Never underestimate: A great case how PDF Converter reached the top of the App Store.

Here’s an interesting story how PDF Converter, one of our apps largely underrated by us, got to the top of the App Store worldwide.

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PDF Converter was originally released as an iPad app in 2011. It got quite a good coverage in press and media, with a good feedback from the users. The app itself does what it supposed to do – converts any file into a good looking PDF. (Tip: it’s much easier to market and sell products that do just one thing).

Truth be told, after the launch we never put too much effort into PDF Converter, however we did release a few upgrades with amazing iOS 8 features. There was always something preventing us from making it universal – flagship apps got all the love, huge updates for PDF Expert 5, release of PDF Office and so on. Nevertheless, recently we’ve got our hands on PDF Converter to make it a universal app. The new version had a slightly revamped interface, a few new features, improved stability and, most importantly, it became universal (available for iPhones).

It got a quick approval on iTunes Connect and I was about to hit “Release” button, we didn’t want to make it a “big” release with all the marketing activities at first, because  the campaign for newly released PDF Office was in full swing. However, I decided to wait and release it the week after, so we can prepare for a proper launch.

The marketing campaign for this launch was quite standard: e-mail newsletters to our subscribers, press and media coverage, social networks and blog. I already wrote how to do a great launch. We also decided to do a limited 50% price drop campaign to get more volume, which  helped us to reach the top charts (the regular price is $6.99).

Surprisingly for all of us, the results next day were outstanding! I woke up to check the charts and found that PDF Converter became absolute #1 business app almost in every country on both iPhone and iPad. We sold more than 6,400 copies that day. It was picked up and welcomed by the press all over the world . What’s more, is that our e-mail newsletter did show the best conversion rates. There was a waterfall effect all over.

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Trying to analyze what happened and why, I draw a few important lessons and conclusions.

1. Never underestimate products in your portfolio. Sometimes you are just not doing enough to make some of your apps/ products/ services successful.
2. If you are multi-product company, do not focus solely on your flagships. Sometimes, making 20% of efforts might bring you nice financial return, halo effect and good karma.
3. It is much easier to market “simple products”. While it’s obvious for many of us, sometimes developers struggle to explain what their app does in a few words. Keep it simple. You’ll see the benefits of it right away.
4. Give love to your existing users. They are your best bet while introducing new products. This group of loyal customers will more likely to buy new stuff from your. So work on their retention, suggestions and always listen to their feedback – this is how you earn loyalty. When your release a universal version, notify your existing users that they can get a freebie on their iPhones – they’ll be thrilled.
5. E-mail marketing works! I told this already, but once again, e-mail marketing is more than alive. You just have to be smart about it: localize your e-mails, craft different message for different audiences, send it first thing in the morning for various time zones.
6. Press is still powerful. I love working with press. Get in their shoes and understand what they are looking for. Craft your message accordingly and reach out when it’s time. Press has always been a great channel for us, since we don’t use paid user acquisition (a.k.a. advertising) at all. So press would be your best bet for organic traffic of early adopters. (Tip: make sure you have a great service or product, before showing it to public).
7. iPhone market is much bigger than the iPad one. If you have an iPad only app, consider making it universal. You will be surprised how many more potential customers your’ll reach.
8. Take advantage of bundles. Get additional exposure and up-sales by creating bundles with the existing apps. PDF Converter goes well with PDF Expert 5, so it make total sense to create a PDF bundle, where people can convert files into PDFs in PDF Converter and then edit/ sigh/ annotate them in PDF Expert 5. Tip: this will also increase your chances to be higher in the App Store search results.

This case basically indicates that you should always improve your product and let the world know about it. If it is good – the results will pay off.

**Bonus**: Statistics on the app download numbers.
You know that I like sharing numbers. Here’s the most recent numbers of app downloads you need to reach certain positions of paid app charts in different countries. Numbers with “#” indicate rank in business category, and numbers in “()” show absolute rank in this country.

US #1 (23) – 2919
Canada #1 (16) – 284
Germany #1 (12) – 711
France #1 (10) – 202
Spain #1 (5) – 172
Italy #1 (1) – 328
Brazil #1 (4) – 378
UK #1 (31) – 273
Russia #1 (19) – 187

Interesting, that German market is almost 4 times bigger than in France. At the same time, Spain is twice as small compared to Brazil. Almost 3,000 app downloads will grant you top 20 in the US, while only 330 people have to buy your app in Italy to make it #1.

If you have any comments and questions, I’ll be happy to answer them below.