Start with Your Goals
Communicate with your team and make sure you have a good idea of what you want to be accomplished by working with an ASO provider. Sometimes it’s just a simple audit to make sure you’re following best ASO practices; other times it’s training for your app marketers to get up to speed on how to actively promote the app. If you have a good list of things you want to be completed at the end of an engagement, you’ll be better able to judge the eventual results.
Before I became an ASO provider, I was an app marketer who has worked with several clients and companies who didn’t really know what they wanted in the past. For me, it is OK, but it does make our job a little less structured, and it means you need an exceptional level of trust in your ASO. What I’ve done is to actually go straight to the point, establish rapport, discuss goals, and clear them by management – this works, too, but I worry that sometimes they don’t always end up with exactly what they wanted, but rather what I think they wanted. Quick aside – sometimes the ASO will know what you need better than you will – to get the best of both Worlds, you may ask them for what they think your goals should be and combine those with your own list.
Connect with Your Social Media
Social media networks can best assist you in finding a good match are those who know you well. Talk to your peers, friends, fellow app owners, ASO bloggers and personalities that you know and trust.
When you talk to your network, be sure to share a little bit about the project and the goals, not just “do you know a good ASO.” The more information about the issues you can share, the better guys are able to assist. At the least, if you have geographic considerations or want a company vs. a freelancer, this is good to include in the request.
Get Advice from ASO-Savvy People You Trust
If you’re a business seeking ASO, better consult Gabriel Machuret for training or buy his ebooks. Another option is to look seriously into familiarizing yourself with forums, blogs and sites related to ASO and the people behind them you respect. It’s easy to establish rapport by asking for advice on which ASO company or consultant to hire – I get them 2-3x a week (actually, Gabriel takes most of them now – thanks, Gab!). As a rule, ASOs are incredibly friendly about referring business to good companies and good people, and if your network has already given you a couple of names, running these by the professionals can get you valuable insight on potential winners vs. lemons. You may also buy my ASO book here, to learn about ASO basics and Blackhat.
Ask for a List of Past ASO Success Stories
When you first approach an ASO provider, let them know what are looking and who you are, then continue the conversation after they have said whether they’d be available for the gig. The next step is to establish some trust with the provider, and a perfect way to do this is to ask for a list of “success stories.”
I’m purposely not saying “customers” because these can give you a very warped sense. I have done work for tons of “clients” whom I wouldn’t consider success stories and wouldn’t want potential customers judging me against (mostly because they haven’t always taken the ASO advice I’ve provided). If you ask for customers and see apps that have some terrible ASO practices, it’s really hard to know if the ASO company is to blame or if that customer simply wouldn’t/couldn’t/didn’t implement the recommendations. This is such a common issue that I’d urge you to ask for examples that display their expertise in practice. I might give out a company like ASOAgency or AskTolik as examples of customers who’ve done really impressive things with the advice I provided.
Talk on the Phone/Skype or (if possible) Get Together
Email is a good initial communication medium, but a phone call or in-person meeting gives you a real sense of the ASO team you’ll work with. Make sure you’re not just talking to a sales representative but to the person who will be interacting with you throughout the contract execution process. There’s nothing worse than getting sold by knowledgeable ASO leader and passed on to a junior team for management.
Be sure to establish a rapport. If you can’t feel comfortable on a personal level, don’t dismiss it – brilliant ASOs are great, but if you can’t work well together, it is unlikely to succeed. I think we can all attest to working better with people we like and people we get along with.
I know, I might be criticized for this but I don’t think they are worth much. Believe me, no one is going to give you bad references, and anyone can get his or her friend to be the CEO of some app company or another. If you can’t get a read on whether an ASO is a high quality and worth working with sans references, go somewhere else. Unless they’re complete idiots, the references will always say nice things.
Get an Informal Proposal from Your Top 2-3 ASO Vendors
Don’t just get a quote from just one vendor, even if you’re sure you’re going to use them. Multiple offers aren’t just a best practice, they’re a really good way to tell about pricing and scope discrepancies. The quote from an ASO vendor you don’t like might have some pieces that your preferred vendor overlooked. Pricing is harder because it fluctuates so wildly in the app marketing world. I thought for a long time that ASOAgency was one of the highest priced services on the market, only to discover that some friendly competition has been upset about how the company is undercutting. Honestly, I don’t compete with big time ASO vendors as my target customers are indie developers and small timers who are just starting out. So if you need cheap yet reliable ASO services, just let me know (shameless plug J).
But then again, just a word of warning – don’t choose an ASO provider on price alone (or even make price the biggest part of your decision) unless your budget is a real problem. Here’s why – ASO is usually an incredibly high ROI activity. Companies that spend $1,000 on ASO services tend to make it back in a matter of weeks or months from traffic and conversion increases (remember that more targeted traffic means higher conversion rates, too). Thus, going with an ASO who’s cheaper might seem like a good idea, but if you don’t work as well together and think they might not do as good a job, you’re really hurting yourself in the long term. I’m not saying you should get fleeced by some exorbitantly overpriced ASO firms, I’m just suggesting that a few hundred dollars are not the best reason to choose a different provider.
Go with Your Gut
When you finally make a decision, go with the firm you feel most confident will bring results – take Malcolm Gladwell’s advice and “Blink” onto the right choice. If you don’t feel like there is a correct company at the time, just go back to the table, get more information, or even try to get another bid or two.