The big day is nearly here, the launch of the app that’s possessed you and your team for the past however-many-months. All the hard work is done (or so you think), the app has been approved, and you’re ready to go live on the App Store. But are you really ready for launch?
Before the App Store came along, everything was simple (well, simpler). You had the app ready, you built the website, you wrote the press release and you really could get everything ready to launch behind a single button press. But today that’s just not feasible.
We’ve done our fair share of launches, and obviously seen a lot of other apps launch, so today I thought I’d offer some tips to help you make your launches as manageable and successful as possible.
1. Build a playbook
Make notes about the factors that affect your launch plans, and be disciplined about observing them. Remembering that screenshots can’t be changed after an app enters review - but copy can, allows you to prioritise and plan things like App Store copy translation.
Work backwards from the planned launch date. Allow a week for seeding to the press (more on this in a moment) and translation of your App Store copy. Allow up to a week before submission for any screenshots that need localising to be translated. All these factors may sound like an incredible amount of effort to go to, but if you’re aiming for a big launch you’ll need to be organised.
2. Know the difference between Updates and New Apps
I’d compare this one to setting up an entirely new Xcode project: you know what to do, but if you’re a small team and not creating new projects every week, the subtleties are easily forgotten.
- There’s no “Release This Version” button, you’re working on availability date.
- You can however generate Promo Codes for an approved but not-yet-available app. So aim to get approved at least a week before you want to launch and issue the Promo Codes for 1.0 to the media before you launch.
- Of course, you should also make sure that 1.0.1 is submitted before or at launch so that if you run out of Promo Codes, you’ll get another 50 promptly after launch - and keep a waiting list of Promo Code requests!
To keep track of our Promo Codes, we use Tokens. If you’re not using it, you should be.
3. Don’t use the automated (date-based) rollout
If you’re launching a new app, setting a launch date ahead of time via iTunes Connect’s availability feature can be tempting. But if you’re going to maximise the PR efforts for your app, you really shouldn’t be using it. We’ve found the experience to be massively frustrating for customers - seeing the app live in New Zealand, over 12 hours before it’s available in their territory is a wasted marketing opportunity.
Speaking of which…
4. Do work with the media, and have a go-live time
Whilst some sections of the media may dislike embargoes, ultimately knowing when your app is going to be available is an important piece of information. It allows your contacts in the media to place any coverage in a suitable window in the outlet’s schedule.
(For bonus points: know where writers are based, and tailor their emails with the embargo time in their appropriate timezone.)
5. Ensure your app is available when the embargo drops
How often have you read the tech press write “The app is propagating to the App Store now”? If you’re like me, the answer is “too many times”. Be bold, and put the people who’ll want to buy your app ahead of the embargo. Plan ahead and make sure that when the window of exposure comes around your app is live and ready. The last thing you want is a large amount of traffic bound for your App Store page, without the app actually being available. We explain to contacts in the media that the app may be live shortly before the embargo time to ensure it’s available for their readers. Our experiences with timings for the App Store:
This may mean hitting “Release This Version” in iTunes Connect an hour or so before you want to go live.
This may mean changing the availability date from “Any Date in the Future” to “Today” somewhere around 2-3 hours before launch. Don’t be worried if you’re not showing up in App Store search: we’ve seen the App Store search index take up to 5 hours to reflect a new app.
There’s a lot more small details that we fuss about in our launches, but hopefully these five tips will help you be more disciplined and ultimately better-covered by the media when you launch your apps. If there’s anything you’ve learnt through launching your apps, I’d love to hear about it on Twitter!