Editorial – Sell, Sell, Sell – Self Promotion outside of the WP7 Marketplace.

(c) (Microsoft Photo/Jason DeCrow)

Yesterday I wrote Part 1 of the answer to my posed question…”So your App/Game is in the Marketplace….So what next?”.  That post detailed getting the most out of Microsoft “official” support methods for Promotion, Feature-status and other Marketplace and MS Marketing impetus for your App.  Of course, MS have thousands of Developer’s – and a Marketplace that is growing exponentially – faster than either the Android or Apple equivalents at the same points in time and to quantity milestones like 10K, 20K Apps etc.

The bottom-line is that the chances of getting significant MS promotion/advertising support are slim – so do not rest on your hard work getting the App to the marketplace – because now you need to sink almost as much time into setting up a framework to sell your app to your customer base – outside of a 100% reliance on Microsoft. You need your App/Game to be differentiated. It needs to get noticed – and you need to make use of social media and other outlets to help lift your offering above the pack, as well as delivering support to your customers.

PART 2 (take control)

“What does a Developer need to deliver, other than an App”, you might ask?  Well you need to provide a way to engage your customers – and receive feedback from them in turn.  A captured customer can do all of the following for a Developer – for better or for worse;

  • Spreads word of mouth on your App and their experience (positive or negative) – typically the most powerful form of advertising your app will get 1 on 1.
  • Can provide constructive feedback on app usage – including missing features, different application or needs you had not anticipated, improvement opportunities, creative upgrade/update ideas or bug identification.
  • Customers also are your source of App Reviews in the Microsoft Marketplace – potentially significantly impacting the perception of your App/Game by prospective customers in the official Marketplace.
  • Beta testing is also a great option for selected members of your customer base for new versions.
  • And of course with a positive purchasing / user-experience will be more likely to be a return customer and buy additional Apps/Games you create.

So do not underestimate them.

You also need to be aware of the fact that there can be a wide spread of varying level of knowledge and expertise in your customer base.  A user could be a Gen-Y, tech literate WP7 owner who consumes mobile content on an almost hourly basis -and is demanding that next upgrade for better social feature X from you.  Or conversely, it could be a customer drawn to WP7 based on the Metro User Experience and easy to use and powerful WP OS, who does not have wider PC expertise and is reliant on you to make life easy for them understanding how V2.1 is better for them when a change is made in the App that confuses them.  So you need to support as well as sell.

* * * * *

On the selling front, and assuming you are not paying for or launching on any paid advertising, there are a number of steps that any Developer should undertake (often complementing the support activities above).  The first and foremost is to select, setup and begin leveraging Social Media Networks to your advantage.

Social Network Landscape 2011 (c) fredcavazza

Step 1. Setup your website.

A website is an important step for any Developer.  It creates a “Home Base” from which you can launch your App into social cyberspace.  What characteristics or features make up a good website? Well – let’s have a look at a “best practice” professional example – with an Australian Developer’s site for Windows Phone; Niall Ginsbourg of Mobilewares.net:

1. Mobilewares.net Home Page

2. Mobilewares.net App Selection

 

 

 

 

3. AU Weather Pro App page

Mobilwares.net Support

Niall’s business site is an excellent example of how to put some effort into a framework that both supports the sale and promotion of your Apps – as well as hitting on the Support/Help elements for your customers.  These facets in themselves are an excellent base to underpin his App development for Windows Phone.  However Niall is not done there – he also has thought about presenting his services as a Contractor for App Development, and even highlighted a “Mailing list” as Coming Soon to better engage his customers (some push marketing via news and update information).  So you can see that this web-page has all the elements for success to support the Windows Phone Marketplace.  In Summary – the features your Website should have are:

  • A relevant (business name, identity, Dev details) domain name that remains consistent (Your Brand).
  • A Home Page that delivers both your cores message for you as a Dev – and links to the info your customers need.
  • Individual Pages for all your Apps, – with info, screenshots, features, costs and direct Zune links for D/L.
  • A Help or Support section for contacting you, getting assistance, feedback/suggestions etc.
  • Other features that might draw customers back to your site – eg Forums, WP7 info of interest, A Blog etc.
  • “Push” Marketing capability – eg subscription to your site, Mail Lists, Newsletters, Tips & Tricks etc.
  • And even a useful links section – especially for testimonials, reviews and other coverage of your Apps.
  • Draw together your other social media links, accounts and information (eg Twitter, facebook etc).
  • Remember you may need to register a business name and Tax info for a .com or .com.au address.

