Guide to App Pre-Launch Marketing


The global app market has made an amazing leap in the last 7 years. In 2009, when the App Store was launched, there were only about 500 apps for an app developer to compete with. These days, however, with more than a million and a half apps available in each of the two major app stores and about 1,000 additional apps released every day, the competition seems harder than ever. It is no longer enough to design a brilliantly innovative app, as it would most likely drown in the clutter and noise of the crowded app stores. For an app to stand out, it is crucial to have a good marketing strategy and to start it as early as possible. It should start long before the app reaches the app store, and help to build anticipation and creat a buzz around the app. A good pre-launch marketing strategy can do exactly that and make sure that the release of the app does not go unnoticed. Here are 5 vital stages to designing a winning pre-launch marketing plan:


The first step of any good strategy is to conduct thorough research into the relevant field, identify key players, locate the common pitfalls and find hidden opportunities. Start by Preparing an Excel sheet and comparing your competitors’ apps in terms of name, category, keywords, features, price, device compatibility, and so on. Check how other apps in the category are named, which categories they are targeting, and for which keywords they are ranking high. Download the apps and examine their UX/UI design. Write down the things you liked and the issues that bothered you. Read through their customer reviews and find out what users think is missing and what features customers value most. Pay special attention to users’ suggestions and feature requests.

Well-conducted research will help you stay ahead of the game. Once you know the field better, it will be much easier to tweak your app and marketing strategy accordingly.

Build a Launch Page and a Blog

Design a creative and appealing launch page to convey the gist of your idea. Rely on graphics and video rather than on text and information. A good page should reveal some, but conceal even more. It should show a promise, not a finished product. Allow potential users a glimpse of the UI/UX, the problem the app will solve, the brand personality, etc. If possible, create a preview of the app and show it on your page.

Flight Card
Flight Card’s launch page. A simple, clean page with 3 examples of the app’s interface.

Make sure your page has an easily accessible “early sign-up” form and social media links, as well as a link to a blog dedicated to the app. Once you have the blog going, publish periodical sneak peaks and trailers of the app, and share some of the features of the app with your audience. Other than advertising your app and creating a buzz, it will allow you to build a community of involved users and to get useful feedback.

Weather's (snap) launch page. A minimalistic page with a prominent email sign-up form.
Weather’s (Snap) launch page. A minimalistic page with a prominent email sign-up form. The display on the phone is interactive and changes when the mouse hovers above it. 

Go Viral

Create engaging social media accounts for your app and actively maintain them. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are a must, but also consider using Instagram, which can be very useful for visual teasers and viral advertisements.

Go to app marketing and development conferences and try to meet relevant and influential people, including tech reporters and bloggers. Pitch your ideas and add them to your marketing mailing list. If your app is ready, give them exclusive early access for it.

Once you know some reporters and bloggers that cover app launches, schedule a pre-launch press release focusing on the “why” of your app – what is the problem you’re going to solve, and the niche you’re going to fill. Take a look at videos on crowdsourcing sites like Kickstarter to get an idea on delivery and content.

Start Crowd-Based Beta Testing

Beta testing is an amazing opportunity, not only to test your apps for bugs and missing features, but also to build a community of loyal and devoted users. Those granted access to your app in the beta-testing phase are more likely to support it and spread the word.

Start by identifying your target audience and approaching them in the relevant channels. Once you’ve recruited them, actively engage with them to learn as much as you can. This is your best chance for unbiased first-hand feedback from your target audience; make sure to make the most of it.

When starting, make sure to limit the number of beta testers to a relatively small group. It will make your beta testing seem private and exclusive, creating scarcity and a sense of privilege. Grant invites to a select few, and allow those select few to have a limited number of invites to grant to their friends, and so on. This marketing strategy was used with amazing efficiency in the case of Mailbox. They created an invite-only program that granted access to a limited number of people, and allowed new users to reserve their username. This simple and effective tactic generated roughly 20,000 sign-ups before the website went live, and a media buzz which converted into more than 300,000 signups by the time of the official launch.

MailBox’s reservation system

Optimize for the App Stores

It is not always enough to just put an app on the app store. With the crowded nature of these stores, it often takes careful thought and optimization to find the best name, keywords, categories and description for your app. It can be a daunting process, but rest assured that it is also well worth it – a well-optimized app will be ranked higher in potential users’ search results and will enjoy much increased visibility.

The icon for Hipstamatic, a stylistic camera app

Choose an appropriate name for your app, based on common search terms and branded names. The name should be unique and simple enough for users to remember it easily. It should also be short – avoid using more than two words if possible.

The choice of icon can be significant for an app’s success. Unlike books, apps do get judged by their cover. Your logo should be unique to identify your app. It should also be clean and clear as well as eye-catching and distinguishable.

Pick your keywords carefully. You are limited to 100 characters, so make them count. Brainstorm for possible keywords, examine common ones, and use those you identified during the research phase. Experiment with different keywords and optimize by replacing some of them each time and measuring their effectiveness.

Create an appealing description, and make sure to insert the gist of it in the first 2-3 lines, so users can get a good idea of the app without needing to open the “read more” link in order to continue reading the description.




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