The Lean Marketer Blog

App Marketing – First Things First

One of my favorite activities is the volunteer mentoring I do for various startup accelerators.  A little while ago I held office hours at the DreamIt Israel accelerator. Before I started one-on-one meetings with each startup, I gave a brief lecture about typical mistakes startups make, which you can view here.

lottery-ticketI asked each startup to come to me with a clear issue they want to discuss.  Not surprisingly most of the issues the entrepreneurs wanted to discuss were early in the marketing funnel, such as how to tell what segments to focus on or customer acquisition issues.

One company has an extremely cool app for the iPad.  So cool I wish they had it for Android :-).  They came in with a very specific question: they have $2,000 to spend and want to use it to acquire 50,000 customers.  What marketing activities did I recommend? I suppose I should have told them to buy $2,000 worth of lottery tickets and start praying but I didn’t think of it at the time.

Instead I started asking them about their current customers, did they have any? Turns out they did. A week or so earlier they had changed their paid app to free and somehow – – no one knows how – – they managed to acquire 150 customers over one weekend. Who are these customers, how are they using the app, do they like it… These are just a few of the questions racing through my mind.

I told these guys – – lovely guys – – that they need to spend a good chunk of that $2k on figuring out why those 150 downloaded and how they’re using the app, before even thinking about the next 49,850 downloads. They can add an in-app message to users, so the concept we discussed was to offer an incentive, say an iTunes or Amazon coupon, for the first 5 or 25 or however many they decide that agree to be interviewed about their experience with the app.  Even 5 such interviews would be useful.  More than that would be better, but they don’t need to go crazy trying to reach scores of people.  After a handful of interviews they’ll start to see some patterns emerge that should help guide them in future marketing initiatives and product development direction.

Another point of our discussion was to build sharing and virality into the product.  We brainstormed some ideas around that as well.  Because if those 150 will share it with their friends and those guys will share too, then the customers are doing a big part of the marketing for them. But first things first: figure out why those first 150 downloaded and what they’ve done with the app since then.

A goal of 50,000 is admirable, aggressive even.  But if it’s just taken out of thin air with no basis in reality then they need to do their homework first and then build a plan.

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