How much effort does it take to market an app?

One of our developer members, Ush from BrightStart, posted such a resourceful comment on our forum the other day that I requested making it “public” on our blog. He outlined every detail of his app marketing plan, from creating the website, to contacting reviewers, to the actual app download numbers in the first four weeks. The post was very well received by our community, and we hope it serves as a resource to others who are undertaking “app marketing”. 

Posted in the MWA Forums on July 22, 2011:

Hi Everyone,

I wanted to share BrightStart’s app marketing efforts with you all as I think it might help better prepare your app launch, save you time and may help you sell more apps. Generally, our experience (4 weeks only) with marketing Pre-K Letters and Numbers has been interesting. A total learning experience, like a local app developer told me recently “there are no experts in this field purely because its so young and new. Just feel your way through, learn from mistakes and share experiences”.

Back in early June once our app was submitted to Apple for approval (3-4 week process for first timers) we set up the following:

BrightStart Website:

  • Set up a simple two-page site
  • Key thing for us was to post pictures of the app and unique selling features
  • Links to social media and app store
  • Set up Google Analytics

BrightStartApps Facebook Fan page:

  • Created a “welcome” page
  • Added pictures and general updates to the wall before adding users
  • Liked MWA and others appropriate fan pages
  • Completed descriptions to include links to site, social media and app store
  • Individually emailed EVERYONE I knew on Facebook to like the fan page and spread the word

BrightStartApps Twitter Account:

  • Set up twitter account with logo
  • Initially linked to our site, then moved it to the App Store
  • Found many groups of people to follow from app developers, parent developers, mommy bloggers, super bloggers, follower collectors and app reviewers
  • As people followed us we thanked them publicly for the follow

BrightStartApps YouTube Channel:

  • Recorded some initial basic demos of the app
  • A number of reviewers ask for a video before they consider reviewing, so this step is important

Into week two of the approval process we got an update from Apple informing us that Pre-K Letters and Numbers was being Reviewed. At this point we felt we were close and were advised by other developers that we have about 2-5 more days until it will be available in the store. Nail biting period for us. Will it work? What will the reviews be like? Bugs?

We felt it was necessary to start preparing a press release document announcing our app. Taking inputs from developer experiences on Moms With Apps and googling similar apps and checking their footprint helped us conclude that PRmac was definitely the best options for us in terms of reach as well as cost. We got a nice spike in sales once this release went out, most of the sales came from US, UK and Canada.

Moms with Apps was a great starting point to help put together an initial list of reviewers.  We ended up with about 150 after using various methods including Google, Facebook and Twitter. We broke down the list based on email, online submit, video sample, promo code only, busy people etc.., collected names and agreed to approach the ‘submit via email’ reviewers first. We didn’t want to use up all of our bullets, plus we were worried that they may be too critical.

A list of successful discussions with reviewers is attached (in MWA forum only). Approaching the reviewers, sending out the PRmac release, and joining MWA all occurred in July after we launched our app. The reviewers we contacted purely because they had looked at similar products or came recommended via MWA or other forums. Many of the reviewers that wrote back pretty much said they would review our app but to expect delays due to the summer holidays, kids or other commitments, which is totally understandable. About 50% of the people we wrote to didn’t respond, but this could be due to the summer slowdown (we hope..). Perhaps our launch timing was a little mis-judged. Should we have waited until mid-August to launch our app to get maximum readiness of reviewers and parents? Next time.

Once the reviewer reviews were published we started tweeting about them, putting them on FB and asking your inner circle to ‘like’ the articles and postings, this was definitely worth the time. We extracted some comments from reviews and put them into the app store description which will definitely help win parents over (it works with me!) –  always worth asking the reviewer if they are OK with it though. Our stats were definitely better once the reviews were published, i.e., spikes in sales, visits to our website, and at times more twitter followers. It’s a good idea to get to know the reviewer and understand their reach.  For example, Leanna from wrote a positive review about us which was later picked up by about about 50-60 websites in the first four hours and progressively more each day – the whole experience was very good. On the other side, there are some new reviewers whose reach is still developing therefore we are helping them as much as they are helping us.

For me, the last four weeks has been a very interesting learning process. Reviewers come in all shapes, sizes and locations – their wants and needs are very different. But they are extremely powerful and can make or break your app. These are just my thoughts and experiences, I don’t expect people to agree on the comments made, I just felt that had I seen something like this before I started then perhaps it may have saved us some time.

