This article is Day #31 in a series called 31 Days of Mango.
Getting users to find your application might seem like something that’s out of your hands, but you’re wrong. There are plenty of things you can do to drive awareness of your application. This section focuses on a few best practices you should utilize for every application that you create.
The First Week Is Vital
Unless your app becomes a runaway sensation, it’s highly likely that your app’s first week in the marketplace will also see your highest number of daily downloads. Getting exposure in the New category is a one time opportunity, and you need to make sure that you leverage this in a way that will make your app shine for much longer than a few days. Ultimately, your goal is to catapault from the New category to the Top Apps category. The 4-5 days that you will wait for your application to be approved should be spent executing a specific strategy for making the public aware of your application.
Linking To Your Application
When you first submit your application to the Marketplace, even before the app is approved, you are assigned a deep link that you can use to direct people to your app using a standard web URL. Here’s an example of the deep link to one of my applications, MathMaster:
This link takes you to a webpage that will attempt to launch the Zune software on the user’s machine, and then direct them to the page for your app in the Marketplace. This link will not work until your application is approved. We recommend using this link everywhere you can, especially on the custom website you created for your apps. You were planning on doing that, right?
Creating a Web Portal for Your Apps
An important thing that you should have learned from the Marketplace walkthrough in Day #27 of the original 31 Days of Windows Phone was that your ability to discuss your apps is pretty limited. A few screenshots, and approximately 2,000 characters is all you have. By creating a website for your applications, you create several new opportunities for yourself.
1. You can create real connections with your users. The Windows Phone marketplace doesn’t give you any indication who your users are. A website allows you to interact with your fans.
2. You can provide a rich amount of information about your app, including videos and other promotional content that might make your app more appealing.
3. You can cross-sell your applications. The Marketplace doesn’t always do a great job at promoting your other applications to potential customers, so leverage your website to make that happen.
4. Your app is now discoverable by people that aren’t actively looking for it in the Marketplace.
5. This website doesn’t have to be a website at all. There’s nothing wrong with creating a page on Facebook or another social network that you can customize. The ultimate goal of this process is to provide a destination for your fans, so that they can spread the word about your awesome app.
If you would like an awesome template for building a custom web page for your application, check out the Windows Phone 7 App Site template on CodePlex. It’s a customizable page that looks great, uses your application screen shots, allows your users to provide feedback, and gives them plenty of ways to learn more about your application. Here’s a screenshot of the template:
Create A Walkthrough Video of Your App
One of the important features your website should include is a video walkthrough of your app. Screenshots in the marketplace are good, but allowing a user to see the actual experience in a controlled way will always provide them with more information. Our recommendation is to use a video screen capture tool like TechSmith’s Camtasia. Camtasia makes it easy to not only capture the video feed from the emulator, but to edit the results, add background music, and introduction information before and after the video. There are probably plenty of tools that will do this for you, but in our experience, Camtasia is the perfect tool for the job. You can see an example of my MathMaster video on YouTube here:
Have fun with it. Your video can add a level of excitement to your app that screenshots can never provide. Now that we’ve focused on websites and videos, let’s discuss the things you can do inside your application to help promote it.
Generating Reviews of Your Application
Reviews can be the deciding factor as to whether or not your application gets the downloads you’re looking for. Unfortunately, there’s not a built-in mechanism for reminding users to review your app. You need to do this yourself. We recommend making it a fun addition to your application rather than an annoyance to your user.
One idea we recommend is to make it an achievement within your app. Litter fun little surprises throughout your application, and you’ll hook an otherwise passive user. Give points for reading the credits of the app. Give more for using the app 10 times. By adding achievements to any application, you’ll find that your users will find themselves coming back again and again. You might also unlock a specific piece of functionality that would otherwise be unavailable when they review your app.
A second idea is to count the number of times your user has launched your application, and prompt them at the 2nd, 5th, and 10th times to review your application. Ask gently. You don’t want to annoy the user, but you do want their review. You can even use the MarketplaceReviewTask to take them directly to the review page for your application.
Great reviews generate more traffic. Oftentimes, a star review can be just as valuable as a written one. The average star rating (1-5) is displayed everywhere your application is, so a high rating often generates more traffic. Encouraging your users to leave a review will have a positive effect on your application’s download rates.
Cross-Selling Your Applications from Each Other
Within your app, you should provide a place where the user can find information about your company, support contacts, and other data like version number. In this place, or certainly in a more prominent location, you have an opportunity to promote the other applications you’ve created. Use your icons. Use the deep links or the MarketplaceDetailTask launcher. Provide a simple way for your user to find and download your other application offerings.
If you really want to get fancy, create an XML file on your webserver that contains all of the information about your apps, and consume this in your apps to create the list of your applications. This way, when you add a new app to your catalog, you won’t have to update all of your apps just to do this cross-promotion.
There are plenty of things you need to do in order to get your application ready, after you’ve finished your application. Make sure that you’ve considered your promotion strategy before you push the final Submit button on your app. Building a community around your application will only help to make your audience grow, because enthusiastic users are also powerful evangelists of your efforts.
If you’ve taken the time to create an amazing new application for Windows Phone, you need to be certain that it’s going to have the potential impact you’re hoping for. Focusing on monetizing, promotion, and reviews is almost as important your app.
This is the final post in this series. I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as my guest authors and I did writing it. Thank you for reading all of the posts, and if you haven’t already…