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Ask HN: Offline Marketing Strategy For Smart Phone Apps?
2 points by khetarpal 1890 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 7 comments
I'm building an app which helps golfers network with each other and pairs them up for Tee times. I'm having hard time coming up with suitable marketing approach. With my customer development hat on, I'm thinking about approaching golf courses, and having them push this to their club members. The challenge is for a given golf course say 500 members / month - with 30% of them using iOS and 10% (optimistic scenario) initial interest - I'm already down to 15 members / month. Ideally with infinite resources - I would support all smart phones, and cover multiple golf courses in a city. But with given resources and time, I need to focus on best way to take-off. I can't be the only one trying to use offline marketing for building customer base.

How did four-squre get their first 1000 users. Did they collaborate with the businesses from the get go? What are your experiences for building a smart phone app which required offline marketing? How did you get your first 1000 users? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

First of all, have you validated this app with your market? Have you actually approached executives and golfers to see if they would use this app? No amount of strategy will overcome a lack of desire or need, so if you haven't done that yet, I'd make that my first priority before sinking a bunch of time & money into anything else.

Assuming the idea is valid, I'd concentrate my efforts on a single country club. Not a public course, but a country club. Golfers that are serious about using golf as a networking tool probably belong to a club (again, something to validate). You'll obviously need to get the club to sign on regardless whether you're pitching them directly or not.

Once you've got the club's permission, there are a number of things you could do:

You could partner with the club and offer an exclusive (but limited) co-branding opportunity. So the app would be a "service" that the club offers to help members network. This would add credibility to the app and make members more likely to take interest in trying the service.

You could negotiate a deal with the pro shop to give away discounts or free memberships to the app with purchases.

Anyhow... you get the picture. My point is to start with a focus, don't spread yourself too thin. If the app takes off, you can always expand.

Think about Facebook's strategy. They started out just focusing on one school and then branched outward to other ivy league schools before finally branching out to all colleges and then the public.

Thanks - very thoughtful response! I have been burnt before, so validation is definitely #1 priority for me. I'm still in the wire-framing phase, because I at-least want to take these screenshots with me when I talk to the golf courses.

But my problem is that of segmentation - I don't have the bandwidth to support both iOS and Android at the same time, which cuts off a big chunk of audience.

Since the core of the app is networking - supporting the major platforms is quite important. But hey it is what it is. I've gotta start from somewhere!

What do you mean when you say you don't have the bandwidth to support both iOS and Android?

If you're targeting businessmen, I think cross-platform is pretty important. Most executives are likely using Blackberry and Android. iOS is still trailing in the business sector last I checked.

If you use a cross-platform SDK you can cover your bases and not have to worry about it. Something like Phonegap or Corona could dramatically increase your likelihood of adoption.

I agree with you. By band-width I meant the time and resource I have to devote to this idea. I have a full time job, and in evenings, I have been taking programming classes. So, I didn't think I could support cross platform from the get-go.

Your responses and suggestions are right on the money. What's your background and interest areas?

Oh... I just had one other brief idea. Executives are always looking for better ways to network, so one potential option to try would be grabbing their attention where they're already networking. Take notice of any events in your area and talk to the production team about setting up a booth.

Recommendation: Release it as a beta/working product and tell them they are the privileged few to get it and that their usage and feedback will decide the future of this product that might somebody make millions of dollars.

People like to feel important and people like to support that seem to have a potential to rise.

Anyway, spread it selectively among golfers like this till you have around 200 users. By far the best people to try and approach for you might be either the gold course managers or better still, get the caddy's who work there your app and tell them that they can give it out to only 5 people etc. They will slowly build up your user base with their excitement of the product (if they are excited and it's relevant to them). These people, due to our age, experience and optimism will take this as a privilege and will be able to to talk passionately about it. That's exactly the behavior you want from your first 100 users. Also, watch what your users do very carefully and take the time out to talk to them. No shortcuts.

Thanks Svetha for your input and encouragement! My dilemma is to build it on iOS or Android? But eitherways - I've gotta start. For me next step is to finalize the wireframes and approach the golf courses!

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