How to Promote a Mobile App

George Ryaboy

This article is a detailed guide to the performance marketing of mobile applications. We will show you how to create an effective marketing strategy for your app.

Since 2020, the number of mobile users has increased significantly for obvious reasons. We've started to consume more content through smartphones: watching Youtube videos, looking for recipes, installing fitness apps, and listening to audiobooks.

What if the idea to build a mobile app for your business struck you? How would you get it off the ground?

When launching a new app, working out the right performance marketing strategy is essential. A PPC Mobile team lead at Netpeak Agency, Sasha Shcherbina, compiled detailed instructions for beginners.

In this article, we will outline Scherbina's instructions and tell you about all the stages of mobile app promotion: competitor analysis, budgets, advertising, MVP, and unit economics.

Mobile Performance Marketing Components

The marketing of mobile applications can be divided into the following main components:

Mobile apps can be an additional or independent channel of communication with the audience.

Therefore, each app can have utterly different monetization models and other goals and KPIs.

Competitor Apps Analysis Services

Before you start developing your app, I recommend making a list of competitor apps. Make a general table with the following fields: launch date, app rating, top positions, number of installs, revenue, and keywords.

You can see the app's launch date and rating in the public domain on the Store.

The rest of the necessary information can be collected with these dedicated services:

  • Search engine positions - this feature is available for free in the App Annie service
  • Number of installs - the free XYO service is the best solution
  • Revenue - this restricted data can also be viewed using App Annie, but in the paid version of the service
  • Keywords - SensorTower and ASOdesk services are the best way to collect keywords

Also, pay attention to user reviews to better understand the interests and needs of the app's audience. All this information will help you in compiling your marketing strategy.

Why is MVP Necessary For a New App?

To evaluate the viability of an application, you need to create an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) - a pilot version of your product.

The MVP should solve the user's main problem with core features only.

At this stage, you capture metrics, evaluate the app's cost-efficiency, and determine whether this product fits its market.

Additional reading, 'How to Build an MVP.'

Be Money-Wise And Start With a Soft Launch

A soft launch is a small traffic purchase to test various hypotheses, a mandatory step for a new application launch as you don't have any data to guide you. There are only hypotheses that you need to either confirm or refute - that's what a soft launch does.

The primary purposes of using a soft launch are:

  • Obtaining data on the main product metrics
  • Identifying and fixing errors in the application
  • Interface and usability improvements
  • Detecting bottlenecks
  • Getting feedback from "real" users
  • Testing traffic sources before the "big" launch.

Determine Your Advertising Budget

If you want to check something, you need sufficient data.

For example, let's estimate the conversion rate from install to purchase: 100 installs and two payments brings a conversion rate of 2%, which does not cover the matter completely unbiased.

You need several thousand installs to correctly measure the app performance and draw conclusions for optimizing it.

“The budget depends directly on the project and its targeted market.”

On large-scale projects for a broad audience, such as OLX, Monobank, and Rozetka, you must attract a large audience from different regions to collect representative statistics.

The required number of installs can be determined based on the target audience of your app and the scale of its market.

For example, suppose the number of your potential app users is 10 million. In that case, you need to buy tens of thousands (or even hundreds) of downloads to get complete statistics, as you won't understand anything with 100 users.

If your product is, say, a financial tracker, your market will be smaller, and accordingly, you have to buy fewer users to obtain representative data.

Calculate Unit Economics for Your Application

Before the application launch, it is also vital to forecast the unit economics: calculate the necessary amount of traffic and set the target figures for the project to be profitable.

For clarity, the entire unit economics is presented in a single formula:


The above picture showcases the formula for calculating the unit of the economy. 

“There is a simple equation: if LTV is greater than CAC - the project is profitable. If it is the other way around- the project loses money.”

For example, you attract a user for $10, and he pays $10 for the first 11 months of using the app (CAC payback < 12 months) and then enjoys the app for another 12 months, for which he pays another $25, totaling $35 (LTV:CAC > 3x).

For every $1 invested in attracting more than $3, a ratio of LTV:CAC within 1:3+ is considered economically "healthy."

Dive Deeper Into Analytics and Tracking Systems

Attribution (or tracking) compares the app download to the last ad click that has led to this action.

Analytics for mobile apps and desktop websites is different. Your website with an active Google analytics counter determines which exactly marketing channel has led a new user.

The situation is different with mobile apps because there is no direct link between ad clicks and installs; when users go to the App Store or the Play Market, it disappears. Unique analytics systems - mobile trackers such as Adjust, AppsFlyer, AppMetrica, Branch, Tune, and others help recover this connection.

“The advertising user ID for iOS users is called IDFA, and for Android users - GAID.”

