033 APPetite App Marketing podcast – Greg Hickman interview

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Full text transcript of podcast interview below.

The 33rd episode of the APPetite App Marketing podcast features an interview with mobile marketing expert Greg Hickman. Greg is the host of the Mobile Mixed podcast – a podcast I strongly recommend. In this interview, Greg shares mobile marketing tactics and strategies that app developers can use to drive app downloads and create engaged app users.

Greg Hickman

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If you haven’t listened to the APPetite PR App Marketing podcast before, check out these earlier interviews:

Interview with Aron Aharonoff of GreatApps.com.

Interview with Molecube about their app marketing experiment.

Interview with Jeff Hughes, author of Android Apps Marketing, Secrets To Selling Your Android App.

Interview with Glenn Kiladis, GM of Free My Apps at Fiksu

Interview with Mark Grossnickle, CEO of Kihon Games

Interview with Nick Foster of Adrenaline Punch

Interview with Jacob Stevens, co-developer of Pizza Vs. Skeletons

Full text transcript of Episode 33 of the APPetite App Marketing podcast – Greg Hickman interview:

Jeff Rutherford: Welcome to the 33rd episode of the APPetite App Marketing Podcast. I’m your host, Jeff Rutherford. Stay tuned for my interview with Greg Hickman. Greg is the host of the Mobile Mixed Podcast. He’s going to talk about a wide range of mobile marketing tactics and strategies to help you drive downloads and market your own app. Stay tuned for the interview.

Jeff: Welcome back to the APPetite App Marketing podcast. My guest today is Greg Hickman, the host of the Mobile Mixed podcast. Greg is also the mobile marketing manager at Cabela’s, the retailer. Greg, welcome to the podcast.

Greg Hickman: Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.

Jeff: Sure. First, I just wanted to let my audience know that they should definitely go out and check out your podcast, Mobile Mixed. There’s a lot of great info there. They should take a look at it, download it, listen to it. Not everything will apply specifically to app marketing, but I think they’ll learn a lot, so I just wanted to throw that out there.

Greg: [laughs] Thanks, I appreciate it.

Jeff: I wanted to just start off and get a little bit about who you are, just your personal background and how you got into mobile marketing.

Greg: Sure. After graduating college, I got started working at a marketing agency in Connecticut that represented Pepsi and Unilever, very full service agency, doing everything from TV to radio, print, online, and my boss had actually left and went to a small promotional company that was focused on mobile.
This was in 2005 at the time. It seemed really interesting to me, so I chose to take a new opportunity and we were doing a lot of mobile promotions for professional sports teams like the New York Jets, the Florida Marlins, Carolina Panthers, as well as AT&T, promoting a lot of their third party content providers such as like Sony Pictures and EA Games.

You need to remember that at this time, there was no iPhones, so a lot of the marketing was definitely text message marketing based and how that tied to in person live events and also other online initiatives, was there for a handful of years and really just fell in love with mobile and believe that it was going to “the next thing” and really a great marketing vehicle to connect with an audience and customers.

From there, it had gone on to do some consulting, started my own text message marketing company, and then worked with a network of 300 shopping centers across the United States, implementing mobile marketing programs for them. Around that time, just it is, was 2008 or so, then do that for a handful of years and along that time, last year, we’re talking right now in July of 2013.

About June of 2012, I started Mobile Mixed, which was really just started off as a mission for me to connect with other people that I thought were doing really cool things in Mobile. It started off as this interview based show, and then it started adding blog content, editorial content, and really just started training people on how to be a better mobile marketer based off of my experience and the experiences of those that I’ve been interviewing.

It’s really just evolved. The site and podcast are taking off, and I’m super excited about those. Those actually led me into working with Cabela’s as well. I lead the mobile marketing strategy for Cabela’s which, as you mentioned, is a very large retailer in the hunting, camping, and fishing space.

All things mobile for them, I am kind of leading a team in an effort to make them more mobile.

