Marketing apps are apps intended for marketing purposes. This is a huge untapped marketing resource for many businesses that can help you to reach millions more customers, to increase your brand awareness and reputation and even to take more orders more seamlessly while improving the experience for your customers and clients.
Marketing apps are apps that are designed with the single purpose of helping a site or business to market itself online. Apps can be powerful tools for improving a service and helping a company to better serve its customers, but they can likewise be useful simply for helping a business to get word out and increase brand awareness – even to help it make more direct sales or to send direct notifications.
You know that snort of derision you give when you hear of a business with no website? The one you give knowing full-well that a business without a website is incredibly behind the times and completely missing a huge opportunity? Well if you don't currently have an app, then it's important to bear in mind that other people are probably giving you the same haughty snort right now.
Just like those businesses without websites, a business without an app should now officially be considered as having 'fallen behind' and is greatly missing out on a whole host of opportunities. Without an app, your website or business is missing a massive marketing platform as well as a great way to deliver more content and more services to more people. It is the natural extension of any website and any web-based service and the longer you leave it, the further behind you are going to fall.
So, you need an app, but where to start? Read on for a brief overview that will get you moving in the right direction and at least fill you in on the basis of what you need to know.
The first question you need to ask yourself when building your app is: what kind of app? There are at least three major platforms for phones and tablets and all of these will require you to build and distribute your app differently. The major two players here of course are Android and iOS, and if you're releasing an app then you should probably target both these systems in order to reach a big enough portion of the market. That said, if you can only choose one to start with then Android has a larger user base and is a little easier to 'crack' (though a particular demographic uses Apple, so you'll want to think about the nature of your site/business first).
In terms of how to make them, you have two real options. One is to learn how to code - and if you're going to go down this route then it's best to learn Java and Objective C which will give you a basis to code for all platforms, and the other of course is to outsource. You can do this surprisingly cheaply, but make sure you trust the developer and ideally can meet with them to discuss/oversee the process.
Fortunately, there are tools that can help you to build apps that will be cross platform and that can help you to make your apps more easily as well. Many of these work as ‘wrappers’ for HTML, effectively making your app only as powerful as a website but simultaneously giving you access to many of the phone’s native features such as vibrate, call, location etc. Options include PhoneGap, Cordova and more. Xamarin meanwhile is a fully-featured IDE (integrated development environment) but also allows for cross platform publishing. If you want to make a game, consider using Unity.
Now you know a bit about your target platforms and how to develop for them, you need to think about what it is that you hope to develop and how you are going to use this opportunity to promote your company.
To be a success you need to build something that is a natural extension of what you do. If you have a blog on animals, then your app could either be a huge wallpaper gallery for the phone or it could be a feed of your top articles stored to the phone. Alternatively, if you provide SEO services, then you could release a tool that assesses the position of a site in various SERPs. The key is to make your app genuinely useful and/or entertaining rather than making it essentially nothing more than an advert that no one has any need or want for.
How Apps Can Help Your Site
If you create a useful application and manage to promote it quickly, then this can reach hundreds of thousands of people in a short amount of time. Many have described the app markets as a ‘gold rush’ and it’s not too late for anyone to get involved still.
If you charge money for a really good app such as a game or a piece of productivity software then this can be a great source of revenue and another good income stream to add to your Google AdSense/whatever else.
However, if you are looking at ways to promote your website, then the better strategy is to give your app away for free. This way you will be able to get it onto far more phones and you will open up many more avenues for promotion (more sites and magazines will be willing to promote it for you for instance).
More Marketing Opportunities
An especially good option is to use an app in order to process more sales and to allow your customers and clients to more conveniently order from you. For instance, many fast food companies and taxi companies now have apps that allow customers to order their services from the comfort of their homes – often with just a single tap on the screen (or maybe two). You can use apps to take bookings in restaurants too, or to let people call you or find directions. Always ask though, whether it might be better to use existing services this way – such as Open Table or Just Eat.
Many apps will also have the benefit of using push notifications in order to send marketing messages directly to the user’s notification tray. If your app can run in the background as a service, then it can even do this when it is not open. This is a great form of marketing that allows you to cut through the noise – you aren’t competing with thousands of emails in an inbox and you aren’t only being seen by 10% of your Facebook Page followers. Instead, you have direct access to your audience in a place they are guaranteed to see your message. Be very careful with this though, as many people will instantly delete apps that send them push notifications. This must be handled with caution!
If you intend to use any of these kinds of advanced services – from location awareness to push notifications – then you need to ensure that the tools you use are capable of supporting your goals/that the developer is able to provide the services you need.
Next you need to market your app and help it to sell/get downloaded and this is the tricky part. If you have made an app that is genuinely useful though then this will be a lot easier than if you're trying to push spam. In fact, if you make an app that really fills a need and is something that people are looking for, then you'll find that you don't have too much trouble in getting people to find it on their own through searching.
To increase the chances of this though, you should also make sure to take advantage of any marketing opportunities that come up - right now a popular app called BuzzFeed allows users to recommend widgets and apps to install in order to customize their phones and this for instance has great marketing potential for a new app. It's a bit of work, but keep your finger on the pulse and you'll find there are plenty of great ways to promote your app and to thus promote your site or business too.
It may seem somewhat ironic that you need to ‘market’ a marketing app. But once you start getting downloads, it will become self-sustaining – especially if you build sharing tools right into your product.