Friday, March 2, 2012

Marketing is Weird, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Look to the Future. Part One

As you've probably seen from all our social network blathering on the subject we've recently been featured on two major games websites in relation to Call Connect (CC). I figured I'd write a little (read: lot) about how we got to this point.

When we first started working on CC we'd already read a lot about the how's, who's and wherefore's of marketing your iPhone game and so as we were in the development stage we thought we had this whole thing under control. But, this being our first game we, of course, did not. The development of CC came to its completion and the only people that knew about our game was us and the people we knew who were willing to listen to us talk about that game we were making.

This resulted in us not having any coverage on Call Connect's launch and very little in the weeks afterwards. After we launched we sent out a bunch of emails to the various iDevice review websites (Which we collected in a big list here: The Big List*) and only really heard back from one: These guys were kind enough to not only say yes to reviewing us but also waiting for us to fix and submit a major bug fix before they did their actual review.
You can read the review here

This was the only coverage we had in the initial stages and as you can see in the graph below we did not have anything driving our sales after the initial release:
That first dot is the release date, the second dot is the fix we had to implement quickly to stop CC from crashing on iPads (Hot tip: Test on the iPad even if it's not the main release platform), and the third dot is when we did our 1.1 update.

So the only thing that was giving us sales was appearing on the "New Release" list when we did an update. Which on its own is a useful fact but it's not quite enough to make us millionaires or push us up into the top whatever lists that everyone aspires to get into.

So to counteract our waning sales we put our incredible marketing minds together aaaaaaaand did nothing. We've obviously got a bit to learn about this whole marketing schtick.

After about a month of doing nothing, we decided we should do something. From reading various other blogs and so we discerned that a valid marketing technique is to make your app free for a short period of time, everyone loves free stuff. There's a few ways you can tackle this free app thing, you can:
- Pay a big website like about $3000 to feature you for a week or so with ad banners and so on.
- Contact one of the smaller free app a day style sites and plead for them to feature you.
- Just make the app free and hope for the best.

So we chose door number three. We made Call Connect free on the 12th of November 2011, a Saturday, and tweeted and facebooked our little hearts out.
Here's the graph of units moved over the freebie period:
I don't mind putting the numbers of this one as we didn't get any money from it and it helps illustrate just how much of a leap we took.

We ended up "selling" about 60,000 units over the course of that long weekend. Which was mind-blowing. Seriously. We went from about 2 sales a day, if we were lucky, to that many. We said the promotion was because we'd had over 15,000 calls connected in CC (Seriously guys, implement Flurry to get metrics), by the end of the weekend we had over 1.7 million calls connected!

Now, as much as we'd like to claim this success was all our own it is not true. We had our first bit of luck when after the first day of our free promotion we got contacted by FreeAppReport - a website similar to FreeAppOfTheDay but different because they don't charge exorbitant prices - saying that they were featuring us in their app and website. Now, I don't know exactly how much this helped us but it certainly couldn't have hurt. The majority of the free units were moved in China and the US.

Unfortunately, as you can see in the graph, as soon as the promotion ended we went right back to selling the same amount as before. But hey, at least more people were playing our game. Our feedback email address was getting a lot more blank emails than it was getting before, which was nice as it was beginning to feel left out.

Even though sales were small we were still happy with our little game. It was our first effort and first efforts are always going to have it tough. We decided about then that we should give Call Connect some plastic surgery, a bit of a Retina face-lift. What would become our 2.0 update.

PART TWO of our marketing escapades coming soon.

* The list may be poorly formatted and with websites that no longer exist or aren't real review websites but there's some useful links in there. Feel free to use them yourselves. Big thanks to Simon Joslin of The Voxel Agents for giving me a start with this list.

- Shaun

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