Dear On,

I’m the CEO of a mobile app development company.  We’ve recently made some really great apps, but our downloads have been disappointing.  To jump start things, one of the advertising tactics we are considering is outdoor billboard advertising.  If we pull the trigger, how do you think it will go?

Help!

Don Loads


Dear Don!

Sorry to hear your app sales haven’t been as hot as you would like.  Let’s talk a little bit about billboard advertising generically.

The Strong

Let’s begin by talking about what billboard advertising does well.

Low Cost Per Impression – Billboard advertising can generally be bought for a low cost per theoretical impression.  Basically, this means that there are traffic studies that can give advertisers a reasonable estimate of how many people will pass your billboard during the time that it’s up.  On a person-who passes-your-ad basis, the advertising is likely to be cheap.

Good Demographic Data – Neighborhood demographics are obtained easily enough that will give you a decent idea about the characteristics of a substantial portion of the people who will see your ad.

Key individual – If you need to reach a particular individual, for example a government official or a company owner, buying a billboard on their path to or from work can be an effective way of making sure that your highly prized prospect sees your message.

The Weak

Now let’s move into what billboard advertising doesn’t do so well.

Difficult to track – Did the person who just drove by your billboard actually notice it?  Suppose they do and they research your website right away, would you be able to distinguish them from a visitor who found you another way?  Going further, suppose they’re on their way to the airport, and when they land on the other side of the country they decide to look you up.  Would you have any notion that your billboard is what brought them to your website?  Some businesses conduct fairly elaborate tests that give them decent, granular data about the effectiveness of their outdoor campaigns, but it’s out of the reach of many companies.

Message must be communicated very quickly – Many people in the outdoor advertising industry use 6 seconds as the amount of time that someone will look at your billboard, and therefore, they suggest using no more than 6 words.  Many businesses will struggle to communicate a compelling value proposition in 6 words or less, even factoring in the non-verbal imagery.

Weather or vandals can take your campaign offline – If you aren’t monitoring your billboard, it can be damaged or hijacked in a way that makes your message unreadable or worse, reflects poorly on your brand.  Some billboard companies are proactive about monitoring and fixing such issues, but we’ve all seen that ratty billboard that still hasn’t been changed after months and months.

The Variable

Now let’s talk about the features of billboards that are neither good nor bad generally, but are good or bad depending on your objectives.

Geographic targeting – Billboards reach people who are in a particular place.  If you have a reason to suspect that people in that area have an especially compelling reason to buy from you, that’s great.  If the people in that area don’t have a special reason to buy from you, it may not be worth it.

Diverse Audience – In addition to the people who live in the area that you know will pass by every day and who you can get information about, there will also be random people driving by your billboard, and you’re paying for their impressions, too.  They may be young, old, male, female, rich, poor, etc.  If your product doesn’t appeal across the broad spectrum, a billboard ad may not be for you.

Recommendations

As a general rule, outdoor advertising is a last resort for app developers.  Most apps aren’t incredibly geographically dependent, at least not in the same way that a retail store or restaurant is.  Also, there are so many highly trackable advertising methods available to you that you don’t need to experience the mystery that billboard advertising is for many marketers.  That said, if there are reasons why your app would benefit from outdoor advertising more than most other apps, then go ahead and give it a shot.

What are our recommendations for most app marketers?

In app social media – Making it easy and satisfying for people to share their experiences with your app on social media is incredibly important.  Every such post is a free advertisement for you.  If the social experience in your app is lacking, consider investing in a redesign before buying external advertising options.

PR – There is a lot of media dedicated to mobile apps, tech startups, games, productivity, social media, and other areas related to app development.  Let all these people know what you are building and why their audience will be interested in it.

Mobile Ads – Knowing that someone is using an app like the one you have made is an incredibly strong indicator of their willingness to try your app.  Mobile ad networks help you reach exactly the audience that is most likely to pay for your app.

Social Media Ads – Your app probably appeals to a particular kind of person.  They may tend towards a certain age, be of one gender more than the other, have a certain educational background, or have particular hobbies.  Social media lets you target people based on all these criteria and more.

TV/Streaming Video Ads – A lot of apps have a unique draw that can best be captured by video, particularly games.  If your app looks great in motion, but only ok in pictures, then consider either traditional TV advertising, or advertising on a streaming video service like YouTube.

If you combine great advertising creative with these media, we’re confident you can get your app the users it deserves.

Bonus!

One quick note: all of the prior advice is based on marketing your app once it’s finished.  There are great opportunities for marketing an app before you’ve written the first line of code.

Market Testing/Surveys – One great thing to do is to make sure that what you want to build is what people want to buy.  You can do this by conducting surveys of potential customers.  You will probably find that features you thought were essential aren’t that important, and features you thought mattered little are highly valued by your target client.  By aligning what you build with what people want, your advertising will have less work to do once the project is actually launched, and you will get more people sharing it virally.

Community Engagement – The people who help you figure out what to build may be willing to stick around and continue to give you feedback and share what you’re doing with their network throughout the development process.  Incentivizing these people to stay involved and spread the word is a great way to make sure that you have a strong launch.

And that’s it. May you get many downloads, Don Loads.

Happy Appin’,

On

 

 

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