4 Customer Acquisition Strategies For Pre-Launch Mobile App Traction

Building an app is tough. But when you look at the entire lifecycle of the product, the challenges in development fall flat when compared to marketing or customer acquisition, to be more precise.

Most often, apps fail not because they were a bad idea, but because they failed to get traction. If you have the ability to reach out to your potential customers, you can always rebuild the app to suit their needs.

In this article, we touch up on how some entrepreneurs hacked their way to customer acquisition even before they launched their mobile apps. Use it as a reference or as inspiration, the key is to start your marketing the day you decide to build your app.

#1 Languages app

The success of Jeremy Olson’s previous app, Grades (winner of Apple Design Award) gave a huge mileage to his new app Languages, an offline translation app.

Jeremy knew from his previous experience that it is very important to get recognized by Apple and the press. He also had hands-on experience in setting the stage for a pre-launch content acquisition strategy.

Both these efforts are time consuming but can pay off incredibly well in the long run.

From his experience, Jeremy concluded that to get recognition from Apple, one should think like Apple’s editorial team and visit places they will probably visit to find new quality apps.

Jeremy had this list ready which he compiled while promoting his previous app. He started following influential people in the industry and tech journalists. He even went to the Worldwide Developers Conference to meet some people personally.

This strategy came handy when Jeremy sent a sneak peek of the Languages app to the press. The update on the key features of the pre-launch app was well-received by the press.

The teaser website went live a month before the launch and about 200 people subscribed to the email updates of the app. The official Twitter account fetched the app 500 Twitter followers, though Facebook was not a very effective pre-launch customer acquisition channel for this app. It got them just 50 likes on the page, that too mostly from friends.

For the content marketing part, Jeremy launched a blog for Languages app with the goal to collect email addresses, Twitter and Facebook followers.


The app made to the Top 25 overall paid apps on the launch day. It got featured by The Verge, The Next Web and dozen more, along with thousands of tweets and retweets

The app reached the number one spot in the ‘Reference’ category and got featured as the ‘Editor’s Choice’ in many countries and very prominently in the ‘New & Noteworthy’ section in others.

Languages app made more money in one day than Grades app made in two years.

#2 Mailbox

Mailbox created an invite-only program that granted access to a limited number of people at a time as its customer acquisition process. This created a sense of scarcity and privilege among those who successfully registered.

Creating a niche and a sense of urgency, the pre-registrants were told how many people were in front of them and behind them ‘in line’ for the download.

Through a third-party service, Mailbox allowed new users to reserve their username. This simple tactic generated roughly 20,000 sign-ups before the website went live.

The PR team seeded a beta version of the app to key press more than two months in advance of the launch and built hype around the app’s launch through social media and blogger previews.

This gave Mailbox its first press mention two months before the launch. The pre-launch coverage by The Verge and TechCrunch called it the next generation email app and the best email management app respectively.

The media buzz converted into over 300,000 signups leading up to Mailbox’s launch.

#3 Clear

Nothing builds buzz like a well-done video. The buzz behind the Clear app video illustrates that.

A video demo uploaded to Vimeo during the MacWorld conference in January 2012 – where Clear was being shown off for the first time – was watched more than 814,000 times within a month, and gave enough room for strengthening a pre-launch app customer acquisition strategy.

After watching the video, people started commenting on the video, calling it ‘A Must Have App’ and ‘A Big Want’.

The demo video also became an easy way to show the press what the app was all about. Based on this demo video Clear app got a lot of tech blog coverage.

All this was happening a month before the Clear app was launched.

The media buzz and user’s excitement got the minimalist to-do list app to sell over 350,000 copies within first nine days of launch, and it became the number one app on the AppStore around the world.

People liked the app enough to recommend it to their friends – around 3,000 people gifted the app to their friends within the first few days of launch.

#4 Orobind

Orobind, an app for personal fitness coaching, leveraged on the referral program and landing page to create a buzz at the pre-launch stage.

The app initiated the pre-launch customer acquisition campaign by launching a referral program via e-mails which rewarded the referrals with free professional counseling worth Rs 1,000 (~ $15). This tactic achieved 64% open rate and 81.8% referral signup rates.

To gather users at a common platform, Orobind created a teaser website. But since the purpose was to capture leads, they kept the design and content very minimalistic.

The app just had 12 words on the landing page and that itself got them a conversion rate of 43.69%.

Within two days of posting the link of their teaser website on Facebook, the app received 5000+ signups.