How to get your app on the itunes “New and Noteworthy” list – or how we did it with the MeMeTales app

Less than a week ago, the MeMeTales app got approved in the Apple App Store. It went live Wednesday, May 18th and was on Apple’s New and Noteworthy list under Education when I woke up on Friday, May 20th. We have had hundreds and hundreds of downloads. We force a registration and I have to say the conversation rate for signups has been great – close to 50% (insanely high based on what I have known).

I hear getting on the New and Noteworthy List is kind of a big deal and  number of people asked me how I did it. I am not sure how helpful this is for anyone else or if we just got lucky, but I figured I would share what I know. I did work hard and had a methodical plan around it, so here goes my “how YOU can get on Apple’s New and Noteworthy List”

1. Create a solid app (start 6 months ahead) – We are talking about Apple here, so be sure to create the best app you possibly can. It seems kind of obvious, but really, there should be nothing that you kind of know but just kind of ignore. In early March, I went through this crazy “scrap all features until we have a rock solid base app” phase, when I scrapped pretty much all our features until every little thing in the basic functionality looked great. And then, I slowly added back a few features and some never made the cut. We focused on flawless functionality and great content. If you do not feel like you have created the best app, yo cannot and will not promote the heck out of it and nor will anyone else. So be sure to create the best app possible in the first place.

2. Have a launch plan  (3 months ahead) – Just planning a launch plan will make you think about things, so just sit down and get a launch plan together. Create a spreadsheet with people/connection, a timeline, launch dates way ahead of time. I had this created in December. The date moved by a month and a half twice – once due to changes in Apple’s InApp purchase policy and the second time due to performance issues. But having the plan just time shifted it. We did not try to make the date by eliminating the launch plan or compromising on the beta testing, pre-launch communication tasks etc. It is key to have a minimum of a month between steady app to launch date. An important part of the contact list is really breaking people into your concentric circles starting from your core and trusted network.

3. Do your App Store Research and Prep (10 days ahead) – This is really another blog post all by itself, but do spend considerable amount of time on App Store research. Watch how categories behave closely, choose keywords ahead of time. Prep the app in your itunes account ahead of time too – so all you need to do once you are ready to go is upload the app.

4. Warn your friends, beta testers (2 weeks ahead) – We involved beta testers 2 weeks before app store submission. I feel that is plenty of time if you have had a number of people look at the app while building it and you have a big free app when you actually distribute it to beta testers. 2 weeks ahead is also a perfect time to enthusiastically warn and update friends on your progress and upcoming release. This is SO important because you will not have time to tell the “story” after the app gets approved.

5. Have a Prelaunch party ( one month ahead) – On April 28th, MeMeTales  hosted a prelaunch party + “Bring your kids to work” event along with Thinkspace (our coworking location). In retrospect, that was one of the best things we did. It prepped people for our launch, spread the word and was so much easier to pan and host – big thanks to thinkspace and to the fact that we had actually not yet launched. We shared the party info on facebook and twitter and a bunch of other channels. It was the best non marketing marketing I have done. The kids had a ball and it was the best birthday I have had in as long as I can remember ….it was my birthday!  (but, HUGE thanks to thinkspace!)

6.Use the down time, unplug (day after submission to app store) – One of my friends said the week after we put the app into the App store is the longest week ever. For me, it was a much needed break. Since I write a bunch of the code on the app myself, it gave me the much needed break to go from developer mode to my “vision” mode. I took walks, brainstormed fun marketing ideas and did a lot of random writing. That was really important as it helped me step back and focus on telling the story and recover some energy.

7. Control the launch date (morning after a night of good sleep post approval) – So many things are out of our control. It is pretty awesome that you can actually control the app launch/live date in itunes connect. So I say, just control it :)The MeMetales app actually got approved Tuesday afternoon. I had initially set live date to today and then moved it back on Wednesday morning just before I got into work. I wanted to sleep over the awesome news of approval, mentally feel ready for the launch. I set the app to go live, took a shower and went into work. It was live by the time I got in.

