Selling Backwards...Turning An App Dud Into A Stud

Posted on Friday July 19, 2013

So you made your first App. Congrats.

All of your friends and family purchased the App? Sweet.

One day passes, two days pass, a week, a month and very little sales or traction? Yup, we’ve all been there.

In this post, I want to show you a strategy I came up with that helped me turn an App that had less than 50 sales into a Top 200 selling App.

A Little Back Story

In March of this year (2013), I launched BabyMe Slideshow to the world, you can read more about that adventure here. The launch was a lot of fun. While I had sent a few Apps to the store for other people, it was my first personal App release.

When the App launched, I was extremely excited and ready to see the $$$ roll in. My family, friends and some strangers in Korea purchased on launch but after a few days, I started to realize this App thing was not as easy as I thought it may have been. A few months passed, I started to work on my next App and I figured I would chalk BabyMe Slideshow as my first volley into this area and be okay with its lack of success.

Then it hit me….maybe there is a different way to sell this App? Surely there’s a way in a sea of hundreds of thousands of Apps to make yours get noticed? Right?

The Strategy

I remembered awhile back that my wife told me about this site that lists Apps that have “gone free”. The concept of the site is to track Apps that went from paid to free and alert people of its availability. In my head, I pictured that scene from Finding Nemo where the birds see the fish on the dock and start saying “Mine, Mine, Mine”. People were waiting to pounce on Apps that they once thought of purchasing or would give a look if only they were free.

With this knowledge in hand here’s what I decided to do:

  • Make BabyMe Slideshow Free

  • Once a lot of people downloaded the App for Free, use their enjoyment of the App as free Advertising

  • Make BabyMe Slideshow Paid again.

The Stats

In March of 2013, I sold 35 copies of BabyMe Slideshow and in April, I sold 1 copy. In late May, I deployed the above strategy and soon BabyMe Slideshow racked up thousands of downloads. I made an iPad version which I also gave away for free. After a month of free downloads and the “hook” was set, I flipped the switch back to paid in July.

Did it work? Did my strategy pay off? Well I already spilled the beans and the answer is yes it did. BabyMe Slideshow soon sprang up to the top 200 in Kids/Family Games.

What happened? How did it work?

Some Reflections

My hope in deploying this strategy was that by giving it away for free to several thousands of people that they would love my App. They would love it so much that they would also tell their friends. And their friends would tell their friends and soon BabyMe Slideshow would be a goto parenting App.

Once I flipped the switch to Paid, I also hoped that this sharing between friends would continue and while some people would have received the App for free, they would encourage their friends to download the App because it is “totally” worth 99 cents.

So that’s my theory and I think it worked. I think enough people found value in the App that they told their friends and even thought it is Paid now, they are okay with plopping down 99 cents for it.

The big question is will it work for others? I think it just might. If you have an App that is underperforming, try making it free for a few months and then turn it back to Paid again. Perhaps all of those people who grab your App for free will tell their friends and when you switch it back to Paid they will be okay paying for the App because of the recommendation.

I am a big fan of charing money for things you feel are worth it, I charge $7.99 and $9.99 for Gitty and I feel it is worth every penny. In the App world we live in today, it is very hard to make any money when everything is free. It is even harder to get your App noticed. Instead of using advertising or sacrificing your vision, try my strategy and let me know if it works for you like it did for me.