All of these can help you reach your customers, attract new customers and put yourself ahead of the pack as the Windows Phone Marketplace grows.  Use WordPress or Tumblr to manage your site or Blog if you need some help with getting it started, setting up themes and don’t want to divert too much time away from your app development (I don’t know CSS at all – but have been running this self-hosted Blog for 3 months now!) – or code yourself up a site, whatever works.

* * * * *

Step 2. Social Media Tools

With the website up and running – the next step is to maximise your other Social Media tools.  Per the diagram further up the page, the options here are endless.  For the purposes of this article, I only really want to discuss the two main ones that most use (including yours truly) and offer an interesting contrast.

A. Facebook. Nothing too much really needs be said by introduction.  Most people will be familiar with this site and what it offers via social connections, interaction and presentation.  As far as your Developer persona is concerned – you have the choice of creating “Groups” for your Apps/App etc – and filling these with screenshots, video links, news,a comment wall etc – and allowing users to ‘Like it’ and join the group.  Your other option is to create a separate Facebook account for your App Development/business, so as to not dilute or infringe on your personal Facebook Account.  The choice is yours.  Here’s an example of how Facebook can be setup to support your App – for the popular Foursquare Client for Windows Phone 7 – 4th And Mayor:

4th and Mayor on Facebook.

B.Twitter. For quick, painless and to the point messaging, engaging, communicating and monitoring – nothing goes past Twitter.  It is quite common for people that are literally swamped with emails (some of them thesis type lengths or loaded with attachments) to keep a regular daily focus on their twitter stream – and to reply and engage on tweets (short messages of no longer than 140 characters for those unfamiliar), when an email may never see the light of day!  It really is a powerful new <old already in social media lifespans> online media – and perfectly suited for life on the go with a mobile device like WP7 – which Mango will deliver full OS integration of.

LoungeFlyNZ Twitter Profile in MetroTwit (App).

To the right, you can see the Twitter Profile of Chris Johnson, Kiwi abroad, Microsoft employee and Windows Phone 7 Developer and publisher of the popular “My Trips” App.

By “Following” his Twitter account under his alter-ego of LoungeFlyz – his public messages (or tweets) will be visible in your message stream – instantly.  So if he has news, information or interesting details about his Apps, his customers can be immediately informed, engaged and feedback given and received.  All from within the one website (or client App on mobile or PC etc).

Not only that – if Chris follows you, or you message him asking for him for example – to pass on a positive comment, good idea or interesting comment on his App – he may Re-tweet it, or pass it on to those following him.  This provides a widening circle of influence and comment, like a pebble thrown into a pool of still water.  You may have only 10 followers – but if Chris sends your message on, or finds your tweet interesting enough to send on, then suddenly that’s another 1,120 people that follow him that may read it.

In this way – the power of setting up a Twitter account for your Developer profile, highlighting your home page (website) and cross pollinating your customers into Twitter followers becomes a vital tool in the arsenal of  promoting your Apps and engaging your customers.  Many Blogging tools even auto-post to Twitter and offer “Facebook Like” links as well.

You will also find that key Microsoft personnel use Twitter regularly to engage in their communities – and following them and engaging them can be incredibly important (Dev Teams, Marketing Teams, Design Teams, Technical Teams, Recruitment Teams, Business leads/Managers for WP etc).  So keep an eye out for them.  For example – check out the author on the Windows Blog of an article you liked or found relevant, then look for them on Twitter.  Follow them. Drop them a @tweet and let them know you liked the article.  Contact complete.  You could then pitch an App Idea to the Dev guys, Ask a Design question etc etc. The rest is up to you.  And this is all outside of the social/for fun aspects of Twitter.

* * * * *

This leads nicely into the final main way you can promote your Apps and take control of your advertising against every other Tom, Dick or Harriet in the Marketplace – and that is via third-party websites.

Step 3. Online Website Participation.

This will take time – and effort to do it better than badly!  You need to become an active and engaged participant in the Windows Phone community online – and also in the relevant special areas of interest for your App.  So, have a Media Streaming App – you need to know your competition, where your prospective customer’s go for information, chat and what you have to offer that is unique, better or just can be promoted more.  Be it forums, site memberships, via post comments on other sites – you need to display your knowledge, be relevant (not just looking like an obtrusive Advert) and get your info out there.

