41: Fundamental Marketing Strategies for Increasing Downloads with Sean Casto of PreAppsPublished July 21, 2020
Run time: 00:45:41
Building an app is easy. Building a business is hard. Sean Casto of app marketing agency PreApps joins the show to discuss how your app’s initial success doesn’t rely on its unique features, but on how you market it and present it. Sean breaks down both organic and paid marketing strategies to grow your users and make more money, where user acquisition models play into each strategy, and how it all boils down to understanding your data.
In this episode, you will learn:
- Where 68% of all downloads come from and why that’s important to your marketing strategy
- App Store Optimization (ASO) similarities and differences between Apple and Google’s respective app stores
- Why your app should have premium offers and how they escalate your revenue
- How to use data to calculate your customers’ lifetime value (LTV) and 4 steps to maximizing it
- Where to start with organic marketing and how to fuel the flame with paid ads
- The importance of market validation and how to get it
This episode is brought to you by The Jed Mahonis Group, where we make sense of mobile app development with our non-technical approach to building custom mobile software solutions. Learn more at https://jmg.mn.
Recorded May 28, 2020 | Edited by Jordan Daoust | Produced by Jenny Karkowski
Tim Bornholdt 0:00
Welcome to Constant Variables, a podcast where we take a nontechnical look at all things technical. I'm Tim Bornholdt. Let's get nerdy.
Today on the show, I am speaking with Sean Casto of PreApps. PreApps helps app businesses launch and market their app to reach millions of downloads and sales. In this episode, believe it or not, we are talking about marketing. And we go over several practical tips you can take to your own app in order to grow your user base and make more money. So without further ado, here is my interview with Sean Casto.
Sean Casto, welcome to the show.
Sean Casto 0:49
Thank you so much for having me.
Tim Bornholdt 0:50
I am really excited to talk with you here today because like I said, before we started here, I'm really good at building apps, but I'm not the best at marketing apps. So I think selfishly, I'm going to learn probably more than our, well, maybe not more than our audience, but hopefully I will learn just as much as our audience learns here today about how to actually have a successful app.
Sean Casto 1:11
Excellent. I'm excited.
Tim Bornholdt 1:12
So I've listened to some of your podcasts. I've read some of your work. I absolutely love it. If you haven't been over to the PreApps website and looked through the blog and read your books, all that stuff, you do amazing work. But there's a point you made about, you know, creating a better product is the easy part and creating a better business is the hard part. I want to start there and talk about that. And why do you think that it's easy to build a good product, but it's hard to build a good business?
Sean Casto 1:39
Yeah, absolutely. Well, we live in an age now where it's become easier more than ever now to be able to turn your idea into a product and your product into an actual live business into the marketplace. I mean, you can literally have an app created in a day if you wanted to, and submit it to the app store and get it out there. Whereas before you know it took a lot more work. Lots more time, more resources. And so you know, with over 3000 new apps introduced every single day now, to the marketplace and over 2.5 to 3 million apps already available, there's just so much competition out there, unfortunately. And the latest stat is, you know, 95% of apps fail within the first year. And so, you know, you have to kind of go back to the fundamentals and understand, you know, do you have a hobby? Is it just an app idea you want to get out there, just as if it's like a piece of art, you know, you want to just write something out? And the idea is to get it out there? Or is are you looking to actually create a business? And that's what we kind of emphasize here at our agency is, you know, is this just an app idea, or is this an app business that you're looking at to actually be successful. Because when it comes to an app business, there's different initiatives that are gonna, you know, revolve around any type of business when it comes to marketing, innovation and monetization.
And so, you know, it may sound controversial to many, but the thing to understand is that contrary to what most people believe, your initial success does not rely on what your app does, or the unique features you build, but how you actually market and present it to others. Let me repeat that, because it's really, really important. A lot of people focus so much time on the coding on the features on the design, but your initial success is not reliant on what your app does, or the unique features you build, but actually how you market and present it to others. I mean, what good is spending $100,000 developing an app or even we have clients that spent a million dollars developing an app. What good is spending all that money and time if no one knows your app even exists, and you get, you know, zero downs. Right? And unfortunately that happens every single day with new apps, you know, they spent a year or two years, millions of dollars developing and they launch it and get like zero downloads upon launch. And it's so so unfortunate and you know, the days of if you build it they will come mentality, it just doesn't exist anymore in today's marketplace just because there's just so much competition. You know many think that if their app is so great, if their product is so beautiful, and it's so revolutionary and innovative, that people would, you know, automatically, millions of people will flock to it and download it. But, again, if they don't know that it exists, how could they actually download it?
