Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Release Notes conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. Over the course of 3 days I had amazing discussions with developers from all over the world. We talked about everything from app pricing, to issues with App Store review policies, and even how to better market apps in such a saturated market. Since I’m on the other side of the fence, this was the number one question I was asked:
What kinds of app pitch will actually get your attention?
That question was followed with frustration. Over and over developers shared stories about sending app pitches that resulted in no response and little to no coverage — or the coverage they received rarely translated into actual app sales.
While I have no idea what other sites do in terms of app coverage and how they decide which apps to cover, I can tell you what kinds of emails and marketing have caught my attention in almost 6 years of covering apps both here and for iMore. I can also share some tips to help you tailor coverage so you always remember to keep your app’s best interests in mind:
Provide a direct link to your app, and make it obvious
Anyone who reviews apps gets inundated with app pitches on a regular basis. I start each morning out by triaging email. I end most evenings the same way.
I can’t count the number of times I receive app pitches that contain no link to the actual app. When it comes to getting through app pitches, my time is valuable. I don’t want to go digging through the App Store to find your app. If you didn’t care enough to at least include a link to your app, I’m probably going to swipe you right through to trash.
If I see an iTunes link, I’m going to tap it. If your app piques my interest, I’m going to download it to my Home screen. You have now greatly increased the chances that I’m going to consider your app for coverage, just by providing an obvious iTunes link. Nothing more.
Writing app pitches: Walls of text give me anxiety
I’m being serious. I don’t want to read an entire wall of text. Summaries are great, bullet points are even better. Actually, here is my ideal format when it comes to receiving app pitches:
- A sentence or two about your app and why it deserves coverage – provide a direct link to your app either right at the top or under the summary
- A few bullet points explaining the key features (preferably ones that make it stand out from the competition)
- Any other links you find important (links to your website, promo videos, etc)
- A few screenshots – Ideally, create a single attachment with 2-3 screenshots lined up side by side that show off unique features of your app visually
- Any additional assets or materials are great, but put them in a Dropbox folder and give me a single link
The email to the right is a perfect example of a well-written app pitch that gives me the information I need at a glance. This developer could have added screenshots but since they included a link to a press kit, it isn’t really necessary.
Simple, to the point, and easy to follow.
Know who you’re connecting with
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve opened emails that were addressed to someone different than me. The worst? When someone doesn’t use the BCC field and I have to scroll through a list of 500 emails before I even get to the message.
Instant trash. Do not pass go, do not collect coverage.
I’ve already received many pitches that begin with “I love reading all the app reviews on The App Factor.” Really? Because we don’t write standard reviews and you’ll be hard pressed to find a single one. That tells me that you have no idea who we are as a site. Not a good start.
While it’s impossible for any developer to have a contact or keep up with who is writing for what sites nowadays, social networks have made it a lot easier to build relationships. This can help you tailor an app pitch to a specific person’s usage habits.
I’m not saying you have to understand each and every site’s coverage goals, that’d be impossible. What I am saying is making it personal greatly boosts your chances of coverage. I’ve had a few developers email me and offer up great user tips that show their app has something valuable to offer. That immediately puts them on our radar since we’re a site that puts tips and tricks before any other kind of coverage. It also shows me that they bothered to take the time to understand our coverage style before reaching out.
When I was at iMore, many developers would email me about productivity (and Harry Potter) apps, Rene about comic book apps, and Serenity about sketching or music apps. Getting to know the people behind a publication not only makes them feel good about the work they do, it ensures that your app will end up in front of someone that actually appreciates and understands what you’re trying to accomplish.
Who you target will greatly affect the type of coverage you end up getting. Get to know people, not necessarily publications.
The few or the many?
Building good relationships with a few select sites may end up serving you better over the long-term. Think about the sites you read every day. Which ones influence your purchase decisions when it comes to apps, services, and accessories? What about these sites makes you commit to a purchase? More importantly, is their main audience in alignment with yours?
If not, move on to a different site that would serve you better.
If I were an app developer working on a killer productivity app, a few sites that come to mind are MacStories, The Sweet Setup, and Six Colors. These are all sites that seem to do a fair bit of in-depth coverage on productivity apps and that’s because the people writing for these sites actually use those kinds of apps.
Don’t underestimate how important personal interests are to the coverage of your app.
When is the right time to follow up?
There are many things that can influence your desire or need to follow up with a specific site. Perhaps a lot of time has gone by (at least a week or more), or maybe your app just became available and you want to remind them of that.
A lot of this goes back to knowing your audience. If the site you’re following up with does a lot of app news and announcements, by all means follow up when your app goes live. For sites like ours, we don’t cover general app announcements so that’s not a determining factor for us in coverage.
If there’s a legitimate reason for you to follow up, do it. If I could give one suggestion, it would be to wait until you have something else to say. Perhaps you’ve added a feature or improved something. You now have a reason to follow up, which looks far less pushy than just saying “Hey, I never heard anything back or saw my app on your site.”
Don’t use beta access just to get media coverage
I see too many developers giving up beta test slots in hopes of getting media coverage. Please don’t do that.
I don’t have enough time in the day to test every single app that offers me beta access. This is why I turn down many invites and only accept the ones that I have honest intentions of actually testing and providing feedback for. I can’t say the same for everyone else.
That doesn’t mean people in the media don’t make good beta testers. It just means you should be selective about who you give access to. For example, I love productivity apps. I’m more likely to provide you valuable feedback for the types of apps that actually interest me. If you’re developing a game, I’m sorry but I’ll be no use to you in terms of feedback.
Just like you should pick your media coverage carefully as I mentioned above, you should target beta testers in the same way. Michael Simmons is a perfect example of a developer who takes beta testing seriously. The beta for Fantastical is not easy to get into, and if you aren’t providing Flexibits with actual feedback, you’ll most likely get removed, regardless of who you are.
Ironically, Flexibits gets some of the best media coverage out there. That’s because they put their product first and everything else is secondary. If you build an amazing app and focus on making it the best it can be, it’s a much easier sell.
Ask for (and humbly accept) honest feedback
Is there anything I can do that would make my app better?
Your app will not be a perfect fit for every site. Instead of cutting ties when you get turned down for coverage, proactively ask for feedback instead. I have great relationships with many developers that I denied coverage to the first time around.
Just because I didn’t cover your app this time, doesn’t mean there can’t be a next time.
Learn from other developers
There are tons of resources out there, many of which are written by actual developers who know better than me the struggles of getting great app coverage. Here is one of my favorites by Jeremy Olson, creator of Hours:
And Jeremy has even more valuable tips on successfully marketing an app on the Tapity blog.
If you’re a developer and want to share thoughts on marketing and pitching apps more effectively, we’d love to hear from you. Either drop us a line in the comments, or if you’re interested in writing a guest piece, you can email us.