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Launching an App

April 2nd, 2011 Jeremy Jeremy

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It’s Saturday and I’ve been so busy prepping for the Grades 2 launch next week that I forgot that it was my turn to blog on iDevBlogADay. Okay so I do have big announcement to make: assuming Apple approves it on time, Grades 2 will launch this Tuesday! I’ve been preparing for this moment for many months so it is pretty exciting to be so close to the big day.

Maybe it would be helpful to summarize what we’ve done up to this point to pump up our chances for Tuesday being a success. I think our pre-launch marketing efforts can be summed up into three targets: iOS community, PR, and students (the actual target market).

iOS Community

Breaking into the iOS developer community was a big help in the success of Grades 1. Not only did I learn a ton from talking to developers but a lot of developers helped build a lot of buzz for the app when it came out.

So what? Developers aren’t my target market! Yeah, well if the developer community knows what you’re doing, chances are folks at Apple know about you too. New & Noteworthy, anyone?

I’m not suggesting everyone needs to go out and do exactly what I did but I think it may be helpful to see some tangible examples.

Prior to Grades 1…

  • Started this blog and shared what I was learning about iOS design and marketing. Got a big break when TapTapTap talked it up.
  • Built a Twitter following the same way.
  • Engaged in iOS related discussion on Twitter and other developer’s blogs. Also started engaging with Apple employees on Twitter.

Leading up to Grades 2 launch…

  • Started contributing to UX Magazine.
  • Contributed to Ken Yarmosh’s awesome O’Reilly book, App Savvy.
  • Chronicled Grades 2 development in semi-weekly videos.
  • Posted Grades 2 preview shots on Dribbble and Forrst, garnering lots of feedback and thousands of views overall.
  • Blogged for iDevBlogADay.
  • Went to SXSW and got to meet so many awesome iOS designers and developers. In-person is the best by far! Also met some folks from Apple over there.

PR

For PR, the less cold-calling, the better (though cold calling is definitely better than nothing). Best case scenario is that the press already respect you before you pitch anything to them.

Grades 1

  • Got to know some folks in the press via Twitter and by the time Grades 1 was about to launch, some of them were actually contacting me to write about it.
  • Did the traditional cold calling – sending emails to all the major press outlets and review sites. Each pitch was custom tailored to the blog it was targeting, at least for all the major blogs. Definitely read their guidelines and don’t make dumb mistakes. I think my pitches tended to be longer than they needed to be. Here’s some tips for pitching review sites. I did win a few reviews via cold calling. The ideal scenario is if you are able to provide them a promo code. If it’s pre-launch you can get promo-codes after Apple approves the app but before you officially release it on the store. Definitely a good idea to allow for a week or so between approval and launch so that you can give out promo codes in time for folks to publish reviews right around your launch.
  • Allowed MacStories to do a preview/giveaway before the app came out.
  • Entered a demo video into the AppStar Awards (didn’t win but was a finalist).
  • Created a pretty website with a signup form.

Grades 2

  • Reached out to my old press contacts, offering beta access to some of them. That worked pretty well.
  • Pitched several folks from the press at SXSW – all were positive and will be writing about Grades 2. This was pretty phenomenal. To give you the idea of the scale of their sites, I plan to upgrade from my Hostgator Baby Plan to the highest end dedicated server they have to be sure the site doesn’t go down. I’ll keep the dedicated server until traffic dies down.
  • I plan to do another round of cold-calling. We made sure to have a nice video ready and I prepared a fairly comprehensive press package with a detailed press document, screenshots, icon images, and various promo images in wide and narrow formats. I wanted to make sure writing a great looking story about Grades 2 is as easy as possible.

Students

Our actual target market. We actually didn’t do much to target students directly with Grades 1, other than starting a Facebook group. Here’s what we’ve been doing for Grades 2:

  • Making the app free – college students tend to be quite stingy (not to mention high school students) so we think that switching the app to a free+ model (ads, $1 to remove) will help this thing spread virally on college campuses.
  • Josh started blogging tips for getting better grades with less sweat over on the Grades Blog. He has been able to grow that blog to hundreds of visits per day (which is actually pretty good).
  • Josh also regularly guest blogs on a number of college related blogs and networks with other blogs on Twitter. A lot of these blogs will be posting about Grades 2 when it launches.
  • Built a Grades 2 preview video into a Grades 1 update and integrated a MailChimp mailing list subscription feature into the app. Over 200 Grades 1 users have signed up to the mailing list from inside the app!
  • Josh will be contacting lots of student newspapers to see if they would be interested in reviewing the app.
  • We built Facebook sharing into the app. Not optimal – it is best to have something to share rather than just a plea to share the app itself. But it’s better than nothing.

Phew. That took longer than I expected. Hope it was useful. Be sure to look out for Grades 2 next week. I’m pumped to see how it all pans out!

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