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Archive for the ‘iPhone App Marketing’ Category

The app store is NOT a lottery

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

How many times have you heard developers (even successful ones) say, “to make it big on the app store you need to either (1) be a big brand or (2) get lucky.” I would like to talk about that word “lucky”.

What do people mean when they say, “get lucky”? I think they really mean “featured” on the app store. Whether on a chart, the “staff picks” section—whatever, you somehow get on Apple’s storefront. Lets talk about that.

The app storefront is not vital to your success

In a recent post I used some data from an admittedly unscientific survey to extrapolate that Apple’s storefront is not the most important exposure an app can get. I jumped the gun.

David Barnard of App cubby fame was kind enough to respond to that post and share some cold hard data, proving me wrong. Here you go:


I quote David’s email:

I don’t think that anyone has ever said that being featured by Apple is the *only* way to get attention, but for most apps it is BY FAR the best attention you can get. Developers who have been featured often joke about being hit by Apple’s money stick (and that’s really what it feels like).

Blogs and other publicity do help, but often they don’t help nearly as much as you’d think. A 4.5 mouse review on Macworld was such a little blip on the chart, I didn’t even bother noting it. Also, Gas Cubby has been mentioned on TUAW 4 or 5 times now. The only time those mentions seemed to have any impact was at the same time as Gas Cubby’s initial launch and the release of v2.0. It’s tough to tell how much of the boost had to do with the mentions and how much had to do with the launch/update. I also mention on my blog that $5k in Admob advertising was very hard to correlate with a meaningful increase in sales:

So lets be very clear, the app storefront is the goal. Without it, it’s going to be tough for you to call your app a success.

But… you don’t get there by “luck”

David certainly wasn’t implying that he got anywhere by “luck.” In fact, in later correspondence he said:

Exposure in the App Store is incredibly important (whether by getting featured by Apple, or by clawing your way up the rankings), but that exposure isn’t just a wait and see proposition. I think that Apple featuring my app was a combination of good will I had built with them by being a “thought leader” and having created great apps. You’re also right that they seem to pick up on apps that have made their own splash.

We developers are not helpless. We still carry the majority of the responsibility, to:

  • Create a purple cow, a remarkable app that people will talk about and Apple will appreciate.
  • Market the app outside the app store…

Remarkable marketing

In my experience, remarkable marketing take gobbles of time. This kind of marketing isn’t something you can just slap on at the end. Unless your app is just extraordinarily remarkable or unless you already have some clout, cold calling bloggers or review sites won’t yield too much fruit. Advertising has also proven largely ineffective. So what is left?

Social networking: blogging, tweeting, etc. In my experience, this can be very effective if used properly. Unless you have a huge following (like TapTapTap), the purpose of social networking is not mainly to build buzz directly (i.e. drive traffic to your app’s marketing site) but to become a thought leader in the tech community and build connections with influential people—hence, “social networking.” It may not even look like marketing.

For example, 6 months ago, when I first started iPhone development, I was a nobody. Now, after pouring my heart and time into this blog, somehow I’m receiving emails and getting mentioned by some of the most respected iPhone developers around (without any of my apps even being in the app store yet). This blog may not look like marketing but it really is. I’m starting to build connections with influential people. Eventually this will trickle up to the general tech community (i.e. Techcrunch, TUAW, etc.) which will not only get non-developers talking but will get me on Apple’s radar. Apple reads Gizmodo, TUAW, etc. Also, mentions on these sites should yield enough sales to warrant Apple’s attention. So then, given that my app is up to Apple’s high standards, Apple will notice it and promote it. I use the future-perfect tense because I have already seen this starting to happen and I’m betting my time and effort on it.

In other words, our marketing effort outside the app store is not an end in itself. It is a means to propel us onto the app storefront, whether by getting on a chart or by getting onto Apple’s radar.

I think it’s also important to note that apart from becoming a thought leader in the tech community you can also find creative ways to market your app to your target audience and have them market your app for you. I’ll get to that later.


App exposure is in fact the most important exposure you can get but it is not a mere matter of luck to get there. There are things we developers can do to boost our chances and those are the things we need to focus on.


App Store Momentum

Thursday, November 24th, 2016

So I’m nearing the home-stretch with the development of Grades, slowly but surely inching toward the finish line. I pushed my internal release date from late 2009 to January to early February and now, well, mid-March is the plan—soon after Spring Break ends for most major universities. Grades would have been a good app if I had released it a month ago but it wouldn’t have been too remarkable and there are still a few details I am working on to add that extra bit of awesomeness.


4 days to pick up momentum

According to a recent study posted on ReadWriteStart, the app store ranking algorithm only takes the past 4 days into account, giving more weight to the most recent day’s sales. This means that the sales blast I get from launch won’t have any effect on my ranking four days later. That has crazy implications.


If the initial buzz does not have a snowball effect, my app may be doomed to the fate of most apps: obscurity at page 200 of my category.

I need to be sure the launch buzz produces a snowball effect by (1) get onto some kind of chart

This means that you want your marketing efforts to culminate in one huge blast (with a window that lasts four days, max), the best time being at launch when you are also getting exposure on the “new” section. This is your

How to befriend journalists

Sunday, September 18th, 2016


We’re having some great discussion from journalists and app makers on this week’s “App Makers” discussion.

The Anatomy of a Successful App

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

I gave a talk a couple weeks ago at 360iDev Mini in beautiful Greenville, South Carolina, called The Anatomy of a Successful App. It is essentially a summary of my App Making guide, covering — in brief — what it takes to build a successful app, from idea, to design, to marketing.

Check it out here:

Jeremy Olson – Anatomy of a Successful App from John Wilker on Vimeo.

If you thought the video was helpful, you should check out the App Making guide I released yesterday. It is designed to be a comprehensive guide to succeeding on the App Store.

Screenshot 2014-10-14 17.20.34
I also wanted to say thank you to all the awesome folks who supported the App Making launch yesterday. All your support resulted in App Making first day sales being comparable to one of our successful app launches. It even got up to #5 on Product Hunt. That is pretty awesome because if we can make education a sustainable business, it helps us do more of it.

p.s. The 360iDev conference was also a great opportunity for my daughter of two weeks to learn the finer points of Swift pointers versus Structs, among other things. She enjoyed it.


p.s.s. I have recently been on a bunch of different podcasts, in case you are interested: MobileAppChat on app marketing, The Ray Wenderlich podcast talking about how to meet people in the app industry and launch successful apps, Novice No Longer on Swift, design, and teaching, Iterate on Hours, and My Appventure on my story. Phew! It has been busy around here.

Announcing our App Making workshop

Friday, January 31st, 2014

App Making Workshop

We love to teach and we want to do more of it so we have decided to create a 2-day workshop called App Making. The workshop is crafted to turbo-charge your app design and marketing skills in one weekend.

The first workshop will be held in Charlotte, NC on Feb 22-23 and we are super pumped about it.

Check out the App Making website to learn more.

Can’t travel to Charlotte?

Request us to come to your city or company.


Sign up to find out when the online version becomes available.

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