With more than a decade of digital media experience, I’ve seen plenty of bad ideas posing as innovation. For example, a few weeks ago I noticed a QR code that was incorporated into a mobile display ad. I stared quizzically at the screen on my mobile device and thought: How the heck am I going to take an image of that QR code when my camera is on the opposite side of the screen?
It’s baffling to me how someone could think that was a good idea. Not all such efforts are as obviously laughable. For years now, marketers have spent countless dollars and man-hours urging consumers to download mobile apps using solely mobile display ads. Think about it: How often have you seen an ad encouraging you to “DownloadMobile App Now”?
Now ask yourself how often you’ve actually clicked on the ad and rushed to download that app. Not often, right?
The reason mobile display ads don’t work at the top of the marketing funnel is because they don’t give consumers any indication of the app’s value-add. Your iPhone is already cluttered with dozens of other apps, so why should you respond to a display ad that doesn’t provide any insight into the benefit of adding this particular app?
According to recent study from mobile ad network xAd, click-through rates for typical mobile display ads are only 0.6%. A 2011 MediaMind study tells a similar story, revealing that click-through rates for mobile ads on iPhone are 0.37% (higher than any other smartphone, if you can believe it). With these numbers, it’s clear that consumers have responded to mobile marketing by simply not responding. So if mobile marketing doesn’t work, what are the alternatives for those of us tasked with driving mobile app downloads?
Believe it or not –a comprehensive content marketing program that is driven by earned media is a powerful, but often-overlooked strategy for driving mobile app downloads. Instead of largely ineffective mobile ads, why not let your app’s fans – particularly those in media – do the talking?
Here’s a three-step approach to get you started:
1) Get your app in front of the media
This may sound daunting, but there is an entire segment of media – from tech writers to mommy bloggers – dedicated to rating and reviewing mobile apps of all kinds. And if you have a great product, it’s just a matter of finding the right audience for it. If you don’t have a dedicated PR team, you’ll need to do your homework to figure out which outlets to send your app to. A service like TestFlight makes it super simple to send apps that are still in beta or aren’t yet available for download (and ideally, you should be pitching your app to media before it launches).
Once a review is published, it becomes a valuable piece of evergreen content. And perhaps best of all, positive earned media will ultimately be more reliable to consumers than any ad copy your creative minds can conceive.
2) Put your earned media front and center
After you’ve received a positive review from a reputable media outlet or blogger, utilize this asset and make sure to drive as many people as possible to it. You’ll get some traffic from search and social shares, but you probably also need to help people to discover those reviews. Sending traffic to these reviews via a content recommendation platform can help you get your earned media in front of readers when they’re already in content consumption mode.
3) Use mobile display ads to seal the deal
When awareness for your app has reached its pinnacle, your display ad can go from a nuisance to a value-add. Reminding consumers to download an app after they’ve read a positive review will save them the time of having going to the app store to search for it. Be sure to stay away from generic copy like: “DownloadMobile App Now.” Fine-tune your messaging by citing a sentence from earned media that explains the value and capabilities of the app. Place your logo next to the quote and consumers will intrinsically understand that the next action is a click-to-download. By leveraging the earned media in your display ad, you’ve given consumers a clear window into value they’re going to get out of downloading the app.
Companies that employ content marketing and earned media as the foundation of their campaigns are witnessing double digit (!) conversion rates. Marketers must test all mediums to assess what’s right for them, but rarely will running a mobile display ad campaign without first making sure people know your true value-add be enough to drive the results you need.
Gilad de Vries is vice president, brands and agencies, at Outbrain, a content discovery and amplification platform. Previously, he was Principal and VP of Digital Media at Carmel Ventures, a venture capital firm. Follow him on Twitter at@giladdevries.
Photo via TheMacGirl/Flickr