Mobile app marketing traps SMEs need to avoid


Marketing is absolutely critical to the success of any commercial enterprise, but it’s not always obvious what a business’s best marketing move will be. In the case of businesses with mobile apps or mobile websites, the ‘rules’ of marketing can seem hazy, leading some to fall into common marketing traps. 

Although they’re common, these traps aren’t widely spoken about. Quite often they’ll only become apparent once the damage has been done.

The next time your gut tells you you’re about to make the wrong decision, watch for signs of these mobile app marketing traps:

1. Listening to everyone

I find that this can be a hard one for SMEs and new businesses to take on board.

As a young business, it’s understandable that you want feedback and to cover all your bases.

If you’re after free marketing advice, don’t worry, you’ll be able to find it. EVERYONE has an opinion on what you should and shouldn’t do with your business.

The hard part is knowing which advice to follow, because you’ll be on the receiving end of conflicting views being hurdled at you from all angles!

Spend time devising a really thorough strategy. This will likely take a few months, and cost you a few thousand dollars in market research and consulting fees plus your own time.

Then, STICK TO THE STRATEGY.

Most of the time success is not achieved by listening to everyone’s advice, but rather accomplishing the outcome of one strategy.

However, after you’ve accomplished that outcome, don’t be afraid to pivot your strategy or your product – All the greats do!  Take Pinterest, which began as Tote, a mobile shopping app where users could browse and shop their favourite retailers and share products with friends. Or YouTube, which began as a video dating site.

2. Trying to be everywhere online

Don’t try and have a presence on every single online channel, you’ll end up spreading your marketing investment too thin and getting a fragmented user base.

Your dollar is much better spent targeting a concentrated group of people who are actually likely to become active users.

Never lose sight of who you are serving.

Do you really need an Instagram account if your target audience are corporate executives? Do you need to jump on the bandwagon and start a blog about your start-up journey? If your audience are also entrepreneurs, go for it. If not, you’re unlikely to get downloads from it.

In early stage marketing, you’re trying to keep your costs low and your audience hyper-targeted.

Only once you’re profitable should you experiment with different messages for different potential segments. This is part of your expansion strategy (phase 3 of the new business lifecycle).

Until then, keep your overheads low with messages that convert your core target user – these are your money makers!

3. Not hustling hard enough

New businesses frequently underestimate the impact that building relationships will have on their growth opportunities.

Attend Meetups, events, make contacts, and ask for introductions to people who you can see a value in getting to know.

This is a hugely under-emphasised acquisition strategy for getting your first customers.

Collecting business cards was the old-fashioned way of building your pre-launch database, before we had landing pages…

Bonus: You can also hustle online.

LinkedIn is a great tool for connecting with other business people, mentors, potential partners, and freelancers you may want to hire.

There are also tons of Facebook groups and online clubs for entrepreneurs you can get around.

These types of communities can be really valuable for getting fast feedback on your website design, how you’ve packaged your product/service…and so on!

4. Going full ‘stealth’ mode

Personally, I don’t think you risk anything by sharing your idea.

“There is no shortage of remarkable ideas, what’s missing is the will to execute them” (Seth Godin)

However, I understand why some people are more tight-lipped than others, especially if you’re in a small industry where everyone talks.

However, you stand to lose a lot in the way of feedback from:

  • Valuable contacts and connectors
  • Investors who regularly fund ideas in your niche
  • Seasoned entrepreneurs who can warn you about potential flaws in your business model.
  • Mentors

Even if you’re working on top-secret, absolutely groundbreaking stuff, you should be prepared to disclose:

  • Your target audience
  • Your industry
  • The gap in the market (or the customer problem) that your app solves

This could sound like: “We’re working on creating a digital solution for PAs and EAs to easily manage the conflicting appointments of multiple team members.”

In that sentence you won’t have revealed any IP.

You haven’t even said what your solution is, let alone gone into detail about the key features/functions of your app.

What you have revealed is a level of information that will let you cash in on opportunities.

5. Focusing on marketing over product.

That’s right, your product is more important than your marketing, especially in the early stages.

Your aim right now is to get just enough people through the front door to validate if this product is even WORTH spending money on marketing!

To do this, you need to be spending the majority of your time and money on the product itself.

This means not skimping on things like:

  • UX
  • Logos and design collateral
  • Performance testing
  • Ongoing maintenance and updates

You’re highly unlikely to make any ROI on your marketing immediately.

Think of the goal of marketing less as ‘getting money back for reinvesting’ and more as ‘investing money in order to learn from it’.

This brings me to the final trap…

6. Not collecting enough data

You can track almost every action customers are taking in your app, and what interactions people are having with your brand online.

This is enormously valuable data that a lot of new businesses don’t bother collecting.

It’ll show you where your marketing budget is best spent, and uncover places where it can be tightened up.

Yes, data can be overwhelming to sift through (a lot of it is just ‘nice to have’ and doesn’t offer any real value).

The secret is to go into it with questions and goals – you’ll find the gold among the dirt.

The bottom line

Mobile app marketing doesn’t have to be rocket science for new businesses.

It’s all about identifying the goal of each and every marketing activity, and keeping your ear to the ground so you can jump on opportunities fast.


About the author

LoganLogan Merrick is  co-founder and director of Buzinga App Development, an Australian app development and innovation consultancy. Alongside Buzinga co-founder, Graham McCorkill, Logan has led the company from a two-man startup to an award-winning business in just three years. He previously wrote Content marketing and remarketing: two useful processes, demystified for start-ups and Five metrics for businesses to effectively measure and build on their app’s success for Dynamic Business.