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Rahul Varshneya

How To Acquire Mobile App Users Without Spending Money

Rahul Varshneya
How To Acquire Mobile App Users Without Spending Money

Some of the most successful mobile apps that you are using today pride themselves in not having spent a single dollar in advertising to attract users.

Paid advertising isn’t the only way to acquire users. There are many ways that exist where you can attract, influence and engage users to build traction for your mobile app.

From press and content marketing to participating in communities and leveraging social channels, let’s take a look at every channel that you can tap into to acquire users. All it would take is an investment of time and willingness to learn and experiment.

#1 Get Press

Neil Patel of Kissmetrics endorses that the best bet in startup marketing is getting press. Bill Gates even said, “If I was down to the last dollar of my marketing budget I'd spend it on PR!”

People buy through recommendations from sources they trust. One of the most important sources where people consume content on a daily basis is press and blogs. The opinions from these sources are what people trust and getting endorsement can get you long-term, sustainable results.

Clear app drew in over 350,000 downloads within 9 days from launch on the back of getting press even before they launched! You can personally write to and approach journalists and bloggers that are relevant to your product or category.

Do your research well, identify the right journalists and send them a personalized email introducing yourself and your mobile app.

#2 Content Marketing

Buffer app acquired its first 100,000 customers purely through content marketing – by producing and sharing valuable content, on their blog and guest posts, that people would love to read.

Writing content that offers value to your audience will help you get mindshare and also build engagement. The content can and should be created across multiple mediums such as Pinterest, LinkedIn, email, infographics, Video, etc. and not just restricted to a blog.

Content marketing creates long-lasting effects in drawing users to your mobile app. Good content shows up in Google searches and stays longer and helps you a great deal in search engine optimization (SEO).

#3 Early Adopter Communities

There are many avenues for you to share the link to your app or beta signup landing page and get feedback from an active community of early product adopters. These are people that are very active in using emerging technology and are equally supportive of those that address a need but are in early stages of evolution.

Submit your mobile app to these websites for a guaranteed traction. Of course, assuming your product interests the community.

Here’s a detailed list of websites to submit your startup to.

#4 Email Marketing

Email drives the highest conversions and having a ready email list of influential people can drive significant user traction almost instantly.

If you’re starting out on day one without any email list, this hack will get you one within five minutes.

Open the LinkedIn website. Click on Connections in the top menu. Click the gear icon that appears in the top right corner of your connections page. On the right hand column under Advanced Settings, click on Export LinkedIn Connections. Choose the format you want it in and your download begins.

You now have a spreadsheet with the email addresses of all your LinkedIn connections. Send them an email using a mailer service such as MailChimp or Aweber announcing the launch of your app or if you have an important update to share.

Keep the same people engaged regularly (weekly or fortnightly mailers) through relevant content based on your industry or app category using products such as MailCaddy or Goodbits.

#5 Influencing Word of Mouth

The best form of marketing is when users help you spread the word about your app. It doesn’t cost any money and has the potential to make the messaging or the app get traction through a viral effect.

Give your users reasons to spread the word about your app among their community.

One of the ways is to incentivize your users to spread the word about your mobile app. For instance, Dropbox ran an extensive campaign during which you could share the service on Facebook and Twitter for additional space. Referrals increased Dropbox signups by 60%.

Another way is to capitalize on vanity. People love to show off and that’s what Runkeeper app leverages to enable the users to share their vanity metrics such as how far they ran and how many calories they burned with their network on social media. Imagine the publicity the app gets as a result of this.

#6 Recruit Manually

This strategy works best when you have a defined user segment. In any case, to build a successful app business, you better have a defined user segment or your cost of customer acquisition will go through the roof.

So assuming you do have a well-defined customer segment, figure out where they hang out within your city and get through those forums online and offline and try to get them to use your app.

Look for clubs or associations of members that your target audience could be a part of or specific groups and forums on online channels.

Recruiting customers manually give you many advantages: you can quickly assess market demand, get quality feedback and study user behavior first-hand. Also, your mistakes are controlled with only a limited segment.

Whatever channels or mediums you choose, they require a dedicated time and effort to give results. There are many successful apps that have been built using just one or a combination of these strategies. You CAN do it yourself. All you need is a bit of conviction and the willingness to make mistakes and learn from them.

Have you had measured success with any of these tactics? Please let us know in the comments.

Rahul Varshneya is the cofounder of Arkenea LLC, a mobile app design and development consultancy. He is a mobile strategy columnist at The Huffington Post, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his free email series on mobile app growth hacking for customer acquisition.

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