involves a contest that would attract my target market, Facebook (via web and integrated with the app) to get free exposure while providing value, a beta test to get people talking, and blogging/Twitter to build buzz in the developer/tech community and open key connections. Though I’m still in the early stages, its been working very well. I’ll be blogging my progress as I go.

Don’t complain, get a brain, and develop a marketing strategy thats insane(ly great).

I’ll be detailing the marketing strategy I eluded to. Later.

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6 Responses to “100k apps: don’t complain, get a brain, and develop a marketing strategy thats insane(ly great)”

  1. I completely agree with you. I've been saying the same things for a while now.
    In february I gave a presentation during the Tech Week in Miami to show why people HAVE TO market they application differently if they want to emerge from the crowd.

    By the way, great blog. I really hope you'll be successful with your app, so far seems you are taking all the right steps to do so.

  2. jerols says:

    Thanks Davide, good luck with GetAppsDone and your flash card app.

  3. Joe says:

    I agree too. This whining thing is starting to drag me down. If you are an indie developer you have to wear all the hats. Not just your developer hat, but the PR hat, the marketing hat, the sales hat, etc.

    If these people would take a quarter of the energy they put into writing up these negative reviews about how Apple didn't make them rich, and instead put the energy into telling people about there product in a creative way they would probably start to see a nice trend called…… SALES!

  4. [...] 100k apps: don’t complain, get a brain, and develop a marketing strategy thats insane(ly great).  Tapity is getting tired of the whining being done by unsuccessful developers. [...]

  5. Johannes says:

    I think these kinds of posts are hitting the nail on the head for some cases, but so off on the majority of most cases.

    First off, for those who are whining that they should be able to just submit an App to the App Store and have Apple pull it up, well, that’s obviously retarded. That’s also, actually, not what any of the Indie Developers are asking for. For those who are, should fail. Obviously.

    For myself as an Indie Dev, and our game, iRis AG, it was a first attempt. Is it the best game out there? No, of course not. Did we invest our heart and soul into it? 9 months worth, absolutely, 80,000 lines of code and 25MB of art assets. Did we have problems with the design? Yup, and we’re going back to analyze what we did wrong and what we can do better next time. We admit fully to being human and imperfect… and Indie…

    But did we come up ahead of time with an appropriate marketing strategy? Yup…

    And even then, it just didn’t work, and here’s why:

    1) Review sites won’t even touch you. Unless you have something neat, or pay them (which we’ve done, 3 times, and have only 1 paid review up at theiphoneappreview, and 1 free review at appgirlreviews), or have some sort of backwards connection, well, forget even trying. Their intake on review requests is staggering, and unless you have a brand name you’re working off of… you’re screwed for reviews…

    2) Mobile advertising is expensive and has a low conversion rate that doesn’t translate well to sells. To let your ads go world round, AdMob, the largest advertising service for iPhone, you can put down $0.03 bids on per-click that you pay for. We put down $50.00 and had that used up within a few hours. We tried again, this time localizing to just the U.S. and had to pay $0.10 per-click. That was used up within two days. So, what has the convergence rate been? We’ve made, maybe, 5 sales. Not enough to cover costs. So $100.00 was dropped that resulted in hardly anything.

    3) Website advertising is expensive, and doesn’t translate well to visits. We put down $50.00 for about two weeks of main banner at AppGirlReviews, another $50.00 for a month of side 125×125 icon on TheIPhoneAppReview, and 15$ for a 1/2 page ad for Indie Game Developer Magazine. Out of all of this, our analytics clearly shows that the rate of which we get people has very minor influence from those sites, even after dropping yet another $100.00 for only meager visits.

    4) In-app ads don’t get clicked on enough to matter. Although iRis AG has a Lite version available, which is downloaded 10-25 times every day pretty consistently, we haven’t made more than $1.00 off the AdMob adverts (that we get paid for by-the-click). So even though we have expanded the revenue stream to include money coming in from such, it still hasn’t made much of a dent.

    5) We also put down $50.00 for business-sized-cards info cards that we sent out to various people to hand out. We’ve dropped $150.00 for trade/expo shows that we spent all day at (not including traveling costs), and even have talked to professional marketers about our approach. Doesn’t matter what we try, nothing translates to sells very well.

