Low cost marketing for mobile games or apps could be very hard and tricky. Many developers just gave up after few shots thinking it’s impossible to fight those boys with budgets big enough to fund another space shuttle program. Well… it is and it is not.
One needs to realise that there is no universal magic guide to conquer the mobile world without a single penny. You will need to work your ass off if you want to get a decent presence and generate some buzz about your mobile app.
I truly believe you have a great app which is useful or game which is not a gazillionth copycat of Flappy Bird mixed up with Clash of Clans. I also assume you already know the basic stuff about the app store optimization or mobile app marketing because the rest of the article is talking about specific ideas which should be used in addition to your core marketing strategy.
1. Partner up with another mobile app
This approach could be especially useful if you offer some complementary service and both sides of the deal are able to benefit from such partnership.
For example, a great GPS navigation Sygic partnered up with TripAdvisor to provide enhanced user experience and comfort. Whenever someone wants to navigate to a point of interest (for example a hotel) Sygic will show ratings and reviews of that place from TripAdvisor.
Some time ago we developed a simple logic game about trains to support our core title TrainStation. The main idea was to offer a fun casual game and prompt our players to download it during the regular TrainStation downtime update we had on Facebook. We ditched the project since but only because we work on a full mobile version now.
I’m sure you can brainstorm your own ideas. Whether you have a weather app or game for kids there are always plenty of mobile apps, web services or even retail stores you can contact and eventually partner with for free.
2. Use niche websites and forums
You surely do use various mobile app review websites in your app marketing strategy. However, many people forget to aim for relevant niche websites and forums where they can actually find much more suitable and cheap audience for their app.
Be sure not to promote your app like a barbarian just because it’s cheap. If you just walk into a well-established community and spam your app all over the place, the chances are high you will get banned.
Instead, pick few valuable websites with relevant audience and high traffic volume and blend in before you even publish your app. Plenty of time you will hear common problems of a particular community and you may even end up with a new idea for another app.
Great approach is to create a topic about your upcoming app and actually ask people for their insights. How could you help them? What problems can you solve in this niche?
So let’s say you have an app about dog training tips. Then go and find dog training communities. Or maybe you have a cooking app with delicious and healthy recipes. Don’t worry and try websites for moms – they usually share recipes among each other.
If you don’t know where to start, try Google. Search for communities and forums. In addition, I love using BuzzBundle – a neat tool for exploring various topics on blogs, forums, social networks, etc. Just enter your keywords and join conversations.
3. Cooperate with authorities in your niche
Once again, focus on your niche. Just imagine how cool it is to be recommended by an expert.
Let’s say you have an expense tracker app. Go and find a famous blogger or book author who teach people how to get out of debt. You can even work together on the app and then present it as a practical implementation of tips in his books.
Or you may be developing a decent fitness app right now. Great, pick a well-known personal trainer in your country and publish the app as a mutual project focused on a professional training approved by Mr. Awesome Trainer himself.
Google helps as in previous case. My favourite method to find relevant experts in a particular niche for free is to explore Amazon. For example, list best-selling books about dog training tips, pick the most popular authors and google their names. Usually they have a website, blog or at least social media presence so you will be able to contact them easily.
4. In-app friend invitations
Very powerful, effective and cheap tool for acquiring new users, yet so undervalued.
One of the reasons why social games are so popular is the fact they smoothly implemented the invite functionality. Assuming you have an useful app or great game there is a chance that satisfied users will spread a word about it. So let’s make it easier for them.
You can use for example Facebook, Twitter or SMS to invite people into your app and it’s always good to add some social functionality to your app if possible. Great example could be the InstaWeather app which allows you to invite other people directly and share your checkins and photos among each other.
5. Meet real people
This is the core I would say. The best thing in business are contacts.
If you are serious with mobile app business and especially games you need to start gathering contacts. Conferences are the best place to start. The main reason I visit such events is to meet new people and discuss business opportunities.
Exchanging business cards is not enough. You need to go out with people. Invite them for a dinner. Join a group of game developers heading to a bar at the evening and grab some drinks with them.
I met countless people this way and it was totally worth it. I’m able to discuss marketing issues with guys from leading mobile game companies and from time to time we introduce each other to someone new.