Mobile app marketing campaigns: The practical stuff
While planning, distribution, legal issues and ongoing maintenance and support aren’t what marketing professionals first think about when considering marketing campaign apps, it’s usually these unfamiliar issues that trips projects up, causing them to fail or go over time and budget. In this final part of a three part series, Paul Lin goes through some loose ends and questions around running a mobile app marketing campaign.
The first practical thing to consider when planning your mobile app marketing campaign is planning – how much time do you have? While apps can vary in size and complexity, a good measure is that apps are built in months, not weeks – so you’ll need to budget in a few months from conception to release. Furthermore, you’ll need to budget in at least a few weeks to a month around scoping, to ensure that the idea is functional both as a product and technically.
Too often we find that it’s this first step that trips non-mobile specialists up, as they come up with a great concept only to find that it’s not technically viable or practical for the timeframe or budget they have assigned to the project – but by then it’s too late, as there’s not enough time to re-scope the project, and a hacked-up compromised concept is implemented in its place instead.
These projects usually fail as the original strategic vision is not followed through in the compromised version. Therefore, we would almost say that the initial planning and scoping is the most important phase of the project, and around 80% of the success or failure of the project is determined at this step.
The next issue to consider is the platform – in general, we recommend native apps for both iOS and Android for marketing apps, as they require the smoothness and polish that only native apps can provide. It’s also been a long time since Apple has dominated the smartphone market, so in order to reach your target audience, you’ll need to plan for both platforms.
Design and implementation time and costs will vary from platform to platform, and phone to tablet, so it’s important to consider during the planning phase how much time and budget you have, and which devices are more important to your campaign. Depending on the nature and functionality of the app, designing for phone and tablet may incur only a trivial amount of time, or it may take up to double the amount of time – so it’s important to have this discussion with your mobile specialists up front.
Distribution is also another task to consider when planning your mobile app marketing campaign. Unlike web products, apps need to be distributed by the app stores, so you can’t just ‘finish it and put it up for everyone to download’. Instead, you need to think of the process not unlike putting a physical product into a bricks-and-mortar store – you need the owner’s approval, and that approval process takes time and effort.
This distribution and approval process is something that most marketers neglect until the last minute – they assume that submitting apps is as simple as uploading a picture or post on Facebook, or a video on Youtube, when in reality the process is a complex negotiation process with Apple and Google, which takes time to set up, especially if the account in question hasn’t submitted any apps before. There are also a lot of settings and questions (business and technical) to answer, so it’s best it’s done by mobile specialists who have submitted apps before, and not by the marketers themselves.
Once the app is submitted, it can take up to two weeks or more for Apple to accept an app, although in reality it can take less time. However, given that Apple owns the app store, they have the right to reject apps as they see fit without reason – therefore, it’s not uncommon to receive requests back from Apple to modify the app in unexpected ways in order to comply with Apple’s policies at the time of submission.
To avoid rejection and delays to the campaign timelines, the app needs to be managed at every step to comply with Apple’s policies up front – this includes everything from design (using acceptable UI components) to development (using the code in the Apple approved ways). In addition, the two-week submission buffer needs to be a hard deadline for the project, in order to reserve some time to mitigate the risk of a new policy or unexpected requests by Apple.
Google App store submission is a similar process, but it’s a lot less time consuming, and the process for approval is less strict. But the same care and planning needs to be taken for Android apps as well, as Android has its own unique technical/submission issues (such as file size limits).
Outside of distribution requirements, there are also requirements around sharing and integrating social networks that non-mobile specialists may not be aware of, which may result in rejection not by Apple/Google, but rejection by Facebook or Twitter. For example, Facebook, in order to prevent spam-like posts from appearing on people’s walls, has strict verb-noun requirements for sharing descriptions. Without understanding the implications of sharing and how that may affect the core concept is also another trap that can affect the overall success of the mobile app campaign.
Finally, there are also ongoing support and maintenance issues to consider – very rarely will apps be a final product on initial release. To achieve success, the app needs to be modified based on user feedback, and ongoing monitoring and updates are usually required.
A common mistake for marketers is to spend their entire budget on the initial version, and then not planning or budgeting time for updates post release, causing it to die slowly over time due to user dissatisfaction. Instead, they should be thinking the app as an organic product, one that needs to be grown, trimmed and shaped over the course of the campaign, if it is to have any chance of achieving its original strategic objectives.
In all, running a successful mobile app campaign is a complex process, but at the end of the day, it’s only complex because it’s new. While marketers have gotten used to doing web-based campaigns (to the point that it’s intuitive and ‘easy’ now), it wasn’t that long ago that the same people had to switch from television and print-based advertising to web advertising. Instead of avoiding a mobile-centric app campaigns because it’s unfamiliar, marketers should work with mobile specialists in learning the landscape and ecosystem, and take advantage of the unique technology, opportunities and results that it can bring, or risk being left behind in the mobile revolution that we’re currently going through.