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The App Success Guide 1

9 m a g n e t s . c o m
Building Your Story Think simplicity The “Press Release” Getting on TV
Developers often overlook the most It’s not always about who has the What 99% of application Don’t lie to me, you want to be on
important step of marketing an most features when you market an developers lose sight of when TV. Here are the strategies we’ve
app. application. writing up a press release. used to be on three shows.
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An informative guide to success in the App Store by Cameron
Banga, our head of marketing and business development.
Let’s be honest here for a quick second. Like everyone else, you’re drowning in the
App Store. What was once seen as an endless gold rush has become an ever difficult
way for indie developers to make a living, with 200,000 apps flooding the iTunes App
Store alone. Each day, more applications are released, making it even more difficult to
make your app stand out.
We’ve gone through the same ups and downs which you have. A year ago, I worked
with a couple friends in founding Our goal was to come together Who is Cameron Banga?
and get one app released on our summer vacation from classes. In just over a month, Cameron recently received his
we were able to release our first application for the iPhone called Battery Go!. We were Bachelor of Arts Cum Laude
able to capitalize on a solid idea and less than 36 hours after release, we broke the top in Economics from Valparaiso
100 paid apps list in the USA and climbed as high as number 72. It was a great University.
experience and while we learned a bunch through our efforts, we were far from
becoming financially successful developers. In addition to helping found
Through a bit of trial and error, a lot of hard work, and, Cameron has
continuous learning, I was able to land our apps in the had his blog mentioned in the
New York Times, Chicago Sun-Times, Macworld, Fox New York Times, hosted
Business News, WGN9 Chicago, NBC5 Chicago, PC popular gaming podcasts, been
Magazine, and more. Getting your app on television general manager of a radio
or a big publication isn’t easy, however most station, raised thousands in
developers don’t even know the first steps involved in charity while playing video
getting an app featured by a major media outlet. games, and conducted
Over the next several pages, I hope to explain interviews of Steve Wozniak,
some of the key lessons I’ve learned about getting David Cook, and Zach Braff.
an application media coverage over the past year. If
you have any other questions or comments, feel free to send You can reach Cameron at
me an email to and I’ll do my best to help you out.

The App Success Guide • •

The App Success Guide 2

Why start with a story?
I’m going to give you the key to being a successful app
marketer in one single word: story. When pushing an app
or your company to blogs, television stations, or
newspapers, you need to have a compelling story. Experts
often argue that marketing is a science and difficult to
manage, but the truth is that the key to pushing an
application is finding a good story for your application.
What makes your story different than everyone else is the The story of
key to success in promoting your application. I often mention to others that the first step toward a
So before you put together any marketing strategy for successful marketing plan for a product is development of a good
you iPhone, iPad, or Android application, take a time out to story. People want an interesting plot to draw their interest in
map out just what story you want to tell. Decide how your any form of media, just like a good movie. An app or company
emails, blog posts, advertisements, and everything else will is no different, you need to develop your own backstory to draw
embody the story which you are looking to tell as well. people in just like a great author.
With CollegeKidApp, I really wanted to hit hard the fact
What makes me unique? that we were young students coming together to put together an
This is a question that you really need to sit and ponder application with essentially no prior experience. This meant
for a while in order to best determine what just pulls you that every blog post, email, interaction, everything, needed to be
apart from the competition. written as if it were coming from a group of kids who weren’t
Here are some examples of different scenarios which quite sure as to what they were accomplishing. I wanted our
may make your situation exceptional: you’re a teenager team to come off as unsure yet cocky. I wanted people to read
our story in find a sense of wonder in just how we pulled it off.
making apps as a hobby, you’re middle-aged and are doing
It worked out well for us because it was a true story. Here
development as a side-project afterwork and on weekends,
we were, three college students who spent 60 hours a week each
you’ve never done any programming before, or you’ve
giving full effort toward learning how to best build iPhone apps.
programmed your whole life and are now transitioning to It just so happened that this was a story that people wanted to tell
the iPhone. Anything can make a good story. If you’d like, and then mainstream media outlets picked it up. Everyone is
email me at and we can discuss part of a story which others will find interest in, you just need to
what your story is. Finding your story can be extremely figure out what your story is and then share it with the world.
simple, you just need to sit down and figure it out.

Focus on the simple things in your app.