Tim Bornholdt 4:22
Yeah, I mean, I always say the gold rush is over. Because when we first started building apps, it really was a gold rush, where the day the App Store opened, there was like 100 apps on there and everyone that had an iPhone could scroll through and see all 100 apps. They were making millions of dollars a day because everyone could download them. But it's not like you can just open up the phone and scroll through and find every single app in the App Store. There's like literally not enough time in the day, in anyone's lifetime, to do that anymore.
Sean Casto 4:53
Tim Bornholdt 4:55
When it comes to marketing apps, what are the differences between marketing an app versus marketing any other business? Are there things that you find that are specific to apps that you really focus on? Or is it really, it's a lot of the same principles as marketing any other business?
Sean Casto 5:14
Well, from a very, very high standpoint, in terms of kind of marketing, positioning and branding, yeah, there are many similarities, but the technicalities are very different in terms of actually how to market an app versus an ecommerce product or, you know, any other product. And that's what I love about this industry. I mean, we built, you know, a very successful agency in working with startups to billion dollar apps that I'm sure you're familiar with, you know, reaching millions and millions of downloads, and it's because we focus exclusively on working with apps. We know the tactics and initiatives in and out and again, it's very, very different than other products, you know, in terms of what's needed.
And so, over the past eight years, we've developed this program called the skyrocket downloads program, which is a combination of a number of different organic marketing strategies built together to be able to really skyrocket that growth, and leverage, you know, various different channels to all work together and to be able to really spark that initiative. And so when it comes to, you know, marketing apps, there are certain initiatives that are essential or almost even required nowadays, instead of just optional things like for example, you know, App Store optimization, which is something that is geared exclusively for, you know, mobile apps and making sure that the app is ranking on the top of the App Store and Google Play because a majority of all downloads in the world don't actually come from word of mouth. They don't come from Facebook ads, they don't come from TV advertisements, they don't come from influencer marketing. A majority of all downloads in the world, simply about 68% of all downloads in the world, come from App Store search, meaning that if your app doesn't rank, you know, the top of the search results for the type of keywords and relevant search results, then you're not going to get the exposure and downloads you're looking to achieve. And so that's kind of a critical component. And that's just one of many of the initiatives that are required to be able to differentiate yourself in the marketplace.
Tim Bornholdt 7:13
So obviously App Store optimization would be like the big thing that every app needs to be focusing on. Do you find that there's other tactics that are relatively universal across apps? Or is it really a case by case basis what you would do for marketing your app specific?
Sean Casto 7:31
Well, it is more case by case, I mean, some strategies are gonna work better for others. You know, for example, a ride sharing app is going to be a little bit different than a gaming app. But like I said, you know, there are fundamentals, definitely that we incorporate within our skyrocket downloads program, which range from advanced App Store optimization to viral video marketing is something that all apps need to leverage now, leveraging press and media exposure to be able to get that market validation and brand recognition is going be something that all apps need to be able to leverage. And then, you know, if you're ready to scale and grow, then you're looking at things like Apple search ads and programmatic ads and Facebook ads to be able to really scale.
Tim Bornholdt 8:13
Awesome. Yeah, I assumed that it was going to be like on a case by case basis, because all businesses have similar things, but obviously differences as well. And so it really does help to have somebody that you can turn to to ask questions about how you can help your specific business.
One question I had when we were talking about App Store optimization was, obviously there's two main players in town being the Google Play Store and Apple. Can you touch on maybe some differences there? Are there differences that you see when you're trying to improve your app store listings on Google Play versus on the App Store that you kind of see everyone needing to do to really boost their downloads?
Sean Casto 8:59
Yeah, absolutely. One misconception is that the app stores operate the same way. And they don't actually. So when it comes to App Store optimization, you kind of have to focus on one platform at a time. And so if you're going to do App Store, then you're really going to focus on the App Store. And then, you know, do a whole different initiatives geared towards Google Play Store. And there's a number of factors involved with that, because one, the algorithms are very different in terms of how they're able to rank for particular keywords, what they look for in terms of rankings. So they crawl different initiatives to be able to rank for. So for example, you know, Apple, one fundamental, I should say take a step back, the biggest similarity between both of them that's going to determine an app ranking for a keyword or not, is really volume and velocity, meaning the number of downloads you're gonna get in a given period of time. The more downloads you get in a short period of time, the more your ranking will increase. That's kind of transparent across both the App Store and Google Play, but the technicalities inside of that in terms of like your submission process, things like your description, your keywords, your screenshots, all those need to be actually different on each platform. And some people think that, Oh, well, if I just create it once, and across all stores, it will work. But the app stores, you know, operate differently. And people search the app stores differently, which is really interesting. So like, for example, an Android user searches the App Store differently than they would for the Google Play Store. And so there's just different types of keywords that people search for. And there's different opportunities. And so apps ranking for a particular keyword on one app is gonna be different on another platform. And so that's why you really kind of leverage the expertise. If you're looking to dominate both platforms, you really gotta, you know, optimize accordingly.