Jeff: One of the things I’ve noticed with your podcast is that, recently, you’ve created some very specific niche content, an episode is directed at very specific businesses, like one that comes to mind is you did one, if I’m not mistaken, hair salons and how they could use mobile marketing.

Not necessarily for game developers who are listening to this, but definitely, developers of productivity apps, I think that the strategy that you did could be a good strategy. One thing that comes to mind that I’m familiar with is the company Evernote, which a lot of people are familiar with, they do a ton of blog content where they have what they refer to as Evernote ambassadors, where they’ll do blog things such as how to plan a vacation using Evernote or how to be a better parent using Evernote, et cetera.

I just wanted to talk about that for a moment in terms of your old decision and wondered how did you decide to create those specific niche episodes, and what has the response been?

Greg: That’s a great question. Basically, as I was building my audience in the blog and podcast, I get a lot of people that would essentially reach out to me and say, “Hey, this is my type of business. How can I use mobile? I don’t think mobile would work for me.” I got to a point where I was like I’m on a mission to basically do an episode that’s about all different types of business, and I call the podcast series, “How blank can use mobile marketing.”

I still have this long running list of topics that I’m making my way through, and I’ve really just been prioritizing based on the request that have come through. A lot of the people that tune in to my show are marketing consultants and small business owners that are providing services to a small business owner such as a restaurant or a salon.

I literally just got an email right before we got on this call from an eye doctor who wants me to do an episode about how eye doctors can use mobile. A lot of it just comes from request, which has been great, makes my life a lot easier because I’m just delivering the content that people are asking for. It really just stemmed from the fact that a lot of people have come to me and said that they don’t believe that mobile can work in their business, and I was basically on a mission to go out and prove them all wrong.

Jeff: I assume the response has been great to the wounds you’ve done.

Greg: Yeah, it has been great. I’m fairly new to the blogging and podcasting world and the online marketing world. I’ll be doing mobile forever, but building an audience and generating traffic and all that stuff has been fairly new to me. The site is a little over a year old now, as of earlier this month.

A combination between that series and the episodes where I’m not interviewing people, and it’s more just me, solo episodes, teaching people, things that I’ve learned, more that I’ve come across really is what has sparked a lot of the growth.

Again, it is very, very niche in the topic. If I’m doing an episode on restaurants, an app developer might be like, “That’s not for me.” Those that have chosen to listen to the episodes that maybe outside of their focus, I’ve actually received a handful of emails that are like, “Wow, that actually really helped me think about mobile differently in my business and knowing a restaurant or whatever.”

That’s sort of the point and from a content marketing perspective, if you’re not…This is really for all business. We can talk about this is how this relates to an app developer, but if you’re not talking to one specific person, it makes it really hard for people to follow the story and follow what you’re trying to say.
As you hone in on one person, so even though I’m just talking about restaurants in one episode, whoever is listening knows what a restaurant is. They’re able to at least put themselves in that position or put themselves in those shoes to at least relate to it, that even that relation is more powerful than media saying, “It really doesn’t matter what type of business you have, you can do all of these things.” It just makes it harder for someone to connect with it.
Just because of that alone, those episodes and that series itself has definitely done well for the site.

Jeff: How would you relate that to something that an app developer could do in terms of trying to gain that audience or content marketing?

Greg: I’ve been involved in a lot of apps that have been developed, and one thing I could say is that I think a lot of people fall short on is starting the planning of how you’re going to market it, when you start developing the app.

For most people, it’s a fairly long process to develop an app. It could take multiple months. As you start developing, you need to start thinking about how you’re going to market and who you’re going to market to.

If you’re building an app, just like if you’re building a restaurant, you should have a specific type of customer or user in mind. Starting to layout who that customer is, who that typical user is, what are their user habits, where do they spend their time, and really start training this persona of…My customer is Jack, and he has two young children, and he lives in the Southeast and loves to go fishing or whatever.