The biggest problem in software marketing is the focus on feature sets and the
drive for more. Often, developers work on a variety of features which only a small
subset of users will actually use and then focus all their marketing material on just
how many new features were added since the previous version.
However, you often don’t have time in any marketing situation to throughly
explain each and every different feature. Instead, find the one thing that your app
does better than every other app and focus primarily upon that when pushing out
new advertisements or when interviewing for a newspaper article.
Journalists don’t have the time to sit and listen to your 5 minute pitch and instead
want the “must-have” feature of your application so they can make mention of it. So
find something about your application that no other competitor has and find a way
In Battery Go!, our slider bar was the to summarize the benefits of that feature into a brief sentence or two which you can
rattle of to any journalist or blogger which asks about your application.
simple, differentiating, and enjoyed
feature that we focused on.

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The App Success Guide 3


Why most people miss the The email that got us in the Chicago Sun-Times and NBC5 Chicago
point entirely.
Here’s a copy of the email that got us into the Chicago Sun-Times and
I’ll be honest, I hate the term NBC5 Chicago’s website. Hopefully you can see a bit into the writing style I
“press release.” When I worked as used to push our story.
general manager of our school radio “ Thanks for taking the time to read this e-mail.  I wanted to contact you
station at Valpo, I would receive 20-30 about a possible story involving two friends of mine and I and our crazy
poorly written releases actually made experience over the last two months of coming together with no programming
us less likely to announce an event. experience, learning the fundamentals of iPhone development, and then
Press releases only work for large releasing our first application which became one of the top 100 paid applications
companies with successful products, in the country.
because people know the brand and We're all students at Valparaiso University and began the project in May,
are excited about whatever is being deciding that it would be a great way to spend our last summer before we
pushed. If you’re an indie developer, graduated doing something that we really enjoyed.  It was our one last hurrah of
chances are great that no big sorts. We began on May 13th, the first day after finals, for our first day of work. 
newspaper or blog is interested in your We were pretty much the most inexperienced group you could find, but we still
app because they have no idea who had hope for the project.  Jeff would do art/design, I would handle the business/
you are and your product is like 30 marketing, and Mike would do all of the programming even though he pretty
other press releases they received much had no experience and had only taken one basic intro to C++ course three
earlier that day for fart noise apps. years ago.
Instead of sending 1000 press So anyways, we plugged along and worked pretty good weekends for the
releases, take some time to write next month in a half.  Mike would spend about 60 hours a week learning how to
50-100 more personal emails to larger code, I would promote us to anyone who would listen, and Jeff would help mock
media organizations. The receiving and create art for graphical interfaces.  We would work long hours, sleep on
person will be way more open to couches, eat PB&J or off dollar menus, and do pretty much whatever it took to
reading the email if it seems personal. develop an app at pretty much no cost because frankly, we didn't have any money
to spend since we didn't have real jobs.  After toying around with a few app ideas,
Tips for writing a better I had the idea for Battery Go! one night before I fell asleep, calling Jeff and Mike
release at 2am to tell them.  They figured I was drunk, but it turned out to be a pretty
Relationships with bloggers and good call.
journalists is key if you want your apps We spent the next couple weeks learning code and eventually developing
covered often, because these people Battery Go!, which we submitted to the App Store.  Finally, we found out on
trust their friends more than they trust Sunday that we were released, which was pretty much the most proud moments
random press releases. Here are a of our lives.  We would have been happy had the story ended there, but then
couple quick tips. Monday came and we were lucky enough to have a review of our app published
• Research the people you are writing on  The story gained a spot on Google News and our sales
to. Know a bit about them before you promoted us right to the fringe of the top 100 paid applications in the iTunes
pitch your application, so you know App Store, a goal that seemed impossibly beyond reach when we started, and
what they focus on and in what well beyond our wildest dreams.
manner they would write about you Tuesday morning, we found out that we cracked the top 100, seeing ourselves
• Address them by name in the email in the #99 spot at about 9am.  Needless to say, we were pretty excited, and from
• Mention their publication name too there we've climbed to #73 in the sales charts. 
• Don’t get down on yourself when the Again, just figured that their may be some sort of attractive potential story
New York Times doesn’t reply. behind our journey so far and I would pass it along.  In these recent economic
• It’s alright to follow up after a week troubles, it's been pretty cool to buck the trend and see success through hard work
or so and ask if they’ve looked at and dedication while learning a bunch of great business principles which will last
your app with us for a lifetime.
If you have any interest or any questions, feel free to e-mail me back. Thanks