    6) We even tried getting into cross branding opportunities, such as App Treasures. We tried doing promo code contests (half of them aren’t even being used that we have freely displayed on various websites), as well as experimenting with price drops to spark events in the sites that automatically scan for price changes on Apps.

    So what does translate to sells then?

    Well, it must be nice to be able to sit on the other side of the fence, write posts like these, and claim that it’s the developer’s fault for not advertising. It must be nice to be able to nit-pick and point out all the faults – and I’m sure a few trolls will do it to my post too (did you try XYZ? did you not understand CTR? blah blah blah (yet they call us inexperienced?)). Well, the reality we’ve found is quite simple:

    PEOPLE ONLY LOOK AT THE APP STORE TOP 100 LISTS. Period.

    Top 100 lists = quality.

    If you get your App featured in one of those lists, especially top 100, you’re set. I’ve talked to a variety of developers, and for those who haven’t been featured, who have been doing everything they humanly can to market their product, it’s the same ball game. The reality that other developers have come to the conclusion of is that they’ve stop writing games for people, and start writing them for Apple (because Apple has a “what we’re playing” list). I’ve heard developers talk about how the “recently released” list is so screwed up that it’s displaying Apps that were released from over a year ago in some cases. I’ve also seen it first hand that unless Apple does _ANYTHING_ to feature you in one of those lists, consumers simple DON’T GIVE A SHIT.

    Let me repeat that: Nobody cares about the developers. Way to write a post that capitalizes on the group think.

    Consumers in the App Store want everything for nothing. By opening the doors to everybody, prices fell to nothing, only the early birds made bank, and unless you have a AA – AAA quality title or a brand name backing you up, you have nothing. Nobody is going to waste spending any money on trying out a brand that they don’t know or haven’t heard of, or isn’t featured on the top 100 lists as deemed by Apple. Even some of the more experienced Indie developers are having a hard time.

    There has even been a few screw ups on the list by Apple’s part where they featured games that were, even by their author’s own admissions, crap. Did they see sells? Oh hell yeah! Like pigs to a slaughter.

    Is the App Store then a viable business plan? Only if you have something that is the utmost quality & thus gets featured, gives consumers what they want for as little as possible (free preferably), have a brand name backing it up (Tetris has been top 10 for months, yet is so crap that it’s ridiculous – the brand name purely fuels its success irregardless of quality), _AND_ are featured in Apple’s top 100 list.

    Indie developers aren’t asking you to try the crappy games out for the sake of wasting your time. We are diligently working on making the best titles we possibly know how, and it’s REALLY challenging (and we enjoy that!). Bit by bit, release by release, we’re getting better… Just don’t expect perfection from an App that is 1$ or 2$ – you won’t get it because at that price breaking even is near impossible with a 9 month dev cycle like iRis AG had. Indie developers just want to see Apple expand their lists to be beyond top 100, and be more inclusive of those titles that have merit, just are hidden from public’s eye by the mechanisms the App Store is based on. The one that most App Store users rely on. The one that, truly, aside from branding, makes or breaks everything.

    Just because _YOU_ _THINK_ you know the App Store doesn’t mean you’ve been on both sides of the fence. It’s a lot more trickier than that. We’re not crying, we’re expressing our frustration, and posts like these have completely missed the bigger points.

  6. Jeremy says:

    Hey Johannes, I appreciate the detailed thoughts. Always good to hear an opposing opinion.

    You make a good point: I have yet to be on your side of the fence (though that will change in January). Perhaps my perspective will change once I have more experience but I do I think I have some ground to believe that developers are shooting themselves in the foot by blaming Apple, or Apple’s top 100, for all their problems. A recent report (http://tapity.com/iphone-app-marketing/must-read-winning-iphone-strategies-report/) seems to indicate that word of mouth, not the top 100, is the top way people discover apps.

    Perhaps there are things Apple could do to improve the situation (I still haven’t seen any detailed suggestions from developers) but even still, we have to live with the current situation and find ways to thrive in it. I have some unproven and unposted ideas on how to do this that I will be blogging about later. Maybe they are lame ideas but we’ll just have to see.