So, you developed an app. You planned it out from start to finish, it fills a gap that you identified in the market, and it’s perfect (or close enough). You thought the work was almost over…but now you need to figure out how to get users to install and engage with your labor of love. Don’t panic. This guide has all the basics of mobile app marketing and user acquisition.

Measuring Mobile App Marketing

There are tons of ways to measure the efficacy of your app marketing efforts, all of which depend on your goal. If you are trying to drive top of funnel actions, like an install, your go-to is CPI. If you are interested in engaging or re-engaging users, then you should be looking at CPE, retention rate, even lifetime value. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide how you will deal with attribution – and that’s a whole other can of worms. First, you need to familiarize yourself with all the friendly three-letter acronyms being tossed around in every marketing-based conversation.

  • CPI: Cost per Install
  • CPE or CPA: Cost per Engagement or Cost per Action
  • CPM: Cost per Thousand Impressions
  • Retention Rate
  • ROI: Return on Investment
  • ROAS: Return on Ad Spend
  • KPI: Key Performance Indicator
  • LTV: Lifetime Value
  • CAC: Customer Acquisition Cost
  • TTI: Time to Install
  • CTI: Click to Install
  • CVR: Conversion Rate

Next, define your goals and audience. Though this may sound obvious – “I want people in their twenties to download my app” – it can be trickier than you initially believe. Are you ONLY looking for people in their twenties or is it applicable to older/younger generations as well? Are you targeting people with a certain income or habit? Men or women? Do you just want them to download the app or are you looking for long-term users? Are users supposed to engage with your app daily, weekly, monthly?

That’s a lot of questions for one paragraph. Let’s get to answering them now.

Mobile App Marketing Strategies and Tools

Just in case you are a developer wearing a brand-new marketing hat, let’s cover the basics first. Make sure your application has an accompanying website for desktop and mobile (just make it mobile responsive). It can just be a basic landing page that directs your prospects to the app store to install. You just want to make sure that if someone is googling you, they can land on a page with information about your offering and easily download from there.

There are two ways to drive traffic; paid and organic. Organic, though it requires some SEO work, is free. Paid requires investment, obviously. And surprise: it’s Google’s and Facebook’s world, we’re just living in it. But have no fear, we’ll start here…

Organic Mobile App Marketing Strategies

Let’s start with the freebies, for those on a tight budget. And mobile app marketing solutions for those who want to capitalize on virality or invest their time into long-term, traffic-driving solutions.

App Store Optimization (ASO)

This might be the most important part of marketing your app – making sure it looks good and is showing up in app store searches. Imagine that it is randomly featured and you didn’t go through optimization: users are clicking…but no one downloads. 63% of apps are discovered through app store browsing, which means you need to optimize your title and description with directed keywords to increase visibility to potential users.

Mobile App Downloads v Search Rankings

As part of ASO, you should also be seeking out ratings and reviews of your app. The more you have, the more legitimate you seem – especially if they’re glowing. Importantly, you should also be responding to negative reviews of your app. Use push notifications to ask for a rating and reward those who do, or submit your app to a reviews platform to test it and understand how people are using it.

Build a Website (Or a Landing Page…)

You may be thinking, “I built a mobile app, why would I need a website?” and that makes sense. But let me throw a few facts at you: website dwell time on a desktop is far longer than on mobile, internet use is fairly split between mobile and desktop (except in China and India), and users will always Google queries about trending topics. Imagine a friend tells you about a cool new app that helps split bills. You can’t remember the name, so you google, “bill splitting app”. Unless that application has a website, that high-intent user is misdirected and lost. Do not underestimate the power of web-to-app installs.

If you are looking for a quick, simple website fix, try WordPressSquarespace, or Weebly.

Leverage Social Media

When you do acquire mobile users, prompt them to share the app on social media. This is a straightforward way to prompt virality, or at the least get followers for your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram accounts. When marketing your mobile app, make sure any new features or updates are announced on social to prompt further mobile user acquisition. Bonus points for those developers who respond to customer service requests through DMs.

Write Some Content

Repeat: Content. Is. King. To illustrate the point; you’re reading content right now.

Writing content—or hiring a content writer—is well worth your time and money. Calculated blog posts get you exposure in the search results through SEO, they succeed through paid app marketing (paying for clicks is cheaper than paying for installs), and they help you build partnerships with other brands. If you are trying to build your brand and acquire mobile users at scale, just do it.

