How can you make an app actually stand out?

How can you make an app actually stand out?

Remember one of Apple’s first smartphone slogans? “There’s An App For That?” It couldn’t be truer these days. There’s over a million in each major store (Apple and Android), and those numbers grow daily.

Standing out among a million of anything is pretty hard, which begs the question: how do you get a mobile app to stand out?

Step 1: Understanding how people typically find apps

This will vary by industry or the service you provided, but recent research from Think with Google offers some insights. Namely:

25% of app users discover an app through search
Search ads are also one of the more effective formats.

But what if you don’t have a strong PPC budget or the ability to bring in an SEO expert? At that point, social media — typically free and possible to get attention if you think a bit outside the box — becomes an important resource for mobile app marketing. And for social media to work properly, you’ll need content (otherwise, what else are you sharing?).

At this point, the ecosystem for mobile app marketing looks like:

Social Media
Content Marketing

You should be seeing by now that mobile app marketing is essentially a holistic digital experience — which explains why so many companies create apps without a plan for marketing them (because it can seem overwhelming in the midst of other day-to-day tasks) or why half of the companies still didn’t have an app in early 2014 (again, seems like a daunting process).

We can make this process easier for you — yes, it’s complex and holistic, but it starts with one important element, and that’s our Step 2.

Step 2: Understand your value and how that could be conveyed in an app

You might have seen this graphic in other posts or presentations, and we apologize for the brief curse word, but here goes:

Many companies get confused here and think what they sell is their product or service. No. In fact, you sell what your product can do for someone’s life. That applies whether you work in plumber routing apps, health care apps, productivity apps, or gaming apps. You’re not actually selling the product; you’re selling the value of the product/service in the life of the end customer.

All marketing — but especially app marketing, which is a very crowded world — starts from understanding your value, figuring out a story around the value, and then finding ways to tell that story to a consumer. Regarding apps, the root of the story you’re telling is simple: if you download this app, this value will always be with you so long as you have your phone. (Which for most people is all the time.)

You can brainstorm this, white-board this, or take any other collaborative team approach that’s best for your organization — but the most important steps to begin any mobile app marketing process are:

Understanding your value
Figuring out stories around that value
Determining how to tell those stories
Applying that out across different mediums and approaches

Step 3: Embracing the holistic digital package

If you look above, our focal points to get your app out into the world are going to be:

Search ads/PPC
Social Media
Content Marketing

We’re going to start with the value prop. Let’s say you make an app that helps small businesses schedule technicians out to customers (electricians, plumbers, cable repair, etc.)

You start with value points, such as:

Makes people’s lives easier
Customers can track where their tech is/understand how their appointment is being affected
Stores customer info that the tech can access (value for the business)
Potentially has invoicing capabilities

Once you’ve outlined the points of value, you need to determine how to fit them within the holistic digital ecosystem.

For SEO, you need a certain degree of technical functionality around keywords, headers, density, titles, and page data. But you also need to do keyword research and understand terms people are actually searching that might lead them to your app. Those are your target keywords. There’s no point in targeting “scheduling solutions” if everyone and their mother is Googling “scheduling apps,” right?

For search ads/PPC, again you need an idea about keyword search volume and about keyword conversion rates; you can find this information via Google itself (Keyword Planner) or via a host of third-party sites such as WordStream. You also need to figure out how to convey your value in a short search ad. Search ads are huge in the travel app community, for example. Let’s say someone is looking for a hotel room in Cincinnati and gets an add for your app. If they travel a lot, but Cincinnati is just one stop, they’ll probably ignore your ad if it seems like it’s very Cincinnati-focused. But if it seems universally relevant (“easy room finds for business travelers on short notice”), they’ll probably download it. Language is important to PPC as much as functionality is.

For social media, remember the first word: social. It’s not about selling like crazy or pushing product. Again it comes back to value. What’s the value of your app and how can you convey that? And if people are talking about or discussing needs relative to what your app can do … jump in the convos. This is called “social listening,” and it can work. People get very busy and don’t always have time to research every ideal app for the challenges they’re trying to solve. If you appear in a Twitter convo and solve a problem for them, most people will give your app a look.

For content marketing, again: value. It’s not about pushing out reams and reams of content. It’s about figuring out who might want your app and writing/designing content they would likely be interested in. You’ll whiff sometimes, sure — no one bats 1.000 on content marketing anywhere — but the surest path to failure is overproducing just to “have a lot of content.” A lot of content doesn’t help at all unless it’s targeted on who might actually want your app.

We haven’t even touched yet on e-mail marketing, and that’s another large component of getting your app in front of people — especially if your company’s marketing team has a whole has embraced e-mail and developed a mostly-robust list.

By this point, you might be a bit overwhelmed by the different tactics you can employ to stand out in a crowded App Store. And that’s going to lead to our next post! Next time out, we’ll focus more on social media marketing and driving that experience forward. Many small businesses try to experiment with social media, don’t see the returns they want, and abandon it quickly. It doesn’t have to be that way! You can be successful, but it requires a bit of context, a bit of strategy, and a bit of targeting.

Mobile Messaging 2.0

Mobile Messaging 2.0

There has been concern recently about “brand app fatigue,” but messaging apps don’t seem to be suffering from the same problems. Six of the current top 10 global apps are messaging apps, including two owned by Facebook (Messenger and WhatsApp). Messaging apps serve about 1.4 billion people globally — that’s roughly 12-15% of the entire world — and are growing about 12% annually.

As a result, we can add a new title to our current economy. So far, we have monikers such as:

The Knowledge Economy
The Sharing Economy
The App Economy

… how about The Conversational Commerce Economy?