He always has his phone with him. He’s in his early 50’s, so he might not be as augmented to reality yet. Maybe he’s using some of these more basic features like text messaging. How can I create an app that’s going to resonate with him? Really identifying who that person is and creating something for that person is really the start. Then knowing where you’re going to go and where that person is that you can then market to them.

People get stuck in this concept of “the product will sell itself,” and yes, the product will sell itself one you put it in front of the right audience, but you need to find the right audience. If you’re not doing anything to build awareness about this amazing product, then who’s ever going to find out about it?

Jeff: That’s great. I think that doing those personas is really key and really valuable for marketing, because I’ve talked to potential clients before, not necessarily app developers, but just in the technology and software space. I ask them who their ideal customer is, and they say, “Everybody.” I’m like, “Oh.” [laughs]

Try to market everybody, you’re not going to be successful, so I think you’re right. Again, circling back to the whole content marketing and your idea of doing these niche podcast episode, again, I think app developers…I use the Evernote example. There are a lot of other examples out there, where you are talking to a specific audience of how they can use your app and you’re either writing a blog or doing a podcast.

As you mentioned, the eye doctor example, I’m sure there are lots of people out there doing a Google search, how can doctors use blank, use a productivity app? It’s something to think about in terms of your content marketing strategy.

Greg: Even this is not necessarily specific to, say, a mobile app developer, but look at HubSpot. They’re a software company and they have one the most traffic blogs on the Internet when it comes to marketing advice. They generate a lot of awareness about themselves and how to market, how to use their tools, not even just their tools, how to use the concept of their tools in more of a general sense.

I can imagine what type of traffic and awareness that has created for them. Really, just the lead generation that it’s created for them. They come with all of these amazing white papers that you have to download and provide your email address. I’ve downloaded a handful of them, and they follow up with you.

They’re like, “Hey, what interest you about this? How can we help? Are you looking for a software like HubSpot? If not, maybe we can point in the right direction.”
They’re just being helpful. They’re just creating good content, and that’s their marketing. They spent a lot of time and effort on creating that content, and in a lot of ways, aren’t spending probably as much money as other businesses are, in order to get the word out. That works for them.

Jeff: HubSpot is a great example, and I just want to emphasize what you just mentioned that they have a free blog, obviously, that tons of people are coming to. In order to get those emails, they offer white papers and case studies and eBooks, PDF eBooks, that are gated, meaning you have to give them your email to get it.

For an app developer example, figuring out some type of content that you could create, that would have enough value, that you could work with a designer or a friend to design a really nice looking PDF and then you ask people for their email in terms of the download process. I agree with that. That’s a great strategy.
I wanted to talk about, you’ve talked a lot on your podcast and your blog articles about using mobile marketing, specifically text messaging, and as you talked about how you got into the marketing and mobile marketing industry around text, how could an app marketer, in your opinion use text messaging as part of their tactics and strategies to drive downloads or to find engaged users.

Greg: That’s a good question. I would say, you need to understand the channel of SMS, first. Obviously, SMS is a very immediate channel, over 90 percent of text messages are read within minutes. How does that become an advantage to someone like an app developer that’s promoting it? Maybe early on, as they start marketing it, they build their website, and they have people signing up to be kept up to date on when certain things released and update and stuff like that.

You can have them subscribe to a text message marketing [?] less, because when that thing goes live, you basically send out a text message with a link that takes them to the app store so they can download the app. That’s a lot easier than doing it from an email. It’s direct, it’s going to be read super fast, and it’s already on their phone, so you obviously know they’re looking at it on their phone.

It’s going to open up the app store, and they’re going to be able to very quickly get the app on your phone. That comes on to, “Where does that text call to action go? How do you incorporate it into your marketing?”

You need to think about all of the other channels, and I always say that mobile is one of the most complementary channels that exist and probably the most dependent channel that exist.

If you don’t add that text call to action to, say, a print ad, or your website, or a radio spot, or your podcast, there’s no way that people are going to know about it. If you’re creating that content as this app developer and you’re creating the content early, you’re building an audience talking about what problem is this app going to solve for you.

