It’s not just about developing your application; you need to market it

25 Sep 2013
22 May 2020
7 minutes

It’s been a couple of years now that I’m a Technical Evangelist, and funny enough, often my discussions with developers turn around marketing. Many developers asked me how to get traction with their applications: how to get more users, how to be featured in the marketplace, how to get more download, or how to have users write reviews about their experience. Even if my advices in this post will be focused on Firefox OS applications, you can transpose all of those to any platforms or mostly any applications type.

The first thing you need to know is that nothing will happen by magic: after you developed your application, you need to market it. You may have the best application that the universe has known, if nobody knows about it, it doesn’t help. I’m far from being a marketing expert, but let’s be realistic, in a world with so many applications, and services, there are few chances that you become rich just by publishing your application to the marketplace: you need to work a little more. In that situation, a good idea may be to find someone who has that expertise to help you, but you may not have the resources to do so, so there are a couple of tricks that may help you, or at least, won’t hurt to do.

Give an astonish experience to your user

I would say that the first step is to create a great experience with your application. If you are the 30th chess application out there, with nothing better than the 29th previous one, not sure why a user will use your game. If the application isn’t easy to use, or have a bad UI, it certainly not helps you to get traction. If you got some bugs in your application, you lost your chance! I read somewhere that most applications have been used once: the user opens your application, don’t get a great experience, and it’s done, next. Did you help the users to solve one of the three usages of mobile application (I’m micro tasking; I’m here right now; I’m bored)? Is this something innovative or creative enough to get the user’s attention? At the end, it’s all about the experience you give to the user.

Use the marketplace at your advantage

One thing with Firefox OS application is that you don’t have to publish it to the marketplace to distribute it: you can add an install button on your website, start your own marketplace or just point people through the application. On the other side, people are used to a world with marketplaces, and even if for us, the web is a marketplace, it may be a good idea to add your application to the one we are maintaining at Mozilla: I’m quite sure it’ll be the first place users will look at to find a specific application.

In most marketplaces, there are no real ways to help yourself to get featured, but it never hurt to ask people in the company behind the product. I remember that at Microsoft, we finally found a way to make suggestions of good Canadian applications for the Canadian marketplace. It wasn’t obvious, and we weren’t able to get all applications as featured app, but we tried. Of course, there is no way we can get all applications as featured one, but maybe someone in the company has the power too. Don’t be this annoying developer who wants everything from everyone, but at least, try to go fishing to find the right information. Sometimes it’s less about asking to be featured (I would say it’s never the way to go), but more about trying to get your application be noticed by one person from the company. If I don’t know about your application, I’m not able to see how it’s awesome: if you ping me to let me know you created something nice, if you did a great job, I may be more inclined to find a way to help you, if it’s possible. In any situations, try to see what is the pattern in the applications featured: it may help you to find what you need to achieve to make it there.

Last but not least, when your submit your application to the marketplace: take the time to do it. Make good screenshots, add amazing description, fill all the information we need. It will help the users to find your application, and sometimes, it will make a difference between an installation or just looking at the entry in the marketplace. I know for sure that personally, an application without any decent screenshots is a no for me: I can’t judge if the app is good enough to install it, even if it’s easy to uninstall after. Not everybody is like me, but it won’t hurt for sure to make your application entry in the marketplace right.

Find new ways of promotion

It’s not just about the marketplace. How about blogging on your application? Is there any user group giving possibilities to present what you did? Maybe you can find websites that are related to your application type, and ask them to make a review? Find an interesting podcast related to what you did, and ask them to interview you? For me, waiting that people come to you to ask you about X, and Y is stupid: ask, try, and you’ll see. If you wait, there a lot of chances, nothing will happen. If you try, open some doors, and ask, there are also chances that nothing will happen, but who knows, at least you tried.

Ads seem another way to promote your application. I’m not a fan of ads at all, and I can’t tell if they are really efficient: for me, they are more annoying than anything, and I don’t check them, but I supposed it’s working as they still exists. At this point, be creative, there are many ways you can promote your application, but you need to find the ones that make sense for you.

Add a call to action

Getting reviews for your application isn’t an easy task: people use your application, but don’t really take the time to write a review. I know, I’m guilty of this also as I rarely leave feedback when everything is good! I’m not a fan of those popups that ask the user to submit a review after X number of uses, but it seems that they work. Don’t be that developer who asks them each time they open the application: I would say if you go that route, do it once, and that’s it. Even better, as it less intrusive, is to add something in the about page or in the marketplace description. Try to encourage the developers to leave feedback, and let them know you are there to help if there is anything. You’ll create a relationship with your customers, and that worth a lot! Add a call to action in a blog post about your application: ask users to review it in the marketplace as it will help you. You would be surprised: these call to action works!

At the end, there is no automagic solution in this post, and they may seem obvious for you, but I think it’s still important to put those out. Those are steps in the right direction to help you being successful, but cannot guarantee it, of course. You also need to take into consideration that our platform is still young, and don’t have as many users as iOS (they have the same problem, because there are too many applications, it’s hard to get out of the crowd), as an example, but there is also a great opportunity there: be the first one to publish a specific application, so get more visibility. Did you use one of these tricks? Do you have any other advices for developers who wants to get more users? Any of those was more helpful for you? Share your thoughts!

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