One of the crucial components of any mobile app strategy is to put together a comprehensive and sound marketing plan that taps into the many avenues for building awareness, driving downloads and encouraging sharing. This begs the question: where should I promote my app?

The answer depends on what your goals are and what resources you have available, but the good news is that digital marketing is closer than ever before to being a science, which means that putting a plan together is more methodology than guesswork. This article provides a list of several main marketing channels available to you as an app marketer for both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, which can help you determine which marketing channels are best to invest your resources in and accomplish your goals, with the added benefit of analyzing each channel by 3 dimensions:

1) Cost: How many resources does this channel consume? Best measure of the threshold to utilize this channel.

2) Scale: How much install volume can this channel drive compared to others? Best used as a measure of whether a channel can accomplish more aggressive goals or not.

3) ROI: What could you expect (ballpark) from an installs driven per dollar/hour of effort standpoint? Best used as as measure of efficiency of inputs.

When considering each channel, keep in mind how aggressive your goals are (e.g. hitting 10,000 vs 1 million users by year-end) and what resources you have available (e.g. $1,000 vs $100,000 in marketing budget) in order to qualify and prioritize the right channels for your app marketing strategy.

Keep in mind that each dimension is independent of the others, as ROI is a relative term that means how much does each unit in cost return in results (conversion rate), while scale and cost are absolute terms dealing in totals. For example, while the ROI from the friends and family channel is high, cost and scale are both low, making this a high effective channel yet one not suitable for aggressive growth.

Channel 1: Friends and family (low cost, low scale, high ROI) – the store ranking algorithm(s) in charge of determining which apps to rank higher (i.e. which apps receive more visibility and the organic downloads that come with higher visibility) is primarily driven by downloads (moreover the velocity of downloads), and also influenced by the number and rating of user reviews. Encouraging people you know to download and review your app may produce limited results, but it is very easy to do, costs nothing and will yield guaranteed results.

Channel 2: Your app landing page (low-medium cost, medium scale, medium-high ROI) – using a landing page as a showcase for your app to provide engaging, educational content describing what your app does and why people should download it is key; don’t forget the call to action and link to your app listing! Also, setting up a landing page before your app launches is a great way to collect email addresses to fuel your marketing campaign. While websites typically are easy to set up, you must attract people to your website before it can do any marketing on your behalf, which reduces the ROI of this channel and increases costs.

Channel 3: Being featured by the App Store or Play Store (low cost, high scale, high ROI) – being featured in the best Apple apps of January, either store’s Editor’s Choice or the Google Play Getting Started guide are some of the best, free ways to acquire new users, due to the high intent to download of people browsing featured lists and also the credibility that being featured by Apple or Google lends to your app. While only a few apps out of the ocean of apps in either store are featured, the best bets to get featured include contacting the Apple or Google editor teams, regularly adding new features to your app, leveraging a new technology (e.g. 3D touch) or creating an app for a trending topic (e.g. tax season or wintertime).

Channel 4: Your app itself (low cost, medium scale, high ROI) encouraging users who use your app to rate it and share it with their friends is a common tactic employed by apps, and for good reason. Turning your product into a marketing channel is a highly efficient strategy; but don’t over-pester users and ensure all critical bugs have been ironed out before asking users to review your app.

Channel 5: App indexing (low-medium cost, low-medium scale, medium-high ROI) – this is the latest technology made available by Bing, Google and Apple, which enables your app to be indexed and discovered by search engines, just like websites. While app indexing isn’t yet one of the big volume-driving acquisition strategies, app indexing will most certainly be a big ticket, free acquisition channel in the near future.

Channel 6: PR/Influencers (low-medium cost, high scale, high ROI) reaching out to people, brands or communities that have a large following and encouraging them to give your app a shout isn’t guaranteed to succeed, but it is one of the most common and tactics for driving awareness for your app, especially during your initial launch. The costs of PR/influencer marketing stem from the time required to research and reach out to influencers, as well as the costs of paying PR consultants to tap into their networks on your behalf.

Channel 7: App store optimization (low-medium cost, high scale, high ROI) – this is the app equivalent of SEO and focuses on identifying the keywords your app can rank best for and optimizing your app store listing (description, screenshots, video, app icon, etc.) for content that best catches a user’s attention and convinces them to download your app. App store optimization must be continually managed, as competition and user trends shift constantly, but it is one of the most important, fundamental components of any app marketing strategy – in fact, according to an Apptentive study, over 50% of people discover new apps by browsing in an app store.

Channel 8: Content marketing (medium cost, medium scale, medium-high ROI) – contributing to online communities or writing blog posts requires some significant effort by way of topic and keyword research, finding relevant data points and finally putting it all together in a nice, readable package. That said, content marketing can perform better than ads because it gives away some value to people during their search for information, and in doing so builds credibility and trust with potential users; the trick is to give just enough but not too much. Additionally, posting content to your site helps build your website’s SEO rankings.

Channel 9: Email marketing (medium cost, low-medium scale, high ROI) – email marketing is one of the highest converting channels due to the fact that users must actively sign up and thus qualify themselves as interested in your product in order to be added to your email campaign. This is also where the costs and scale limitations stem from – collecting emails in the first place and building your list, whether pulling from your own contacts, signing users up from your website or acquiring them through an email ad campaign on Facebook or Twitter.

Channel 10: Social media marketing (medium-high cost, high scale, medium ROI) – social media marketing is a great way to get the word out and connect with potential users, and with the massive reach of social platforms, it’s also an excellent way to scale your marketing machine. The key to successful social media marketing is creating content that engages, educates and entertains, rather than interrupts. Researching hashtags, engaging with users, crafting quality content, analyzing performance and sticking to a regular posting cadence make social media marketing time consuming, but if done properly social media can become one of your best product marketing channels.

Channel 11: Advertising (high cost, high scale, medium-high ROI) – when you’re ready to scale your product out, it’s time to start running some ads. There are a variety of mobile advertising platforms available, from social (like Facebook Ads or Twitter Ads), to ad networks (like Applovin or Chartboost for games) to high-end marketing platforms (like RocketFuel or Adobe). There are also specialized, rank boosting campaigns (like NativeX or Kiip Rewards), which focus on driving a quick spike of downloads to improve your app’s rankings, which then causes a “halo effect” of increased organic downloads via higher app visibility. While advertising is a must for scaling, typically there is a large economies of scale effect, where the more you can invest in advertising, the better results your campaigns will drive, as many ad platforms require minimum spend thresholds or have algorithms that perform best with mountains of data to optimize from.

That’s all for today! Thanks for following along.

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