Attribution (tracking) of mobile app downloads takes place as follows:

  1. The users see your ads in one of the advertising channels you set up (Facebook Ads, Google Ads, etc.).
  2. They click on the ad.
  3. The system redirects users to the analytics service. The system reads the user data, such as advertising ID, and stores it on the corresponding servers.
  4. The users visit the store and install applications.
  5. Users open the application, the SDK of the analytics system is activated, and the user ID that was collected at the third step is finally being sent.
  6. If the click data and install data match, it is correlated with ad clicks.
  7. After successful attribution, download information (Postback) is sent to the advertising system.

“SDK is a set of tools for tracking settings and targeted actions in a mobile app. The SDK works like any website tag, similar to Google Analytics tracking code - a piece of JavaScript code additional to the website source code. For each analytics system, there is a separate integrated SDK.”


The above picture shows the chain of the client's path from downloading the application to getting it including in the analytics system. 

How to Create Terms of Reference to Configure Analytics Systems for Applications

Only mobile app developers can set up analytics systems, and you must draw up detailed Terms of Reference (ToR) for them.

The main stages to consider while working on the TOR for analytics settings:

  1. Make up a list of questions about your app and advertising campaign optimization: what metrics to take into account; define a target action; the cheapest traffic channel, etc.
  2. Next, based on your questions, make a list of events (target actions) that you want to track in the application using analytics systems.
  3. Based on steps 1 and 2, choose the optimal analytics system - basic Adjust, AppsFlyer, AppMetrica, Branch, Tune.
  4. Once again, we check the 1-2-3 stages.
  5. Integrate the SDK and implement the entire structure of events (target actions), which you defined in the second stage.
  6. Test the analytics before you "upload" the application to the store.
  7. Upload the application to the App Store, the Play Market.
  8. Regularly update the SDK. Check if a new SDK version for each analytics system is released and download the new one.

Additionally, we gather " wishes" from the whole team:

  • The developer wants to see some figures.
  • The marketer wants to see entirely different figures.
  • The owners want to see their specific metrics.

You can draft your terms of reference in a regular Google spreadsheet. This is an example of a mobile cinema app's terms of reference:

google spreadsheet

Create spreadsheets to help all parties remain organized. 

Top 5 Mistakes in Setting Up Analytics for Mobile Apps

There are some common mistakes in analytics configuration:

"We'll set it up later since a release is due tomorrow!"

When launching a new project, developers may have no time to configure analytics due to other tasks on the application release. When you upload an application to the store without analytics, it's a waste of time since you won't collect any data for further optimization. You have to start from the beginning.

"The developer will plug in the SDK, and it's almost done."

If the developers figure it out on their own, not knowing the events (targeted actions) you defined, they will put in a basic SDK. Such a kit version will not contain the data for the targeted actions you're interested in.

"I heard Google Analytics is okay, so let's put it in."

Analytics systems differ in their functionality and price. Google Analytics may not always be your right choice. For example, you can't use it to track installs from Facebook Ads. AppsFlyer is better for this purpose.

"Tracking payments is the most important thing! Funnel?! I haven't heard."

The funnel is needed to understand at what stage the user "fell off" and didn't get to the targeted action. For example, 3000 users installed the app, but only three people made the in-app purchase. If you have a detailed event structure, you can find bottlenecks in your funnel and understand why so few users made a purchase.

"Everything was done according to the TOR and rolled out to the stores. Check it out!"

You need to check that the data is correctly transferred to analytics at first and then upload it to the stores. If you make a mistake in setting up your analytics, you'll start collecting incorrect statistics that might mislead you.

Collecting corrupt data is worse than not collecting it at all.

Steps for Launching and Promoting a Mobile App

Recap all the steps and identify the main milestones for launching and promoting a mobile app.

  • Market research: target audience, competitors, demand (to understand the amount and source of income, do analysis)
  • Making the unit economy model (at least roughly understand how much you can earn and if there is a chance of being profitable)
  • Goal-setting (to understand what you want: to take up a certain share of the market, to measure success)
  • Choosing your tools, preparing a media plan
  • Configuring analytics systems
  • Preparation of advertising materials
  • Carrying out the necessary integrations (advertising and tracking systems, etc.)
  • Creation of advertising campaigns
  • Rechecking

Your mobile app must solve business problems, and then it will become a powerful marketing tool. Mobile marketing is really effective, but use it wisely and give your users relevant and useful content.

Browse our directory of digital marketing agencies to fit the right provider. 

Additional Reading:


George Ryaboy

Marketing Manager, Netpeak Agency
Editor-in-chief at Netpeak Journal, marketing manager at Netpeak Agency.
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