If you are modeling content after the superstars, grow.co should be your first stop. Building out a blog section of your website can require more upkeep than an offsite blog; try posting on Medium! If you go this route, remember to engage in the social aspect of this platform, too.

Paid Mobile App Marketing Strategies

Okay, time to get down and dirty. These paid marketing campaign strategies require a budget and some digital marketing prowess. Time to brush up on your mobile app marketing skills or turn to Upwork for the internet’s finest freelancers. Emarketer reported that $101 billion was spent on mobile ads globally last year; time to throw your hat in the ring.

Unlock Paid App Marketing

Capitalize on Paid Social

This one is obvious. You should not only have a solid organic presence on social but also boosting your posts at the very least. Place a pixel on the site you built, build an ad campaign leveraging retargeted website visitors through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Another great trick? Engage with people on Quora. They recently began a paid advertising service and though we haven’t tried it ourselves, we have heard great things.

Facebook offers app engagement ads to help you increase the number of actions on your mobile app, leveraging deep linking to send your users to a specific point in their app experience. Target these ads to your existing, high-value users to drive a lift in engagement and to further monetize these users.

Run Google’s Universal App Campaigns

For non-mobile marketers, Google is the ruler of all things search. However, with mobile search volume surpassing desktop, that reign does not cease when it comes to app marketing. Universal App campaigns are basically AdWords for app marketers, allowing you to promote your app across search, the display network, YouTube, and Google Play store. These ads can drive installs, in-app actions, and in-app action value (i.e. having a user enter their credit card information).

Mobile App Marketing Example

Nurture through Email

Yes, nurture programs are annoyingly complicated to set up and run, and yes, you need someone on your team who knows email platforms. However, they are an important piece of the mobile app marketing puzzle. Try signing up for a MailChimp account or Constant Contact. These platforms will let you blast messages to your potential users and track simple metrics. Same goes for re-engaging users who have already downloaded but lapsed – put together a convincing offer about why they should jump back in and hit send. Use deep linking within your nurture email to direct your users exactly where they should be landing for the best, seamless user experience.

Re-engage via SMS, Push Notifications, or Mobile App Engagement Search Ads

This is probably something you should turn to a partner to help with (ahem, Fluent is here for you), but everything about texting to acquire mobile users makes sense. You want to reach them on their mobile, you want them to have a seamless experience. SMS is the perfect solution. Target custom audiences with personalized texts – make sure you have TCPA consent! — and grow. your. app.

Mobile App Marketing through SMS and Push

The second part of this recommendation is to use push notifications. You should be prompting users to allow push notifications when they download your app (please say you’re already doing this) and leveraging that consent to drive users back into your app. If you also want to use push notifications for app marketing, you’re in luck. Fluent not only can find your ideal audience to drive acquisition through our owned and operated sites, we also send push notifications to invite users to install and engage.

Market Your Mobile App Through Apple Search Ads

Apple’s newest move to take over the world is taking a page out of Google’s playbook: search ads for mobile user acquisition. Like Yelp search advertising, these search ads live in the app store and are disguised fairly well. If you have not noticed it yet, type in something generic (i.e. “money”) and check out the first result. So far, there have been great reviews based on ROI.

Obviously, I should remind you to practice your ASO first. If your search ad appears, gets clicked on, and your app listing is mediocre, you’re probably going to miss out on that download and still pay for a click.

Apple's Mobile App Marketing Offering

The Mobile App Marketing Round-Up

Before you start your app marketing campaigns, while you’re analyzing their effectiveness, and when you calculate ROI, continue to build out your users’ profiles. Get to know them, understand what they want or what attracts them to your product, and use those insights to reach out to them. If they don’t realize that they absolutely need your app, teach them. Once they know, make it easier for them to find you. Finally, ensure that your app’s user experience is optimized for the people your marketing plans are delivering.

Singular and Grow.co report that 84% of analytics tools used in marketing stacks are attribution platforms – we can’t believe that number isn’t higher. You are going to need to track all the KPIs of your choosing and there are plenty of tracking and attribution platforms out there to help, from Tune to Adjust, to Appsflyer, and more.

Strengthening Mobile App Marketing through Partnerships

If your head is spinning from all the suggestions above, it’s okay to phone a friend. There are plenty of platforms and agencies out there to help you achieve your growth goals. We can’t resist a shameless plug: this is our bread and butter. We have extensive experience with marketing mobile apps and driving user acquisition through our owned and operated sites. Our team uses first-party data to segment custom audiences and drive installs, user engagement, and user retention. To be clear, we’re not the only ones who do this, we just do it best. Here’s proof.