Below is a table of some of the main Windows Phone sites you can monitor, participate in and broaden your knowledge in WP at the same time. They are in my view, the best-of-breed type sites.  Some, or even most, you probably already know as a DEV.  However, it’s not just reading these sites.  If it’s a news site (WPCentral) – tip them off to your App, ask them to review it.  If it’s a leading authority site (WindowsPhoneSecrets) – drop the author/owner a line, ask them to check out your App (if its differentiated enough) or point out why it’s so special. If there is a Blog post that is relevant to what your App is about, or with a design feature you used etc etc – then contribute to the conversation and offer a link under your sign-off on the comment to your site, your App etc.  It’s that easy.

Also try and leverage the official Microsoft Engagement opportunities – some of which are outlined below:

Windows Phone Sites for best promotional opportunities for WP7 Dev's.

SITE NAME & LINK
LOGO +
LINK
INFO
LINK
Sheeds' Blog
Rating X / 5
Windows Team Blog
Windows Phone
The Official Microsoft US Blog page for WP7. Updates, News, Interviews, Info and the Windows Phone Radio Podcast. Must visit.HOME
TWITTER
5/5
Windows Team Blog
Developer.
The Official Microsoft US Blog page for Developers for WP7. Tips, Help, News, . Also a Must visit.HOME
TWITTER
5/5
Windows Phone SecretsPaul Thurrott, the author of Windows Phone Secrets and other MS Product Books runs this informative and well connected WP7 site. Very high exposure site - Impress Paul with your App/Game and he may feature you here.HOME
TWITTER
5/5
WinRumoursTom Warren's Microsoft-centric site also features excellent WP7 coverage with good MS sources fro breaking news.HOME
TWITTER
4/5
WP Central
High-Quality Windows Phone 7 specialised News and info site for WP7. Reviews, Exclusives - this site has it all and is in my view, the No. 1 WP7 News site.HOME
TWITTER
5/5
Windows Phone RadioTHE official Weekly Windows Phone Radio Show for Microsoft WP7 news. Hosted by Matt, Brian and Michael.HOME RSS
TWITTER
5/5
WPDevPodcastFantastic Windows Phone Developer Podcast run by the knowledgeble and engaging Lowdermilk brothers. Weekly show.HOME
TWITTER
5/5
The Windows Blog
Official Australian
Microsoft Blog.
The Aussie Microsoft Blog (supporting WP7). Awaiting market re-launch & low usage at present.HOME
TWITTER
3/5
The UK official
Microsoft WP Site
The official UK Microsoft
Windows Phone site. Very pro-active on twitter and with
support of WP fans/devs.
HOME
TWITTER
4.5/5
This table aims to capture the main opportunities for Featuring your App or Game to the wider WP user-base outside of the MS Marketplace. There are many more - however these in my view are the best of the "WP7" bunch based on their connections, knowledge, reader base etc - including official MS sites...

There are many more options out there for you to access and engage on your products, and promote gently but actively. Examples are;

  • Businesses that may see your App as useful (eg Transport related companies for parcel track-trace).
  • Government Departments (eg Dept. of Trade and Foreign Affairs if you have a Govt. travel warning App).
  • Relevant Forums and Chat Rooms for the area of interest of your App/Game.
  • Formal Media outlets, eg Gaming Magazines/sites, Newspapers or relevant online companies.
  • Other Special Interest sites that cater to your work or the service/hobby/activity/game you have developed.
  • Other Windows Phone sites (there are many more than the few in the table above).
  • Podcasts, Interviews, Trade Shows, Tech Meets, Telcos or industry activities your App may be relevant to.

The options are endless.  So I hope this list gives you some ideas and offers you something of value to help you on your journey to sell, sell, sell!  This is by no means a complete list – and you should seek out your own.  Emails, phone calls, facebook posts, tweets – these are the tools of the social marketer.  I wish you good luck in your promotion and as someone who has endeavoured all his working life in the areas of Sales and Marketing – I want you to get back on the horse if you get thrown off, and remember if your not promoting your work, it’s unlikely anyone else is going to do it for you, and very likely that guy with that App in the marketplace competing with yours IS!

Sheeds.

A final warning on promotion and advertising (push) via Social Media. People respect everyone’s right to drop out posts/tweets/emails etc on their endeavours.  However if you are over-enthusiastic, clumsy, repetitive or too obvious in your promotion, you risk alienating your audience or desired customer/channel/audience.

So do it SMART – and do it LITE and you will be ALL-RIGHT!

PART 1 – Maximising Microsoft Promotion. LINK

Additional LINKS:

  • Mobilewares.net HERE
  • WordPress HERE
  • Tumblr HERE
  • Social Media Mapping at FredCavazza.net HERE
  • METROTWIT – the best way to view Twitter on your PC HERE