Tim Bornholdt 10:51
Do you have any specific examples of that? That's really interesting that Android users search the Play Store differently than like iOS users would use the the App Store. Do you have any, like, specific examples that would illustrate that point?
Sean Casto 11:06
I don't have any specific examples in terms of like a particular, you know, keyword or app. But like, fundamentally, there's a lot of different nuances, which is interesting between an Android user and iOS user, for example, statistically, iOS users are also more inclined to make inapp purchases by like, almost twice as many as Android users. And so there's a lot of different characteristics involved between an Android user and iOS user. But in terms of the App Store itself, again, they operate differently. And so you have to have different resources, different assets, for example, you know, the video that you're going to have on the App Store is going to be different than the video you're going to have on Google Play Store, not just because one's going to convert better than the other, but also purely the fact that the App Store doesn't approve the promotion of an Android app, you know, on the App store, and the format needs to be very different. So Apple, for example, calls it an app preview video, which can only be 30 seconds long, and has very strict requirements in terms of what can be promoted and the dimensions of that video, whereas the Android video has a little more leeway, and has different, you know, optimal times of what the length can be and things like that. So even just from a pure marketing standpoint, you know, the app stores operate in different capacity.
Tim Bornholdt 12:20
I think that's fascinating, because when we're talking about developing apps, a lot of times one of the big hot debates within the app development community is these tools like React Native, and there's a dozen of them, where you can write your code one time and have it deploy to both iOS and Android. And from my perspective, I find that if you write an app natively for iOS and you write an app natively for Android, that it's going to be a better experience. It's really interesting that it starts even from that phase, from the development phase, it also carries on through like just the experience of people finding your app and downloading it, that people on Android are going to, you can sniff it from a mile away when there's an app that you can tell doesn't really feel like an Android app. For example, it kind of feels almost like a website that's masquerading as an app. So it's interesting that that same concept applies to your marketing as well as that you're going to want to target your Android users differently than you're going to target iOS users.
Sean Casto 13:24
Exactly, exactly. And that's where, you know, marketing comes into play, as well. But also just product development, innovation. But, you know, if you can solve your users needs better than anyone else in the market, you're going to always dominate your competitors. And so you can't really solve your users needs that well if your users are an Android user versus an iOS user, you see, so it really comes down to not only the product, but also the marketing itself.
Tim Bornholdt 13:47
Yeah, absolutely. We're kind of hopping all over the chronological timeline of how you build an app and how you get it out the door, but rewinding all the way back to even before you start development. I think monetization strategies are always, as a developer it's one of the things that I struggle with is trying to help people figure out what strategy is going to work best for them. Do you kind of take that at the beginning and help people? Do you advise that people kind of think about how they're going to monetize their app from the get go? Or when in that process of, I have an idea and I want it to be on the store, when do you introduce the concept of, Hey, maybe this thing should make money?
Sean Casto 14:31
Well, it kind of goes back to that, you know, original concept, is this a hobby or is this a business? And again, if it's a business, you got to look at it differently. And it's okay if it's a hobby, and it's okay to be able to create something out there just for fun, and, you know, get a few users and a few downloads. But again, that's all it's going to be. If you want to actually be a success, if you want it to be, you know, a successful business that you might want to get users in revenue from or you can even sell it to Apple or Google someday, then you have to look at it as a business.
If you're looking at a business, a business makes revenue, whether through, you know, advertisements, whether through app purchases, through subscription models, through, you know, merchandising, like Angry Birds. And so you have to understand those items way before you launch. Because again, if it's a business, you have to understand the marketing side, which marketing is going to cost money, and you're gonna have to spend money towards marketing. Ideally, you're going to get that money back in return through the monetization and making, you know, revenues components. And then if you're looking to continue to innovate, you obviously have to invest in development and expansion. And so you need the resources to be able to do that. And so that's where, you know, revenue comes into mind. And so when it comes to the initial stages of what's the app idea or development, they always got to begin with the end in mind, you know, where do you see yourself in six months? Where do you see this app being in a year from now? Having that, you know, those ideas and that vision, and then just working backwards to get there.
Tim Bornholdt 15:12
Do you find that there's a lot of people that start out with one monetization strategy and then pivot like six months down the road if things aren't working? Do you see anybody finding success with that route?