Other Lessons Learned So Far (in 140 chars)

* Twitter has many super bloggers all willing to review.. start preparing that list..
* Review awards websites – a lot of them around – Anyone have a list they can share? or experiences?
* Tweeting regularly is important – multiple times a day works very well and you can schedule tweets whilst you are out Wink
* Special offer deals are definitely worth considering [planned for August]
* US market is huge (70%), UK (5%), Canada (7%) and rest of the world (18%) is great and support is fantastic
* Spikes in sales each time PR is sent or app is reviewed
* Glad we went with a free option with in-app purchase
* App Store reviews are very important 4* and above is key
* Take app criticism positively and improve the app – version 2.0 being worked on
* Update descriptions in the app store to reflect reviewers comments, awards etc..
* Create a metric to be measured against, for us it was “Lessons given so far”

Pre-K Letters and Numbers – By Numbers (in first 4 weeks)

0 – Download cost ($)
1.99 – in app cost ($)
3 – App updates
3 – New apps in pipeline
4 – Rating in App Store
4 – Reviews by reviewers
5 – Team size
7 – Sleepless nights
11 – Beta testers (thank you)
12 – Expected time to recover investment (months)
17 – App Store reviews
20 – Amount spent on marketing ($)
21 – Size of download (Mb)
38 – Reviewers approached
70 – Research & marketing effort (hours)
75 – iPad users over iPhone (%)
153 – Tweets
235 – Facebook Fans
300 – Development time spent on app (hours)
362 – Number of cities visitors came from
664 – Twitter Followers
1089 – Website visits
1503 – We’re following on Twitter
2,364 – Page views
5,920 – Registered students
8,190 – Mentions of BrightStart Pre-K Letters and Numbers (Bing)
15,530 – App downloads
38,100 – Mentions of BrightStart Pre-K Letters and Numbers (Google)
300,000 – ‘Lessons give to date’, metric we use track number of user plays

About Us:
Pre-K Letters and Numbers (With Real Time Performance Reporting) by BrightStart LLC is the first of a series of applications aimed at pre-kindergarten kids who are just setting out to build a foundation of language and numeracy, develop fine motor skills, understand phonics and build their vocabulary with the bonus of blending common letters and counting. Our unique characters, music, sounds and over 75 fruit, vegetable, animal and items around the house illustrations help with the learning experience. Elel, Momo, Lili and friends guide the child through the letters, numbers and phonics experience with clear instructions, applause for success and “Uh-oh” for mistakes. This is being corrected based on user feedback. Parents and teachers can review children’s performance through their iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or via which shows a Report Card highlighting success rates, bell curve ranking amongst peers and recommended development areas for each registered user.

Product:————   >
Website:———–   >
Twitter:————   >
FaceBook:———-   >
YouTube:———–   >
Press Release:—–   >

Any comments, suggestion or anything just give us a shout:


15 Replies to “How much effort does it take to market an app?”

  1. After being in the app-selling game for several years, I’m still not sure the marketing effort pays off enough to continue. I’d like to hear from more folks who’ve been in the business for 2-4 years.

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    Oddly enough, the one big lesson I’ve learned in the last 2 months is how remarkably ineffective Twitter is for marketing.

    It seems most people have large follower counts simply because they agreed to follow other people back. It’s a vast empty echo chamber where very few people are actually listening.

    It’s fairly simple to get numbers to back this up and not just for my own efforts. Any link has publicly available stats…you just stick a + on the end of the URL.

    99% of all links I’ve seen tweeted, even by people with 1000s of followers, have been clicked on less than 10 times.

    Personally, I’ve found Facebook to have far more of an impact.

  3. really awesome article! i am right at this point right now: have submitted my app to apple and am trying to tweet and market. you have definitely given me a lot to think about and plan in the next few weeks! thanks so much for sharing your experience.

  4. Thanks Ush!
    Really great and insightful piece!
    Lots to learn from and i will definitely check out your app for my baby!


  5. Thanks Ush!
    I´m a creative artist and a writer. My husband and me are developing a book app for kindergartenkids. But we had not an idea of marketing & pr. I even had no idea where the starting point of marketing is. Thank you for your very valuable informations.

  6. Great information. Thanks for taking the time to share this in such detail. I’m just thinking of getting started, and marketing is one area that I have experience in, but never for an app and so was a little concerned about. This is a really helpful checklist to get started.

  7. Thanks for this. I’ve been trying to market my app with very little success, mainly because of the time involved to make any real impact. Particularly interesting comment above about the ineffectiveness of Twitter!

  8. Thanks for posting. About to embark on a similar journey submitting for app store review and PR. Have already begun on Twitter, will get the facebook page up asap now after reading this. It does all seem like a black art though!!

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