Learn how to boost app sales by creating a mobile app developer partnership. Trying to get your app mentioned on a tech blog is a pain in the butt. Some developers earn mentions by building connections beforehand, others get coverage from cold emails, and most get ignored. And it’s not always because their app is crap. Instead of begging for a blog mention, consider climbing the charts with the help of your friendly neighborhood app developer. Think about it. You have a better shot at success with the help of a developer than you do begging for a mention that will spike your downloads and send them crashing the next day. So here are some ways developers can help each other climb the charts.  

Collaborate on launches

How to collaborate with other developers for a bigger app launch:

First let’s start off with why you want to collaborate with other app developers to launch your app.

  You could instantly double your marketing efforts You can stretch your marketing budget further It would help you find users where they really are. In fact, according to Nielson, most app users discover apps the following ways:

  • Third party web sites - 21%
  • Apps promoting other apps -  21%
  • In-app advertisement  - 13%

These are all ways another mobile app developer can help.  

Now here’s how to pull off the partnership:

Find your potential partners. To find potential developer partners I would:

  1. Find partners on Twitter by entering terms like “mobile developer”, “ios developer”, and “android” into Follower Wonk or FindPeopleonPlus. Look for developers that are launching an app soon.
  2. Connect in the developer forums. Try forums like (iOS developer forum or Android Developer Forum)
  3. Enter  "iOS game coming soon" or "iOS app coming soon" in the search engines
  4. Search "Android game coming soon" or "Android app coming soon"
  5. Meet at developer events before hand
  6. Go to sites like PRMAC and look for developers with apps launching soon. (this is the one of the few useful ways to use PRMAC IMO, sry)
  7. Last resort - Put out an all points bulletin on LinkedIn.

Make a list of about 20 app developers that you would love to partner with and rank them in order of:

  1. Social reach or activity
  2. App quality
  3. Past coverage or app rank (if applicable)
  4. Shared audience reach.

Don’t worry, you aren’t going to partner with all 20. You’re doing this because half of them won’t respond and several won’t be interested.

Think of AT LEAST 3-5 ways you ALL could partner with each other. You all could:

  1. Set similar pricing
  2. Create a shared landing page
  3. Add your app links in each other's about page
  4. Schedule strategic push notifications and emails the first week to promote each other's apps and game
  5. Mention each other in your app description pages
  6. Pay for one big ad together that you could never afford by yourself
  7. Help your users in the forums together (please do this without spamming)
  8. Go in on a gift bag offer together for an upcoming event that targets your audience
  9. Merge game demo videos in a super trailer
  10. Review each others app in the app store and on your blogs
  11. Write about how each of your apps compliment each other
  12. If you can, localize each other’s apps, newsletters, and ads.
  13. Be creative, there are plenty of ways you could pull this off

Reach out and share your partnership interests. I would choose solo to small developer shops to reach out to, so your email won’t get lost in the ‘big company shuffle’. Try to target the owner, solo developer, marketing, or business development team members with this request. Narrow down your partnership choices to 2-5 apps and games MAX. More than 5 apps could dilute the attention each app gets.  A partnership with about five apps could increase your success at least five times.   A couple of successful examples of these type of partnerships: http://www.macheist.com or IndieRelief 2010

Cover each other's weak spots

  For app developers to win together, you don’t necessarily have to create some formal partnership. But you could at least be allies. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. Work together and fill in the voids.  

  • Share your resources. Let’s be smart here. If a fellow developer made an awesome set of share buttons and you made an awesome email template, why would you each make your own instead of sharing them. The demise of the small developer is trying to do too much with too little time and money. Share and get things done easier, faster, and cheaper.

  • Share honest feedback in your field of expertise before launch. It costs a lot of money to pay for code reviews and is nearly impossible to get honest feedback about your app from your mom who loves everything you do. So take advantage of having another eye on your work before you launch. If you aren’t sure how secure your mobile app is, ask a fellow TRUSTED developer with security expertise to take a gander. If you are mobile app performance guru, offer to dive in and take a look at how to improve their app performance. Mobile app users are picky these days, help each other make better first impressions.

  • Share outsourced/professional resources. If you're already getting an in-app banner designed professionally, don't you think your developer friend may be interested in one as well? Share it. Just make sure you guys agree to tweak them enough to look different and you both saved time and money. You could even split the costs.

  • Share your content. In order to keep app users interested, you always need something new in your app. If you’re a small developer the chances of having a team of coders ready and willing to release every feature your users can imagine is slim to none. So you have to win the update race with content updates. Maybe you can collaborate to make a few tutorial videos for each other’s app when the other is busy. Maybe you can design in-app banners that promote both apps and send them to users live in your “downtime”.  Again, since you don’t have much time to always create content, get some in-app content to share with a fellow developer.

Partner with other developers with similar audience

  1. Use the same process from the “launch collaboration” section to find other developers with your audience and collaborate no matter how old your app or game is.
  2. Choose a niche you want to target. For instance, let’s say you have a mobile game that casual gamers with tablets would enjoy. It runs on both the iOS and Android platform. In this case, one of your audience targets would be moms since moms are the top casual gamers on tablets (particular the iPad). In this example, you would search for other apps that moms may like and maybe even create a subsegment that groups apps that help moms take a break.
  3. Go ahead and buy a domain like mommiesbreaktimeapps.com (this is probably too long, but you get my point).
  4. Set something up on the website quickly like a paragraph about why moms need breaks and how they can get it with these apps. Add placeholders for 2-5 app icons to promote the apps that could be listed there.
  5. Contact other developers with the most fitting apps for this niche and tell them about your domain and how you want to partner. Try to make sure no one necessarily overlaps (example: you don’t need two yoga apps).

