28 Creative Ways to Promote Your App for Free

Working in a mobile apps dev company for 2 years now, I’ve interacted with various business owners and entrepreneurs who invested lots of $$$ in building their apps, all in vain unfortunately.

It’s not because their idea was not original or the app had oodles of bugs, but rather the false expectation of immediately reaping the rewards after uploading their apps on App Stores.

For small businesses, it’s almost always a tough call when it comes to bearing the cost of marketing and promotion. So they end up giving a backseat to marketing and relying solely on hopes and dreams to make it. For a fact, not everyone gets by with the same luck as Dong Nguyen.

If you’re from the same small businesses and entrepreneur pool, having just launched your prized race horse app and ready to market it, but being held back due to a budget restriction, this article is for you.

I’ve gathered 11 tried-and-true methods that will let you market your app just right, so that it gets a nice spot on the app store and sets you on the road to success.

Let’s get to it then.

1. Get in Touch

The marketing of a product ideally starts before its birth. Do not rely solely on your development company during the building phase; identify authentic, honest influencers & entrepreneurs who have similar interests as far as your app goes.

You have to put your people skills to the test and forge a healthy business relationship with them. Once they let their guard down, let them know about your app’s current status and value every ounce of feedback they hurl at you. They may very well act as the brand ambassador of your app once it’s launched.

2. Customers Are Your “Press”

Customers are the backbone of any business and it is because of them many businesses enjoy continued success.

According to Bain and Co., “…a 5% increase in customer retention can increase a company’s profitability by 75%”. Retain your customers by letting them know about your app’s idea and ask them what they would really like to see in it. How can you make the app more savvy and beneficial for them? Remember, your customer has their own audience and if you’re able to convince them, you’ll be hitting all the right notes to bolster your success and staying power.”

3. Leverage Your Mobile Website

If you have a mobile website that gets a decent amount of traffic, it’s time to use that to your app’s advantage. These people are ideal candidates for a ‘targeted group’ who will be happy to use your app right from the get go. Take special care while working on the architecture and think how you can make it easy for them to spot your app.

4. Feature the App in an Official Blog

Write a complete story about your app and let your audience know the purpose behind it. Tell them how this app can facilitate and make things easy for them. Include your app links, screenshots and videos to help them get a good understanding.

5. Focus on Emails

Emails still have their charm provided they’re used under the right circumstances. According to a study by Exact Target, “91% people check their email daily”. Capitalize by incorporating your app links into newsletters, customer service emails and also make it a habit to use it in email signatures.

6. Create a Demo Video

Choose the most creative person in your organization to nail this part down. Create a video that clearly speaks out its purpose. Make it humorous, entertaining and informative so that your audience can easily relate to it. Publish it in your official YouTube channel and also embed it within content you’ll be producing in future.

Here is a great example of a nice app teaser by Everything Butt Art.

7. Consider Alterative App Stores

Do not rely only on Google Play & App Store; there are various other app stores on the online market where you can upload your app. According to One Platform Foundation, if an app is submitted on other relatively less popular stores, it will increase the expected downloads 200% more compared to Google Play.

For more information, read this useful guide here.

8. Apply for Awards

Participating in app awards is the most recommended channel and I would highly suggest you take advantage of it. It can give you tons of press, exposure, reviews and plenty of downloads. Although the chances of winning very much depend on your pitch and app idea, however, if you manage to get things right the first time, you can expect to enjoy a little stardom.

9. SEO Matters Here

Yes, I’m talking about SEO not ASO… what happens is your app URL shows up in search results when users key-in related queries; for example when they look up music apps, you want your app to start popping up among the first 5 entries or so, before users hit Enter.

All you need to do is identify “best-targeted” keywords that you want to rank for. Also analyze which keywords your app is currently ranking on, build some quality links accordingly to boost rankings.

For this purpose, try these two awesome tools.


10. Reach Out Like Mr. Fantastic

Don’t rely on App Stores alone. Explore Google’s search engine and believe me it can do wonders for your app.

Let’s say your app is related to music; Google the term “best music android apps” and see what results you get.

Out of these 5 top results, at least 4 of them are high authority blogs that can be contacted toyou’re your app featured. If you get this shot, you can kill more than a few birds with one stone. Getting your app featured offers long-term benefits such as:

Targeted Traffic
Powerful Link-building
Rating & Reviews

11. Join Developers & Entrepreneurs Groups on Social Media

Increase your visibility on social media groups & communities, especially Linkedin, Google+ and Facebook, to become better known among entrepreneurs & app developers go.

Ask for their feedback on your app and give them free promo codes to try it out. Discuss current features, bug fixes, future updates and value their opinion. You can build great relationships with them which might present the opportunity to cross promote each other’s apps without spending a cent.

12. Create An Eye Catching App Icon

With over 1.6 million apps in the Google Play Store and 1.5 million in the App Store, there’s a lot of noise in any category you choose you have your app in. Due to that noise, many people choose to take interest in apps, only when the app icon entices them.

