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How To Market Your Mobile Application


App Store is a competitive environment. Against more than 140,000 apps, all screaming for attention, how do you make sure your app gets its time in the spotlight? What does it take to get good media coverage? How do you get people to talk about your app—and, ideally, how do you get them to buy it and show it to their friends?

How To Market your App

Following the simple rules laid out below, you will increase your chances in the battle for fame and glory. These tips might seem rudimentary or in-your-face obvious, but they are so often neglected in the heat of the moment.

Be Unique Link

Be Unique

One of the easiest ways to stand out in the App Store is to create an app that is unique. Sure, that makes sense. Yet still thousands and thousands of apps are uninspired, shovelled out by tired developers looking for a quick buck.

If you want to stick it to the man, make sure that you are either:

  1. The first developer in your category of product, or
  2. Reinventing the existing category with something unique.

If you’re just improving something that’s already available, your battle to market it will be uphill.

Spin an Existing Category Link

At this point in the history of the App Store, very few apps create new categories. So unless you’re sitting on a revolutionary new idea, focus your attention on a unique spin of an existing category. So many things can be re-imagined with little effort. Look at your competitors and flick on your child-like consumer filter. What cool feature for this category is missing? How can you take advantage of the iPhone’s interface, accelerometer, GPS or multi-touch functionality to create a package that delivers a unique experience in this category?

A unique feature will make your app stand a head taller in the crowd and raise eyebrows. And that’s exactly the effect you want if you intend to sell apps in the App Store.

  • Think, plan and build with the intention of creating something unique. From the conceptual drafts to the final marketing, keep iterating the unique aspects of your product.
  • Ask yourself if you are merely improving on someone else’s idea. If it already exists in the app store, the battle to market it will be uphill.
  • Try some shortcuts to create something unique, such as mixing categories; thinking of new ways to use the accelerometer, GPS, proximity sensor and multi-touch gestures; storytelling; etc.
  • If you’re competing in a saturated market, do the exact opposite of the leader.

Be Tweetable Link

Have Tweetability

Getting people to talk about your app is imperative for success. The more people talk, the more exposure your app will get, which will hopefully translate into sales. If your app is unique, you’re halfway there—people will talk about it just because of its uniqueness. But how do you encourage people to start up conversations about your product?

Learn to Pitch Link

I’m sure you’ve pitched your app to at least a dozen co-workers and puzzled family members. You know the ins and outs of your elevator speech, the highs and lows, the big sells of your product and the hard-to-understand parts. If you want your app to succeed, you will need to teach that pitch to the rest of the world.

Be Interesting Link

Make the conversation about your app easy and engaging. Make it so that people want to tweet about it. Tweetability—if no one has yet, I’m trademarking that word—refers to how well a product or message would move on Twitter. The Twitter network, with its millions of users, has a particular personality and disposition. Despite the diversity of people using the service, talking about it like a homogenous mass still makes sense in many ways. Some of the most successful apps are easily shared through social media. Imagine the twittersphere chattering in chipmunk voices, “Hey, guys. Check this out!” Instantly gratifying app + high tweetability = free exposure.

Even if your app isn’t instantly gratifying or playfully humorous, you can still compose a tweet that is highly tweetable. Just think of what you would retweet yourself. How would you sell your app in 140 characters?

  • Play to your strengths. Write good copy. And have a solid, useful and attractive landing page.
  • Find the human angle. Are there any amusing and beneficial reasons why people would use your app?
  • Have a memorable tagline. Sum up your app’s purpose in one line.

Cater To Blogs Link

Cater to the Blogs

Social media and the blogosphere are not isolated from each other. Like ripples in a pond, the more people tweet about your app, the more likely you’ll hit a big blog.

Review blogs and tech websites are part of the App Store’s eco-system, and while the exact effect they have on sales is debatable, the traffic and buzz they generate are worth pursuing.

Think Like Media Link

To get good media coverage, you need to think like the media. How good a story is your app? Obviously, the law of uniqueness makes a difference here, but your app should also be easy to write about. First, provide a free press package that anyone can download. Supply people with the material they need to talk about your app. Give them a high-res version of the icon, screenshots and press-related texts.

