If you have a BlackBerry app or you’re considering developing one, chances are that you’re trying a variety of channels, one of which is BlackBerry App World. Like any good business, you have to have a strategy for success with App World, and you can’t rely entirely on organic discovery. Here are a few tips to maximize your success in App World.
1. Get Featured – Getting featured in App World is a pretty simple task. Any BlackBerry Alliance member will have a point of contact who will help them get regularly featured in the App World carousel. If you’re not an Alliance Member and you’d like to get featured, just tweet and email around RIM until you find the right person. Twitter accounts such as @blackberry, @alexkinsella and @tron can all point you to the right people. Getting featured in App World will create a spike in downloads, but your downloads will also rest a little higher than usual. Take for example WickidApps’ Camera Plus, which was featured not too long ago:
As you can see, downloads and revenue rested a little higher after the spike than before the spike. If BlackBerry App World provided more analytics, I would be able to tell you exactly why a spike will result in a better sitting position, but one of the possible reasons is better App World SEO. Before the spike, searching for the term “camera” generally resulted in the application showing up about 5th or 6th on the list. After the spike, Camera Plus became 2nd on the list under that term. RIM isn’t very open about the specifics on why apps are positioned where they are, probably because they don’t want it gamed, but there does seem to be some ranking system for search.
2. Have a Portfolio of Apps – It’s not enough to have just one application. With just one app, you’re missing out on a variety of business opportunities and the potential to leverage many different monetization styles. With a portfolio of apps in App World, you have the ability to:
Use in app ads to cross-promote: Before you jump in and start using ads to promote your own products, realize that the size of your portfolio will determine the success of these ads. Users are not only easily offended by ads, as we saw with UberTwitter’s in-app ads, but they’re also easily bored. If you’re only advertising 2 apps, they’ll get the message quickly and you’ll see your numbers dwindle. With a large portfolio of apps, you can advertise different types of apps, prices and market towards different demographics. Constantly tweaking these apps will help a lot.
Leverage freemium models: Google’s Charles Yim was recently quoted saying “I am excited to see that hundreds of developers in the AdMob network are on track to earn more than $100,000 annually.” While RIM’s ad network is currently in a beta stage, there are other ad networks out there worth trying that could bring some ad revenue to your free application. Only have one app? Consider stripping out some functionality and selling this app with ads and leaving a premium paid version.
Build a brand: A portfolio of apps allows you to build a brand that your users can rally behind. With each additional user, you get an email address and someone who has hopefully had an enjoyable experience and trusts your development expertise. With a portfolio of apps, you can share this email distribution list and cross-promote apps to your base of customers. While this also applies to anyone with just one app, part of building a successful brand includes making sure that you’re using visually appealing graphics and a compelling description for all your apps. It’s embarrassing when developers have app descriptions filled with typos, grammatical errors and generally boring writeups about their apps. Make an app icon and description that’s going to catch the user’s eye when they see you in App World.
The above monetization strategies can be used individually or in tandem. Keep in mind that you’re going to maximize your ad revenue with a larger portfolio of products to advertise (whether they’re your own or someone else’s). Also, while testing new monetization strategies, consider using less popular channels before heading over to App World. Channels like Mobihand will often be a mere 10% of your total revenue, so why not test click-through rates and revenue models on this market, before making a big push on App World. If your new monetization strategy doesn’t work, you haven’t given away the app to too many users. If you see success, get the new model featured and watch the growth explode.
3. PUUUUUSSSSSHHHH! – Social media can get your app in front of millions of eyeballs fairly quickly and there a few worthwhile channels to consider:
Twitter: Building your own Twitter followers can be difficult so you may want to rely on some influencers to help you out. If you’re featured in App World, and you’ve built a good relationship with RIM, try and get them to tweet about your app from @blackberry. The social media team are generally helpful when it comes to supporting #teamblackberry. All of the blogs and tech websites out there have writers with Twitter accounts, so DM those guys a free copy and hopefully they’ll give you a shout out. If you’re still looking for people to contact, try searching for people on Twitter who are using a BlackBerry and have a relatively large amount of followers. In general, a few free copies will go a long way to getting a buzz going.
