How to Market Your App: 5 Digital Marketing Lessons from Digital Summit Portland 2018

Digital Summit Portland Logo over Black BackgroundIf you’ve ever wondered how to market your app, you’re not alone.

After all, there’s a lot of time, energy, and ingenuity that goes into creating a great application. And the app market is a crowded space—both on mobile and on the Web; the initial success of any app hinges not so much on how great it is, but on how many people hear about and download it.

That’s one of a few reasons we attended Digital Summit Portland last week. The conference—which tours several cities around the United States every year—touts the practical solutions attendees learn to supercharge their customer strategies. And indeed, we left with some great digital marketing lessons not just for our business, but also for the companies, agencies, and developers that we work with every day.

Admittedly, these are strategic tips and there are plenty of more tactical actions you can take to get your app in front of the right audience—such as getting featured on review sites, advertising on social media, and guest blogging on reputable sites, to name a few. But few (if any) of those tactical tips will work without building a solid foundation from which to market your app or your business in the first place.

Following are our top five digital marketing takeaways from Digital Summit Portland:

1. Identify Your Core Values

Identifying the fundamental beliefs of your organization not only humanizes your brand and connects you to an audience that shares similar values; they also act as guiding principles for your organization, the apps you create, and the way you market them, too.

Humanizing your brand is integral to connecting with your audience—you know, a community that is very likely made up of humans. In a session aptly-titled “Humanize Your Brand”, wife-and-husband team Eve Mayer and Levi Sauerbrei espoused the importance of identifying, sharing—and, of course, following—your core company values to do just that.

They described core values as the fundamental beliefs of an organization. For Starbucks, creating a welcoming culture of warmth and belonging is paramount (and the company recently came under fire when it was found that not all stores were living up to that standard). For Atlassian, that means being open and playing as a team. And at PLUS QA, that means quality first and being nice, amongst others.

Eve and Levi also suggest sharing your core values: Once you’ve identified what they are, display symbols of them in your office, include them in marketing materials like your website, and encourage your employees to tell the story of your company’s fundamental beliefs, too.

Though it may seem a frivolous step in the process of building and promoting your app, it’s not. Identifying the fundamental beliefs of your organization not only humanizes your brand and connects you to an audience that shares similar values; they also act as guiding principles for your organization, the apps you create, and the way you market them, too.

What are the core values of your app (or your company)?

2. Determine Your Message

Taking the time to determine your the message you want your app, your business, or your brand to communicate to the world is paramount to ensuring your marketing (and your app) connect with the audience you’re most trying to reach.

Chelsea Handler and moderator speaking onstage at Digital Summit Portland 2018Digital Summit Portland’s opening keynote speaker was comedian, writer, and producer, Chelsea Handler. Though she seemed an unlikely pick for a marketing conference, she has built and managed an enormous online community because of her celebrity, and had quite a few words of wisdom to share with the audience.

When asked about building a brand on social media, Chelsea stressed the importance of authenticity. And the best way to do that? She said to determine your (authentic) message as a brand and deliver it consistently.

This makes sense, of course, but it’s confounding how few businesses actually seem to do it. Taking the time to determine the message you want your app, your business, or your brand to communicate to the world is paramount to ensuring your marketing (and your app) connect with the audience you’re most trying to reach.

In his own session on building a brand in the digital age, Hootsuite’s VP of Corporate Marketing, Greg Perotto, recommended delivering a single, compelling brand experience at every touchpoint of your customer’s journey. Greg emphasized that, to do that, brands have to ask: What is our messaging at each step of the buyer’s journey? Then, much like Chelsea said, deliver that message consistently.

That doesn’t mean that your brand message won’t evolve—it will (and probably should) as your app, your business, and your audience grows. What it does mean is that you—and everyone involved in the development and promotion of your app—should be very aware of what that message is and where it will be delivered.

What’s the brand message behind your app?

3. Choose the Right Platforms

. . . by trying to reach more people than ever, we’re effectively connecting with no one.

Speaking of where you’ll consistently deliver your message, choosing the right platforms for that delivery is crucial.