You’re constantly referring them to subscribe to this list to get more tips and to be kept up to date on when this product is going to release quickly. Send a text message with a link to download it. Other ways, I’d say that’s probably the main one, having that list, to be an acquisition source, but you could do some sort of text sweepstakes.

If it’s a paid app, maybe people could opt in to win a free version or win some sort of experience that the developer is giving away that maybe is going to enhance the app, something like that.

As you’re building it, people that are interested can follow along and they can opt in to have a behind the scenes view of you building this thing, or have small group chats to have your interested audiences help facilitate what features and functionality go into it.

This obviously all needs to be planned early, but it could be a way to acquire those that are interested in participating in that.

Jeff: That’s great advice.

I wanted to see if we could drilldown a little bit, because if someone’s listening who is a solo app developer.

Are there vendors or tools that you would recommend, or a place on your site where you have recommendations, so that someone could implement collecting those telephone numbers and sending out the SMS or text message blast when you announce the app? How does that work? Can you give us an idea around is it something that’s affordable for small developers?

Greg: Absolutely. I list a handful of solutions that a small business owner or app developer can use on my site in my Resources page. You can visit mobilemixed.com/resources and I go through all the resources that I use and recommend.

To name a couple of them, a good one for an app developer might be a company called Mogreet. They have a product called Mogreet Express. They just got acquired by a company called Tevia. If you go to mogreet.com, M O G R E E T, they do SMS and MMS.

The reason I mention them first is because one, their team is amazing, and two, their product is very affordable. The plans start at 30 bucks a month. You can also include picture and video messaging, in addition to the text part of it.

As an app developer, you can maybe give away sneak peak screenshots of certain things and have a link to a survey. In the wire framing stage, you can send out a message that says, “Check out this quick video. This is what we’re planning. Click the link below and give us your feedback.” Something like that.
You could start making it more of an interactive experience, and obviously more visual, since you are creating the app and it’s going to be something that’s in someone’s hand at some point. That could be a cool way.

Outside of that I would look at probably a company called Waterfall Mobile. They have a small business solution that’s pretty powerful as well, then there are some other cheaper ones that are out there that I have on my site. From an app developer perspective the Mogreet one could be pretty interesting, because of that multimedia messaging capability.

Jeff: That’s great. You mentioned earlier that you’ve been involved in the development of some apps. From your own perspective, have you seen any particular tactics or strategies that worked, in terms of driving downloads and finding engaged users?

Greg: One, I would say that a lot of the apps that I’ve been involved in were a part of the business, they weren’t the business.
What I mean by that, some of the app developers that are listening might be making an app where it’s, say, like Hotel Tonight, or something like that, where the app actually is the business or, say, like in Uber as a mobile first, started off as a mobile only, really is a mobile only business, whereas the companies that I’ve been involved with apps for the most part, have had other marketing channels.

App is now one part of the strategy. In those scenarios, I always refer to what I call asset activation. You have all of these assets already. You probably have an email list. You probably have other marketing channels. You have a website, so maybe you’ve been in business for a while. You have traffic. Maybe you already have a newsletter and things like that.

Leveraging the things that you already have. If you have an in store experience, having signage in the store. Leverage the things that you already have that are going to essentially be as close to free as possible for you.

Outside of that, some really good paid solutions that have worked are Facebook app install units are amazing. I would definitely recommend app developers looking to using Facebook advertising. You can target very, very, heavily in to the interests of people and what other things that they may have liked.
For example, if you’re building an app and you know that your ideal customer might be a HubSpot customer, you can create an ad that will be seen by people that have expressed interest and liked HubSpot on Facebook.

You can do that multiplied by however many other brands and products that are out on Facebook that people may have liked, and really, really, target who sees your app install unit. Basically, it puts, if you’ve seen it, at least on the mobile version, a big ad unit with a button that says “Install this app.”
It takes you right to installing the app. If you do it right, and again you focus on where your customer is and what other brands and products they might be interested in, it can be very, very, cost effective, so I’ve seen that be successful.

