Guerilla Marketing Your iPhone App

By introducing the iTunes App Store, Apple created a vast distribution system for mobile application unlike anything that existed before it. Mobile app distributors such as RIM and Google are now lining up trying to imitate this new billion dollar opportunity. The only problem is the “opportunity” may not be available to all of us as easily as we think. Sure, there are a few diamonds in the rough such as iShoot or Flight Control that become overnight successes but for most of us, the other 19,998 apps, the limelight isn’t easy unless you have deep pockets and unlimited resources.

Without deep pockets, you have to become a guerilla marketer. You need to think about things a little different, use unconventional methods, invest of a lot of time sweat and tears and you’ll definitely need a lot of imagination.

The tips and tricks you’ll apply can be used for any product or service, not just mobile apps so here are a few to get you started:

Be prepared

Remember the Boy Scout motto: “Be Prepared”. Before you start any guerilla marketing, get all your information ready and on hand. For an iPhone app this will include:

  • The iTunes app store link for direct downloading and installing-keep things simple for people.
  • A web page describing the information that people can look at for more information.
  • A few screen shots for review sites.
  • Icon of various sizes for posting to app lists and such.
  • A few great descriptions of various lengths (one sentence, short, medium long, casual, business, etc).
  • Promo codes for free trials.
  • Short urls for any and all links to keep urls short. You can use tinyURL or use the itunes link in the format, eg:

You’ll be much more successful if you’re prepared ahead of time.

Look for non-traditional opportunities

Penetrating your market and getting your name out there is the hardest part. In promoting my recent children’s apps called FlipFrog I took a very guerilla approach through sites, forums, comments and review sites. The app is a game so I went to any and every iPhone app site I could find to submit it for review. Not every site accepted it, but a few did and the results paid off. Some sites may take weeks before they’ll respond so patience here is a virtue here.

The app I was promoting was also targeted at kids so I did a number of searches for “iPhone kids games” or “Top iPhone games for kids” or “toddlers and iPhones.” I then looked through the results for forums and articles that were discussing kids apps. In these forums, I casually mentioned my app but I was careful not to just spam any forum I could find. In every post I clearly identified the fact that I was the developer and I was sure to contribute to the conversation at hand not just promote my app. If you try this, another tip is to revisit your efforts regularly. Once a week use the advanced search features in Google to look for new result from the past week to keep your efforts fresh.

The Effect

This was my first attempt at selling an app so I don’t know what is considered a “success” but in the first week I had over 200 sales–not huge but definitely nothing to ignore. It only takes a few minutes a day to keep promoting so over time the small efforts make a huge difference.

And remember the rest of the world

One last, but often forgotten, way to set yourself apart from the competition is to localize and offer your app (or just the related marketing materials) in multiple languages. Remember, the mobile market is global. Most North Americans forget that a large portion of the world doesn’t speak English and doesn’t reside in the US. If you offer other translations such as Spanish, French, or Russian you’ll be able to represent yourself in those markets with little to no additional effort. Likewise, don’t forget there are other countries too. Your marketing efforts shouldn’t be concentrated only in North America. The iTunes app store is available in 77+ counties so be sure your marketing is too.