A Pre-Flight Checklist
After months of tireless development work, you’re on the cusp of completing your app. It’s time to make sure you’ve got everything ready for the big launch date!
An app launch is a multi-step process, and we can break it down into five major components. It begins with the most daunting stage of all:
1. Run a Successful Beta
The core tenet of app design is making sure that your app solves real problems that real people have.
With disruptive new ideas, it’s often impossible to test the impact of an app until there’s already a prototype, so for many developers the beta phase offers a critical proof-of-concept.
As more people interact with your app, you’ll very quickly realize what works and what doesn’t about the design. The earlier you start beta testing, the easier it is to make important changes. The downside is that the app will be less stable, less polished, and less impressive overall, so you might leave normal beta testers with a negative impression.
The key is to select testers that can see past the exterior and judge the app on its core merits while they’re testing it. Start small with a private alpha, and gradually grow the list of invitees. Since this is the first time a fresh pair of eyes has seen your work, you can expect surprising feedback . Be ready and be responsive to it, as these first impressions will help you refine the app for a larger audience.
2. Be Transparent
While your testers and developers are putting the finishing touches on the app, your marketing efforts should hit their stride.
One of the most important aspects of marketing an app in the current landscape is to offer a sense of transparency. Write blog posts detailing design decisions, discussing the problem that’s being solved, and introducing the team behind the effort as individuals.
These posts work to build anticipation in two ways; on the one hand, your audience catches glimpses of the app and is eager to put it to use in their own lives.
But more than that, the transparency allows them to see how much energy and attention to detail is being brought to bear on its development. It establishes trust in the product and in your brand, and demonstrates that the app isn’t coming from some faceless corporation, it’s being crafted by real people who want a solution to a common problem.
So don’t just tell them you’re working hard, show them.
Engaging with your audience is often at the core of modern marketing strategies. Social media is a monumental tool for outreach, and you should have a clear strategy in place for which networks to use and how to participate in a way that’s natural and appropriate for each network.
Reposting the same content on every network isn’t social media, it’s just noise. Be individual, be aware, and use each network as one piece of a larger puzzle.
Unfortunately, many companies stop there. Social media is a large part of any marketing plan, but it’s not the only part. Your blog should provide an ongoing stream of engaging material that’s of interest to your target market. These posts don’t have to actively promote or even mention your app — focus on good content and establishing trust, and only talk about your app as it pertains to solving the problems raised in the posts.
Readers are intelligent and inquisitive. They’ll make the connection, and they’ll appreciate that you’re offering them useful information without the heavy sales pitch.
Meanwhile, reach out to prominent influencers in your industry and invite them to try the app. Ask them to write about it on their blogs, mention it on their podcasts, and talk about it with their social media audience. And make sure you have a terrific press kit prepared for them with screenshots, a document explaining the app’s core goals and highlights, and contact options so they can reach out to real people at your company with questions, comments, or interview requests.
Run contests, offer prizes, and above all else: be willing to engage in conversation with all the new people encountering your app.
4. Look Your Best
Since the app isn’t out yet, a curious visitor needs a place to go to get more information about what you’re up to. This is where a terrific web presence becomes crucial.
Set up a landing page for your app that’s inviting, concise, and clearly demonstrates the value of what you’re building. If the app is only part of your business, make sure your company home page offers a link to the app so your normal web audience can discover what you’ve been working on.
Invest the time and money into making this landing page amazing because in many cases it’s the first real exposure people will have to your app. This means custom web design, clean and readable typography, and engaging imagery.
Instead of stock photographs, why not hire a professional to take custom photos that are authentic to your brand? Likewise, make sure your explainer video (you do have one, right?) is displayed prominently and showcases the app in the context of people’s actual lives.
In general, it’s best to stay away from safe and generic marketing imagery — it comes off as stale and corporate. Be surprising, be delightful, and produce the kind of content you would want to share.
Of course, not all brands can portray a hip persona, so when in doubt just keep in mind the rule of thumb: know your audience.
5. Brace for Impact
With everything in place, it’s time to launch your app.
A common mistake is putting the app out into the world without a solid post-launch gameplan. Your work doesn’t end when the app is live.
For one thing, your outreach efforts should be redoubled as you can now discuss and display the app in its full glory. You can point people directly to the download page and start distributing your review codes and press kit more widely.
A less obvious bit of preparation is making sure you’re ready for the onslaught of new user support.
With your app suddenly in the hands of thousands of people, you can expect a big surge in the number of support tickets, emails, and calls that you get. Be ready for them. Terrific customer support is one of the most lasting ways to earn your audience’s trust and loyalty, so don’t drop the ball.
Similarly, equip your app with analytics tools. If part of the app relies on server-based technology, install analytics there too. This allows you to monitor performance across all aspects of the app and react quickly to issues. Not only that, but you’ll be able to see how people actually use the app at scale, which can inform future updates.
Keeping these five pre-launch guidelines in mind will help you do justice to the hard work your developers have done on your new app.
Here’s a handy checklist to work through:
☐Research and find good advices on how to launch your app successfully
☐ Focus test your app with a small group, then expand into a full beta
☐ Establish a social media plan that details what networks you should be available on and what content strategy will inform your presence on each one
☐ Prepare a press kit. Make sure it offers everything a journalist needs to discuss and display your app at its best
☐ Be transparent about the development process; write blog posts, show mock-ups, reveal teasers, build anticipation
☐ Make a connection with your audience by interacting with them. Reach out to influencers, offer interviews, and respond to feedback
☐ Make an amazing landing page where visitors can discover your app
☐ Use custom imagery, both photo and video, to showcase your app
☐ Prepare your support team to handle the influx of post-launch messages
☐ Use analytics to keep an eye on your app’s performance and identify weaknesses and room for improvement
Now get out there and make something remarkable!