Broadly speaking, conversational commerce is how brands interact with customers through messaging apps that are powered by natural language capabilities. The overall idea is to redefine customer experience around scalable — but still personal — moments.

We’ll run through some examples of brands who are doing a good job with messaging apps, and lessons you can learn from them. But first: a quick note on how messaging apps contrast with one of the other mobile marketing strategies many brands employ, i.e. email.

How Messaging Apps Contrast with Email Marketing

Email marketing can be amazing in terms of return, but there are some notable issues:

Open/click rates in different industries are not strong: For example, per Constant Contact data from last year, new technology services tend to open around 11 percent (slightly more than 1 in 10) and click through only slightly above six percent.
People often have a second email address for marketing campaigns: You may not really be reaching a target directly. This secondary account may have hundreds of messages, and they can easily skim past yours. Or, they only check that account every few weeks.
Email conversations can become disjointed and die in the inbox

That third bullet point speaks to the growing popularity of messaging apps for brands. Messaging apps create a conversation or ongoing dialogue between brand and consumer; this is some of the same psychology around statistics that 90% of text messages are viewed within three minutes. Human beings are social animals, and they respond to immediacy and dialogue.

Now, as for brands who are doing messaging apps right:

Instacart: This summer, TechCrunch noted that Instacart has changed grocery shopping for good. True disruption! The app uses messaging apps to communicate with customers about what’s available relative to their choices, potential solutions or alternate ingredients, etc. On the shopper side of the Instacart equation, messaging apps within Instacart for the shoppers help them move through a store in the most optimal way to pick up certain items (i.e. frozen or hot) last, for better end results for the customer.

1-800-Flowers: This has been a pioneering bot/messenger apps example on Amazon’s Alexa and Facebook Messenger, receiving a large amount of media coverage in the process. Mark Zuckerberg even noted the irony when he first discussed branded bots: “To order from 1-800-Flowers, you never have to call that number again,” he said at the time. Beyond how the bot/app works, here’s the bigger lesson of 1-800-Flowers. They were able to release a beta version on Messenger and Alexa in 90 days because of how they organized internally. They had CEO buy-in (check), had a specific arm of marketing own the process (check), and didn’t involve many people from IT or merchandise to avoid debates around priorities (check). Overall, they treat “conversational commerce” as a new channel — it’s designed to be incremental, as opposed to a major revenue play immediately.

There’s a big lesson in the 1-800-Flowers approach for brands seeking to do more with bots or messenger apps: simplify the process. New research from Stanford has shown that simplicity is one of the great competitive advantages of modern business, in large part as an antidote to the technological complexity many companies struggle with daily. If you want success with messenger apps, then, don’t involve everyone under the sun in your company. Start with a small group and get to beta. Then iterate and test. It’s a huge advantage and you’ll be out in front of the market too.

H&M: Along with brands like Sephora, H&M is popular on Kik, another notable riser in the messenger apps world. Kik is an interesting study — it’s come under some scrutiny for parental safety concerns and was even roasted in a recent 48 Hours episode, but it has shown large popularity with millennials and younger. (Ironically, that’s probably in large part because of the same parental safety concerns.) It has about 300M active users, and they’re primarily from the 24-and-under set. If brands can make shopping easier in that space via messenger apps, it’s a powerful device for their marketing teams.

Messenger apps show how marketing is continuing to evolve. There were traditional methods (tradeshows, direct mail), which ultimately gave way to digital approaches like email, content marketing, and social media. Now, it’s time to consider how you can connect to your audience via conversations in messenger apps, SMS, and your own app, and what’s next: AI and natural language taking even more of a central role.

What other brands have you seen that are doing messenger apps very well?

Yes, The 4 C’S Bring Sparkle, Clarity and Value to Diamonds Too

Yes, The 4 C’S Bring Sparkle, Clarity and Value to Diamonds Too


And with good reason. A dull digital campaign – a.k.a one that is unfocused and rudderless – will get you about as much attention and wow as you could expect to receive from a $400 engagement ring. In fact, digital marketing campaigns, like diamonds, can be valuable, glisten and stop people in their tracks. But, unfortunately, many are dull and forgettable with the clarity of soapy dishwater.

With the 4 C’s of digital marketing we always begin by practicing good, safe consumer relations. That means we always use a Concept. But all to often the “concept” concept is sidestepped in order to focus on what people think is most important — content. Everyone who can spell digital is touting content these days. Repeating like a carnival barker the ongoing refrain: content rules. And content is king. But without a strategy, without a tightly defined Concept to revert back to, content does not rule at all. Which means, like in the story of the emperor, the content king has no clothes.

Let’s put it this way: we can’t think outside the box unless we first have one. A box, that is. And a strong Concept is our box—the tightly defined strategy that content and breakthrough execution emanate from. As Bill Murray said: “Put me in a box and watch me work.”

When the starting Concept is strong and single-minded, all the content we put forth will be relatable and significant. Context is what makes our content relevant. When concept, content, and context are unified, the end result is a bond with the user that is united through relevance. The end result is the final C: “CONNECT”. They all work hand-in-hand. There is a mutually beneficial interaction.

We are living in the most productive, creative, and innovative time in the history of mankind.  We have limitless information available instantaneously at our fingertips. Literally. The unintended consequences of all these possibilities mean there is such a daily avalanche of junk, mediocrity, and jumble to filter through that we need a machete to cut through all the dross. More is not better. More is simply more.

In the end, Concept, Content, Context, and Connect will bring relevance, significance, and clarity to your digital marketing efforts. Just as the 4C’s of diamond buying is guaranteed to add value to a jewelry collection.

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