How to get featured on the App Store?

It’s hard. With more than 1 million apps out there, your app should really stand out. But there are ways to increase your chances.

A feature by Apple may turn your start-up into a well-known and profitable company, so it is wise to at least try to get featured. It gives hundreds of thousands of downloads, loads of press and recognition.

Normally, Apple will reach out saying that you should prepare artwork for the App Store. But don’t be so happy yet, it does not necessarily mean that they are going to feature you as an editor’s choice. By the way, being in the “Best New Apps” is as good as featured on the main banner.

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As you know, Readdle apps were featured many times. Documents got Editor’s choice, Scanner Pro was picked as App of the Week that gave us 5 million downloads, PDF Expert 5 and Calendars 5 are featured in productivity categories. So I am willing to give you a few tips on how to increase your chances.

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1. Create a great app that does one thing.
The philosophy behind Apple’s technology is that it is easy to use and it just works. The same rule applies to apps they want to feature: it should be simple, easy to use, and it should does one particular thing exceptionally.

Example: Scanner Pro – great app that turns an iPhone into a portable scanner. So the user can scan anything into a good-looking PDF file with just 2-3 taps. Of course, Scanner Pro gives additional value to iPhone and iPad as it brings more value to the platform. But I hope you’ve got the idea.

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2. Invest in design and user experience.
Apple, as an innovative platform, is always looking for a great new ways of interacting with their iPhones and iPads. A good design might help you to get noticed. But you should think of design as not just how it looks, but how it performs given tasks and interacts with users.

Clear by RealMacSoftware did a great job by reinventing and innovating touch/swipe UX concept. That was one of the reason why they have been featured by Apple.

 

3. Get noticed by Apple.

Apple review team monitors the market and on a constant look-out for the new gems. So if you are able to make some buzz around your new app – that should definitely help. However, you should keep in mind that Apple is looking for something cool for end users of their devices (a.k.a iPhone / iPad owners), so it’s not about helping small developers to succeed.

The best way to do it is to get some serious press writing about you. It could be done in-house or you could hire a PR guy/ agency. We do it ourselves and I am pretty sure you can do it too. I will write an article on how to get press.

Pro tip: you can go smart about it and do some highly targeted Facebook ads in San Francisco and Cupertino to increase the chances of Apple employees seeing your app.

4. Try to understand Apple’s editorial calendar.
App Store editorial team has its own calendar of holidays, events and seasons, so they feature the apps accordingly. If it’s September – most likely Apple will push their “Back to School campaign” featuring apps for students (to-dos, writing, PDF readers, note-takers, etc). If there’s an important event going on (say, Olympic games) most likely there will be a special feature on that. So try to think a little bit further ahead to guess what are they going to feature and why. According to that you can adjust your marketing strategy to get noticed in the right time.

Tip: usually the review team is picking the apps to feature 2-3 weeks in advance.

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5. Localize.
As you may know, there are a few App Store editorial teams worldwide covering US, Europe, Asia, and BRIC + “developing countries” (as I call them). So if you want a global feature, say Editor’s choice, your app has to be available in various languages. The usual practice is to localize into 9 main languages that covers 90% of the market: English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese and Japanese. Crowdin service worked pretty good for us.

Apple is pushing regional markets and that seems to be working fairly well! The volumes in developing countries have increased dramatically (Russia saw approximately 20x growth of free app downloads over the last two years). So targeting some of those markets might be a good idea, and your app might become a hit there. You never know what’s going to happen (look at Evernote in Japan).

Finally, just create a great app that millions of people will like.
This will most likely grant you a feature by Apple, but at the same time, that’s the hardest thing to do, especially now.

I’d love to hear your stories and suggestions. Were you apps featured? Did you know about that they are going to be featured?

Credit: I was inspired to write this post by my friend and colleague Yulia.

P.S. Having a personal connection with someone at Apple might open many doors too. WWDC is a great event to dive into Apple community. You can meet iTunes team, or Apple evangelists who might further introduce you to App Store editorial team.

How to make the most of conferences and exhibitions?

Before you decide to attend a conference, ask yourself a few questions.

-What do I want to get from the conference?

-What good will it bring for my company?

