Marketing your Windows Phone app 101 – Q&A with resident Windows Phone developer Bernardo Zamora

Our resident app developer, Bernardo Zamora, joins me today for a Question & Answer post, highlighting two ways to think about marketing your apps for increased discovery and downloads. Bernardo works on the Windows Phone Store team and has published several games in the Store.

Kami: How do you think about app promotion, and do you have any tips or tricks you could share with us today from a developer perspective?

Bernardo: I think of app promotion in two different ways:

  1. Opportunities that exist outside of the app – let’s call this “Out-of-app marketing”
  2. Opportunities to promote your app within the app itself, or “In-app marketing”

Kami: Sounds like a simple way to think about marketing. Tell us more about Out-of-app marketing as you see it.

Bernardo: Absolutely! Here are a few key recommendations:

  • Add the Windows Phone Store badge to your website, making it easy for users to see that your app is available in the Windows Phone Store.

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  • Promote the app on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets. Remember to use consistent #hashtags whenever you promote it or retweet other items of interest. Stay engaged with your followers to stay relevant and grow your audience.
  • Reach out to relevant media outlets to garner third-party coverage of your app.

Kami: You mentioned media outlets. How can a small developer get press to pay attention?

Bernardo: Media coverage is a critical element in the marketing of any product. Great press can catapult you to success, but negative stories and reviews have marked the end of more than a few businesses. Here are a few bits of advice I’ve picked up along the way:

  • Know your audience: Know your target customer, then determine what sort of media influence them; are they looking at technology press, business press, lifestyle blogs, gamer sites, music forums … what? Then, read those outlets, figure out who at those sites might look at apps and technology and follow them daily – what they write as well as what they share via social networks.
  • Know your story: Press want great stories. They don’t write about apps or technology as a favor to the dev; press want to know what’s new and interesting. Don’t just pitch your metadata. Think about the problem your app solves, who is impacted, what is unique about your app, and if there’s anything interesting about how or why you created it. If you have research to support the need for your app, all the better.
  • Know what’s news: Timing is everything for press. Many apps are featured in the news because they are timely or seasonal. Others are simply opportunistic and able to connect their idea to the day’s news. You want to connect your app to a timely and relevant event or theme such as tax season or a holiday. Similarly, it’s important to respect that reporters are busy and do not appreciate being pitched while on deadline. Pitching your app cold during a major industry event or amid a busy news day will limit your chances of success.
  • Know when to keep quiet: Remember that everything is “on the record.” If you don’t want your financials or opinion on a partner’s business written in a story for all to see, don’t mention it offhand to a reporter. And “I don’t know off the top of my head, but I will get back to you on that,” is a perfectly fine answer if you need time to confirm specifics – never just guess, because you run the risk of having misinformation attributed to you.

Kami: Great tips, thanks. Now let’s talk about In-app marketing, or ways to promote your app from within the app itself. Any tips or tricks you could share on that?

Bernardo: Yes, a few simple tips include:

  • Submit horizontal screenshots if your game uses Landscape orientation. All Windows Phone apps and games are also found through our web Store, www.windowsphone.com. Horizontal images will appear with the correct orientation in your app listing in www.windowsphone.com, and your app or game will likely generate more downloads. Submit horizontal images in Dev Center – you can rotate vertical screenshots 90 degrees using any drawing program.
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  • Ensure that the app has few crashes. Test your app on a low-memory emulator, and test as much as possible prior to launching. Following the launch, utilize the Dev Center crash report and fix any issues quickly so that the app has few crashes and rises faster in the “New + Rising” list.

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  • Provide an easy way for users to report errors, with a form or email option, such as using the email composer task to send an email. This way, you can track any issues and ensure a great experience for the user.
  • If you have more than one app, cross-promote and include a mention of your new release in your existing apps.
  • Purchase ads that will show up in Windows Phone. Check out AdDuplex, which offers ads in many Windows Phone apps.

Create a clear, simple, and professional icon to differentiate your app. The icon must clearly identify the app’s purpose. One option is to hire a graphic designer. There are many places to find design resources, such as 99designers.com or designcrowd.com.

Kami: All very useful stuff, thanks. Any parting thoughts on additional ways to take advantage of promotional opportunities with Microsoft?

Bernardo: Microsoft promotes apps that provide great experiences for our users, customized per market. We look for specific characteristics to consider apps for merchandising. The key criteria that the team considers are Functionality, Utility, and Enjoyment. If your app does well in all of these, and uses many of the Windows Phone features, such as Live Tiles, it is more likely to be promoted.

Finally, another fantastic opportunity is to participate in the Windows Phone Next App Star contest.* The final winner will have the opportunity to see their app promoted in a Windows Phone primetime TV ad in the U.S.

Kami: Thanks for joining us today, Bernardo. You can also check out the Windows Phone Developer Blog for additional tips on making your app more attractive to customers along with suggestions for how to optimize your chances to get your app promoted in the Windows Phone Store.

 

* Contest open only to students, hobbyists, or developers in the field of software technology 18+. Submission period ends March 5, 2013 and the public voting period ends April 8, 2013. For details, see Official Rules.