The Tortoise, the Hare or the Eagle?

by Brook Lenox on January 17, 2010

tortoise_hareYou’ve heard of the story of “The Tortoise and the Hare”, right? The tortoise is slow and steady and the hare is fast and maybe a bit prideful.

The lesson is that slow and steady wins the race. The hare naps, while the tortoise plods along and finishes in first place.

In the iPhone app store, I think there are actually 3 different ways you can run the marketing race: the tortoise, the hare, or the eagle. Here’s how each of them works.

The Hare – Top 100

This is the main strategy I see talked about. Run fast! Get into the top 100. Sell millions of copies and quit your job (i.e. iShooter guy). It’s happened, but it’s getting harder and harder to do without a significant marketing budget.

The key to this strategy is marketing to lots of people in a short time period. You can use an existing user base or spend money to get in front of users, but in the end it’s got to be a big splash. 

The components to this strategy are as follows:

  • Build a great app
  • Test wisely
  • Either spend $$$ or find some other way to expose your app to a crowd of people

But, if you don’t have at a minimum $3,000-$10,000 or a way to reach tens of thousands of people when you launch, you should probably consider the other two strategies.

The Tortoise – No Marketing Budget

No money. You are working nights and weekends to create an app. You have little or no money to market it.

Here are some keys to this strategy:

  • Build a great app (once again)
  • Not expecting success overnight
  • No rest! Never stop using free app marketing
  • Build a small, but faithful user base
  • Rewarding that user base with updates and new apps over time

This strategy will not typically generate big numbers of sales, unless you strike lightning in a bottle. But done with a tortoise like persistence it could generate more and more revenue as you go.

The Eagle – Precision

I picked an eagle for this strategy, because eagles have great eyes. The can target a mouse from a long ways away.

You don’t have a huge budget, but you do have some money to spend. If you could make money along the way, you’d be fine. Your goal isn’t to “run” or “hop” :) into the top 100, it’s to be profitable and perhaps do well in a category.

This strategy combines the following:

  • Great app at a premium price ($2.99-$6.99)
  • Lite and Paid versions
  • Ability to acquire customers through mobile ads < $1/free app
  • Strong lite to paid conversion rates (15-30%)
  • Understanding of how to test, test, and test again

Your numbers on a mobile ad campaign might look like this:


 NOTE: these numbers are just to get you thinking. Yours will obviously be different.


So there is the tortoise, the hare, and the eagle.  Hope that helps! Feel free to discuss in the comments.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Rob Weber January 25, 2010 at 7:33 am

Based on the conversations I have had with iPhone publishers, the vast majority fit into “The Tortoise” group. I view The Tortoise to be iPhone developers, and not iPhone marketers. iPhone developers are hobbyists. iPhone marketers define a strategy, and are obsessed with winning.

Check out this list of guerilla and paid app marketing tactics for app developers and marketers that I put together recently based on the past ten years of observation I have witnessed.

Brook Lenox January 25, 2010 at 9:58 am


I agree…most are forced to be in the Tortoise category.

Also like your list, although I think for iPhone apps, the #1 paid strategy has to be an iPhone app specific mobile ad network.


Bryan Bowers February 24, 2010 at 6:15 pm

Well, today we joined the ranks of the Tortoise. Our best selling app, PrayerJournal, hit the top 75 download for the paid Lifestyle category. :-)

It definately takes persistance, patience, and lots and lots of work. I am working on an eBook now that details the tactics we have used for the past six months.

Brook Lenox February 26, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Bryan…agreed persistence, patience, work…and a little luck along the way! Took a look at some your apps…keep up the good work.

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