8. Walk around with a nervous smile( a minute after live and you testing your app) – The first people to download the app were the awesome staff at thinkspace. The app got approved and I had to tell someone. I was excited and nervous. So I run down and start telling the ladies while I text my dear friend Lucrecer. Right there, they all download it and tested it. It worked. I saw it work on more than one device. And I was relieved. The app link is live but not consistent the first few hours after an app is live (some complained that they could not find the app), so don’t even bother sending emails for 2-3 hours.

9. Make a clear ask – Ask people to consider reviewing and rating your app if they like it. Just ask. A lot of people do not know how important it is to rate and review an app. It is extra work that people will not do, unless they are asked. But when you ask, at least 10% of them will do it. And don’t take it personally if people do not. Really. Just thank the ones who do.

10. Gather good reviews before you spread the word to your round 2 contacts (the day app goes live) – By the end of day, MeMeTales app reviews and ratings started to show up. That was when I amplified my efforts to let people know. No matter how awesome your app is, there are some people who will always thing that they are doing you a huge favor by downloading your “average” app. It is a big bad world and you cannot blame people for being skeptical.For exactly that reason, it is much better to wait until a few review show up before yo let them know about your app. I am convinced getting ratings and reviews early are super important.

11. Tell people. Ask them to tell 3 more people – It amazes me that so much of amplified marketing is about educating people. I told a number of people that if they like it they should consider rating/reviewing it. I also told pretty much everyone to try to tell at least 3 people about it and it did not matter what channel they used.

12. Follow up in a non-threatening way ( a day after you have contacted them) – Call people, send them email, tweet a polite tweet and remind them about the app. Seriously, people are so busy that they can use the reminding. A lot of people want to help. A number of people in your core contact group really got in there in the first place because you know they want to help.

13. Be authentic and prompt with Customer Service – When people leave a bad review there is really no way to follow up through itunes as far as I know. We did get and still have one bad review from one person who (intentionally  I think) left spaces in the email id (twice) while trying to register. I scanned our logs immediately after seeing that review and emailed the person (after reconstructing the email) politely to retry. It did not help in my case but I can see how awesome it would be to have someone review you positively after a bad review.

14. Be Flexible – Our official launch was going to be on Monday. To cash in on the fact that we made the New and Noteworthy list, I just went ahead and announced the app. I was not planning a HUGE launch – just scheduling some posts and updates, so this worked out great.

That is about what I did. Lots of pre-planning and leaning on friends and supporters. Organizing people based on launch phase. And giving time for myself. Taking it at a slower pace. Getting sleep the day before the launch. And not taking anything personally. Perseverance is a great friend.

So much of it seems obvious and I wonder if it will help anyone at all, but I do hope it does. And if it did help in some way, don’t forget to go download my app, rate and review it . And tell a person or two about it. Thank you!

Before I hit publish, I want to thank a bunch of people –

1. The MeMeTales team – Rashi for tirelessly managing the blog, the MeMeTales parent committee, advisors – Dwayne (@dmercredi) and Allison McDonald (@noflashcards).

2. Awesome people at thinkspace (Peter, Kristin, for help with prelaunch, being the first ones to download the app and just being an awesome place to work. Really

3. Friends and the women who I first met in the online world – Lucrecer, Jenny Ingram – I want to room with you both every time I go to a conference – never ever want to go to a conference if you won’t make it. #word

4. The Seattle Tech Startup mailing list members who helped me when I put out a cry for help on the mailing list when we had performance issues. I seriously thought I would have no responses, instead I heard from so many. @ggoodale even Skyped with me. Lindsay Harper – founder of Swayable is a rockstar – I cannot tell you why yet, but she is super awesome 🙂

5. Adeo Ressi has done a pretty great job with creating a wonderful support community with Founder Institute. So thanks to Adeo and to the incredibly supporting community there.

6. Thanks to Zach the Dog. After Dave Schappell’s doggie registered on MeMeTales was really when we hit Featured spot. All jokes aside, thanks to Dave for bringing the energy, support and attention he provides to the Seattle startup community. Thanks to Marcelo for his incredible events and for creating seattle20 . I am also so incredibly proud and grateful that StartupWeekend folks live right here too.

It is all about products and people that rock.