The App Success Guide • •

The App Success Guide 4

The keys to getting covered appearances. One show did reach out,
but only because they had seen our
in mainstream media. team on another television program.
I think most developers would be For nearly every radio or newspaper
lying if they said that they don’t want to piece we’ve been in, I’ve had to send out
be interviewed on TV or in a magazine emails to encourage use of our story.
about their application. Gaining My next bit of advice is to go back
media attention is the key to landing and read the last page on writing a press
big sale numbers and the release again. Remember
accompanying climbs up that prog ramming
the most downloaded app directors at a radio or
charts. But how do you television station are
First time on air? actually go about getting people too and they
Our programmer, Mike Phelps, your story on TV? hate reading generic
found himself a little bit taken back First, you need to know press releases more than
with nerves after his first appearance that you’re never going to m o s t b e c a u s e t h ey
on national TV. For those of you get on TV or in a receive so many.
going on air for the first time, Mike newspaper if you sit around When writing up your
offers this advice. and wait for these more personal email, I
“Even if you are confident with organizations to call you. also encourage that you
public speaking, as I thought I was before You need to reach out and go about trying to
being set in front of a television camera; I send emails to the people in suggest a way in which
cannot stress enough the the importance of charge of such programs and inform your story would make a good human
experience in public speaking. I’ve been them about what you’ve accomplished. interest piece for their program. Maybe
able to practice my public speaking a bit We’ve been on television three times your local television station runs a
through several seminars and lectures and and I’m always surprised that most weekly piece on entrepreneurs? In your
people believe that these shows reached email to the producer, make note that
I can’t stress how helpful that has been.
out to us about appearing. In reality, your personal story would be a great
Take the jump and speak in front of we wrote emails and suggested a example of the the type of person they
people. It’s a great skill to have.” segment for two out our three would typically have on that segment.


Large Jump in Time Gain to
Media Type Typical Reach
Downloads? Consuming? Credibility?

Large blog (TUAW, Gizmodo) 300,000+ Yes No Large

Small blog 200 - 3,000 No If interviewed Small

Radio station 5,000 - 50,000 No Yes Medium

Newspaper Varies greatly Yes If interviewed Medium

Television Varies greatly No Very Large

YouTube video review 300 - 20,000 No No Small

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The App Success Guide 5


Final words of advice. week period. My time commitment was rate, marketing concepts as presented
probably a bit excessive and driven by here will remain valid for years to come.
When all is said and done, a lot of
the fact that I was still learning on the Thanks again for taking the time to read
your app success with regards to
job in the process. However, you need this and be sure to email me any
marketing is going to come down to
to be committed to a similar level of questions, comments, or suggestions
your drive and desire to succeed.
commitment if you want to succeed in which you may have.
You’re going to need a well designed
the App Store.
application with great utility, that is Our checklist for success
true, but by the time you roll out your The checklist for success. ✓Have your found the interesting
marketing campaign, it’ll be too late for In closing, I’ve but together this story behind your development
the other components. At this point, it’s short checklist of encouraged steps to process?
just hoping that you’ve put together a take when pushing out your marketing ✓Have you determined what your
strong strategy and then working your strategy. key differentiating feature is and
butt off to make that plan succeed. I hope that you find them of use as how to explain it in 2 sentences or
Be prepared to make a good you push forward your next less?
portion of your day dedicated toward application. If you do have any other ✓Have you researched large media
sending emails and working to get questions, feel free to send me an email outlets around your area and
coverage of your app. When we message to and contacted them if your story is
released Battery Go!, my typical day I’ll do my best to get back to you as something that they would run?
would involve waking up at 6am to look soon as possible. ✓Block off chunks of time to spend
over previous day sales statistics and As a whole, the mobile app market on marketing your application each
read the news, then work on reaching is still fairly young and difficult to day, like you do with programming
out to different media organizations manage for the typical content or designing the application.
until 5 or 6pm. I’d then take a quick producer, especially from a marketing ✓Spend less time pushing on Twitter
dinner break and go back to pushing perspective. However, while the and Facebook and more time
out more emails until 1 or 2am or later, methods of production and technology emailing blogs or newspapers.
followed by wake up and repeat for a 2 may change at an increasingly rapid ✓Take time to be personal.

Need more help? Check out our blog too! Suggested readings.
We offer a detailed “App Marketing Looking to keep up with what I see as I’m often asked about what sites I read
Makeover” for developers. Learn more the leading trends in mobile marketing? daily to keep up with Apple news.
about this service and its benefits at We offer a free blog you should Daring Fireball and The Unofficial definitely take time to check out at Apple Weblog are my two “must read” sites to check out.

The App Success Guide • •