As this is the first post I write for iDevBlogADay, I would like to begin with a very brief introduction. I am Gabor Furedi, co-founder of Bitongo together with Ferenc Vehmann. We have been developing for the iOS platform since the App Store debut in mid-2008, and as usual we were doing that in our spare time while making a living with a day job. We jumped into full-time indie mode earlier this year as we were really eager to see what we can do when we focus our efforts on our own business.
I have been reading the iDevBlogADay entries since its beginning and the community seems great. I truly hope I will be able to participate in it in a meaningful manner.
Our blog was intended to be used for posting product-related news and development articles. As you can see the latter category lacks but with the participation in iDevBlogADay we have the perfect incentive to start writing the articles we have already had in our mind.
For an opening post, I decided to talk about the marketing strategy we followed for our latest app, Fontify and I will analyze the effectivity of the different marketing channels used. Before jumping into the topic of the day, I would like to tell you a bit about the latest app of ours but feel free to skip this section if you are only interested in the analysis.
Fontify is a drawing app where users create sketches with fonts. The characters can be resized, flipped and rotated freely. The sketches can be shared via our Online Gallery, through Twitter and Facebook. Users can also export the pictures to their Photo Roll to be further used as a wallpaper. Exporting to PDF is also an option to be able to print the sketch without quality loss. If a user likes anyone’s picture in the Online Gallery, he can simply continue editing it. It’s even possible to browse the website at www.fontify.it and when you find a sketch you like, with a press of a button the browser would open Fontify on your iPhone / iPad and boom there you go. The picture is in the app, ready to be edited. We believe we have implemented great features in Fontify and we had a potential ideavirus on our hand, according to Seth Godin’s terminology. His book, Unleashing the Ideavirus is an extremely useful read by the way, I can heartily recommend it (the digital format is free for download on his site)!
The original idea for Fontify came from a designer college student and as we did not see any app in the store which would have this functionality (pretty hard to find a vacuum in today’s App Store!), we decided to go for it. We knew we would be creating a niche product but we were estimating that globally (or rather, globally in the App world, which is around 100 countries) there would be enough typography enthusiasts (graphic designers, students etc.) who would be interested in Fontify (according to our Facebook ad targeting rules, around 9 million Facebook users put in their interests phrases like ‘font’, ‘sketch’ and similar words. So our initial guess was not so bad).
We had a tight marketing budget but we wanted to try several communication channels:
- sending tips to review sites
- sponsored tweets
- banner ad campaigns on relevant sites
- distribution of Press Release
- communicating via our social network accounts
- Facebook ads
- Youtube video
Review sites were pretty obvious. We sent all the big ones our Press Release, together with our video, screenshots and contact info. Sponsored tweets are a very interesting possibility and we wanted to see the effect of them as well so we were trying to find a relevant twitter account with many followers to spread the news. Although not a big fan of banner ads (it’s just so 20th century style!) we really wanted to maximize exposure. This was the first time we used Facebook ads as well. I am proud of our Youtube video, although we could have chosen a better hand model than me now that I think about it
As our product focuses on a very obvious target audience, it made our marketing efforts easier. We looked up the biggest typography-blogs and graphic design websites which have typography-related articles and sent their owners a direct email introducing our app and inviting them to our beta test. We also started recruiting for the beta in typography forums as well. After receiving excited feedback about the idea behind Fontify, high expectations were set for the beta.
In a couple of days, we have received around 90 applications which we considered a pretty healthy number. Our previous beta test for Soccer Tactics received less than 30 applicants. In the end, the number of active testers were around 20 but we were not satisfied with the activity and the level of feedback we were receiving. I believe it is extremely hard to find useful beta testers, so if you have some, cherish them as much as you can!
We have also had an agreement with Joanne from TheAppWhisperer whereas our product review and a developer interview would appear on their website on the day we launch our product together with starting a 30-day banner ad campaign.
