How do you get the first 100,000 downloads for your app; the Dialapp case study

I think it has become kind of fashionable among app developers to talk about how difficult it is to get your app discovered among the millions of apps in the market. Honestly, what else did you expect? The app store has really democratised distribution, and if your app is good, it will do well. And if isn’t, the app universe will make sure that you know it.

But on the flipside, a million apps is quite a lot. There is definitely going to be a fair amount of wading through the masses that needs to be done before the democracy kicks in. That’s the role of a marketer in an app development outfit – giving an app that initial activation energy to reach a critical number. I think 100,000 downloads is a good number. Enough people now have downloaded your app and a verdict would be truly democratic.

 100000-downloads

So how do you reach this number? Well, Dexetra’s Dialapp recently reached the 100,000 downloads mark and I got in touch with Binil Antony, co-founder and CMO at Dexetra. He shared some of the techniques that got Dialapp to a 125,000 downloads in a month or so.

The app has to be great

Binil Antony

Binil Antony

Binil shared that it all starts with the app itself. He says, “I think there are two kinds of apps – one that provides the end user with some kind of value and the other that serves for some short-term fascination. We made a conscious attempt to ensure that we’re the former kind, and that was the thought that went into Dialapp.”

The Dialapp is a predictive dialer, which plugs into Dexetra’s Friday app to provide the app with context, which in turn provides the user with a list of people he or she is most likely to call at a given time. He says, “The dialer app on a phone hasn’t really evolved much, so we thought an intelligent dialer will be value for the users. The app would plug into Dexetra’s Friday for user context.”

Dialapp was also made to be fast. Binil says, “Some Android smartphones, apart from having great marketshare, also have this incredible ability to become very laggy, especially with their dialer function. At the end of the day, a phone is to call and that was the other focus area of the app; to be a fast, dialer app.”

Reach out to influential blogs; it’s not as difficult as you think it is

Once you’ve got a useful app, you need to take it to market. Binil shared that the downloads over time, for any good app can be represented as a hockey stick graph. He says, “You need to get those initial number of downloads, and blogs are a great way to reach out to them. Now there are a lot of blogs writing about technology and they all want exclusivity. So if one guy writes about you, the others will be less interested to write about you. So concentrate on the most popular blogs. We followed up with TechCrunch, who wrote about it. After this, we concentrated on some Android specific blogs like the Android Police etc, which also helped.”

Now one would think that these blogs are difficult to reach out to, but Binil shared that it isn’t the case. He says, “The contact information of most of these bloggers is readily available on the web and on the site itself, so reaching them isn’t the problem. You’ve got to get your messaging right. Try not to beat around the bush. A short description on what your app does with a download link has more chances of getting noticed. Also, these guys get hundreds of email a day, so you would need to follow up with them on Twitter and other medium. Also, if they’ve worked with you before this, it helps a lot. You need to invest a little time with them and build a relationship with them.”

+1s and Be on top of the latest technologies

Now the blogs will give you your first 10,000 users or so, and these will be the early adopter kind. Post this, there is a second phase to the drive towards 100,000. Not too far away from now, a new service, App Store Optimization (Like SEO) will be a fad. But it’s actually really simple on the Google Play store. Yes, you need to have relevant content about your app on the app page, put up a good video demoing the app and use the appropriate tags. And above all, there is the almighty +1 from Google Plus – “Get enough people to +1 your app. You will not believe how much it helps an app have a high search ranking. Prior to this, only reviews and ratings mattered, but now +1s matter a lot as well. Ask your users for it. And having an app of value makes asking them to +1 much easier.

Dialapp uses the Google Plus sign in on the app, which is something that many apps don’t use. It was introduced earlier this year, and Google’s developer relations team travelled around the world evangelizing the product. Binil believes that implementing the newest features of the Android platform in the app really helps in getting your app featured. He says, “Firstly, the Google Plus sign in is really a seamless way of signing into an app. And Google appreciates it if you’re just adhering to these principles, which in turn helps in a higher rating. Narayan (Babu) and I spent time in the US, and our biggest takeaway from meeting the app store and analytics heads in Google was to just implement the new features that Google brings out every now and then into the app.”

While Binil couldn’t share the direct impact of integrating these features into the app, he did share that after working on +1s and the G+ sign in, the daily downloads count has gone up from 500 downloads to 3,000. Now, that’s something.

App discovery Apps

Binil shared that Dexetra also tried its hand with App discovery apps like Appsfire. He says, “I think it’s still nascent but, I don’t think the day is too far away before we see an app discovery app bundled with every Android phone. Now Appsfire was really huge in the iOS space, but unfortunately, we’re not! But they’re also on Android and they’re growing little by little. Now I won’t say that we got a lot of downloads from these, but it was interesting to know that any app with certain number of ratings over 4.3 can be featured on these apps. As traction of these apps increases, I think we can see a lot more downloads for app featured in apps like Appsfire.”

It doesn’t require too much money

Now if you’ve reached this point, you’re probably thinking about Dexetra’s Sequoia funding and that there would have been a fair amount of financial muscle that would have been used in this rapid growth. Binil says otherwise, “We did a Facebook campaign, which was very targeted. I can’t comment on how much we spent, but let me tell you that it really wasn’t much.”

Binil shared that as a startup, it’s essential to be lean and I think it shows in how they’ve gone about getting past the 100,000 mark. Now the app has enough steam behind it for a lot of people to know about it, and its success depends on its usefulness.

Download Dialapp and tell us what you think


Raghu Mohan

Raghu Mohan

Raghu is an electronics engineer from Anna University who has a keen interest in mobility and consumer technology.He predominantly works on stories for tech entrepreneurs and startups. He is also an active member of the Bangalore Android User Group, a regular speaker at BarCamp Bangalore and is part of many other technology communities. You can follow him on Twitter @Raghum200