To make your app icon stand out, it should:

Have a unique shape that stands out
Have a limited pallet of colors – 2 is enough to create contrast
Avoid using a photo – it blends in too much!
Avoid a lot of text, it’s barely readable anyways
Be creative!
Testing your app icon out on a dozen different wallpapers also doesn’t hurt.

Finally, some of the most popular mobile apps with a great take on the idea of leveraging a logo icon over text.

13. Take GREAT Screenshots

Just taking a screenshot of your app and dropping it in the app store, while simple, does a really poor job of getting across what you’re trying to show that potential user.

Adding captions and adding more visual elements to your screenshots is the best way to turn a boring task management app, into a high download winner.

Vine’s app page is able to put you in a scenario where just by looking at the screenshots, you can fully understand the features offered within that app. It makes it a simple choice to download or not to download.

14. App Store Optimization

App store optimization (ASO) is, at it’s core, search engine optimization (SEO) for the Google Play and App Store. Just like search engine optimization, app store optimization focuses on keyword relevance, search relevance and the keyword density in your description.

With almost half of iPhone users in the US finding apps through search, your app description is one of the most important things you can focus on in your app marketing efforts.

It’s also really easy to get started with competitor research through platforms like App Annie where you can search something like “healthy recipes for women” and see what apps show up and their ranking.

We wrote an entire article just about how app store optimization and mobile search engine optimization work. In it we run through why it’s important and how to get your app listing optimized.

15. Build A Great App Landing Page

A great landing page is must have for any business, even if you don’t have a mobile app. Having a great landing page is like always having a great business card, just in case you ever need it, it’s good to have with you.

Spendee is a great example of a great mobile app landing page that has all the elements needed to acquire users, inform users, engage users and help them share easily.

Breaking it down, while the page has multiple links out, the two most noticeable links are the App Store and Google Play Store buttons. They’re multiple times larger than the social sharing buttons, great to have for helping visitors to the site share the app, and they stand out just as much as the images to the right of them.

As you scroll down, each panel has a single call to action, which leads directly back to the main call to action – to download the app.

The second last panel even has social proof from news outlets as well as actual users of the apps.

If you’re stuck on building your own app landing page, here’s a great template that has all the elements you’ll need. If you need more to choose from, here’s another 20.

16. Include App Download Links On Your Website

Having an app landing page is great, but chances are you have traffic going to your business’s website already. Leverage those existing customers and visitors to get more of them to download your app.

Existing Website Banner

Make a small banner for your website that pops up somewhere non-intrusive. I find HelloBar is a great way to do this.

It’s simple, stays at the top of all your pages and you can just get the most essential information across with a link to your app landing page or directly to the App Store.

Social Media Profiles

If you’re already in the social media game and have a Twitter profile, Facebook page or Linkedin page, make use of that space to promote your app.

A simple banner with the name of your app and where to find it is all you need.

17. Get Featured On Mobile App Review Sites

Getting press and reviews about your app is an easy way to capitalize on another site’s traffic.

If you get featured on The Next Web, you can expect tens of thousands of unique visitors in the first 24 hours to hit your website and your App Store page. If you get reviewed by a popular app blog like AppAdvice, you can expect a similar amount of traffic to flow through to your website and App Store listing.

We’ve compiled a list of 113 of the BEST places for you to submit your app for review and to get press. With a cumulative total of over 11 million Twitter followers, over 6 million Facebook fans and tens of millions of unique visitors per month, features on any of these websites can mean lots and lots of downloads for your app.

Be sure to read the next promotion method below to get your app promotion materials in order!

18. Be Prepared For Press

Most journalists are pressured by deadlines to have new content out and because of that, they don’t have time to spend following up leads or trying to find more information on stories that are sent in.

To make sure you have the best chance of getting your story published, you’ll want to make sure you have everything a journalist will need in your PR kit.

A good mobile app PR kit consists of:

A) An App Summary Guide

Your app summary guide is a walkthrough of what the app is, how it’s used, who it’s targeted to, the problems it solves and any other information surrounding why the app was created as well as why it matters.

B) Your Press Release

The press release is the main story behind why you’re reaching out for press. It should cover off the problem your app solves, why it’s being released now and any other stats or facts surrounding the benefits of using the app. This is where you make the sale to the journalist to publish the story.

C) Screenshots (App & Lifestyle)

You’ll need both app screenshots (like you would have in your app store listing) as well as lifestyle pictures in your PR kit. Be sure to include lots of screenshots, more than you think reasonable. If you’re sending this PR kit to a few dozen news outlets, you want to ensure they’ll have the option of not choosing images other news outlets have already used.

D) Design Collateral (Icons, Logos, Banners, etc)

Give the news outlet all the icon sizes, logo sizes and other design collateral they’ll need so they can keep your branding in the article clean. The last thing you want is to be featured on TechCrunch with a blurry logo because you only sent them one image size.

Changes to those articles can often take weeks to get through because they’re taken as the lowest of priorities.

E) Videos (Walkthroughs, Intro Video, etc)

A good promo video can do wonders for helping people understand what your app is all about. By seeing it in action, they can make a very conscious decision about their choice to test out your app.

F) Founder Bios & Pictures

Often you’ll see quotes from the founders about their decision to build an app or about their decision on the market they’re after. These types of quotes help set a message about the company behind the app and build a strong brand for the company behind the app.

