Founders usually overestimate what publishing an app in the AppStore or Google play would do, they expect flocks of people downloading and trying out their new mobile app, unfortunately, that's not the case. Doing marketing for a mobile product is not easy nor is cheap, but there are a couple of free-ways of attracting users to your new app.
Even before launching the mobile app, you should take care of the website/landing page for it. A website offers your app a unique place on the web, where you can engage with customers on your terms.
Ideally, you should have the landing page ready a couple of months before the app is launched, this will help you gather early feedback regarding your product and can serve as a means of gathering email addresses from your tech-savvy, early adopters. Once the app is ready, you can email everyone that has expressed an interest in the app and ask them for their feedback, if done right, this should offer you a nice base of initial users. You can use free services such as mailchimp for sending out emails and measuring the engagement of the receivers.
In addition to this, a website will also help new users find your app easier through search engines. By picking out a good domain name, writing content, and implementing SEO best practices, you'll rank high in searches for your desired keywords. This is a laborious task, but it pays dividends in time if you're consistent and you do it properly.
The good news is that you don't have to pay a development team for implementing your website if you're not technical, there are a lot of services that you can use for a small fee or even free of charge for building your website using simple, intuitive tools. Two of the most popular such services are Wix and WordPress.
If you have done you're job right as a founder you should be able to pinpoint your target audience with laser precision and that will help you get new customers.
Almost everyone in modern societies spends at least a few minutes a day on a social media platform, those are proving to be super effective at attracting new customers. An easy way of attracting new customers on social media is using social media ads, however, those don't come cheap and there are still a lot of things to be done without spending a penny.
Firstly, you need to define where your target audience spends most of their time when online, for instance, if you have a mobile app that offers fashion advice, you might find that a lot of your potential customers spend a lot of time on Instagram.
You should create social profiles for your app on all the major platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and interacting with people and communities that share interests that are associated with your app. This is again a slow process, but given enough time, you'll start building a community around your product, if you fail to do that, maybe your product hasn't yet achieved product-market fit and you need to work a bit more on its core idea.
A much faster way of getting fast feedback or customers of your new app is posting it on discussion boards such as Reddit in /subreddits where your target audience spends time in. If we're thinking about the same fashion advice app, you could promote it in a couple of the many fashion subreddits such as r/malefashionadvice, r/streetwear, r/femalefashionadvice, r/sneakers, and so on. You could also validate your product idea and get some feedback on its current implementation in entrepreneurial subreddits such as r/Entrepreneur, r/startups, r/growmybusiness, r/ladybusiness.
Another super effective and fast way of reaching customers and getting feedback is by posting about your app on platforms such as ProductHunt or IndieHackers. A well-made post on ProductHunt, with eye candy marketing materials and a well-delivered pitch, would ensure a few dozens if not hundreds of new customers over a short period of time (around 24 hours). In addition to this, the communities around those platforms are really helpful and they will surface many things that could be improved for your product.
There are also discussion boards such as HackerNews or technology websites such as TechCrunch, but unless your app already has some traction and it does something completely revolutionary, you're going to have a hard time getting to the front page in there.
If your product is helping people achieve a certain task or improves the process of doing one, for instance, an app that would help you pick the best items from your wardrobe for a specific event, you could answer questions about that specific task on sites like Quora and promote your product.
The number one rule on using social media for advertising is: don't spam! Nobody wants to read or see ads, so if you're posting content you should make sure that the content alone provides valuable information and you should not try too hard to sell your app.
Using social sites for getting new customers is a difficult process that takes a lot of time. There are shortcuts like making a post on ProductHunt or posting into a subreddit but those usually are short-lived and will give you a nice bump in the number of downloads for 24 hours, but they can not be used as a funnel for new customers. For the rest of the methods presented, the results don't come back as easily, however, they can represent a constant funnel of new users if done properly.
Conference / Meetups
When you first launch a new product, the focus should be on gathering as much feedback as possible and adjusting your approach to find the product-market fit. The best way to gather feedback is by talking with the customers and seeing their reactions when they test your product.
Conferences and meetups are great places for meeting tech-savvy people, early adopters, and entrepreneurs who can give you insights on how to make the product better. A good place for findings gatherings is meetup. In addition to this, you should also participate in tech conferences that have some focus on the area of your product, or even enter a startup contest and present your idea in front of large audiences. An example of such a conference is Techsylvania an event that takes place every year in our hometown Cluj - Napoca. In addition to advice and interacting with people that have similar interests the startup competition could give you international recognition and even funding if that's something you're searching for.
There is no easy way of getting customers to try your product for free, at least not in the early stages, the entire process is difficult and time-consuming. However, it can be made much simpler by knowing who your target audience is and how to reach them, that why we recommend all our founders to do a Digital Product Discovery Workshop before diving into implementing and working on their idea.