Sean Casto 16:21
100%. Every billion dollar app you can think of, at some point in transition, at some point, there was a pivot. So for example, Angry Birds would be a good example. We just talked about that a second ago. Angry Birds, I think it's reported now that over 60% of their revenue comes outside of the app, even though they built an app. It's a game yet 60% of the revenue actually comes from merchandising and licensing of their brand. And so every business you can think of has transitioned their business model in one way or another. Another example would be maybe Tinder. Tinder, you know, started off with advertisements. And now they have the plethora of business models incorporated now, what we call the value ladder, in which you're able to take your user through a process that provides continual value over time. And it's something that all successful businesses do. And the concept is to take your user through a process that gives them more value through every stage of the relationship to a point where they begin to continually give you more money, and more money over time. So for example, with Tinder, you know, the first stage is advertisements. The second stage is in app purchases. Then there's the additional in app purchases of ongoing like boosts. And then they have actually two levels of subscription models on which they'll charge a monthly one, even all the way up to I think $60 a month. And so you have a combination of these initiatives that can take that user through various different stages, but they didn't have that when they first started. When they first started, it was a free app. And then they like a few months later added the advertisement model. And then like years later added in app purchases, and then years later added the subscription model. And now they're kind of combining everything all at once.
Tim Bornholdt 18:10
So if you have an app, like let's say, you know, you're working at Tinder, however, it came out six years ago or whatever, and we're one year into it. They're seeing some success, but you're seeing that there could be more opportunities. How do you think of those different revenues? Like, is there a process you can follow to come up with new revenue models and get those incorporated into your app? Or how do get that process started of knowing like, when is the right time to pivot and how you can actually incorporate those into your app?
Sean Casto 18:43
Yeah, that's a fantastic question. And so every single successful app business always reexamines, whether it's daily, weekly or monthly, what their lifetime value is and the trigger. How can we increase that lifetime value? And there are already fundamentals, in terms of business models, that you can incorporate. So you can kind of pick and choose which is going to be best for you. It's not like you're going to create a whole new business model, there's only a select number of business models you can actually incorporate whether it's, again, advertisements, in app purchasing, subscription, licensing, merchandising. And so you kind of get to pick and choose what you want to incorporate. And we live in an era and age now where success leaves clues. You can model the giants. There are already billion dollar apps that are making, you know, hundreds of millions of dollars. And so you can actually save yourself a lot of time, a lot of money, by just doing what works, you know, modeling those that have already succeeded ahead of you. And so understanding, Hey, if I'm creating a new dating app, why don't I just save myself, you know, whatever, five years and just do what Tinder is doing now as opposed to just doing what they did when they first launched. And so you can actually save yourself a lot of time and money and just, you know, at the gate, be able to model those who have already succeeded with their business model, their strategy
Tim Bornholdt 20:00
Love it. That's super helpful. Because I know a lot of times like our customers, we've had customers for the full eight years we've been in business and the ones that continue to succeed are the ones that are continually evaluating themselves. And, you know, it's like they always say, you know, you can't improve what you don't track. It's having some metrics in place and having some goals in mind of where you want to push the business. And not just from a downloads perspective, but from like actually looking at other business-y numbers, make sure that you're actually growing and succeeding in your app endeavor. One key thing of that, too, that I really want to touch on is user acquisition models. What is that? What is the user acquisition model?
Sean Casto 20:49
So a user acquisition model is just simply referring to how in which you're going to acquire new users. And there's a number of different, you know, initiatives and methods to be able to do that.
Tim Bornholdt 20:59
So touch base on those. So do you usually have like more than one going at a time? Or do you kind of start with one and focus on how you're going to get people into your app just with one?
Sean Casto 21:13
No, not particularly, I mean, because a lot of things work in different times. So for example, you know, App Store optimization. When people, contrary to what most people believe, you know, when you launch an app, and you get it approved, and let's say it's available, you know, you're not going to rank for any of the top keywords, you know, day of launch. It just doesn't work that way. You're not going to launch and get a million downloads, just because you know, you're available and Apple likes you. Even if your app got featured, you wouldn't get, you know, a million downloads depending on the type of app. And so App Store optimization takes time. And that's things that a lot of people first time developers don't understand. And so Apple is always, and Apple and Google, are both going to prioritize existing successful apps over new ones, because think about it, there's over 3000 new apps every single day. And so they're gonna rank apps based on, you know, downloads, based on reviews, based on a number of different factors. And so you know, App Store optimization takes time and the more keywords you rank for, the more downloads you will get, but it takes time to actually rank for those keywords and expertise. Whereas, for example, Facebook ads, or let's say, Apple search ads, or even programmatic ads, it's a lot more instant, right? And so if you have the resources, and you're able to allocate those, you know, you can get 10 million downloads in a month, if you have the resource to be able to do that. And that will just tack on, you know, increase your organic growth in the process. But the answer is we like to have a number of different initiatives, you know, working together, both pre launch and post launch, to be able to actually have the impact. Focusing on one initiative at a time typically doesn't get the same results.
