How My iPad App Remembary Took Off
Mar 07, 2011 10:07

Stuck At the Bottom

Back in January, I gave a talk at PodCamp Halifax about what I learned in building and promoting my app Remembary: The Connected Diary for Your iPad. The tone of the talk was positive, but a bit resigned, since I hadn't been able to figure out a way to get much attention and thus sales for Remembary.

I had tried all sorts of promotional strategies, from Google and Facebook AdWords to sponsorships to handing out promotional cards to everyone I met with an iPad. But from what I had read, I gathered that the biggest boost to your app is to get featured in the App Store. To get featured, though, you need to be remarkable somehow - and usually this comes from getting a good review from one of the big App Review sites. Of course, even a bad review from one of these sites would at least bring attention to the app. So I sent out emails with promo codes to several sites - the digital equivalent to cold-calling - but never heard anything back.

Small Pushes: Comments

If I couldn't get direct attention from a site, I tried at least mentioning Remembary in article comments - but only where it was appropriate. It's important (and tricky) to be persistent in getting the word out while not descending into spam. The key is to always be aware of the context. For example, when TechCrunch raved about Momento, a somewhat similar app that is iPhone-only, a lot of the comments complained that there was no iPad version - so I added a comment describing Remembary and added a link - it was pertinent to the discussion, and potentially useful to people reading the article.

From the analytics at www.remembary.com, I noticed a few hits a day coming from that TechCrunch article - and these were likely good leads, since they were from people who were already interested in diary apps and who had read quite a ways down in the comments.

So I decided to try adding comments to other similar sites.

The Perfect Target

One of the results that came up early in many of the searches for diary and journal apps was Amazing iPad Journal Apps on AppAdvice.com. In this article, Bryan Wolfe reviews three of the leading iPad diary apps - apps I had looked at longingly as they floated far above Remembary in the rankings and search results: My Own Diary HD, iJournaler, and Maxjournal for iPad.

The thing that struck me as I read through his reviews was that whenever he explained his preferences, he practically described Remembary. Here's his introduction:

My criteria in selecting a journal app was as follows: I needed to be able to export the data to another source and password its contents. In addition, I wanted an app that looked very similar to an actual journal right down to its crisp looking pages and well-worn backing. Since I like the look of leather on journals, having that look is certainly a plus. Finally, the app should have a nice search feature so I can retrieve my past journal entries.
Export to text? Check. Password? Check. Search? Check. Looking like a real journal? The most recent release included several new themes, such as:

Leather cover? Coincidentally, I had just spent a lot of time and energy putting together a textured leather cover with a very nice 'slide open' visual effect:

It was a no-brainer, then, to put in a comment about Remembary.

A few hours after I submitted that comment, I got an email from the author asking for a promo code for Remembary. I sent him one, and figured I might hear from him in a few days. I went back to my client work for the afternoon and then went to The Economy Shoe Shop Cafe for dinner and drinks with friends. When I finally checked my email that evening I noticed several messages from the Remembary support form - much more than usual. I was tired (and I had had a few drinks) so I decided I would look at everything tomorrow, and went to bed. The next morning, I checked the site stats and discovered a lot of hits coming from AppAdvice.com, and after a bit of searching found Remembary is a Great iPad Journal App.

Oh, my.

The Great Review

The review was above and beyond what I expected. It started with a description of buying gorgeous leather-bound journals in Rome, and then went on to describe Momento, finishing the introduction with:

Unfortunately, [Momento] isn't universal, nor have its creators offered an iPad version.

However, all is not lost.

Remembary, by Shindig Digital Constructions Inc., is a new app that is every bit as good as Momento, but one created exclusively for the iPad.

I had been admiring (and was a bit jealous of) Momento for a long time - so that last line almost knocked me over.

It turns out that AppAdvice.com is one of the most popular app review sites out there - and I had just tagged a rave review. When the sales chart came out later that morning, it looked like a giant cliff, or the track of a rocket launching into space.

Lucky?

So, after months of trying all sorts of promotional tactics, all it took to finally launch Remembary was ten minutes of writing a blog comment, and a five minute response email.

Of course, it's more than that: if I hadn't built up the habit of writing comments and sending out emails, this opportunity would never have come up.

It's obvious that this whole success involved a lot of luck. I can't deny that. However, this experience has reinforced what I've long believed about luck: There's lots of luck out there - but if you're not trying (and failing) a lot, you're not going to find it. Also, you have to be able to recognize luck when you find it, and follow up on it effectively.

Lessons

Here's what I think I learned from this:

  • App Review sites seem to be a key for app store success

  • If you can't get direct attention from a site, you can at least build some presence with comments - but don't be a jerk about it.

  • Never give up in your promotional efforts. I try to do at least one thing to promote Remembary every day. Most of the time (even now) not a lot comes from it, but every so often something does.

  • Having a strong vision of your app and what it's about not only helps focus your development efforts, but it can help you recognize a good promotional opportunity when it shows up.

So what happened next? That's in my next post.

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