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App Marketing: the crucial line item too many app developers miss

Mobile Phones And Abercrombie

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You’re developing what you hope will be a killer utility app or mobile game, you’re past proof of concept, you’re gotten some serious investment dollars, tested, tested, and retested, and are ready to launch. The one thing you may have overlooked? How you’re going to market the damn thing.

According to Gary Yentin, CEO and Founder of App Promo in Toronto, more often than not, developers are rushing to launch without a marketing plan in place and the budget to fund it. “I’m still amazed six years later [after the App Store launched], that people don’t put a line item in for marketing,” he says. He says that even seasoned VCs overlook it and instead get too fixated on the technology.

Of course, in order to market intelligently, you need the right analytics. You need to know who your users are and what they’re doing. But according to Yentin, many developers haven’t even put the right SDKs in place for tools such as Flurry or Google analytics, or any of the other mobile measurement platforms. “You can advise them to do it but sometimes they just don’t have the time,” he says. “They’ve set a launch date and that means they would have to go back and re-submit to the store.” No app developer wants to do that.

Even for those who have planned to capture data out of the starting gate, there are issues to solve. While there are a number of valuable analytics tools that can provide vast amounts of data, Yentin says that all too often, most developers are just too busy and overwhelmed with making things look good and work right to make good use of them.

“Developers are always super-rushed and have limited resources, and to be honest, a lot of them don’t know how to understand and interpret the data,” says Yentin. “It’s kind of a catch 22; you can put the KPIs out there but then you have to understand how to use and understand those KPIs.”

He’s contrasting this to giants like EA, Disney, or King, that have specific teams of up to 50 people dedicated to analytics. For mid-size and smaller developers, this just isn’t realistic, and for Yentin, it’s essential at the start for these mid-range players to build in an internal resource to monitor and interpret analytics, or outsource if that’s not possible.

Collecting data over time is important, but the first week after install is most critical, says Yentin. A lot of players won’t return after that first week, so it’s an essential time frame in which to get the most important data: what time of day users open the app, how often they come in and out, how much time they spend, how they interact with the app and its functions. Learning why people leave is as important as why they stay.

Developers also make the mistake of failing to determine exactly who their user is. He provides the example of a gaming client who had exclusively targeted males 18 to 24. All the creative in the game and all the advertising were aimed at this audience. But when the developers started to look into the demographics, they saw that they had a 30 percent uptick of females. “That was something they never dreamed about,” says Yentin. “Here they’re creating for one group, and then find out they have a completely different sex playing the game. That’s kind of significant when you think about how you’re going to go about acquiring users.”

But before developers find themselves in a similar situation doing a quick correction by targeting a percentage of advertising spend at gossip sites and fashion publications (yes, a terrible, awful stereotype, but it makes the point), developers can feel out their audience ahead of time. Yentin says it helps to get your app on a test flight. For smaller developers that can mean something as simple as using a meet-up group in your local city which can provide invaluable information and data. “A lot of people do all this research and great planning on the product side without considering the audience in terms of what that audience will actually do,” he says.

Being in Canada, he often sees another route to early learnings. “We see a lot people do their MVP [Minimum Viable Product] launches in Canada because it’s very similar to the U.S. market,” he explains. “Once they see what resonates with the audience, and tweak it, then they hit the big time.”

Ninety percent of App Promo’s business actually comes from outside Canada, from places as diverse as China, Japan, Russia, Europe, and Mexico. “It turns out, we’re a very good testing ground!”

 

Written by , @VentureBeat

 

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