Don’t be fooled into thinking that a mobile app owes its success solely to a spectacular launch. While buzz and excitement can absolutely increase awareness and generate interest, whether or not your app can sustain growth over the long haul is dependent on so much more than teaser campaigns and influencer promotion. Overnight sensations can fade away if marketing efforts do not address which steps must be taken following a launch. Great design and masterful coding can provide a quick burst in downloads, but how will you follow up on that initial success?

Your experience will undoubtedly differ from ours when it comes to the details. However, we believe these universal lessons will guide your efforts to develop, market, and manage an app that will see continued, steady growth.

Launch is Important, But it’s Only the First Phase of Your Growth Strategy

Prior to launching, your goal is to increase awareness and visibility. During this phase, it makes sense to use your marketing dollars to generate excitement and get people talking about your app. But once you’ve launched, your focus will shift to more targeted efforts to build or sustain growth. Be prepared to adjust your strategy as you move past launch and into the later stages of your marketing timeline. Here’s one way to label the different phases of your app’s marketing plan:

  • Pre-Launch (Awareness)
  • Acquisition
  • Retention

Within each of these phases, you’ll face unique challenges that require specific marketing tactics. Successfully marketing your app is a long game. You must be vigilant about tracking its performance and making improvements at every step of the user journey.

Understand Your Market and Your Competition

There’s no question that you must research your target customers and your competition before you build your marketing strategy. But that initial undertaking provides data for only a snapshot in time - the period before you launch. 

Because there are so many millions of apps - and more are created each day - you have to assume that both the competitive environment and the way users respond to changes in the marketplace will influence behavior in the weeks and months following a download.

The more information you have about how people use your app and those of your competitors, the easier it will be to sustain growth. Through data tracking and customer outreach, you can discover what users like about your app’s features, what’s not working for them, when and why their usage drops off, and if there’s an opportunity to further differentiate your app from your competitors.

For Zutobi, our app hangs its hat on the fact that we aren’t just a cramming session app. Our content and features truly make you a safer and better driver. So we aren’t the app to work with if you are hoping to learn everything the night before. However, that doesn’t negate the fact that our users still want practice permit tests. We always make sure to have current and up to date practice tests to meet our user needs, but then also follow up with all our other content modules to continue to provide value. 

Keep close tabs on your customers and competition or risk falling behind.

Bells and Whistles Attract Attention, But Make Sure Every Feature Serves a Purpose 

You know that you have to stand apart from your competition, and in the technology sector, differentiation often means cool and never-seen-before features. But innovative features that don’t provide real value to users are just gimmicks. Gimmicks are like empty calories - they fill you up in the short-term, but they don’t really give you what you need.

Make sure that cutting-edge original features have substance to them, and that they serve a real purpose for your users. But features don’t have to be flashy to stand out. When you design your app to deliver what your customers want and what your competitors don’t offer, you’ll come out ahead. Find the thing that your app does best and then aggressively market it. If you want flash, let your ad creative do that job. When you can demonstrate that your app offers the best utility, you’ll gain credibility and become a category leader. No gimmicks required.

Prepare to Scale Even Before You Launch

Don’t let lack of foresight ruin your chances for sustained growth. It would certainly be a shame if you couldn’t build on the momentum of a successful launch because the technology couldn’t keep up with demand. If you want a huge number of downloads and heavy usage, plan ahead for the time when that dream becomes a reality.

Failure to plan for a growing number of users/usage can be a death knell for a popular app. Users do not have much patience for apps that don’t work for their needs, so you not only risk new downloads but also losing the gains you made earlier on. Just as great design sets the stage for your app’s success, scalability ensures that the show can go on. Don’t even think about launching until you make a plan to go big.

Moving on from Your Mistakes Means Learning From Them 

You will make mistakes, and acknowledging that fact at the outset makes it easier to continue to push through when errors occur. By all means, forgive yourself when something doesn’t go according to plan. But don’t attempt to move beyond the flub without carefully analyzing what went wrong and clarifying which steps you must take to fix it.

A mistake can actually be a gift, even though it may not seem that way when it happens. Mistakes force you to deal with adversity and teach you to be more careful about monitoring and tracking your current strategies and tactics.

A mistake also presents an opportunity to prove to your customers that you care about their experience using the app. Be honest with your users and provide as much information as you can about the timeline for making the fix. You may even want to give users a chance to speak up about the specific challenges they faced due to the error. This kind of transparency helps to earn trust and may even lead to better publicity post-mistake. Since word-of-mouth is a factor in an app’s growth trajectory, you can play a pivotal role in whether your popularity soars or plummets.

Your Path to Profit Will Depend on How Successful You are at Sustaining Growth

As mentioned earlier, successfully marketing and managing your app requires a long-game mentality. You must be prepared for every phase in the customer journey because competition is stiff. Congratulations to those developers who are able to break through and launch a popular app, but if it fails to live up to the hype, growth may be stalled or could fall off completely.

To sustain growth you must be nimble enough to attend to day-to-day issues as well as keep your eye on long-term priorities. You’ll turn a profit if you can figure out how to attract new users and hold on to them, which means that there will be little time to rest during the first couple of years. Once you’ve learned enough to master each phase of the app user journey, you’ll be in a better position to apply that knowledge to future iterations of the mobile marketing funnel. Although you’ll still need to closely monitor your app’s performance, customer feedback, and your competitors’ activity, the path to profit will be easier to achieve.

Sustained Growth Relies on Sustained Value

Always be mindful of what your app has to offer and the value it can bring your customers. If you develop, track, and market your app based on its value proposition, you’ll be in a good position to increase downloads and retain users. Always be open to consumer feedback. For example, our users answered in a survey that they wanted to see more information on traffic lights, and we delivered!

Your strategies and tactics will change as customers enter the marketing funnel, but with a clear objective in mind, all of the individual components of your marketing plan should integrate to deliver on that goal. Creating and managing an app isn’t easy, but by using a carefully planned approach that centers on customer value, you’ll greatly improve the odds that it will be successful.

Tim Waldenback
Zutobi Drivers Ed
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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