After creating hundreds of custom mobile app and websites for clients, we’ve seen a recurring marketing strategy of “Build it and they will come”.  While that iconic line from the movie, Field of Dreams, may sound good in a fantasy world, it’s actually a zero-marketing strategy for digital content creators, yet, one that we see entrepreneurs relying on time and again!

To spend money on designing and building a custom mobile app or website, then go live with it and merely wait and hope that users will find you… well, that’s just flushing money down the drain! In order to maximize your efforts to build an amazing app or website, you must be truly committed to finding your user base.  Let’s talk about what that commitment looks like through specific marketing avenues that you can deploy.

First we’ll look at the more common marketing avenues, but those which involve a material amount of marketing dollars to be effective.  How much you spend on any one avenue will obviously depend on your actual budget amount, and the A/B testing results of dollars spent on each avenue during some trial periods.  However, the first thing you want to do before any paid or non-paid marketing effort, is to obtain ratings and reviews of your app. When a potential user is about to download your app, they will often quickly glance to see how many reviews you have, and what star rating your app has earned.  There are many tactics for procuring reviews you can find on the Internet. Ratings, reviews and awards are an integral part of any paid or non-paid marketing campaign.

The three most common, paid ways to promote a mobile app or website are through Google Search, Facebook and Instagram.

Google search through pay-perclicks (PPC) is a marketing platform and strategy unto itself, with myriad resources to navigate those waters, far beyond what this blog post could attempt to cover.  Suffice it to say that this strategy can be extremely effective for the right website, but the costs range significantly, depending on the type of customer/user you are looking to find.  It’s all priced on supply and demand.

With Facebook, you can greatly target your specific user demographic.  Costs depend on either flat ‘impressions’ or on ‘link clicks’ (e.g., downloads of your app). Costs are also somewhat dependent on the supply/demand of your intended demographic.

With Instagram you can buy advertising that works in much the same way as Facebook (no surprise as they are owned by the same company). But in certain cases, it may make sense to pay a popular Instagram influencer to promote your app with an organic or sponsored post out to all of their followers, assuming your idea aligns with their followers’ values and interests.  Usually this strategy is combined with the influencer leveraging their other media outlets like YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blog page, etc.  Determining the cost to go this influencer route is often a directly negotiated exercise with either the influencer themselves, or their agent/agency.  Established, well-known influencers work with advertising agents who set prices and vet potential clients for the influencer.  In lieu of a straight sponsorship fee, large influencers will sometimes agree to a very small revenue share of your app’s proceeds if they love the idea, and what it could do for the majority of their followers.

While it’s nice to have a fat marketing budget to promote your digital creation through social media, there’s actually many more non-paid, free, tried-and-true gorilla marketing routes that have been around well before paid social media exposure became the norm in the mobile arena.

Create print collateral, and don’t be above hitting the streets to distribute it.  Got an app that targets sports enthusiasts? Slap the print flyer on the windows of thousands of cars at the appropriate sporting events.  Got a local website that helps single family homeowners?  Canvas neighborhoods with front door leave-behinds.  Got an app that targets millennial females? Drop your flyers outside of a Grimes concert.  You get the idea!  The key is to be creative and put yourself in the shoes of your target audience to determine where they are, and how to reach them.

Create and constantly update your organic internet presence.  At the very least, create a web landing page with the best-targeted keywords for your app or web platform.  Your landing page should usually have a direct link to download your app, a demo video, an email newsletter sign-up, and most of all, a section where you can blog, blog, and blog some more!  Blogging generates pure SEO Juice to get your app or site found.  Create and frequently update your Facebook, Instagram, Snap Chat, Reddit, LinkedIn and other social media accounts.

Look for small-to-medium-sized bloggers and vloggers (video bloggers).  To find them, simply enter a Google search with keywords similar to what your site or app would have.  Often the first page will show links to quality blogs around that search term.  Bloggers will sometimes add a free link or mention of your platform on their blog, in exchange for free mention of their blog on your social media or website.  To stay relevant, they often need to reveal new ideas and meaningful resources to their audience, which your mobile app or site might just provide.  If the blogger has a very large audience that is perfect for your digital product, it’s often money well spent to even pay for a sponsored blog post.

Volunteer to work at large industry conventions, or pay the nominal fees to attend where applicable.  Conventions are often a huge pot of attendees that are the perfect demographic for your idea.  Design business cards that tease the target to visit or download what you have created.  Simply drop your cards to anyone and everyone that you are able to briefly talk to about your idea.

Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone!  With certain digital platforms, there’s a very industry-specific enterprise type client that is the target user.  Call those companies and follow up by sending them a way to sign up for a free trial period.  This is also a great way to get user feedback in the early versions of a mobile app or website platform.

If you have a mobile app, make sure it follows solid App Store Optimization (ASO) principles.  This is basically your SEO for Google Play and the App Store.  Your developer should be a huge resource in making sure that your app is properly optimized on the app stores.  ASO is an easy and free form of marketing.  Don’t just set your keywords and descriptions upon initial launch, and forget about it.  Change it up periodically, as you discover and refine exactly what your intended users are searching on.

The amount of free or close-to-free ideas to market your app or website are endless.  As long as you remember to put yourself in the shoes of your intended demographic, you will continue to find ways to reach them.