Customer Acquisition · IOS

User acquisition on IOS?

Tania Rojas Sr. Product Manager. Global E-Commerce at GoDaddy

May 28th, 2013

We're a bootstrapped startup that just launched an Iphone app. Any tips on how to (inexpensively) market the app and acquire users? 

I've heard some tips where you can sell your app for a high price, like $19.99, and then make it free, causing app discount sites to write about the sudden discounted deal (does this work?). I've also heard that paying for Youtube app reviews can get you app downloads in the hundreds. 

Any tips or suggestions? 

Hi Tania,

It really depends on the type of app you have. I've heard that the "drop the price" approach does work if you have an app that you can actually sell for $19.99 realistically thereafter but if your app is free or .99 like most - then this may not be as an effective strategy. I also haven't tried the paid Youtube app review strategy. Can you tell us more about your app? What category is it in? Is it paid or free? Who is your target customer/end user? 

Kissmetrics posted a great piece on their blog about Marketing Mobile Apps.  Most of the things they recommend require money though but here are some of the most effective CHEAP things Ive seen work with our app. 

1. SEO: One tactic not mentioned in the blog post that has worked well for us is SEO.  While this is still a relatively new concept for iOS there are a few startups tackling this issue. SearchMan SEO is the one we use. It basically monitors the keywords of your competitors and makes suggestions for keywords you can use to boost your ranking in the app store. This is an effective and consistent way for us to get a steady flow of new downloads for FREE! 

2. Guest Blogging/Press - This works moderately well for big spikes in downloads. Not a sustainable way to grow your business though. Submit your site to app review sites and sites that discuss new startups/apps. Launchbit has a whole list of sites that focus on startups on their blog. Also Help A Reporter Out is a great tool for connecting with journalist who are looking to cover your industry, product. 

3. Get Reviews from Power Users: We ask our users to review our app after they've used the product for some time.  This impacts SEO/app rankings as well and also allows us to look credible to those considering downloading the app.

4. Integrate Twilio on your landing page: We spent a lot of time creating an awesome landing page but then forgot to do the most important part. Make it easier for new users to get the app. We saw an increase in app downloads after integrating Twilio on our landing page and making it seamless for people viewing the site online to get the app on their phone immediately. Twilio allows users to type in their phone numbers and get the app texted to their phone so they can start using it right away. Golden!

5. The Basics: Never underestimate these, they should be a given before launch:  choose the right app category for your app (research how many downloads  are needed to rank in a category, weigh pros and cons of each category i.e. lifestyle vs. social networking), pick a great name  (tip: its great if you can include a keyword in your title), have a great icon, have a landing page optimized for conversion (Kissmetrics has resources for this as well on their blog), have great screenshots that show off your apps unique value. 

Hope this helps. Good luck! 
**pls excuse any typos. :) 




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Dan Grover

May 28th, 2013

I gave a talk on this topic last year:

In short, do everything you would do to promote anything, but with much better timing, and with the aim of using the ranking lists to your advantage, and trying to start a feedback loop.

Dan Hopwood

July 27th, 2013

Cassi Kjun Jiyong App promotion, app install, review and rating provider.

Last updated on September 18th, 2017

Offering free downloads for a limited length of time and paying for youtube reviews are good ways to boost app downloads.

Another efficient way is getting positive app reviews. Data shows that 88% users trust reviews as much as personal recommendations, and 95% users will take the app reviews as one of the most important reference factors to judge the app - Users will be convinced when they see your app have gained many good reviews from your former or existing users and choose your app since these reviews are regarded as significant proof of your app.

One more effective way is getting 4/5-star app ratings. App ratings play an important role both in determining the likelihood of a potential user to download the app, most people prefer to download an app which has much more 4/5-star rating. As a user yourself, if you’re presented with two apps, one has much more 4/5-star ratings, the other one just have a few 4/5 star ratings, , which are you most likely to choose? Buyappratings provides this kind of service, the price is very cheap, what's more, if you place a rating orders, you can also get the same downloads for free at the same time. The number of donwloads also affect the download rates.

Besides, you should make your app title, icon, description, screenshots and video attractive, which can also increase the download rates effectively. About the description, most people just browsing the first 3 lines, then you should hightlight your app features and advantages in the first 3 lines to grasp the potential users' eyes.

Hope these methods are useful to you.

Tania Rojas Sr. Product Manager. Global E-Commerce at GoDaddy

May 28th, 2013

Hi Zuhairah and Dan, 

Wow I'm impressed by the dialogue and suggestions! These are great! 

Just to give you a little more info, our app Emotofoto ( , helps you share your thoughts and feelings with creative commons pictures (sort of like emoticons on steroids). We are in the social networking category and are free. Our target customer are men and women in their teens looking to find an easier way to express themselves, though I must admit our demographic of users is all over the board right (friends of mine who are men in their early thirties are using it very frequently, go figure). 

I can already see there's some low-hanging fruit for me to try now (Twilio integration!) so thanks a lot for the thorough responses.

Derek Bugley

May 28th, 2013


Congratulations on your app being launched and I wish you great succes and luck in the future.  I don't want to be a downer on these forums because we all should be giving each other feedback, but I just wanted to add my two cents:

Customer acquisition is something you should have and should continue to think about.  It's at the heart of your product.  You should have users right now you're speaking with who could help - ask them "where would you look for something like us?"  Keep talking with those first group of users.  

Look at the competition - what are they doing; social shares on networks, incentives, where they put their apps, etc.  

I think the power user reviews is critical - if this is in the hands of people who are early adopters and love it, give them ways to use, promote and share the app.  

Finally - a price drop or similar strategy won't work in my opinion - it's gimmicky and you shouldn't build a customer acquisition strategy around price.  

In closing - you should be thinking about ways to acquire customers meaningfully, but you shouldn't be throwing 100 darts hoping they all will stick - Guy Kawasaki has a great podcast and speech about firing a cannon and adjusting - you're a small bootstrapped team, identify a few strategies that may work and target the top one and go down from there - you certainly cannot be doing 10 various things all at once.  

Jessica Alter Entrepreneur & Advisor

May 28th, 2013

Already a related thread on this here:
Reminder to take a look at previous Discussion before you post

Rob Phillips iOS & web engineer, product designer, startup enthusiast/advisor

July 16th, 2013

I think the most important point that many people miss is: Make your app something that people would pay money for.  If they are willing to pay money for it, then it solves a real pain point in their life and it's something that they would be willing to share with family and friends.  I've made the mistake of fooling myself into solving problems that ended up not even being a real problem to my target audience.  When I finally solved a real pain point, people downloaded my app in the thousands per day without me having to advertise or market it at all.
I've been working in the iOS and Android app stores for almost 4 years now and although some marketing ploys might generate a small boost in your downloads, almost none of those are sustainable without investing a lot of money (which most startups don't have).