Tim Bornholdt 22:51
So when we're talking about acquiring new users, and you're talking about things like paying for ads, I know that that's something that everybody has top of mind. It's usually like a source, like a monetization strategy people have is, Oh, just throw some ads in there. And that's gonna just be a blanket solution. Same thing probably goes from the reverse of, Oh, if I want to get users I'll just throw up some ads on Facebook and call it a day. What do you recommend when someone comes to you and they're asking for help with putting ads in for their apps? What do you recommend that people do to make sure that they're able to capitalize on if they put in you know, $1,000 in Facebook ads that they're going to see, you know, $1,000 or more in return?
Sean Casto 23:37
Again that kind of goes back to the really the end in mind and what you're looking to achieve and also going back to really fully understanding your lifetime value because we understand how much a customer is worth over their lifetime. You know, how much you can pay to acquire them. And that's something that is always a struggle for most is really understanding those numbers and what that looks like, especially early on but that's how you know, for example, Candy Crush was able to spend tens of millions of dollars a month because they know that they're going to get that in return. So it's the only way you can actually spend that type of money, whether it's $100 a month or $10 million a month, you got to understand those numbers. When it comes to scaling and paid advertisements, it can be very costly, depending on the type of app that you're looking to market. You know, industry average right now is anywhere between two to five dollars per install on Facebook ads, for example. And so, you know, if you want 100,000 downloads, it could cost upwards of like $500,000 to get there, which obviously most people don't have to allocate. And so that's where, why it's really important to be able to understand, okay, you know, what are you looking to achieve and how can we achieve that and what's the end result that we're looking to get from that experience? And then in terms of actual increasing lifetime value, there's ways to do that as well in terms of monetization, you mentioned like how do you once you have have a business model in place, how do you then capitalize on that, incorporate different initiatives. And that's where you're gonna have to work with the experts to be able to do that. We have something here at PreApps called the 10x revenue model that we're able to incorporate a few steps to be able to increase that lifetime value through various different initiatives there.
Tim Bornholdt 25:18
Do you have any examples of what some of those initiatives might be?
Sean Casto 25:21
Yeah, I mean, again, they're pretty from a high level standpoint, but I can definitely share those. Obviously, it gets into very detail when you get into them in more detail. But yeah, I mean, let's say the first four steps. The first step number one is really increasing that sales conversion, increasing your sales conversion involves focusing on increasing the number of free users to paid users and there's actually ways in which we can, you know, incorporate that. But if you're just able to increase your sales conversion, just from a few percentage, it can have a huge upside on, you know, the end. And there's also ways in which you can increase easily these sales conversions by simply how you're articulating your offer and how you're articulating the value of your in app purchases and what that does. And also the pricing of that, you know, being able to have your pricing laid out in a specific way can significantly boost your conversions of people actually opting in for a particular in app purchase.
Step number two was actually looking at increasing your prices and also premium offers. You know, so many apps undervalue themselves by not having premium offers, and therefore never really reached their revenue full potential. And so, you know, every billion dollar app now has premium offers, you know, for example, Angry Birds has $100 in app purchase. Uber has black car, right. So, you know, Tinder has like the $60 subscription model, whereas the average app, you know, certainly you can just have one person spend $1 in the app, whereas you have, you know, the successful billion dollar apps that are getting people to spend $60 or $100 a month and so it's really understanding your pricing and your premium offers.
Step number three is all about increasing the frequency of sales per user. So it's not about just getting one user to purchase once over the year, but actually, how do you get them to purchase 1-2-3-4-5 times over the lifetime of the app. And there's also something you can incorporate called the buy all option, you know, where a lot of apps have incorporated too, instead of just, you know, getting one in app purchase, but you can get the unlimited access of credits or whatever that looks like. And you just, you know, purchase all in once or the unlock feature is also popular.
And then step number four is also increasing those product offerings that we talked about, you know, increasing those business models that we mentioned, having not just in app purchase or advertising, but also adding in subscription models, adding in, you know, unlimited models where you can incorporate and leverage all the value from your app. And that's where, you know, a value ladder comes into play where you're just giving them more value over time and giving them different offers as they progress.
