The Apple iTunes App Store is a wonderful platform for distribution and sale of iPhone and iPod touch applications. Apple takes care of the distribution and installation, as well as collecting payment. The process for getting onto the App Store is fairly seamless, and has matured enough that it doesn’t take that long after submission to get some kind of feedback or approval. In my case, for GearBox, It took just under 7 days from submission to approval. I submitted the app to Apple late in the day on April 29, Apple started reviewing it the morning of May 5 and it was approved 24 hours later on May 6. The app was on the store and available for sale by mid-day of May 6. Apple’s developer site indicates that most apps are reviewed within 7 days of submission. I’ve heard anecdotal evidence of approval a couple of days or even a few hours after submission.
The App Store, though, only solves part of the equation for your apps: distribution, installation and payment. What it doesn’t do is promote your app, build awareness or build the brand. You still have that problem to solve. I haven’t started any sort of marketing for GearBox just yet. I have spoken with some friends with experience in this area, and I have some ideas from them as well as a few of my own. But it is up to me to take the next step to promote the app, and try to drive sales.
Just anecdotally, it seems to me that a lot of app developers overlook the marketing aspect of their apps. The general theme is that a developer can put an app on the App Store, and the money will just roll in. That might have been true in the early days, when the number of apps numbered in the single-digit thousands. Today, with somewhere around 200,000 apps on the App Store, your product will be largely lost in an enormous sea of product. I have heard from developers who are disappointed in their app sales, but when you ask them what they’ve done to promote their app, and to build awareness, they respond with “nothing”. People won’t buy it if they don’t know about it, or can’t find out about it.
At this point, I don’t have any answers. What I do have are some ideas. In the case of GearBox, I have started to reach out to editors at on-line car magazines, to make the aware of the app. My next step will be to approach them and see if any would be willing to write something up about it, even if only a mention in some general newsletter/headline page. Readers of these online car sites contain some of the target audience for the app. I have other ideas from friends that I will also look into, but that I’d rather keep under wraps at the moment. The key, though, is to recognize that this activity has to be done, and start to find resources to help. I already have some colleagues whose job is marketing, and I have other smart friends who have experience with other products and services. There are also resources available though local organizations (for example, in Calgary I can reach out to places like Calgary Technologies and YYC Apps). There are resources available to small businesses, and you would be surprised what you will find in your own circle of friends and colleagues that can help. The trick is to know that you need to take of the marketing piece, and not just assume the App Store will do it all for you.