  6. Establish an end date or at least a check in date for the collaboration. Is this an ongoing promotion, will this be short term or recurring. Discuss it now before it gets ugly.

  7. Make sure to discuss the “what-ifs”. For instance, what happens when one of the partners doesn’t want to sell their app anymore, or what happens when it’s time to update the site. Again, make sure these things are covered before moving ahead.
  8. Agree on a collaborative marketing plan. Are you all going to share the cost of push notifications through the established apps, are you all going to divide the cost of in-app ads, are you all going to write a post on your own websites to spread the word to your current users. Make sure you all discuss and write up an agreement on how things are going to work. Especially, if you have to get money involved.
  9. Redo the design of the web page in less than one day. The simpler and faster the page loads, the better. The focus should be on getting people to click on 5 different links, which is a big feat (and most likely won't happen, at least not all at once). Get a template, you all collaborate on the design, the company with the best design skills can do it, doesn't matter. The faster you get the page up the better. Besides, it only needs to be one page that get’s potential users to the store.
  10. Optimize the page to make sure everyone is getting the same face time.
  11. Put up a press kit with each developer and their apps information in it.
  12. Collaborate and do keyword research for both your website and the app store (ASO). If you are working with other developers with live apps, they will be really good at providing feedback in this area.
  13. Reach out to the contacts you all already have and let them know about the collaboration. It's more interesting to talk about five apps that are similar vs featuring one app. Besides, blog coverage for one app rarely happens.
  14. Get the attention of your niche. In this case, contact all the mommy and parent bloggers (divide the work by the 3-5 devs on the team, makes this much easier, quicker,and much more effective). Remind the bloggers about how they could possibly earn a small commission from the iTunes store if they use their own affiliate links in their post about the special. Remember, when contacting bloggers, it’s always about “what’s in it for them” a small commission on about five apps their audience would love could be convincing enough.

      Here’s an example of a partnership I put together a couple of years ago with non-competing apps on the Blackberry (this was before our Mac and iOS development days): Student Starter Pack

Help revive a fellow developers “old” app

  Old apps….ewwwww! Yea, that’s right, “old apps”. We will all have them one day. And when that new car smell wears off of our app, not even the most loyal users will care. Sigh.   Unfortunately, in this competitive market apps get old, FAST!   Did you know that on average a popular paid game appears on the Top 100 chart on only 15 different calendar days? It get’s worse. These apps also tend to crash in ranking within a few days of their appearance in iTunes (O’Reilly Research).   By partnering up with an “old” app, you can slow down your own app’s aging process and help revive a fellow developers “old” app from the dead.  

Here’s some ways you can do it:

  • Add a link to each other’s website and a brief description of the other’s app.
  • Mention each other’s app in your own app descriptions. Something like, “if you’re interested in this app, you’d probably like…”
  • Add a pop-up notification at the 5th open (or later) of each app that mentions the other app.
  • Add their link and a brief description of their app to your in-app sharing messages. So each time a user emails another friend about your app, there is a VERY brief message (5-10 words MAX) about the other app. Make it sound natural, your user is trying to recommend your app, not the other app (even though they may like both).
  • Release a tweet contest together. To get more shares and awareness of both apps I would incentivize the users from each app to reach a goal that could earn them a free in-app purchase. Try offering a free in-app purchase from both apps if your users can reach 500 tweets of a particular message by the end of the week. I’d keep the number of tweets needed reasonable so people will actually want to participate. Once the number is reached, email or notify your users with an in-app notification or app content update and follow through by offering a free in-app purchase from each app for one day only.
  • Offer to pay for some push notifications, email blasts, or Facebook ads if they mention your app. This will have a few benefits:
    • The users that still have their app installed will be reminded it still exists. Especially, if the developer has been a bit behind on app updates.
    • Your app will be mentioned to users that are a bit slower at removing old apps from their device. This could mean acquiring users that you would use your app longer, which could increase the money you make from them over time.
    • You’re getting an introduction from a person they trust, from an interested audience. Don’t take these warm introductions for granted. You will get a much better conversion rate from this than you would with a cold ad or mention on a review site.
  • If you have a game, partner to have your game character make a guest appearance (link).
    • You guys can work out the particulars on the game logic, coding, frame rate. Even adding something as simple as an Easter egg in each other’s apps is enough to bring a little joy to a developers existing users while you introduce your character to new users.
    • Bonus tip: Finding a developer that built a mobile game on the same game engine could save a lot of trouble.

Example of developers of established apps partnerships: Humble Bundle  

Make an API Available Only to Each Other (at least for a while)

Here are some examples on how to pull this off:

  If I made a flashcard app, then I would look for a partner that had a database of flashcards without a public API yet. We would collaborate to make a simple API where I could pull in their data exclusively for a few months at the very least to help each other cross promote our apps.   For this kind of partnership, you would usually be looking for app developers with a matching web app. This is not always the case, but those with web apps (or at least apps that talk the internet) have some sort of database or usable data that you both can share to help each other grow.   There’s an easier, simpler way to have two apps integrate with each other without making an API, but Patrick wants to actually write a detailed post about the ways you can get this done. Watch out for that post. In the meantime, I’m sure you could get a few answers out of him on Google+ ;) Look, I’m not saying that you should ignore the blogs totally or this should be your only marketing plan. But working with other app developers is a huge win for everyone involved and can only take a few hours to make happen. That’s about all I’ve got for now. Let me know about some ways you’ve partnered up in the past and how it worked out. Also, do you have any better ideas on how developers can help each other succeed in the App Store? I’m sure others want to know!

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