Tim Bornholdt 28:04
Yeah, I think that's super interesting because we have an app in mind specifically that we're working on right now where we've been working with them for a number of years. And we're kind of at a crossroads of, Okay, we've got some revenue models in place, and with in app purchases and decks and packs and things like that. And it's interesting to think through, you know, going to the next level, how do you diversify that whether it's bundling multiple packs together or doing like a buy all option, or it's really just keeping all of your options open so that you're able to have multiple options going so you can maximize the lifetime value of your users.
Sean Casto 28:42
Exactly, exactly. And so the key thing there to understand is what you just articulated is app business requires an equally elegant business model with the right pricing, messaging and delivery channel to the right part customer and you have to get all those pieces right to have it be a huge success. Not just the pricing, not just the money, but also, obviously knowing your target customer in and out to be able to, you know, follow through with that.
Tim Bornholdt 29:06
Yeah, and then that's the stuff that really takes a lot of focus and attention. And I think, as an app developer myself, you know, a lot of times, kind of, like you've said, you know, people really focus on the development side of things and there's this whole process when you're building an app where it can take, you know, a few months to get the app built. And a lot of times product owners and entrepreneurs just kind of twiddle their thumbs while they wait for the technology to get built out. It's like, these are the topics that you really need to be thinking about, because we're busy focusing on getting the tech built, you can be busy focusing on all of those areas of how can we maximize when a user does download the app, how can we get them to spend more, be more engaged or more involved. That's the kind of area that anyone can think through it, especially if it's your product, you should know your customers inside and out and that's really where you can focus to bring the most value to your app.
Sean Casto 30:01
Tim Bornholdt 30:02
So one other thing I wanted to cover was organic versus paid. And I know you probably need to have a combination of both. But we've covered paid acquisition a little bit here. But we haven't really covered a whole lot on the organic side. But I mean, we have talked about App Store optimization. But when you're talking about organic downloads and organic strategies, that can cover a whole gamut. So how do you incorporate both organic strategies and paid strategies when you're trying to acquire more users for your app?
Sean Casto 30:35
Yeah, when it comes to upcoming and new apps, we definitely recommend focusing on understanding the organic world first, before you spend a lot of money on paid ads. So you want to be able to really dominate the organic channels first, and then leverage paid ads to be able to essentially fuel the flame. You want to be able to have, you know, Facebook ads, programmatics, be able to fuel the flame of the organic so that the more you spend on paid ads, the more organic downloads you will get at the same time. Whereas if you just started, for example, doing paid ads, you're not gonna really get organic downloads from that. So you have to kind of work first with the organic and then fuel the flame with the paid ads on top of that.
But yeah, when it comes to organic, I mean, majority of all downloads in the world come from the App Store search. So the first step is definitely dominate, you know, the App Store optimization initiative. And then, you know, on top of that, then you have Viral Video Marketing, you have PR, you have influencer marketing. But if you want to be able to really go viral, you know, you want to be able to actually have people share the app for you. And so that's where, you know, growth engines come into play to be able to put in viral growth mechanics embedded within the app to get people to actually share it. And contrary to what most people believe, just because you build a great app doesn't necessarily mean people are going to share it. And so you actually have to not only give people a reason to share your app, but also make it obviously easy for them to do so. So you actually have to understand what is the reason why someone would share the app? And then how are you able to actually get them to share it? So you have to look at the mechanics in terms of the shareability options of it, but also, again, give them a reason why they should share the app. And that's where you have unique techniques like the win win referral strategy, where you're able to incentivize them with something and incentivize the person who's also going to be getting the app at the same time. And so both parties kind of win in that scenario.
For example, you know, Uber, Uber is a good example. When they first started, they gave a $25 credit for anyone who shared the app. And then for the person who actually got the app shared with them, they also got a $25 credit. So you know, you look good for sharing the app with your friend. You get a $25 credit, your friend gets $25 credit, and boom, you incentivize people to share and it's a win win referral approach. And Uber shared that it was like one in five people who download the app, shared it with another person. And so they had this, you know, huge viral growth engine built within the app. And another common question that people ask them is, Oh, I can't afford to give people $25 credit. I can't afford to give them x. Well you're able to afford that, if you understand, again, your lifetime value, you understand how much your user is worth, you can then work backwards to see what you give them up front. And then make that you know, in the end.
Tim Bornholdt 33:32
What are some ways that you can figure out how much a user is worth? And I know you've mentioned that a few times already. But are there kind of universal tricks or strategies that you use for kind of calculating what a lifetime value might be for a user?