Chelsea Handler pointed this out in her opening keynote: “Different social media platforms are for different things; determine what you’re trying to do and who you’re trying to reach on each.”

Again, this makes sense and yet, too many businesses try to be everywhere at once and end up sharing the same message on every platform because they’re spread too thin. But by trying to reach more people than ever, we’re effectively connecting with no one.

In a session on optimizing social channels, UC Berkeley’s Director of Social Media, Communication and Public Affairs, Kathryn Bader, highlighted her tips for making the most of the most popular social media channels currently:

  • Facebook: Trust your gut and experiment.
  • Twitter: What’s unique to you tells your story best.
  • Instagram: Encourage participation and extend your brand’s reach.
  • Snapchat: Actively involve your audience to engage your audience.

Of course, these were Kathryn’s takeaways based on her brand’s experience with each platform. Figure out where your audience is on social media—for instance, at PLUS QA, we’ve found that our audience is most active on Twitter and LinkedIn—and research the best ways to deliver content and engage your community there.

Which platforms will you use to talk about your app?

4. Tell a Good Story

Whether you’re writing your website copy, a blog post, a social media ad, or any other form of content to market your app and your business, the answer to each of these questions drives the story that you need to tell.

Photo of PLUS QA employee looking at desktop computer“Storytelling” has become a bit of a buzzword in the marketing industry, but that doesn’t negate its importance. Robert Rose, Chief Strategy Officer at The Content Marketing Institute, made the vague advice to “tell more stories” a little more actionable in his talk, “Business Storytelling: The Architecture Of Why People Will Care About Your Content”.

Robert took us beyond the buzzword, identifying story as “a well-crafted, entertaining, and ultimately convincing argument.” And he reminded us that when we tell stories as a business, we are doing so to make our customers care about our products (or apps, in this case) and believe in the benefit they provide.

Even still, the directive to “tell more stories!” can be overwhelming and unhelpful. Robert advised the audience not to overcomplicate business storytelling. Instead, simply ask and answer four questions:

  • Who is the human in your story and what’s pressing them to action? (Hint: This is usually your customer!)
  • What’s their desire and who can help them achieve it? (Hint: Hopefully, your app can help them achieve their desire!)
  • What is everything standing in their way and what are all the tests that they have to go through?
  • What is the larger truth that is discovered after the resistance has been overcome?

Whether you’re writing your website copy, a blog post, a social media ad, or any other form of content to market your app and your business, the answer to each of these questions drives the story that you need to tell.

What stories can you tell about your app to your target customers?

5. Deliver Content That Performs

You basically have a three-second audition to get audiences to stop and pay attention to your content.

Image says "Important + Interesting + Timely = Relevant"And finally, perhaps the most important action you can take to effectively market your app is to deliver compelling content that performs well.

“Yes, duh. Of course,” you may say.

Well, we got some great tips to help you do that better at Digital Summit.

Greg Perotto shared an easily-remembered equation to make your brand (and your content) more relevant: Important + Interesting + Timely = Relevant. It’s quite simple, isn’t it?  With each piece of content you write and share, ask:

  • Is this important to my audience?
  • Would they find this interesting?
  • Is it timely?

If yes, yes, and yes—share away!

Blair Perez, Client Solutions Manager at Facebook, also reminded attendees that in our constantly feed-scrolling world, businesses only have someone’s attention for three seconds. THREE SECONDS! As Blair put it, you basically have a three-second audition to get audiences to stop and pay attention to your content.

So she advised flipping the traditional story arc on its head: Put your main message right upfront at the beginning. Then reward people at the end for reading or watching your post the whole way through. As Blair shared, with every piece of content, no matter the platform: “Think about how you can get people to stop in their feed.”

How can you make content about your app more quickly compelling?

* * *

Thanks to all of the incredible and insightful thought leaders who spoke at Digital Summit Portland 2018. If you’ve been wondering how to market your app, we hope their tips benefit you!

Chelsea Handler Image Source: Sparrow Soirees
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