The Marketing Difference Between a Web Site and an App

Short post:

Ownership or visitation.


Long post:

For the past 2 years, B&H Publishing Group has been experimenting with releasing apps on various platforms, including iOS, Android, WP7, nook, and even the Xbox 360. I've been blessed to work with Paul Mikos as we have split the duties on product managment for these apps; he runs with the paid apps and my team runs with the free, marketing apps.

One of the very first projects I worked on at B&H was a promotional site for "Sunday School in HD." It's amazing how much has changed since then - and how dated the site looks less than 3 years later. That first year on the job it was common practice to build a microsite for all of the major books we released. At one point on my resume I noted that we were building an average of 3 microsites a week.

But now, due to LifeWay and B&H's deep expertise in digital development, every major title is analyzed and we have the ability to look at what a title really needs instead of just assuming that a static webpage is in order. That's not to say we don't have a few web pages lined up in the near future - but that we have more tools up our sleeves.

For our major titles we typically draw upon one (or a combination of) of three tools from our skill set:

  • A static website
  • A community driven destination
  • An interactive app

In a meeting today, I finally articulated some thoughts that have been in my head; one of those things that you know you know but, until you actually say it, you don't quite realize that it's been a driving force.

When we build websites, we are trying to create a destination that people want to visit and explore. When we build apps, we are giving you a taste of ownership.

With a website, your curiosity leads you to click and explore; an interactive billboard. This kind of marketing is great when there is an experience that can only be had by experiencing the atmosphere of the content. A great example of this is our Jim Rubart site; by visiting the destination you get an instant understanding and connection to the author and his works just through the visual design. You can jump in and out of his works, and get a taste for the worlds he builds.

With an app, you engage in a different way because you have claimed ownership the moment you click download. It's a part of your library and needs to be something that connects with you in a different way; it needs to be something that you are already emotionally or intellectually connected with. An example of this is our Transformational Church iOS app. When you download it you have immediate access to numerous quotes throughout the book that can start conversations in the social media space.

Eventually, once you begin building apps, sites and communities (maybe that's fodder for a future post?)on a regular basis, it becomes an intuitive choice as to which route to go in order to best service the author's vision and content. It's the kind of instinct that doesn't have to come with time - it can come immediately with just thought.

A few questions to ask when trying to decide about building an app or a website for a product:

  1. Is it ok if the customer owns a piece of the product without paying for it?
  2. Which term connects better with the content: experiential or interactivity?
  3. Should the content stand alone or should it be connected to other things?
  4. What can you do with the content beyond just reading it?
  5. Does the author have a favorite website? a favorite app?