Don’t be stingy with the promo keys either—in fact, dispense them liberally. Promo keys are cheap marketing collateral and a way for you to put your app in the hands of peer leaders. Throw the keys at your favorite blog, and invite them to give some away for free in a raffle. If you can find a category-specific blog, you’ve got a direct line to your target customers. It’s a great way to reach a new audience and strengthen your relationships and reputation.

Blogs Are Like Kids in a Schoolyard Link

While they may not want to hear this, blogs are a bit like kids in a schoolyard. If you can get the cool kids to talk about you, chances are that other blogs will pick up the story and throw you on their front page. Getting on review and media websites is vital to your marketing success, because they are less transient than tweets. Reviews stay there and bring in traffic for months.

  • Give out promo codes to blogs without hesitation.
  • Have an extensive and easily accessible press package.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask individuals to endorse your app.
  • Try to crack category-specific blogs. If you’re making a wine app, contact wine blogs.

Control The Hype Link

Control the Hype

App sales thrive on hype. Learn to control the hype, and you will have mastered the product launch. Hype will always be partly out of your hands, but the rules mentioned above will help you put things in motion. But hype will amount to nothing if it’s for a poor product. While there is truth to the saying that there is no such thing as bad publicity, hype can backfire and harm your efforts to generate hype in future.

Hype Early Link

Start hyping early. If you know you have a unique product, let people in on the secret before the launch. Having an interesting “Coming soon” website can do this, by building a mailing list and getting Google juice for your domain.

Make Your Website Great Link

Needles to say, your app should have its own website. To make any of the rules above work, you will need a point of reference, somewhere to send the masses. Make the website interesting; show the app in action, and think outside the box. Make the website an extension of your app, and you will have yet another great tool in your marketing toolbox.

Launch Big Link

When you launch, make it big. Send out the triumphant newsletter, and hit all social media. Have you or your team write up blog posts, and pull every lever and handle in your network. Hype is all about critical mass: the first wave you set in motion will give you instant feedback on how to adjust your hype machine.

Maintaining hype is all about introducing new venues in which to exhibit your app. Get a steady stream of review websites to cover your app. Give away promo keys on Twitter, and serve new content on your website. Obviously, if you can get into the “What’s hot” or “New and noteworthy” sections of the App Store, you’ve made it far.

In the end, hype is part luck and part skill. The best way to balance the two is to keep asking yourself whether you can do anything else to add value, mystery, polish or spin to your product. Rely on your own judgement: what would excite you about this app if it were made by another developer?

  • Give out promo codes on Twitter and in the blogosphere.
  • Run contests related to your app. Give away prizes that make sense for your category.
  • Boost popularity by timing the launch of your app to coincide with a live event or trending topic. Climate-related apps spiked around the COP15 Climate Summit in Copenhagen.
  • Release your app with a big bang. Hold an online or live event. Attract visitors in creative ways, by building a game or puzzle or just throwing a contest or giveaway.

Example: Being Awesome In A Saturated Market Link

To illustrate the application of these rules, let’s take a play-by-play look at one successful app. For the sake of convenience, let’s just call it “Awesome app.”


Awesome app is a weather-forecasting app. This is a classic scenario: a re-thinking of an established category. I can’t think of a more tired and saturated market than weather apps, making this an excellent example of being able to re-invent and compete if we have the right frame of mind.

Unique Spin Link

The Awesome app reverse-engineers the trend of offering up increasingly detailed and advanced weather data. Instead, it trims down functionality and focuses on the very playful and human idea of exploring the weather visually, by swiping through a virtual forecast. It builds uniqueness right into the very concept and goes in the opposite direction of the market leaders.

Early Hype, Big Launch Link

Prior to launch, the website for Awesome app presents a “Coming soon” page that collects close to a thousand confirmed emails. A teaser video of the interface generates some buzz and earns the app a nomination in the App Star awards. The app launches at the end of December 2009. The release newsletter goes out; a more elaborate version of the website, with video and screenshots, goes up; and the developers make as much noise as they possibly can in their networks.

