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MARKETING YOUR APP · HUGH KIMURA · DECEMBER 2013

9 Low Cost Ideas For Marketing Your Mobile App Offline

This post will give you some inexpensive and low maintenance ideas for marketing your mobile app offline.

There is no doubt that App Store Optimization (ASO) and online marketing are the most efficient ways to reach the largest number of potential users. But there are situations where offline marketing can help certain types of apps.

So let's take a quick break from the online stuff and look at which types of apps could benefit from offline marketing. Then we will give you some ideas on how to reach an offline audience without spending a lot of time or money.

Apps That Might Benefit

Obviously, not all apps will benefit from offline promotion. Apps that are not related to brick and mortar businesses or specific geographic locations are probably better off sticking to App Store Optimization and online marketing. But if you have an app that might benefit from local promotion, or you just want to experiment with offline marketing, these ideas will get you started.

Local Events

Events can be a great way to reach a large local audience and if you do it right, it won't cost a lot of time or money. Here are some options that you can consider.

Launch Party

If you have not launched your app yet, consider having a launch party. Even if you have launched your app already, you can probably still come up with a good excuse for a party. It doesn't have to be complicated or cost a lot. It can be as simple as reserving the back room of a local restaurant.

Be sure to invite people who can help get the word out about your app. Here are more great ideas for hosting your first app launch party.

Promote At Events

Are there conventions or local events where you can setup a booth or purchase advertising? Many times smaller events have affordable sponsorship options or they may not even have considered selling advertising space. Approach them and see if you can work something out.

Meetup.com

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If you have never used Meetup.com before, it is a great way to connect with people in your area who have a common interest. It is not only a US thing either, there are new international Meetup groups forming all the time. There are three ways that you can take advantage of Meetup.

First, you can go to existing groups that are related to your app. This is a great opportunity to meet people who you are your potential users and get valuable feedback from them. But don't be that person who just goes there to pitch their product. Be genuinely interested in connecting with and helping people and they will be more likely to help you in return.

Second, you can also start your own group. This way, you can control the direction of the group and the topics of the meetings. Be sure to give your group a descriptive name so people know what it is about and give people a good reason to come to your meetings.

Finally, you can sponsor existing groups. Get creative and figure out what you can offer that might be valuable to members of that group, then pitch a sponsorship to the Organizer. This won't work for all apps, but it might work for you.

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Community Organizations

Look for local community organizations that you can help with your app. Maybe you can volunteer some time and show them how your app can help their organization and/or provide your paid app for free. This can give you valuable feedback about your app, it helps a good cause and you will have a good case study for your website.

Shirts

Creating a simple t-shirt is a fun way to get the word out about your app. When creating a shirt, be sure to make it something that people will want to wear.

Consider making shirts that are funny, iconic or make people curious. Overly promotional shirts will just be used to wash the owner's car. Can't design to save your life? Find an inexpensive designer on sites like Elance or Fiverr.

If you are looking for funny shirt ideas, look at sites like Snorg Tees or Zazzle. Getting your shirt into the hands of the right people will spread the word about your app and can even make it a fashion statement. Here is an example of Tim Ferriss rocking a Duolingo shirt.

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QR Codes

I have personally doubted the effectiveness of QR codes in marketing but studies show that they are slowly being more widely used by consumers. Pitney Bowes has collected some interesting data showing that QR code use is becoming more prevalent in the US.

Creating one is very easy. Just go to one of the many free QR code generator sites and you can download your own QR code in a few minutes. When scanned with a smartphone, the QR code can lead to a website or provide contact information, depending on the way you set it up.

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As a side note, Microsoft actually had a really good idea with their Microsoft Tag barcodes because they can be made into branded designs. Here is an example:

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However, given the slow adoption of bar codes in marketing and the inability of Microsoft to encourage wider adoption, unfortunately Tag technology is going to go the way of the Zune. They announced that they are going to kill it on August 19th, 2015.

Stickers

Stickers can be a cheap way of getting the word out about your app and don't require more work after you create the design and get them printed. Don't think that stickers can promote brand loyalty? Think about what you get with every Apple product you buy...two Apple logo stickers.

Just like with t-shirts, your stickers should be "cool" if you want people to use them. They should either be iconic, funny, or make people curious. One example that comes to mind is the sticker that is given out at The Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz, California. I've seen that sticker used more than any other bumper sticker I have come across. It even appears in a scene in the remake of the movie The Italian Job.

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Here is an example from the developer of Flaming Ferret, who had a simple sticker made for the back of his car. He decided to use a QR code, but it might have been better if he used the curiosity approach to encourage people behind him to download this app while they are waiting in traffic. However, it is a great idea and he can potentially get thousands of eyeballs every month, for a one-time cost of a few dollars.

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Business Cards

If you don't have business cards for your app, you should really consider having some made up. They are great for Meetup groups or other events, but you can also leave them with your bill at restaurants and mail them with your bills (if you still do that sort of thing).

Most companies make it really easy to upload your design to their website and you will get your cards in a few days. Don't have the time to design a card? You can use websites like Elance or Fiverr to find an inexpensive designer.

You can get free business cards from sites like Vistaprint. They provide free cards in exchange for putting a small ad on the back of the cards. You just pay for shipping and you can remove the ad for a small fee.

For nicer cards, a site like Moo is a great option for creating business cards. They cost more, but they are quality cards and Moo gives you the option of giving each card a different design.

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Barter For Traditional Media

Traditional media ads such as radio, television or print media can be expensive. But is there something that you can trade for an ad spot? Sometimes media companies have ad spots that go unused. You can either negotiate a discount or a barter arrangement.

If you have an expensive paid app you can offer some promo codes or maybe that company needs help with the development of their mobile app. Figure out something that will be cost and time effective for you and make your pitch. You never know until you ask.

Conclusion

So those are some ideas for promoting your app offline. It really depends on the type of app that you have and if you want to explore alternatives to online marketing and App Store Optimization. Just like with any other promotion technique, test them out and see which ones are most effective and which ones are just a waste of time.

We hope that his post has given you some marketing alternatives that you may not of thought about before. Again, we want to stress that if you are very budget conscious, App Store Optimization is the best place to start if you want to improve the number of times that your app is downloaded. However, if you do have a marketing budget, look at paid online ads after ASO, then consider some of the methods above.

What are your favorite offline marketing techniques?


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Hugh Kimura

Written by: Hugh Kimura, Head of Content

Date: December 2013

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