Make it free and they will come…or will they?

My sponsored link in the EdShelf weekly newsletter was bought and paid for and now Mike Lee, who runs EdShelf and happens to also be a stay-at-home dad like myself, was waiting for my “creative”, i.e. the copy that would appear beside the link and an image.  “How can I get the best CTR (click-through rate) on my link?” I asked Mike.  He gave me several sensible tips: clear and direct language, tie-in with hot topics in education if relevant and…include the word FREE.

This got me thinking about price drops and something a friend had told about companies constantly making changes to their app pricing to maximize revenue in the long run.  Should I try making Planet Lettra free for a week?

The next day, I was still letting that idea simmer when I watched a talk given by Björn Jeffery of Toca Boca at Dust or Magic AppCamp in 2013.  He shared a lot of the lessons Toca Boca had learned in their early days including the fact that it is a fantasy to think that someone else can solve your marketing/promotion problems.  Getting people to discover and buy your apps in the current app ecosystem is just incredibly hard and more work that any neewb developer (such a I was a year ago) could ever imagine.

They tried all sorts of schemes but, in the end, what really made a difference was dropping the price of their most popular app at the time, Toca Hair Salon.  In other words, they bet their main source of revenue on the possibility of much greater sales of all their other apps.  This resulted in an explosion in downloads, a rise in App Store ranking, a means of directly informing a potentially huge number of users of new products and greater brand recognition.  Taking that risk made all the difference for Toca Boca.

Now, my situation is very different from that of Toca Boca in many ways.  To start with, I only have one app in the App Store at the moment.  The visibility of my “Studio Goojaji” brand is not something I’ve put much effort into developing.  To start with, since my company is not incorporated, the seller on the App Store has to be “Gregory McDonald” and not “Studio Goojaji”.  Since the words in the seller name are automatically included as keywords for searching the app store, searching for “Gregory McDonald” will take you right to Planet Lettra.  Searching for “Goojaji”…not so much.

Despite that, I decided it was no mere coincidence that I had heard about Toca Boca’s gamble with giving away Hair Salon for the first time just one day after having a similar thought in connection with my EdShelf link.  First of all, I like the idea of more kids out there getting to play with my app regardless of whether I get paid.  If more teachers can give their students the chance to play with Lettra, so much the better.  Lastly, it would be great if this could generate some positive ratings, word-of-mouth advertising and make the app easier to find on the App Store.

I scheduled the price drop on the App Store and informed my still modest set of contacts on app review sites. What happened next will be covered in a future post.