Sean Casto 33:48
No, it's really, I mean, there's only two ways to do it. One, if you don't have the data, you got to guess. If you're like a new app, you can only guess based on what you expect to make based on the conversions and also what your competitors are doing. But if you already have an existing app, you're just doing it based on your existing data. And so that's the problem, what most app businesses and app developers don't do is they're not, you know, tracking the right core metrics within their app to be able to understand these numbers, understanding what the drop off is. And you know, how many people are coming back to the app? Not only how many people are coming back, but also how many times is that individual purchasing? And where did that purchase actually come from? And what source did they come from organic, did they come from Facebook ads? So it's all tracking this data. You know, we always say, don't be lazy, test like crazy, because you want to be able to understand what's going on. And the more data that you have, the more successful you'll be.
Tim Bornholdt 34:43
Are there certain tools that you find as someone that's in this day in and day out that work better than others? Like there's, you know, Firebase, there's all kinds of different metric tools. Are there certain ones that you find perform better than the other? Or is it really just get some data and go from there?
Sean Casto 34:59
You definitely want to, you know, I would say start with the data. I mean, Appsfire is something that we recommend. Firebase is great. You know, Appsfire is fantastic. But you know, again, it's more for the advanced user, because it's a little more expensive to use. But, you know, the first step is just to be able to incorporate tracking the right initiative. So there's probably like top 10 different SDKs you can incorporate that you're going to track very similar metrics. But the first step is to be able to start tracking that, once you start, you know, expanding and building your user base, then you can get a little bit more advanced tracking techniques and services that are a little more expensive.
Tim Bornholdt 35:38
Right on. I know, sometimes from like a privacy standpoint, the more tracking things that you put in to an app might lead to not desirable outcomes, you know, from the other end. Are there any things that you say when people are worried about privacy as far as it relates to tracking all your users' journey through your app? Is there anything that you come across that you say what might be an issue? Or is it kind of not that big of a deal? It's more anonymized data. And you're not really tracking specific usage through the app.
Sean Casto 36:12
Yeah, I mean, not really tracking public data of that particular user. You got to be careful in terms of that. There's definitely rules of thumbs you can kind of Google in terms of, you know, what not to track. But any platform that you're working with also has their guidelines as well. So they don't want you to misuse their software, misuse their tracking abilities. But I mean, for the most part, it's not something you got to really worry about, unless you're like tricking your users. You're like, Hey, give me your social security number and your mother's middle name, which, you know, obviously, that would be an issue. But when it comes to just getting details about, you know, where your users are coming from, how engaged your users are, how many downloads are you getting total, your retention after activation, you know, all that kind of stuff is perfectly fine. I would worry about tracking the core metrics. But when you're stealing users' data incorporated from other apps, that's a whole other story.
Tim Bornholdt 37:07
Right. Yeah, there's a way you can track all this information without being creepy and without overstepping what you're trying to track. And yeah, I think it's important to make sure whatever software tools you use, you know, if you're using a reputable software provider, something like Appsfire or something like Firebase, they're gonna have rules and things that you're gonna have to follow. But yeah, we're not advising going out and like doing those things where you're like recording somebody using your app, like recording the screen and following them through. It's like, there's times and places where that might be okay, if you get the user's consent, but for the most part, it's just kind of tracking aggregated data and looking at trends. It's not so much, you know, focusing in and narrowing in on one person's use of an app.
Sean Casto 37:54
Tim Bornholdt 37:55
One other question. So we've talked a lot about a bunch of different stuff. You know, you've kind of alluded to this already that things kind of differ from app to app. Do you see like overall trends or things that are different when you're talking about different app categories? So if we're talking about like a productivity tool, versus like, you know, Tinder versus Uber versus a game? Are there different strategies that you see that? Or is it kind of like you're marketing an app, there's a lot of similarities that it's going to be kind of universal for each app versus in specific categories?
Sean Casto 38:32
Yeah, it's more universal in terms of, you know, incorporate the fundamentals first that we talked about. And then on top, once you've already dominated those sectors, then you can look at other nuances on top of your category specific type of app, but first, you got to focus on the fundamentals for sure.
Tim Bornholdt 38:48
That's kind of what I figured. It seems like it's just like with business, like we've talked about, there's certain things that every business has to do when it comes to marketing themselves and getting their name out there. And it's the same with apps and it seems like the kind of low hanging fruit things you should really focus on are ASO, App Store optimization. Or is there any other like advice that you tell people like if you're just getting on the ground floor and you're just kind of trying to get your feet wet with marketing your app? Are there other things besides focusing on App Store optimization or is it really just focus hard on ASO and then expand out from there once you've got your fundamentals in place?
