12 Marketing Strategies That Million-Dollar Apps Have in Common

September 16, 2019

The most popular apps all have one thing in common – effective marketing strategies. This article has 12 successful marketing tactics that the best apps use for success.

If you haven’t been paying attention, mobile has been the battleground for online marketing for some years now. 

In 2016, mobile passed desktop as the platform of choice for Internet users. That means if you are still not optimizing your apps and websites for mobile use by now, then your marketing strategy is still stuck in the past. 

And companies are sitting up and taking notice. By 2020, ad spending on mobile would have exceeded $247 billion. Once you've invested in mobile app development, you must also invest in marketing for your app to get it in front of the right audience.

Here are the 12 actionable marketing tactics that million-dollar apps have in common:

12 Marketing Tactics that Million-Dollar Apps Have in Common

  1. Give away your app for free
  2. Tap social media influencers
  3. Build your brand
  4. Start a Kickstarter fund
  5. Create a loyalty program
  6. Invest in your landing page
  7. Support a charity
  8. Remember SEO
  9. Make a video
  10. Leverage the power of referrals
  11. Activate push notifications
  12. Start blogging

1. Give Away Your App for Free 

Nobody wants to download an app when they see a dollar sign next to it.

Companies often give away their apps for free, and they earn revenues through in-app purchases and ads. The app giveaway model is projected to reach $188.9 billion by 2020, according to Ruhani Rabin

2. Engage Social Media Influencers 

Social media influencers employ micro-marketing, which generates a return on investment. Use this type of micromarketing to reach a specific niche of consumers. 

An influencer marketing strategy is effective for younger generations like Millennials and Generation Z. According to Google, 70% of teen YouTube subscribers say they relate to YouTube influencers more than traditional celebrities.

3. Build Your Brand

A brand is more than just a logo or a sign. It’s a feeling associated when you see that sign or that logo. Some brands like Kellogg’s or Hot Wheels evoke a sense of nostalgia that may appeal to certain age groups.

Consider aligning your brand with emotions to enhance your connection with users.

4. Start a Kickstarter Fund 

Even if you do have the money to develop your app, Kickstarter funds are an effective way to get the community involved in funding your mobile app.

Kickstarter is a platform where individuals can donate small amounts of money to projects or causes they care about. 

Below is an example of Kickstarter’s homepage, which lays out the users’ activity and recommends new projects for them to fund.

kickstarter campaign examples


Small-dollar donations on Kickstarter give more users access to your brand. Even if somebody only pledges $5 for your Kickstarter fund, they already have a stake in your product.

5. Create a Loyalty Program 

Loyal customers want their support to be acknowledged. Customer loyalty programs show your customers that you notice their support.

For instance, in gaming apps, loyal customers will get free skins or new weapons that casual players can’t purchase in the online store. 

6. Invest in Your Landing Page 

If you list your app on Google Play or App Store, a visually stunning landing page will give you an edge. A landing page is where your customers can sign up for the loyalty program, free content, or other downloadable elements. 

The best landing pages, like the example below from Shopee, include images and call-to-action (CTA) buttons that entice users to click on your offerings.

shopee app landing page


Shopee’s landing page includes icons and buttons that make it easy for users to navigate to offerings they want.

Landing pages are an effective marketing strategy and drive people to your app.

7. Support a Charity 

Supporting a charity demonstrates corporate social responsibility. You can donate a portion of the money they spend on in-app purchases will go to charity, and tell your customers that their activity on your app has a direct impact on charitable organizations.

This will also help build a community around your brand. 

8. Remember SEO 

It doesn’t matter if you have the best mobile app in the market if people are not aware of it. More than 9 in 10 of online experiences start with search, and Google remains the default search engine for more than 7 in 10 searchers.  

You need to get the word out that you are the solution to people’s most nagging problems, and SEO will help build visibility for your app. 

9. Make a Video 

A short video explaining your product can be more effective than several paragraphs of text. The best part is that consumers tend to share a video rather than text. One study from Brightcove found that social video generates 1200% more shares than text and images.

This means video provides a free marketing boost for your mobile app. When you make a video, make it engaging and informative, with a dash of humor.

10. Leverage the Power of Referrals 

Affiliate marketing is similar to influencer marketing in the sense that individuals refer your app to others. 

In affiliate marketing, you promote your products without directly contacting your end consumers. More than 8 in 10 companies have adopted this marketing model to increase awareness and sales. 

A referral program is an alternative to affiliate marketing that will help build your app’s network. According to Nielsen, more than 8 in 10 people tend to trust the word of their family and friends when recommending a product. 

Referrals bring people into your app’s community by leveraging the trust of pre-existing relationships.

11. Activate Push Notifications 

Push notifications are a great way to re-engage your dormant customers. Push notifications allow companies to boost customer app retention up to 10 times. Push notifications are non-invasive, which won’t make customers feel like they are being forced to do something.

This example of a push notification from popular language app DuoLingo shows how companies can time their push notifications to engage users at the exact right moment.


DuoLingo’s push notification above says “Welcome to France,” and was likely timed to coincide with a user’s change in location.

12. Start Blogging 

Blogging is an effective, yet challenging, marketing tactic. Writing long-form content can be difficult for smaller marketing teams, and some companies are not confident about the content they produce. 

You can always outsource blogging to content specialists who can help shape your message further to maximize returns. According to HubSpot, websites with at least monthly 16 blog posts more than tripled their traffic compared to those that do not.

Marketing Strategies Make a Difference for Mobile Apps

Having a strategy marks the difference between million-dollar apps and unpopular ones. These 12 marketing strategies are easy to implement but don’t limit yourself to these tactics alone. 

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