There’s a company. I’d have to look back to see what episode it was, but a gentleman by the name of Craig Palli was on my podcast. He works for a company called Fiksu, F I K S U. They are a mobile app marketing company. They help generate quality downloads and help you acquire loyal app users.

They have a lot of strategies. We dive in to a handful of them in the episode, from how you pay, paid solutions, and also free solutions for finding those loyal users. They actually have services that help you do so, depending on your budget.

I know they’ve worked with Hotel Tonight. That’s one of their clients. If you’re building an app that you aspire to be like a Hotel Tonight, I would definitely check out Fiksu, because that’s who Hotel Tonight used.

Jeff: That’s great. I interviewed someone from Fiksu as well. I think that’s great. They do have a lot of great offerings for app developers looking for downloads. That’s great.

Greg: Lastly, I would say one thing that you need to be thinking about is this day and age there are a lot of apps out there, so you have tons of competition. You need to understand that 80 to 90 percent of all apps that are downloaded are used once before never being used again, or being deleted.
More importantly, from your marketing, obviously, you need to make sure you have a good product that’s going to keep people coming back. When you do come out and launch, you need to have some sort of strategy for that initial, for a lack of a better term, welcome series.

What’s the experience that a new app user is going to go through in that first 90 days? How are you going to connect with them over the course of 90 days, once they’ve downloaded the app, to make sure they come back?

You can do all that you can to get people to download it, but if you’re not keeping them engaged, either with the app, obviously there’s a product problem.
If there’s a communication problem, you need to have something in place that is going to reengage them when they go idle for a certain amount of time, and things like that that I think a lot of people don’t think about when they’re building the app because they are just an app developer. Maybe they don’t have marketing experience or things like that.

It’s way bigger than just the app, although, again, if your app sucks, then no matter how good your marketing is, it doesn’t matter.
Thinking about ways to make a splash, one that comes to mind and, I’m not really sure how they did it but if your audience is listening they should look in to this. Did you hear of the app called Mailbox?

Jeff: Yeah, where they have a gated entry?

Greg: A waitlist.

Jeff: Yeah, waitlist…

Greg: There are hundreds of thousands of people on that waitlist, all of my friends that got in early. I don’t know how they saw it, some sort of social sharing. When you signed up, it said, “Share that you’re signed up.” I saw that and that’s how I signed up through some sort of social sharing.

It became this crazy viral thing that you got on, and every day you were checking to see where you were on this list. “How close am I to finally getting this thing that everybody’s talking about?” I will tell you I personally got frustrated with that after a long time because it didn’t seem like I was getting any closer at all. I complained a few times. They responded. That was great, and then they got acquired.

I got approved to use it, probably a few weeks before they got acquired, and I forget who they got acquired by.

Jeff: I think it was Dropbox.

Greg: Yeah, possibly Dropbox.

Jeff: Possibly.

Greg: Once they got acquired, I had friends that were 400,000 on the list and they were moving up over 100,000 spots a day. I was so frustrated they were moving so fast, because they had that bandwidth. That happened for a long time. That was months that they were building that anticipation. I’m sure it definitely turned some people away. They were like, “Screw this. I shouldn’t have to wait.”

That didn’t probably cost them anything. They got people engaged, excited about this product that looked super sexy, and something that was going to solve a problem that a lot of people were trying to solve, and then they let everyone share it for them and market it for them. It turned into this viral thing.

If you can think about ways to get people to become these ambassadors before the product ever even becomes available, you’re going to be in a much better position when you launch.

Jeff: That’s great advice. What apps, personally, have you downloaded and used, in the last six or eight months, that really impressed you and that you have gone back to?

Greg: That’s a really good question. I’m taking out my phone right now.