Sean Casto 39:28
Yeah, I mean, again, the fundamentals are going to be... Definitely you know, app store optimization and really dominating that then, you know, understanding within that is going to be having the right videos. Videos are really required in today's market. Apple, we found, prioritizes some apps with video than others. And so you got to have the right type of video and it can't just be any type of video. It has to be the right type of video that's going to educate, excite and inspire users to take action. You know, you got to have the press and meeting scores, you have to get market validation to be able to differentiate for yourself, because, you know, whatever category you're in, you're competing with hundreds of thousands of other apps in that category. So you need to be able to get that market validation and recognition. I mean, it's great if you say your app is the best thing since sliced bread, but it really doesn't mean anything. If it's coming from, you need to get that third party, you know, validation from top App Review and tech publications. And then, you know, when it comes to paid ads, that's where you can get into little more specifics into this category when it comes to paid ads. Because, for example, you might have a certain type of app that is going to do better on Twitter, versus Facebook, or maybe your type of app is going to do very well on programmatic ads, versus let's say, Apple search ads, or maybe it's going to do well on Apple search ads, but not on Google, you know, UAC. So it really varies depending on when it comes to paid ads. And that's where you really got to work with the experts to understand what the best platform is for you to be able to get the highest amount of downloads at the lowest cost.
Tim Bornholdt 40:56
It's no joke. This is something you definitely want to get some expert advice on because there are so many different ways to market your app. And it takes a lifetime of experience to be great at it. So yeah, the one last question I wanted to ask you, I'm glad you brought it up, was press. How do you get in front of the press? Because if you look at all the different sites out there that are promoting apps, it can be really hard to establish those relationships and get someone to look at your press release. How do you advise people approach the press and get, you know, success with being in front of them?
Sean Casto 41:40
Yeah, it all comes down to leveraging relationships and building those relationships, which is very difficult to do. It takes time; it takes resources. Or you can hire a company like ours or other agencies that already have those leveraged relationships kind of pre-built. These editors at these publications get anywhere between 100 to 200 inquiries every single day from app developers and promoters saying, Hey, review my paper on my app. And so, you know, just reaching out to these individuals is pretty much a waste of your time, because most likely that editor is not going to open an email. If they do open the email, they're most likely not going to actually review it. I mean, even our website, you know, we at some point promoted that we do a little bit app reviews on our blog, and we got like hundreds of inquiries. And so that type of approach doesn't really work in today's market. You have to be able to leverage relationships. And that's what we've done over the past eight years, have built relationships with these editors at these top tier App Review and tech publications. So we're able to leverage those relationships to get our clients featured on top tier publications on a regular basis. No guarantee, of course, I mean, we don't own these publications. So it's completely up to these editors. But we're able to position a way to be able to kind of get ourselves a little more visibility than the average person.
Tim Bornholdt 42:55
Yeah, it seems like again, with a lot of things in business, it's not what you know, it's who you know. And the more you can get out and build those relationships and leverage your networks, that's going to be the smart way to do it.
Sean Casto 43:08
Tim Bornholdt 43:09
Well, Sean, this was awesome. I definitely learned a lot about app marketing in this. Where can people find out more about you and PreApps and give a plug for yourself here?
Sean Casto 43:19
Yeah, absolutely. If you like what we talked about today and kind of want to go deeper, definitely recommend checking out our podcast called the App Marketing Secrets podcast. If you are interested in getting some help with your marketing initiatives and want to see how we can help you. You can apply to speak with one of our app growth specialists, we have app growth specialists that work with, you know, billion dollar apps, and so you can apply to speak with one of them for a free 30 minute strategy call. If you want access to that, just go to our website, PreApps.com. And you can just send your details and we'll schedule a call to be able to connect with you but there is kind of limited availability there and we can't really connect with everyone. But you know, only those that are really serious about marketing their app and have the resources to be able to do so.
Tim Bornholdt 44:05
And at the very least, if you don't get chosen to speak with you, your podcast is awesome. They're short, to the point, punchy episodes that have a lot of value packed behind them. So thank you.
Sean Casto 44:17
I'm a subscriber now myself. So yeah, Sean, thank you so much for joining me today. This was awesome.
Yeah, thank you so much. It's been great.
Tim Bornholdt 44:27
Thanks to Sean Casto from PreApps for joining me today on the podcast. You can learn more about his company by visiting preapps.com. And also make sure you check out the App Marketing Secrets podcast. It's short, it's sweet. It's awesome. You can find it wherever you listen to podcasts.
Show notes for this episode can be found at constantvariables.co. You can get in touch with us by emailing Hello@constantvariables. co. I'm @TimBornholdt on Twitter and the show is @CV_podcast. Today's episode was produced by Jenny Karkowski and edited by the indefatigable Jordan Daoust.
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