Marketing and Selling Mobile Apps: A 101 Primer

Mobile analytics vendor offers developers tips and tricks for making money on your smartphone applications.

Mobile analytics vendor offers developers tips and tricks for making money on your smartphone applications.

Let's say you've developed the greatest smartphone application in the history of smartphone applications. You're sure everyone who tries it will love it. Now you have two related problems:

  • How will you get the word out about it, with so much competition in the field?
  • How will you make money off of it, so you can continue to improve it, and build more applications?

According to a PDF guide (registration required) by mobile analytics and billing company Bango, the promotion/selling starts with getting your new application noticed in whatever app store(s) you're releasing in, whether it's the iPhone App Store, Android Market, BlackBerry App World or whatever. Your app will likely be added to the "new" or "recently added" list, Bango says, but with so many new apps coming out, that promotional boost may not last long. Consider being ready with several quick updates, "in an attempt to refresh your position," the whitepaper states.

One mistake made by some mobile development companies, according to Bango, is relying solely on the app stores for promotion. To be effective, you need to promote your product in other ways. Consider avenues like mobile advertising networks such as ZestADZ, Mojiva and AdMob; search marketing campaigns through the major search engines; and social media like Facebook, Twitter and blogs and forums.

The whitepaper also recommends building a strong Web site to use as another avenue for app distribution. One tip: Build a simple application for an app store that's little more than a launch point to your Web site, from where users can download the app.

When it comes to the critical issue of payment, Bango advises a sort of "Trojan Horse" strategy: Make the app free (the horse), and then charge for things like upgrades, additional features or virtual goods (the Trojans). The whitepaper points out that more than 80 percent of downloaded apps are free, and Gartner predicts an increade in that number. Free is good, and is often the best way to get your product a tryout. Once a customer is using it and comfortable with it, they may decide to upgrade to a "Pro" version, for example.

Another way to get paid for your work is to make the payment process as painless as possible. The report has a startling statistic: "By presenting a quick and easy payment experience, you can increase your mobile application sales by 25 percent." If that number is true (no reference was given), it represents a huge opportunity for developers. Making customers go through multiple screens and steps can turn them off, especially considering that input on a mobile device is usually slower and clunkier than on a computer.

In short, companies that put as much effort into marketing and creatively selling their applications as they do developing them stand a much better chance of being around long enough to succeed.

Download the entire PDF here.

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization & Cloud Review. Follow him on Twitter @VirtReviewKeith.