Get Those First 100,000 Monthly App Users by Following this Roadmap

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You’re just about to begin developing a great new app idea, but before you get started, make sure you have a plan to keep it growing well after it launches. We followed this roadmap when we created our Zutobi app to help teen drivers earn their licenses, and we’re still seeing strong growth three years later. 

Provide Value

Make this rule the centerpiece of your growth strategy. The only way your app will succeed is if it makes users’ lives better in some way. They’ll need to recognize its value before launch, and see proof of it after they download and begin using it. Knowing that the driving permit test failure rate in Missouri was exceedingly high, we developed the tools that would make it easier for teen drivers in the state to pass it on their first try. Teens see enormous value in our app because it helps them get behind the wheel faster.

In order to determine what your customers value, thoroughly research their needs and pain points. Develop a user persona – a representative picture of your ideal customer that will guide you in your effort to create a problem-solving app. The persona should include standard demographics like age and income, but also take into account the current values and behaviors of your target user.

Then, study competitors to see how they’re attempting to acquire and keep customers that are similar to yours. How can you lure users away from them? Look at analytic data to see how well your closest competitors are performing, and explore their apps in-depth to see if there are features you can improve on or gaps you can fill. Competition is fierce, and if you can’t outperform apps similar to yours, you either won’t be able to build a strong user base or you may eventually lose the customers you’ve gained.

Develop an App You Would Use

Your target customer may not look like you or have the same needs, but you’re likely to share an appreciation for apps that save time and achieve goals. The Zutobi app helps teen drivers earn their licenses through practice tests that make it easier to fully learn and absorb the rules of the road. Use your expertise as both a developer and an app user to guide the creation of an app that offers a compelling promise and delivers on it. 

Put Together a Marketing Strategy for Every Phase of the User Journey

Your amazing new app will fail if not enough people know about it. A marketing plan outlines your strategies for 1) reaching potential users before you launch, 2) while you’re actively trying to get downloads, and 3) when you want to bring back customers whose usage has dropped off.

Pre-Launch

During the pre-launch period, your creative message and outreach strategies should focus on generating buzz and awareness about your new app:

  • Industry influencers – if they have a large enough following – can do wonders for establishing credibility for your app and encouraging downloads when you go live.
  • Now is the time to make use of your social media pages. Fans and followers of your brand will take notice of a new “product” you’re developing and share posts with their friends if they can see how it will benefit them.
  • Your brand’s website can be instrumental in educating visitors about your new app offering. In fact, there’s strong evidence that websites are very effective at driving app downloads. Use paid ad campaigns on search engines and social media that lead those who click on the ad to a dedicated landing page for your app.

Active User Acquisition

Once your app launches, the hunt is on for users who will download and install it. Since so many people looking for apps use the Google Play and Apple iOS stores to find them, make use of these tactics within the app stores themselves:

  • Research the keywords most relevant for your target customers (plus those used by competitors) and use app store optimization (ASO) to push your app listing to a better position in the app store results. Insert optimal keywords into your app’s title and description. We used ASO to select the best performing keywords for our Zutobi Drivers Ed app.
  • Paid advertising is also an option within the app store. Reach target customers while they’re actively looking for apps like yours.
  • Use your PR staff to pitch your app to be featured in the app stores. The potential exposure you can gain makes trying to secure one of these coveted spots well worth the effort.

Retention

Kudos to you for achieving a high number of downloads after your launch. But how engaged are those who initially downloaded it just a few months later? You can’t rely only on new downloads if you want to grow your app. You’ll need to hold on to current customers and encourage them to use the app more frequently. And, if usage begins to drop off precipitously, you’ll have to find ways to bring those customers back. Since user retention is vital for sustained growth, we’ve highlighted a particular retention strategy as one of the key stops on the roadmap: in-app incentives.

Use In-App Incentives to Retain Users or Bring Them Back

There’s no question that it’s challenging to turn customers into loyal users who will be active users of your app. But since it’s easier and less expensive to retain current users than to acquire new ones, you’ll need to find ways to persuade users to open your app and take action more often. With so many daily distractions – and competition from other (even unrelated) apps, plan to remind users about the benefits of your app and offer incentives for them to use it more frequently.

What Kinds of Incentives Should You Offer?

Incentives should be meaningful for users and tied to actions taken within the app. Can you offer bonus content that’s not accessible to other users or a discount on premium services? Loyalty programs are an ideal way to get people to return to the app on a regular basis – daily, or even weekly. Users earn points for every action taken and can exchange points for rewards when they reach a specific point value threshold that you set in advance.  

How Should You Notify Lapsed Users about Incentives?

You have the power to use push notifications to inform lapsed users about potential incentives. But use that power wisely. Time-sensitive offers that create a sense of urgency can backfire if users feel anxious about not responding in time. They may even get angry if they miss the opportunity to take advantage of the offer. So, be careful about setting deadlines to grab the reward. 

It’s also a good idea to limit the number of push notifications you send out so that users don’t become annoyed by a constant barrage of pings and noises on their phones. And, as with any promotion, users may respond better if you approach them with a message that is customized for their needs. Personalization uses psychology to persuade users that you care about them, and that helps to soften your message and make it seem less sales-oriented.

Keep Updating to Continue Providing Value

It’s smart to do your research early to determine consumer needs and competitors’ tactics. But since industries are continuously evolving, customers’ needs and competitors’ strategies will shift to keep up with those changes.

Always be attuned to what your users need, what your competitors are doing, and how your app is performing. There are some great analytic tools that can be integrated with your app’s software, and they allow you to see where you’re doing well and where you need to improve. If you find that something isn’t performing well, brainstorm and research alternatives that might be more effective, and then use A/B split testing to find the solution that is likely to lead to positive change. For example, if your downloads are dropping, maybe you need to split test the graphics you’re using on your app store pages.

If you’re prepared to keep improving your app to optimize the user experience, you’ll be well on your way to getting those first 100,000 users and maintaining a strong pattern of growth over time.


Author: Tim Waldenback
Tim Waldenback is the co-founder of Zutobi Drivers Ed, a gamified e-learning platform focused on online drivers education to help teens get their license. Tim founded Zutobi to make world-class driver’s education fun, affordable, and easily accessible for all.

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