Paid vs. Organic growth: What should mobile developers focus on first?

It seems like paid growth (i.e. app install ads) is getting more and more expensive every day but it’s unlikely that new users will discover my app without paid ads. Any thoughts?

Branch — Sales
1 Answer(s)
Answered on May 5, 2016.

Ideally, you would be able to grow your app purely through organic means (e.g., referrals, emails, converted traffic from your website, etc.). However, most new apps don’t have this luxury and so will need to spend money to acquire users.

I would strongly encourage starting with a small amount of highly targeted paid marketing. One strategy is to pay for app install ads in regions where ranking highly on “Most Downloaded,” “Trending,” “Top Charts,” or “Hot Right Now” lists is cheap. This initial traction should lead to further users, catalyzing a virtuous cycle of app downloads.

As your app gains notoriety, you should have the ability to mine your current users for referrals, high app store placement / ASO, etc. This organic growth will never be a full replacement for paid ads, but it should buy you enough time to figure out which paid ads and channels perform the best relative to the dollars you’re spending.

Note: the above is targeted primarily at app-first properties. If you have a mobile website, that’s a great place to acquire new users! Web-to-app smart banners, interstitials, and links can drive significant numbers of users straight to your app.