Lesson 7

Organic User Acquisition

Acquiring new customers should only become a goal after you’ve got a great app, know your target market and designed an irresistible ASO strategy. Bringing in extra users before you’ve nailed down your main offering and ideal customer will only result in more people frustrated with your app. That’s the last thing you want.

But once you’ve got an app that answers a need in the market, you’re ready for user acquisition (UA). In all cases, a thoughtful and well-executed UA strategy is essential to success. There are two primary methods for acquiring users — one is called “organic” and the other is called “paid” — and each come with its own set of considerations.

We’ll examine several of the most popular and best-used methods here. It’s up to you to decide which option(s) best align with your marketing strategy and resources. First up is organic.

Organic acquisition refers to methods that you develop internally, without the assistance of paid agents. There are two kinds of organic UA: “earned” and “owned.” Each one has advantages and challenges, but in general these methods are well-respected by most audiences. We’ll look at the opportunities and challenges of each of the methods.

Earned User Acquisition

Earned acquisition happens when the media and the public independently promote your app. User reviews, word of mouth, media coverage, “viral” news buzz — all of these are examples of organic, earned efforts that place your app in the minds of more users. You help plant the seed, you earn the coverage through some hard work and good strategy, but you can’t plan for “buzz” and control it as directly as with a paid campaign.

  • The Opportunity of Earned: This kind of coverage is largely viewed as more authentic and trustworthy by users, making it quite powerful in some cases.
  • The Challenge of Earned: While it’s more difficult to directly control, sophisticated and well-coordinated marketing, public relations and customer service efforts can help steer the earned reaction into the most beneficial channels.

One of the most well-known versions of earned UA is a feature spot on one of the app stores. This can drive significant downloads, but it is starting to lose some value.

External Module: Read our report on the benefits of a featured spot on the iOS App Store.

The enormous success of Pokemon GO was driven in part by a flood of earned coverage. Even media outlets that usually wouldn’t cover apps or games rushed to run stories on the augmented reality phenomenon. Of course, that scale of earned media is unusual, but it does show how stories can take on a life of their own and provide apps with huge amounts of promotion far beyond their own direct efforts.

Owned User Acquisition

Then there’s owned user acquisition, whereby you generating and distribute your own content through your website, social media, on other apps you own or as a guest contributor in a publication. Owned user acquisition allows you to spin the best story about your app and clearly highlight your value proposition.

  • The Opportunity of Owned: Owned content gives you the greatest amount of control, longevity and cost effectiveness; it’s your chance to entertain as well as educate.
  • The Challenge of Owned: This channel is viewed as less trustworthy by much of the public who regard it as self-promotional, and the biggest benefit may be in reinforcing your bonds with existing users or brand loyalists. It’s much harder to bring in completely new users using owned channels.

To return to an example we used in the Creative Assets lesson, the department store Target has an app, Cartwheel, that offers users coupons and other rewards. Those using the primary Target app are a natural owned fit for becoming Cartwheel users as well.

In the digital era there are a number of potential owned channels (from blogs to social media and far beyond), and your challenge is selecting those that have the most impact. These are promotional tools that can have a significant effect on your bottom line, so don’t pass them up.

Keep Learning

Next up: learn about paid UA efforts as opposed to organic user acquisition, such as paid ads on Facebook, Google search or in the iOS App Store.

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