When your startup company is bootstrapped and you don’t have many seasoned tech-marketing experts in your contacts list who can help you get major exposure, how can you pull off a successful app launch? Publications aren’t responding to your emails and you know firsthand running ads on Google or social media platforms can be expensive. It’s crucial to get as many downloads and good reviews as possible within the first 72 hours of your app going live, so what can you do?! While it may not be the best long-term strategy, our team found some early success in street marketing for our nightlife app Yule.
Know Your Audience
Is street marketing going to be an effective strategy for you? This is where knowing your audience is essential. Does your target audience go out often? What neighborhoods do they live in and where do they shop? Is there a public conference or event coming up where you can showcase your product? We developed a nightlife social media app, so for us it made sense to be visible in the bar and club scene. If you’ve developed some type of fitness app, going to gyms or sporting goods stores may be an effective way to get more loyal users on your app- especially if what you’re offering is free. And that’s what this is all about: building relationships and fostering an environment of loyal users who will use your app everyday and tell their friends to check it out.
Even before you launch your app, getting feedback from everyday people is extremely important as you flesh out the details of how your app will look, act, and feel. Be Prepared for rejection- and don’t let it get you down! Find a few approachable phrases to get people’s attention and be as genuine as possible. If you’re excited about your app and the people you’re pitching to have an interest in your product, they will most likely hear you out. Sometimes there’s a fine line between ‘salesperson’ and ‘entrepreneur’, so try to be respectful and considerate of their time even if they flat out reject you. getting this type of real user feedback is essential to making sure you are on the right track and making something that people will actually enjoy using!
Some people are completely against telling a test user anything about your app before handing it off to them but I tend to disagree- at least in the beginning stages. If you’re still in the beta stage, observe the test user’s subtle reactions as you highlight a few of what you consider to be key features of your app. When do their eyes light up? Where do they lose focus or give up entirely? At what point do they start asking questions and do those questions fall in line with the very problem your app is attempting to solve? As you develop your app, getting this type of real user feedback is essential to making sure you are on the right track and making something that people will actually enjoy using!
Hit the Streets
Launch night came and we were ready to spread our app to the masses. Before we hit the streets, we got a cohort of friends together for a pre-launch party to show off the app and give them a basic script to follow when pitching to people. Remember, your friends are not going to be as savvy or informed with the nuances of your app, so just provide them with a few memorable talking points and keep expectations low. Decked out in Yule paraphernalia, our friends and team members then went out to all the popular bar strips in Atlanta- where we knew our target audience would be. Luckily for us the street marketing strategy worked beautifully! For less than $100 we got hundreds of downloads and more than 30 five star reviews the first night! We could tell that our boots-on-the-ground strategy was effective as some of the reviews we received on the App Store were highly personalized:
“The app is powerful now with great future potential, and will be a force to be reckoned with in the nightlife scene. Very pleasant folks to talk to in terms of ideas and expansions.”
You’ll notice that I said we received ‘hundreds’ of downloads and not ‘thousands’. Again, releasing an app is challenging when you are bootstrapped and don’t have much of a budget for marketing. The street marketing strategy worked for us early on, but when it came to the official launch I believe we overestimated the amount of downloads we could get from word of mouth and sharing on social media alone. In my experience street marketing was beneficial in the beta stage of our app development, but was not the best primary strategy for our official launch. You will get some loyal users and great feedback, but that can only go so far. Is it worth it? Totally. But unless you have money and teams of people around the country willing to promote your app on a continual basis, my advice is to focus more on traditional free forms of traction such as content strategy, publication outreach, and network expansion. That being said, I still enjoy hitting the streets of Edgewood Avenue every few weekends to keep my pitch fresh, it’s also a great way to keep in touch with what people want out their tech-nightlife experience.