So this is how our exposure looked like on launch day:
- TheAppWhisperer review + banner ad
- Mirko, the owner of Typography-Daily was kind enough to write a review as well
- Sponsored tweet via @designfollow. Buysellads.com is a great website for anyone looking for banner ad space and sponsored tweets, we used them to send out our sponsored tweet through a graphic design-related twitter account with nearly 90k followers. For $20, it seemed to be an idea worth trying!
- We had used prMac with previous products for spreading our press releases and we did the same with Fontify
- Via buysellads.com, we also started 3 different banner ad campaigns. We were looking for graphic design / typography websites with high visitor numbers and reasonable CPM. You can get a 30-day campaign as a minimum, and you can increase your target number of impressions gradually. Our decision was to go withBehance, a network for creatives, dafont, a website for downloading fonts and deviantart, a popular website with artists to share portfolios. The ad we used on all sites looks like this:
- Started an experimental Facebook ad campaign where we tried different pictures for A/B testing. Below you see pictures we tried to start a campaign with, can you guess which one was rejected by Facebook?
So to sum it up: 2 reviews on big sites, 1 sponsored tweet, 3 banner ads on relevant sites and 1 banner ad on Facebook. Buysellads is a great service if you are into banner ads. All the big iOS app review sites are members here and you can get all the ad space you want. Their dashboard shows fresh data about the number of impressions and the CTRs as well.
In the first couple of days after our launch, Fontify was reviewed on 148apps.com (4 stars, thank you Jennifer!), our biggest ever app review site that has mentioned any of our products so far. Also three other graphic design blogs were kind enough to mention us: Tripwire magazine, Slanted and Graphism.
So as you can see there were many different channels and events, how did we track what was going on? The tools we used:
- Google Analytics on the Fontify website: checking visitor numbers and basic behaviour
- AddThis analytics on the Fontify website: checking how often people share sketches from the website via social networks
- Localytics in the app
- Trendistic to check the trending of @fontify
- The Facebook ads module provides a nice dashboard for following ad performance
- Buysellads also provides their dashboard
Numbers, stats and other bittersweet things
So, here it comes. Fontify was released on 17th Aug, on a Wednesday. We are analysing a 13-day period now, the daily download chart is below. We released Fontify in the Productivity category, here’s the reasoning:
- we could not really find a suitable category, we designed the app to be a fun tool
- as the general opinion goes, category in the App Store does noot matter anyway
As you can see we did not experience any wild numbers even when we were offering the app for free. I believe it is because this product is really going after a niche target. We were experiencing a ~25-30% daily decrease in the download numbers with a few odd days and then we seemed to plateau at around the daily 150 mark when the latest review we received (Graphism) started to kick in. Twitter started to buzz with the Fontify keyword immediately after the article, as shown below:
I used publicly available Twitter data to try to find the individuals and websites who were the most influential in affecting our downloads. Following the terminology in Seth’s aforementioned book about ideaviruses, we are basically looking for Sneezers. Sneezers are crucial during the lifecycle of ideaviruses. This is how I did it:
- take the marketing channel as a source for all tweets originating from it (eg. retweeting or other obvious connections to the source), they will be our potential Sneezers
- get the sum of the follower count of all twitter accounts connected to a specific Feeder
- get the sum of actions per Feeder
I gathered twitter account data for all retweets and singular tweets, summed up the follower count and assigned them to the sneezers and you might ask why? For me, this number gave a potential, theoretical customer reach. Obviously all the followers of each and every tweeter would never see their fontify-related messages, but still for me it is an interesting stat to see a possible maximum penetration using a particular channel. Combined with the frequency of actions taken (number of tweets), we can try to draw conclusions on how active a given Sneezer’s community is, or how powerful a Sneezer is in the eye of their followers. This way we can identify the movers and shakers easily. When you find powerful Sneezers who are passionate about your product, you can build a mutually beneficial relationship with them and they can be the cornerstone of your new community around your app.
The infographics below shows the relative strength of the Sneezers based on their user reach and activity levels.
As will all pictures, clicking on the image will show you the original size for a more thorough inspection. There is one visible Sneezer on the image who is a private twitter account, all the others are accounts of websites and blogs. If we manage to find more of these individuals who are acting as social hubs and are well respected members of any given community it can really mean a difference for us.
