Tilting at Windmills or iOS Marketing on a Budget

Posted on 29 January, 2011


This post is about the launch of our latest app Today Voice Notes describing what went well and what didn’t.

The Problem

As with most apps on the App Store the initial visibility is a big problem. At an incredibly rate of hundreds of new apps per day it is becoming increasingly hard to get noticed when launching an app. Classic marketing doesn’t apply much here since most potential customers use the App Store app or iTunes to look for new apps. Banners and Adwords may still be effective in the long term but that’s not applicable for a launch.

But What’s Wrong with the Status Quo?

The status quo would be that you submit the app and when it is released you’ve got a few downloads. These downloads originate from the fact that App Store categories can be sorted by “release date”. After your app has fallen of this list, it becomes invisible (and forgotten) if you don’t actively market it.You have to rely entirely on the search keywords you set in the first place.

How Did it Go?

Today Voice Notes was released on the 19th december 2010. The launch was not stellar but okay. We had 514 downloads (priced at 1$) and 90% originated from Germany.


What follows is a list of actions we have undertaken. Apart from the immediate feedback (sales) there were other (positive) long term effects. Sadly these are very hard to measure.

Landing Page and Ads

For the small percentage of potential users that look for apps by other means than the App Store, a landing page is the perfect place for the sales pitch.Additionally a landing page can be a great benefit later on in the course of word of mouth marketing.
We have built a landing page that is light on text and uses videos to showcase the app’s features. Since I stared on it fa too long – I can’t say if it is exceptionally pretty or not. At least it does the job to present all features and lead the user to the App Store.

Together with the landing page we have booked an expensive ad. Fusionads is an advertising network for the design inclined. Since Today Voice Notes is rather pretty and heavily customized regarding UI, we thought that it would be a natural fit. Those who appreciate good design are presumably a primary target for the iOS platform too. The Fusionad “roadblock” shows your ad over the course of one day on the entire network – perfect for app launches.

Fusionads generated 500k impresions and 1.5k clicks. Only 0.27% of the people clicked on our ad.
Costs: 1.2k $ for the ad.

Google Adwords resulted in around 40 clicks and since we didn’t use any tracking – I have no idea how many did really buy the app.


It is still impossible to track sales until the very end of the order process because all tracking solutions stop right at the doorstep of iTunes or the App Store app. All except for one. Apple works with Linkshare and provides sales statistics. For this to work, special tracking links containing the app id can be generated and distributed throughout the landing page, other apps and so on. That’s what we did. To be honest the Linkshare report generation is really awful – either that or I don’t really get it. The following numbers could very well be wrong.
The landing page visits translated into 310 clicks on the App Store button and 8 orders.

Press Release and Video

Writing a concise and ad free press release is an art of its own. We have used Prmac for the delivery of our press release. According to their statistics there have been around 300 clicks on the iTunes link for the app. This time we didn’t use Linkshare for tracking. I don’t know why exactly but I didn’t feel like I want to have press people click on that huge and scarry Linkshare link :)
Along with the press release we created a presskit containing screenshots, app description and links.

A short promo video yielded 225 views (Youtube).


Spielhaus is part of an organisation of German speaking iOS developers. From time to time Vieda performs promotions. Around Christmas they have created an advent calender. Every day three apps were presented that reduced their prices for one day. Today Voice Notes launced inside this promo event. This was the greatest success so far because 90% of the sales came from Germany.
Costs: 34$

The Rest

We have focused all our efforts into a time frame of 1-2 days to achieve a greater impact. Way before the launch we have contacted many review sites for exclusive reviews. Big profile sites didn’t even took notice and most of the others offered only “honest” pay per review models.


We have learned that it is crucial to find the right target group for an app. Otherwise ads will not deliver their full impact. Maybe Fusionads was not the right advertising network or maybe our ad sucked. But one thing is clear – promo events do have the greatest effect. Although the Vieda promo event does not have the same impact as being featured by Apple, it did catapult the app in front of many potential customers.

2 Responses to “Tilting at Windmills or iOS Marketing on a Budget”

  1. Nick Kleinschmidt
    Jan 29, 2011

    0.27% CTR is actually high for display ads. Fusion is obviously premium inventory (since you paid $2.40 eCPM), but for unoptimized campaigns on some of the bigger exchanges, you can expect from 0.02% to 0.04%. I do agree that it probably wasn’t the best use of your money. Assuming a price of $1.99, in order to recoup $1200 (taking Apple’s cut into account), you’d need to sell 862 copies. Assuming 10% conversion rate (which may still be high) once people are on the app store, you’d need 8620 clicks to recoup your investment. In order to get that many clicks from 500K impressions, you’d need a 1.7% CTR, which is unheard of in the display world.

    I’ve heard of people having more success advertising on mobile with AdMob or other mobile ad networks. You get lower CPC rates and much higher conversion rates.

  2. admin
    Feb 02, 2011

    Thanks Nick. I wish I had these numbers before :/
    Admob is not an option. Even with a 1% conversion rate I would have to pay round 100$ to generate 4 sales (at 3.99$).