The smartphones are everywhere. You see people chattering with family and friends in the malls and on transit systems. You see people of all ages playing “Angry Birds”, “Cut the Rope” or some other entertaining app. People can cruise through websites with a tap and swipe on smartphones, all while away from their home computer. For years, advertisers capitalized on the home-based (or office based) computers to provide real time and context specific advertisements to web surfers (via their browsers). Money could be made for “pay per click” or similar ad models. This method still works, but the problem for advertisers is that people aren’t using their desktop PCs much any more. They’re using their smartphones.
If you own a smartphone and have downloaded any apps, you may have come across one or more which use in-app branding and possibly in-app advertising. A lot of people are willing to put up with the occasional ad from an advertiser in trade for some cool free app or game. This is the first of the five methods I’d like to present for monetizing your own Mobile apps.
If you’re a publisher of apps – let’s say you’re the manager for a busy nightclub and have an app for promoting your club – then you’re more likely to have a free app than a paid app. You can still make money with a free app!
For starters, here are the five methods for monetizing your Mobile App:
Use AdMob, Millennial Media and others to provide in-app advertising
Sell ad space on your app for vendors and merchants
Link from your app to Affiliate sites and their products
Use Push Notifications
Charge for the app or for in-app purchases
We’re big fans of the free apps. I know for sure I have plenty of free apps on my mobile devices. I tend to recommend free apps to friends as well since I know if they don’t like the apps I recommend, they can always delete them. So, all but one of the methods I describe here will apply to free apps mainly.
If you have your own app being published (or already published, since you can always add more to it in an update), consider using AdMob or another ad aggregating service. Since AdMob is part of the Google family of businesses, many people may already have a relationship with them without even knowing it. Nonetheless, choose one of these and use their SDK tools (this is a job for your developer) and get your Publisher credentials added appropriately to the app. Before you know it, a mini billboard will appear on the screen for your app and you will be on your way to making extra cash. This method is extremely useful for those of you who have created a free app that is downloaded frequently. It’s as simple as: The more users, the more exposure to the ad, and the more potential revenue for you.
If your app is a community based app or an app which is related to specific products or services, consider getting a monthly fee from merchants or vendors to include their information in your app. This method works really well if you have a lot of downloads for your app. If the merchants can see that your app is widely used, it’s almost a no-brainer. They’re likely to ask you if you can help them!
Many operators of stores and other online sites already have relationships with affiliate marketing sites such as Commission Junction and Linkshare. These all work pretty much the same. If you use their tools, you can take their links (for commission) and embed them into your app. As people use your app, they will see these links and (hopefully) will tap/click on them. If they purchase from the linked site, you get commissions.
Personally, I love the iOS method for Push Notifications. These keep me in touch with some of the updates in games and other apps I use. But, if you’re a shrewd marketer, you can use these within your apps to add value and bring in more revenue. This isn’t really monetizing internally (with the app), but the revenue opportunity remains. A push notification allows you to share with your ‘subscribers’ information about your app or a deal you may have. This spurs them to action. A Push Notification can be an immediate call to action for your user community. “Act now and download three free widgets with the purchase of only one!” Get the idea?
Pretty much everyone you could ask would tell you that a distributed free app is better than charging a minimal fee ($0.99) for each download. As time passes, you will find that free apps are downloaded more often and will be shared more freely with others. Getting other people to market for you (by sharing) is highly desired and beneficial. If, however, you do decide to sell your app for a fee, then be sure it’s fee-worthy and provides an ongoing function to your audience. People will not be happy paying for an app that doesn’t provide suitable functionality. Another way to charge for an app is to distribute the app for free, but use in-app purchasing to cover the costs of some add-on feature or downloaded product within the app. I’ve seen this range from downloadable content (PDFs or sound files) to tools or items for games or similar apps. Be sure your pricing model is easy to understand.
We are in a wonderful new frontier with mobile apps and marketing will have to adapt. Use these guidelines to plan your app before it’s distributed for best results.