On the importance of marketing your app

Too often app makers pour blood, sweat and tears into making a new product without having a clear idea of how to communicate its features and benefits. That's where marketing comes into play.

It breaks my heart when I talk to a developer with a really cool new app who doesn't have the slightest idea how to communicate what it does effectively. And I'm press. If they're failing with me, they're failing desperately at attracting new customers.

It doesn't just happen once in a while. It happens all the time. Several times a day, typically.

"Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door."

We've all heard the quote, which is attributed to 19th century American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson. Turns out it's a misquote of something Emerson once said, but it fits a cognitive bias for entrepreuners that has made the misquote enormously popular.

The implication, of course, is that if you innovate — if your product is truly better than the competition — you'll succeed.

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

Actually making a better product is only the first step. You have to convince your customers that your product is better, and give them reasons to buy it.

Dino de Céspedes is co-founder of a New York-based marketing agency, and he's recently gathered some thoughts in a short essay entitled Why Marketing Is Not A Dirty Word.

Obviously as a marketing guy de Céspedes has a horse in the race here, but that doesn't make his advice wrong. I'd strongly recommend that any app developer, even ones who think they know better, take a few minutes and read it.

In mobile, there are maybe a couple hundred apps that have succeeded in a big way (Instagram, Snapchat, Venmo, WhatsApp, etc.), yet there are literally tens of thousands of really great undiscovered products out there. Why haven't those great products found success?...If we took more steps, and put more thought into communicating with potential customers - instead of scoffing at the idea of doing so, the business landscape would absolutely be different for many talented entrepreneurs.

He's absolutely right. Stop thinking about marketing as something distasteful, and get smart about it. You've put a work into making an app. Now put some work into making people actually use it.

Peter Cohen
  • Very well said, Peter. I couldn't agree more.
  • They also need to make better (or any!) visual tutorials showing what the app does! Videos and/or Napkin-type tutorials, PLEASE! Yes, some do this, but many don't.
  • Great post, Peter. Not only dev teams should use an iterative approach - marketing as well. That starts with practicing your pitch, talk to many people, listen to their reactions, and fine tune your messaging over time. Iterative marketing applies to picking the right category in the app store, picking the right keywords, and smart app names. Use the same principles to define your outreach strategy: work with a small group of bloggers and media contacts first, get their feedback, weave it back into your marketing fabric and continue from there.