Review Websites Link

As soon as sales get a lift from the early launch hype, emails are sent out to various review websites offering promo keys. Reviews started flowing in, and chatter about the app is monitored on Twitter, where developers offer help and follow up on questions. A “Making the app” video is posted that gives existing customers something to enjoy (and that humanizes the team), highlighting user recommendations.

App Sales

The website for Awesome app gets some wind of its own by being featured in various design blogs for its modern use of CSS animations, contributing hype that doesn’t have anything to do with the app itself.

Picked Up by Larger Websites Link

A week and a half after launch, larger websites such as TUAW started showing interest. And coverage peaks with a TechCrunch article, which ripples out to LifeHacker and other major websites. More than a month in and we’re still seeing continued interest in the app; it has gathered hundreds of five-star reviews in the App Store and has been featured in both “New and noteworthy” and “What’s hot.”

What Worked? Link

What worked for Awesome app was a combination of the marketing rules discussed above:

  • It was sufficiently unique in a crowded market to spark interest and be seen as a “good story.”
  • The idea of a “visual weather forecast” was easy to convey and was presented in a way that gave it high tweetability.
  • It was completely the opposite of what leading competitors were doing.
  • The team started hyping early with a “Coming soon” page. It was appealing enough for people to tweet about it, and it eventually attracted visitors not only because of the app but because of the design of the website.
  • A press package with everything you could want was freely available on the website, making it easy for blogs to write about the app.

Parting Thought Link

Not a single dime was spent on marketing it, yet the Awesome app reached tens of thousands of people. If you have a unique product and apply some of the ideas above, you too can secure free exposure for your beloved app. It’s a rather democratic and honest process because you are required to re-invent apps by adding unique features. Marketing then becomes all about making it easier and more interesting for people to talk about and share your creation.

As with most other things in life, there’s no surefire way to create a successful app. But keeping in mind some of the things we’ve talked about here—both at the conception and the execution stage—will put you in a position to build awareness of your application much more easily.


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Michael Flarup is a Copenhagen based interface designer & iconist. When he’s not freelancing and blogging out of he’s creating iPhone apps with his young upstart company Robocat.

  1. 1

    Great article!
    Just needed it!

  2. 2

    Great work Dude ! Someday or the other will be helpful to me.

  3. 6

    Hmmmm, I’m guessing that this article is referring to

  4. 8

    I love Michael Flarup’s posts :)

  5. 9

    Good advice. Also good to check out

  6. 10

    Great post, I am sure this is useful for app fresh developers.

  7. 11

    A very helpful and interesting article. Your great graphics make it even better. Great work as always, Michael!

  8. 15

    Thanks for an interesting read.

  9. 16

    Another great way to attract attention is to get out there on other sites where people can add user reviews to your applications. A great example is Appboy ( – a developer can create their own page with a unique URL for sharing all of the applications they’ve built.

  10. 17

    Seemed a little redundant, but only in the very important parts–I guess that was just a good hammering, haha! Thanks for the fab article, this can be applied to more things than just apps!

  11. 18

    Mobile app is never yet to be my main concern. But it will be in the future. Just one place i could think of, iPhone apps marketplace is one great example. Just my thought.

  12. 19

    Great article. Love the Outside app btw!
    The launch video on their blog is great too.

    • 20

      I’m a big fan of video for promotion to create a buzz. Blue Fortress Media does a good job for cheap.

  13. 21

    I wrote an post with a bit of overlap. Readers of this might find it interesting:

    “15 Suggestions for Marketing your iPhone Application”

  14. 22

    You don’t say how you managed to get a thousand people to sign up at the website. You can’t just plop a ‘coming soon’ website out there and expect to get traffic and sign-ups. A little more detail here would be very much appreciated :-).