-Who do I want to meet there and for what reason?

Every conference requires your time, money and efforts. If you think that the possible outcome (a.k.a opportunity) is higher than the cost – go for it. And remember, it’s always up to us if we make it work. So “hustle” is a good term to have in mind when going to a conference.

If you work in the iOS industry I highly recommend attending events like Macworld iWorld, TechCrunch, LeWeb, TNW Conference, MWC, GDC and AppsWorld.

Over the last 3 years I’ve attended more than 20 conferences and exhibitions, so there are a few important lessons I want to share with you.

1. Give before you get.
The first rule of every tech ecosystem sounds “Give before you get”. I personally think that this is a great concept even for conferences and exhibitions. If you are an expert, or have some important data that might be helpful for people out there – don’t be selfish! This tactic will do you good, believe me. First, it’ll bring you credibility which is vital for our business. Second, you will win new friends, that might be helpful in the future. Nowadays, I mostly go to conferences to help other people.

Tip: I usually share marketing techniques, App Store data and trends. Connecting people is also great.

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2. Become a speaker.
You have to stand out from the crowd. One of the best ways to do it is to become a speaker. Not only does it open many doors, but also you will be able to share your knowledge and help others. It does requires time though to prepare a good presentation. But where else would you test your public speech skills and persuasive experience?

The speaker lounges usually are the best places to meet great people. Use this opportunity!

Tip: have a great and entertaining story to tell about your company or product (yes, product placement still works). Mingle with other speakers during the event.

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3. Plan meetings in advance.
Events are great for meetings. Look at MWC for example: 70,000 people from all over the world are coming each year to Barcelona. CEOs, CTOs, management, marketing folks, press and others are in the house! Time to meet clients and close some deals. But be aware, that events like MWC are so huge, that you have to book your meetings in advance, well in advance (I’d say 3-5 weeks).

Tip: if you are looking for press, contact some of your friends who are exhibiting at the event, and kindly ask them for a press list (usually it is handed out to the exhibitors).

4. Leave some time slots open.

Sometimes, spontaneous meetings can be fruitful! So don’t forget to leave a few open slots in your calendar (I hope you use our Calendars 5) to meet people. Last year I spent the whole night before MWC going through the press list. Despite the last minute notice I managed to meet absolutely incredible people from world’s largest magazines and online publications (remember, you have “to hustle” to achieve your goals).

Tip: while meeting new people try to be useful for them in first place. Only after you can ask something in return.

5. Don’t run around and pitch everyone.

One investor got pitched in WC during TechCrunch in San Francisco. He wasn’t very happy about it. Remember, the first impression is vital, and if you really need this person in the future – find a better way to attract his/her attention. Just be creative!

Tip: a friend of mine asked a person he wanted to talk to (say Gary Vaynerchuck) to play rock scissors paper, and if he wins – the person should spend 10 minutes talking to him. 

6. Build long-lasting relations with key people.
This comes as a result of a successful people approach (see #1).
Depending on the nature of your business and your goals at the event, you have to have various strategies on how to approach people. It is absolutely up to you (and your personality) to decide how you are going to do it: be fun, freaky, geeky, intelligent, interesting to have a conversation with. Soft skills is the key here. Don’t expect instant returns though. It takes time and effort.

Tip: we are all people in the end, so don’t be an asshole. Then your chances of maintaining this important relationship is higher.

7. Party, but not too hard.

Parties can’t be missed if you want to chat with people in a relaxed atmosphere. Sometimes you chat with complete strangers and find out that they are the people you’ve been looking for. Sometimes, it’s a waste of time. Make sure you chose the right party to attend. Private/ invite-only parties usually have great crowd to hang out with.

Tip: one thing I learned is that you can take full advantage of open bars only during your last night out. Otherwise, you wan’t make a good impression on people being hangover, if you drink too much at the first day of the conference. (This is how crazy IT party looks like – see below).

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Overall, I feel that attending these events has helped me to build great relationships with key people in the industry and learn more. Sometimes, however, it’s better to stay at home and get your work done if you have tight deadlines. The bottom line is, if you have something cool to share with the world – just do it.

I am happy to share more with you, so ask me anything in the comments below.