As you can see Graphism has a great reach and its follower base has a healthy activity, it was the single biggest catalyst for the Twitter-related traffic.
Google Analytics data
Google’s tool comes very handy for checking effectivity of sources as well, below are the stats for the investigated time period. I have not collected all info, only the more relevant ones:
A very interesting albeit not totally unexpected result is the 148apps.com visitor count at the bottom of the list. I believe as the site’s primary audience is gamer iOS users, and Fontify not being a game makes the result sensible. We expected more Facebook and Twitter referred visitors though.
My approach on measuring the effectiveness of the ads we are paying for was the following:
- grab fontify.it website visitor data through Google Analytics to see how users found the site, build correlations with the banner ads data from ad dashboards (there are discrepancies between google’s tool and the ad provider dashboard, I tend to believe )
- calculate the numbers we are interested in; for me, cost-per-visitor is the most important aspect (the best number would be cost-per-visitor-who-also-clicks-on-app-store-download-link, but unfortunately I do not know how to measure that with Analytics)
Also an interesting number to note here is that our average CTR is around 0.06%- 0.07%.
This list shows the CPC rankings, lower CPC values first (best value for money spent):
- dafont, $0.31 – extrapolated value, campaing ongoing
- Facebook, $0.49 – final value for finished campaigns
- Behance, $1.2 – extrapolated value, campaing ongoing
- deviantArt, $4.44 – extrapolated value, campaing ongoing
This information is important because if we take a realistic 2% conversion rate for visitors (that is, every 50th visitor would download the app), we can get an averaged value for cost of customer acquisition. In other words, how much money do we spend to ‘buy’ a customer. In this case, based on the ad data above, the average cost is:
If your eyes are widening now, that’s good. It’s not a typo, based on the ad performance data we are spending 80 bucks to get 1 customer! If we are to breakeven with our banner campaign costs, our average user should bring us $ 80 revenue while using Fontify, which is highly unlikely to happen. However, we can look at it from a different angle. As Fontify relies heavily on social interactions, we need to get a self-sustaining traction as quickly as possible, and although getting customers through banners is a costly method, it is not totally worthless. I have to admit though that I would keep looking for alternative channels or promotion possibilities yielding more cost effective results and in our next campaign we might not go with banners.
We believe our marketing efforts we reasonably effective, we managed to get reviews from many sources and that helped to create sparks on Twitter. So far the fire did not seem to catch on from the sparks though and if we want Fontify to succeed we will have to find a way to get more and more Sneezers to talk about our app! At the same time, we should aim to build a relationship with the Sneezers we already found.
I would probably not go for regular banner ads again, it does not seem to fit an indie budget and I am sure we can find much more cost effective ways of promoting our product. I believe we should have tried harder to make them work though, eg. buysellads and Facebook ads both give you the possibility to conduct A/B testing and we only tried it with Facebook and on the other hand we did not invest enough time to make the most captivating banners either. Had we managed to reach around 0.3% CTR instead of the current ~ 0.06%, the cost per customer would have been a much more reasonable number.
I see potential in Facebook ads though because of the myriad of options an advertiser has for targeting the audience (country, age, gender, interests, employers etc.), but we would have to create some ad materials which really contrast with the Facebook environment (and does not get rejected!).
TheAppWhisperer provided a good value package in my opinion (we got a package deal for a product review, a developer interview and a 30-day banner ad campaign), I would recommend them if you are thinking about maximizing your exposure.
Our Youtube video stands above 1500 views as of now which is not bad at all, we invested around 3-4 hours of our own time in it plus $30 for the music. I believe it was definitely worth it. The video is educational and still we managed to keep it short and hopefully interesting.
Overall, I am satisfied with the marketing side although clearly there are areas we need to improve on / focus more. On the other hand, product-wise we are seeing some issues with Fontify after the general release, but that is not the topic of the day
If you believe we could have done more to spread the word about Fontify, please let us know in the comments below