Facebook: A good place to start with Facebook is building your brand and leaving it as an open forum for current users to Like and discuss your application. Through Facebook, you can also promote your app much like you would through Twitter. By messaging users an OTA link, they can open it in Facebook for BlackBerry and grab the app right from there. Hopefully they’ll let their friends know on Facebook and with a big “Like” circle you can collect a nice group of people to message.
Blogs: Don’t just sit around and wait for the blogs to pick you up, tell them about your app. Get like acne and be Proactive. Emailing all the tip lines and editors’ emails with a brief writeup, screenshot and giveaway proposal will help you get some marketing going. These blogs appeal to the power users out there so you’ll also get some valuable feedback about your application. Blogs like CrackBerry, BerryReview, PocketBerry, BlackBerryRocks, BBleaks, TheBerryFix and more will surely help you out if they like your stuff (sorry to others I forgot to mention, feel free to comment your site’s link).
Some will say Social Media is overrated but not when it comes to apps. It doesn’t take much effort to get some very helpful feedback and inexpensive marketing through social media so get to it. Be sure to have a website for your product where you can have large social buttons, asking users to follow you on Twitter, Facebook, RSS etc.
4. Reviews – There are many developers out there who aren’t tough enough on reviews. I hope all developers know that they can access reviews in the App World Vendor Portal and contest these reviews for whatever reason they want. According to the Vendor Portal:
“If you feel that any of these reviews are inappropriate, click the “Approve Review” or “Deny Review” button and a ticket will be created for the BlackBerry App World Manager requesting that the status of the review be changed.”
Often times a user will leave a negative review because they simply don’t understand the basics of installing an application. This isn’t your fault and you shouldn’t let this sort of review go uncontested. One of the problems right now is that App World will maintain your negative star rating even though the review has been contested and denied. This means that for some apps that went through the beta process on App World, they have very low ratings because beta users left negative stars. App World shouldn’t even allow star reviews during a beta period, and should even rename “review” to “feedback”. Regardless, developers should monitor their reviews and be vigilant when it comes to denying negative reviews.
Many developers will review their own applications in order to give the app a good head start. This practice makes sense because if your first reviews are negative, you can find yourself on a vicious downward cycle pretty quickly. Users may avoid your app during its launch phase because the app received some negative reviews (which may be unwarranted), and it could be hard to recover. Even though leaving a couple positive reviews right away will give your app a boost, if your app sucks the community will make it clear and no amount of review denial will save you.
5. Patience – Regardless of what Silicon Valley thinks, RIM and BlackBerry are here to stay. App World will go through many updates and from all my conversations with the guys who work on App World, I can honestly say that they “get it”. Want better analytics? Yes, it’s coming. A better review system? Of course. The problem is that RIM is a huge company and the nature of large companies is that they move very slowly. Just take a look at the carrier billing feature in App World. It’s a great new feature that’s going to help developers sell more applications but it looks like AT&T is the only carrier that has implemented it. More carriers will implement but it’s going to take time. Part of your App World strategy must be to realize that for all the talk of app developers getting rich quick, you probably won’t be one of them. Just get your app in there, perfect it, and give RIM some time to implement the features necessary for your app to become even more popular. Another reason to wait – your app is probably going to be awesome on the PlayBook so code it now and wait for the sales to come in.
The above are just some ways to promote your app on App World, which is just one channel. While App World is and may always be the most important channel, it’s worth taking a look at other ways of distributing your app which will have varying degrees of success. As the app economy grows and the gold rush continues, we’re going to see an explosion in the number of places and ways you can sell your app. Hopefully you’ll find the one that gets you so paid you’ll be able to retire.