Jeff: [laughs]

Greg: I’ve had Mailbox for more than a few months, but I use that pretty much religiously. I use Evernote a lot. I didn’t, obviously, download that recently.
One that I’ve had for a while that I like, but I do use it all the time, is Camera Plus. It’s an amazing camera app, one that I’ve found that I like more than any of the others.

Have you heard of Cobook?

Jeff: I don’t think I have.

Greg: It’s like an address book, but it’s like an address book on steroids. I use it now. I have an iPhone, so I use it in place of the regular address book. I wouldn’t say I have to use it every day, but I do use it a lot.

One that I just downloaded that I have been using pretty religiously is Evernote Hello.

Jeff: Oh yeah.

Greg: I just came across that a couple of weeks ago at a conference. When I meet people, I take a picture of them, I add their contact information, and then it shows me a time line of when I met these people.

When I get home and I’m like, “Oh, remember that girl that did that thing that I met at that conference,” I could just go back see when I was at that conference and easily find them. I can scan the business card. That one has been a life saver.

Those are the most recent ones.

Jeff: That’s all the questions that I had. Did you have anything else that you wanted to add in terms of thoughts that you have in terms of how to drive downloads in app marketing?

Greg: Yeah, I would say one thing. When I worked with the shopping centers, we were rolling out applications for all of these malls across the country, and we did something I thought helped us create awareness. This was expensive, but this gives you an idea of the things you can do.

We created life size iPhone costumes. They were 32 inch LCD screens built into…We had professional costume designers build the most crazy…You wear this costume that is connected to wheelchair batteries that power this LCD screen that is connected to an iPhone. It looked exactly like a large iPhone that you could wear.
It was probably about 65 pounds. It was pretty heavy to wear for a handful of hours. But we built three of them and we took them around the country to all of these malls as the apps launched. We went out and solicited PR, local radio and local TV.

Imagine your little shopping mall in your town and you’re walking through the mall, like if it’s an outdoor mall, and there’s this life size iPhone walking at you and engaging you and handing you a flier to download the app with the URL and all of the information.

That drew a lot of attention. That’s one on one direct marketing. The people that we sent out there, we trained them on how to use the app. The app was on the screen as they’re walking around wobbling through the mall.

We went out and we got local TV so we had local stations like FOX, ABC, NBC come and cover it. You’re sitting at home at night in your local market and all of a sudden see a news spot where there’s this big iPhone walking around. It catches your attention.

It did cost money to build those things. You could probably do it much more affordable than what we did, but things like that where it’s not a lot of people are doing it, it connects directly with your customer.

Obviously, it’s a mall app. Where do we go? To the mall that has the apps. They’re obviously already customers to the mall, they’re in the mall. Now you’re just letting them know there’s this new way to engage.

You need to think about creative ways to stand out, make a splash, even if it’s in a very small local market. It doesn’t need to be this national thing. Start off small, and if you get picked up on local news stations that’s not going to hurt your promotion effort.
I just wanted to share that story because I think that once we did that, we literally had even app developers and other companies calling us saying, “Hey, can we buy the suit?” or “Can we rent out the suit?”

We literally started a service where we were renting out this costume, one of these three costumes, and shipping it around the country to people that were interested in using it to promote their own app. That was interesting, too. It could potentially spawn this whole other business but it was a hassle to deal with that part.

It just goes to show you that app developers were interested and agencies that were building apps were interested in using this thing to promote their own app.

Jeff: That sounds great. It reminds me of actually in my PR business, I’ve talked to a few app developers who are developing apps for specifically the college market. What I’ve always told them is going back to the Facebook example.

Start with one campus because again if you…Going back to your persona, is if you say I’m going after a college market, it’s difficult to boil the ocean and reach the “college markets.” Start with one school and do everything that you can. Have people there on the ground, ambassadors getting other students to download the app. I think that’s a great example of that kind of real world.

Again, we’ve been speaking with Greg Hickman of the Mobile Mixed podcast. Definitely go and check out his podcast as I mentioned before. Greg, thanks for doing this interview.

Greg: Thank you so much, Jeff. I appreciate it.

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