On Launching your Indie App: Part 2
It’s Y.O.L.O. part two (You only launch once).
It’s been years since I’ve done this launch thing. But sure enough, that’s what I did last Thursday - Elite Hoops made its way onto the App Store. Though, this time around - I did things quite differently. And, I can sum it pretty quickly: I did a lot less.
Before I break down my approach, I want to say this: I think developers live and die by their launches. And, not in a great way. A fantastic, press filled launch is ideal and a magnificent experience. A “press-less”, kinda chill launch is…fine too? Because, if we want to build an app that can be a true financial success (no matter who you define that) we have to remember one, cliché thing: This is a marathon, not a sprint.
So, here’s how I’m approaching my own personal marathon.
Phase One: Prelaunch
The prelaunch is all about making marketing assets, connections, reach outs and making sure your app won’t burn to the ground once it’s out:
This whole phase was probably where I veered off my normal recommendation and approach. I didn’t reach out to press this time around, and in fact - the only pings I did were personal connections and folks I know. I basically did what you should never do if you do want press on launch: “Hey, I’m launching tomorrow. Lol. If you want to cover anything, lemme know!”
But, again - I wasn’t too concerned with press for this launch. I’m not sure how much crossover my target audience really has with the Apple tech beat, and those are the people I know. Instead, I focused on reaching potential basketball coaches via Instagram and building up a mailing list.
As I mentioned earlier, boosting an Instagram post worked wonders for me (not always the case) and my mailing list shot up to 500 quickly. If you’re curious what the ads look like, they are simply the existing posts I have on Elite Hoop’s Instagram page, just - again - boosted.
With that, I had a website with a clear CTA (sign up for the mailing list) and, later, a badge to preorder the app:
Would I launch another app like this? Probably not - I think it’s great to try and get press. But, I’m on a work sabbatical and I had (at the time) just finished launching another little thing you’ve heard me chat about. In short, I was fairly tired - but I wanted this out there.
So, I just put it out there!
Though, one thing I will pat myself on the back for is my press kit. I basically carbon copied what I did for Spend Stack, you can see it here. I had several journalists tell me this is exactly what they are looking for. If you need a press kit - just copy my format and I think that’ll work out well for you.
TL;DR for Phase One:
- Make nice marketing assets, quality over quantity.
- Have your app all approved and good to go.
- Have a clear goal. For me, it was to drive people to sign up for the mailing list and then later preorder the app.
- Reach out to press and Apple weeks before, ideally around a month, if you’re trying to get attention on launch.
Phase Two: The Day Before
The day before launch is a sanity check. If you’ve done things like me, then at this point you’ve done a majority of the work already. This phase is all about making sure you have drafts of posts good to go, and have a plan for the next day.
This phase was kind of weird to me. I still have zero idea how Hacker News works, I never get traction there (aside from one time, where I intentionally wrote a click bait title just to see if it would work). Product Hunt has changed a lot. There are so many bots. That’s a shame, that used to be such a fun place where people genuinely would gather to find new, awesome stuff. Now, it’s ad spots, featured posts and people emailing you asking you to help them game upvotes. Weird.
Phase Three: Launch
This day is a special day, no matter how much prep you have or have not done. It’s all about sitting back and enjoying a launch! You worked hard to be here, so simply take it in, refresh charts obsessively, enjoy your friends cheering you on with retweets and generally just have fun:
Launch day was a ton of fun. While my downloads weren’t as high as I wanted (around 1,000), again - it’s a marathon. Plus, there are so many “firsts” for me here. It’s a free, subscription based app. It’s already made more than Spend Stack did on it’s absolute best day on Elite Hoop’s quiet launch day 🤣. I’m so excited to watch that M.R.R. grow, and so far my conversion rate seems very good.
Some things never change, though. Seeing your app chart is still euphoric as ever. Nothing beats it! Like any good natured indie, I always screenshot it when it shoots up there.
For now, like many other apps, from here it’s all about downloads. The core product is solid, and I want to grow the install base much more than add features. It’s a fun place to be in.
Also - random - but it’s hilarious how easy it is to chart in the Mac App Store:
Odds and Ends
- Preorders and Subs: I was worried sick that my subscriptions wouldn’t have been “propogated” or whatever by the time my app launched. I’ve heard of this happening, but I’m not sure of all the details. Basically, some developers have noted that you should hold your app for a day or two once everything is approved. However, my good friend Mr. Up Ahead said that his were good to go, and he did the preorder route the same as me. So if you’re curious, all was well there. No issues.
- Website Analytics: Since a big part of what I was doing revolved around pushing people to the website, having Plausible plugged in made things super simple. They are privacy-first analytics, and it’s some of the best money I spend each year.
- Simplify the Website: At first, I was ready to go to town on the website. But then I realized that would slow me down, take a few weeks and generally kill motivation. I always roll my own websites, and thanks to Tailwind CSS, I can move fairly fast. So, all I did was a classic CTA and headline on the page. Below it, I simply copied Photos little tab bar thingy and all it did was switch between different feature showcases. Simple, easy and quick to make. It’s worked well.
- Revenue Cat owns: Yes, they’ve sponsored this very site many times. And, this bit is in no way a sponsorship blurb - it’s just facts: RevenueCat is awesome. It’s the only data I really check at this point, because it tells the story that really matters in my opinion: How are customers converting, how much are you making ,etc. I love it.
- A Sense of Purpose: Oh my goodness, it’s so refreshing working on an app with a clear purpose and value-add, with a clear target customer. The problem I hit with Spend Stack is that it did a lot of things for a lot of people. It was very hard to optimize one way or the other. Elite Hoops is the complete opposite, it’s for basketball coaches. Honing in on things for them has helped literally every aspect of the app: marketing goals, features, etc. I’ve already had three college coaches call me to talk on the phone about the app! What! That’s awesome, and I can’t wait to keep growing it.
That’s it for now - thanks for reading and happy launching !
Until next time ✌️.