When you have your press kit and press release ready to go, here’s 20 free press release distribution sites to get you started thanks to Mashable.

19. Promote Your App Through A Promo Video

Having a good promo video is a staple of any mobile app. It’s a quick and easy way for someone to understand the most common use case behind the app and how they could use it too.

Clear’s promo video is a great example of how simple it should be to get across just enough information to entice a download. While this video may seem simple compared to other app promo videos, the video generated over 1.2 million views.

The additional benefit of a promo video is that you can take advantage of video SEO.

For example, if people search for “the best list making app” and you’re YouTube video title matches, your video will show up before the rest of the search results.

A great example is if you search “hello” in Google. Despite it returning over 800 million results, the first thing it displays is Adele’s song Hello.

20. Use Your Social Network

Social media, despite the heavy focus by most businesses, is still a very under utilized channel of promotion. Sending the message once is good, but sending it multiple times over a month or two is even better.

The typical Facebook page post reaches 16% of the page’s fan base. Now if you were to take the same message, re-write it 4 or 5 times and send it out once a week for 5 weeks, you’re theoretically reaching 80% of your Facebook page audience.

See how that makes a big difference.

When you launch something like a mobile app, it’s a big achievement for the company and it can mean any number of things for your customers. Make sure they’re getting the message by re-posting the same content but with a different message.

21. Write An Announcement Blog

Announcing your app launch as a company update is a great way to keep your customers informed about a major company change. You can leverage your social network to drive traffic and cite the blog post in your email signature to make sure those you’re in contact with know your have a mobile app.

22. Link To Your App In Your Email Signature

It can often take weeks if not months for all of your existing customers to know that you’ve finally launched a mobile app. But those same customers that don’t know, likely get emails from you weekly or maybe even daily.

Add your app download links or a link to your app landing page to your email signature as a really easy way to drive downloads over time simply by sending the emails you normally send.

If you have a few people in your business, make sure they do the same.

For example, if you had 4 people in your business each sending out an average of 20 emails a day (that’s a really low estimate), that’s 80 people that you’re able to inform per day about your mobile app. That’s 560 a week or over 2,400 a month!

The simplest things can be the most effective in the long run.

23. Promote Your App In-Store

If you run a brick and mortar business, the best way to drive ongoing app downloads is to leverage your foot traffic.

By placing a QR code, or even just a sticker for the Google Play Store and App Store in your window, you’re informing your customers that you have a mobile app. Something they may not know at the time.

Similarly, by having a QR code on your business cards, everyone that get’s a card can have a direct link to download your app in their pocket.

24. Join Linkedin & Facebook Groups

Linkedin is a massive social network with 400 million business professionals and Facebook has over 1 billion users. They represent many markets, many industries and has groups for just about everything you can think of.

Find groups that are made up of people that closely resemble your existing customers or your ideal customers and share the app with them. Explain the benefit of using the app and why they should use the app.

If you find a big group, contact the admin of the group and ask them to partner with you to promote the app. It could be in exchange for money as a paid promotion or it could be a referral partnership where you pay for each download or each new customer.

25. Recruit Customers Locally

Meetups, events and conferences can be a great place to recruit new mobile app users. Simply bring along a stack of business cards with your app download link on them and give them out to everyone you speak to.

Some larger meetups can involve hundreds of people while a decent size conference can attract thousands. Have a brief initial conversation with the people at the event and then hand them the business card. Suggest that they check out the app and get in touch with you to give feedback. It’s a great way to get lots of new users on the app and also get feedback for improvement.

26. Blog Commenting

Take a look at blogs in the space that are relevant to your mobile app. Identify the opportunity to add value by commenting on relevant blogs that makes sense. Be sure to provide valuable insight and also link to your mobile app or to your mobile app’s landing page. Typically this is seen in the internet marketer space but it can also be used in mobile app promotion in order to drive high-quality relevant links and traffic to your mobile app’s landing page or download link.

27. Influencer Sharing

Leveraging the power of influencers can be the best way to drive mass amounts of traffic to your mobile. To do this you simply have to go to a website like buzzsumo.com to find a list of relevant influencers in your mobile app’s space.

You can work with these influencers in two ways.

You can do a joint venture, where they get involved in promoting your app for a price or in exchange for something on your end
You can simply ask for a share if the mobile app is relevant and adds value to them
You can also automate this slightly, using tools like contentmarketer.io, where you can schedule a bunch of tweets through Buffer to be drip fed over time.

You can also try networks like copromote.com to leverage the influence of others in a share for share manor.

28. Do The Unexpected

In the world of digital, it’s highly unexpected to do anything fully offline and see results. The guys over at Dojo have had amazing success in doing the unexpected and just appealing to people on an offline and one to one medium.

They needed to get an initial base of customers for a localized app fast. They decided to take to the streets with a simple and super effective letter  to appeal to the interest and curiosity of people. They handed out 19,000 of these letters and during prime commute hours, hand them out to commuters.

The result was over 3,000 downloads (a ~15% conversion rate) and amazing social media exposure.

Be unexpected and amazing results can come of it.