Repeat Timer Pro iPhone App Development
With complete designs ready, I needed to prepare assets for development. I first wrote a specification document describing the app concept and detailing it's functionality. I then created a screen breakdown image with basic notes about the UI components on each of the app's screens, how they would animate and how users would interact with them (part of it shown to the right). I bundled these with the original master PSD containing all screens and a style guide with isolated interactive elements and their alternate states.
The next step was to find a developer or team to build this out. I first got in touch with my friends at Fueled - an excellent design and development shop
in New York. Although there would be no doubts about the quality of the app coming out of Fueled, I also posted the project on eLance
to see how the cost of outsourcing elsewhere would compare. I ended up choosing a development company
in Novosibirsk and working with a bright young developer that had previosly built an app that won an Apple Design Award. The cost, timeline, communication and adherence to the set budget have all been great. I am very happy with my choice.
INSIGHT: It took over 130 development hours to build the first version of the app. Updating it with 3 independent timers and custom labels for v1.1 took another 80.
Repeat Timer Pro iPhone App Marketing Strategy
There are many great apps at the App Store that never get the attention they deserve. This is often due to lack of a solid marketing strategy or its poor execution. Any new app released to the App Store starts at the bottom and it takes careful planning and effort to make it float up among the other half a million products and get the exposure needed to be successful. I find the business aspects of any project to be as creative and interesting as designing the product itself so I was looking forward to marketing and promoting the app.
iPhone App Marketing example
As soon as I sent off all files for development, I created a Twitter account
and a Facebook page
and set up a splash page inviting users to follow the app on these networks for a chance to get a copy of the paid app free. I also promoted this on my Dribbble
and personal Facebook page. This was mainly meant to create some buzz about the upcoming release but also to recruit a few users that would try the app immediately after launch and hopefully generate some reviews (reviews help the app rank higher at the App Store). Creating the website early was also important in order to get indexed by search engines and establish the basis for ranking.
Spreading the Word
Repeat Timer Pro is my first app, so even though I scoured the net for insights into successful promotion tactics, getting the word out about my addition to the App Store in an effective way was mostly trial and error. Some things that I spent significant resources on yielded poor results while others had a welcome effect on app sales. Keeping in mind that certain initiatives don't boost sales right away but help in the long run, this is what I learned so far as to what works and what doesn't:
A WORD ON KEYWORDS:
Aside from sales surrounding paid promotional initiatives, it is important that potential users can find the app online and at the App Store. Therefore, selecting the best keywords and optimizing website's and app's meta data is vital. After doing research online and at the App Store, I found that "repeat timer" and "repeating timer" would be the best keywords to use in terms of what potential users would search for as well as in relation to competing offerings. I optimized the app title and website for these and included secondary keywords such as "interval timer", "yoga timer", "workout timer" and a few others in the app's meta data.
INDUSTRY PR DISTRIBUTION: PRMac
is a press release distribution service focused on news in the Mac world. I have sent out two releases through them so far - one at the release of the app
and one to announce the v1.1 update
- and both yielded great results: nearly 12,000 views on PRMac.com (with more on the 30+ sites that published the press release) and a sizable spike in app sales. The cost was $20 per extended release.
GENERIC PR DISTRIBUTION:
A couple of days before I discovered PRMac, I distributed the first press release via 24-7PressRelease.com
. The announcement
received 4,210 views but had virtually no impact on app sales because it went out to a generic, untargeted audience. Definitely the worst marketing expenditure so far, $155.
There are many websites that review and demo apps - some charge for their services and the exposure you app gets, others are free. I went after both. I spent a good deal of time filling out app review request forms on the free sites and emailing site editors to get them to introduce my app to their readers, but most never responded. I also purchased a few paid reviews - The iPhone App Review
, Crazy Mike's Apps
and Daily App Show
. None of these yielded the results I hoped for and the marginal boost in sales did not justify the cost (over $100 on average), at least in the short term.
Free publicity is obviously good, but it's still takes time and effort to get. Aside from submitting my app for review via website forms, I reached out to writers and editors of app publications directly via Twitter. I offered promo codes to try my app and asked if they thought their readers would like to find out about it. Christine at AppAdvice liked my app and helped me spread the word with a review
and an update announcement
with an awesome giveaway - both of which lead to a welcome boost in sales and some great exposure. Jared at MacGasm also thought the app was cool and included it in a weekly post
. Big thanks to both of them! This publicity is the most gratifying not because it was free but because it shows that my product is useful to people.
Update Feb 19:
I since got reviews at PCMag
and Cult of Mac
by reaching out to their editors via Twitter. Thanks @jeffreylwilson
POORLY TARGETED PAID ADVERTISING:
After the app was out for about a month, I decided to try paid advertising. Browsing BuySellAds.com, iDesigniPhone
(an iPhone wallpaper site) looked like a good value - $60/mo for a front page 125x125 ad with over a 1M estimated impressions - so I bought the space. Judging by the ad numbers over a month, it was worth it (1.1M impressions, 429 clicks = 0.04% CTR) but looking at Google Analytics, I saw that the average time on site was only 6 seconds, which means that barely anyone stuck around to learn about the app and consider getting it. Seeing this, I did not renew the ad.
TARGETED PAID ADVERTISING:
In early December, I discovered Overlapps - a really cool app rating website with an interesting concept and clean design. Despite poor results from advertising on iPhoneiDesign, I bought a couple ad spaces on Overlapps (also via BuySellAds.com) - I really liked the site and the audience coming to site to discover cool apps would be more likely to check out mine...plus it was quite cheap. I am currently running two ads there - on the homepage
and on the Top 25 page
- both at $33 a month. They don't get the huge number of impressions but the CTR on the two pages is high (0.90% and 4.32%) and those that click spend over 4 times longer on the app website, so I imagine the sales I get more than cover the expense. I have no plans to cancel these ads.
WORD OF MOUTH: This one is obvious, but it's always great to receive positive feedback to the app and hear that the user downloaded it from a recommendation. In my opinion, the is the most sustainable way to grow sales given the product trully helps users and carries value.
In support of the points above, here is the profit vs. time graph of app sales in the first two months following the Nov 22nd launch. In deciding which marketing initiatives to pursue, I found it hard to find any actual results or testimonials of what others have done, so I am happy to share this insight with fellow developers:
Repeat Timer Pro iPhone App Sales Graph