    • 23

      Sure Matt,

      The landing page gathered the emails over a period of a few months, so it’s not like it was overnight. To gather that sort of attention you need to build your ‘coming soon’ page with the intent to wow and engage (which i personally think should always be the goal) Have the landing page itself be a teaser for the app, make people want to sign up. This can be done by giving away specifics on what your app is going to do, spice it up with some graphics or a video. You could also mystify the entire thing, build a puzzle into it or have a competition around it. Be creative! The main goal is to spread knowledge of your impending creation and take names and emails.

      Then leviate your network or perhaps get a small blog to help you out. If you’ve put the same attention to detail into your ‘coming soon’ page as your product, people will be enticed and it will spread through word of mouth :)

      Let me know if there’s anything else you’d like to know.

  15. 24

    This is the most useful article came at the right time…

  16. 25

    Hey Oren here from
    I’ve seen my share of “how to market your app” posts. But this one blew me away.
    Michael, your post was extremely visual and hit just the right informative notes.
    We’ve got your back with a couple of ReTweets and FB Wall posts.
    We should definitely talk about getting your POV for our blog –

    Reach out to me via the site or Twitter @orentodoros

    Really amazing post bro.

  17. 26

    Alfred Reinold Baudisch

    March 3, 2010 1:01 pm

    Nice stuff, as always.

    Since my company is going to launch an iPhone app soon, that was the kind of info I needed.

  18. 27

    Great info I’m looking forward to your posts.

  19. 28

    Thanks for putting all this down in a great format – review bullets and all. You’ve got a good intuitive marketing sense. Much appreciated.

  20. 29

    Ijaar | Design Tools

    March 3, 2010 10:46 pm

    As one of the users pointed, I think submitting your app to various app directories is a key way to get noticed nowadays.

    Great tips though.

  21. 30

    one good way to market your app, is thinking about starting pre-app store marketing.

    We helped 3 unreleased apps becoming top ranking apps by participating in our app contest App Star Awards

    If you are planning an app we have a new edition coming


    Including lots of coverage and a free ad campaign

  22. 31

    Nice article Michael!

    I’ve only have to ad one more thing:

    Did you thought of using socialmedia? When my first App came in the store (was one of first 10K apps) I used YouTube and Vimeo as source to promote the app.

    In a short movie a discription and looks where shown within 40 seconds. Alot of people check a product page before buying, and there was the movie aswell. Not long after publishing the movie, we got our first video review on YouTube aswell, it was pretty cool to see.

    Again, nice article and maybe add it aswell.

    Keep on the good work,

    Kind regards,

  23. 33

    I think another important aspect is having a clean and sexy marketing website, usually a one-pager. You’ll notice a lot of the big iPhone apps have one.

    If you’re not a web developer, check out for a free way to get a nice looking marketing page.

  24. 34

    Do you believe that you gain an advantage reading this article?
    Is it a help for you, if 10000000000 people read this advices…and follow it?
    Where are the media-econmics?
    BTW.: If you don’t know this already – be honest – are you qualified to get into this market?

  25. 35

    @DANIEL Long
    Okay, not may not all things that are free are worst/bad/a hell – sure, but think about this: why should they give away free-stuff?
    Don’t they have to pay bills like you and me?
    Where is the money came from?

  26. 36

    lost your modjo

  27. 37

    lost it your modjo

  28. 38

    Great post. Great recipe for global social marketing. The old way won’t cut it anymore with PR firms etc – this is the way to do it no matter if it’s an iPhone Mobile app or anything. Create some ripples, then a wave, then ride that wave and adapt quickly.

    Excellent advice. Thanks !

    ~ Brent

  29. 39

    What about a mention of some of the bigger apps rating sites, these work by allowing users to rate the apps but can be easier to navigate and use than the apps stores…

  30. 40

    You can spend 100k on a degree from Business School, or save the dough, and read this article.

    As I tweeted, this 411 can be put to good use for any product, service, or company launch. Helpful for those conducting job searches, as well.

    AND the comments are helpful, too!

    You Scandinavians are way too hip for the rest of us commoners.!

    Great job! Applause!


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