Everyone likes to get something for free. Apple, while not prone to giving anything away for free, does give app developers 50 free download codes for each app developed approved for the App Store. The download codes are made available when your app is approved and can be used prior to your app going on sale or anytime thereafter.
Recent changes in Apple's guidelines regarding promo codes have added some new restrictions. Users of the free promo codes can no longer post reviews of the app on the App Store.
In an attempt to level the playing field, Apple feels that those who receive a free code will be biased in their assessment of the app. While this may have some effect on making reviews fairer, it does not prevent anyone from posting a review of the app on their own web site, blog, Facebook page, or Twitter feed.
So, the question often comes up about how to make the best use of your free codes to promote your app? I'll discuss a few ideas and rules to follow in the remainder of this article.
You get 50 codes per app; use them wisely. Don't download all 50 promo codes at once since they have a shelf life of 28 days and cannot be renewed.
Download only number of codes that you need at any given time. You can start by downloading a block of five, for example. It's fast and easy to download the codes through iTunes Connect in increments of even one!
You can get 50 more codes each time your app is updated. If you're close to updating your app or if it's in the review process, you can use up your remaining promo codes. Once your app's revision is approved, you'll be granted another 50 codes, but your old codes will not work at that point.
Ask anyone who gets a code to still write a review. Don't assume that reviews aren't valuable because they can't be posted on the App Store. You can post the reviews on your own product website.
You can also post a positive review at the top of your App Store description where you place text about your app. That's actually a better place anyway because it stands a better chance of being read.
Use the codes prior to launch of your app. The best time to use the codes is when your app is approved and not yet launched on the store.
If, for example, your app has been approved, but you have specified that it not go live for two weeks, use that time to give the codes to reviewers so they can get a sneak peak of your app prior to launch. You may improve your chances of getting a review if you give someone "exclusive" access to your app. It doesn't hurt to try this angle.
Don't sell the codes. While it's possible to sell someone your free promo codes (outside of Apple's App Store system), you agree not to in Apple's terms of conduct prior to being granted codes.
If you want to purchase codes, you can do that through Apple's regular iTunes store. It doesn't hurt to give away free codes for your apps once in awhile. You can do a "free download" giveaway through your Facebook App Fan Page, for example. The codes that you purchase are NOT subject to the review restriction by the way. So, anyone who uses a purchased promo code can post a review and rating for your app on the App Store.
Although Apple's guidelines for using promo codes have become more restrictive lately, you should still consider them to be a powerful marketing tool and a benefit to your sales efforts. The key is to time the use of the codes to your advantage.
Try to get reviewers to download your app after its approval and prior to its launch. This assumes that you have built in some time prior to your app's launch on the App Store.
Don't download them all at once because once you do, the clock is ticking. You may have codes that go to waste because you were not able to distribute them to everyone. Don't assume that just because a person can no longer post a review on the App Store, that their review is not valuable. There are other ways to make use of the reviews such as posting them to your Facebook Fan Page, product web site, or Twitter feed.
And by all means, seek out influential people who can write a positive review for your app. Word of mouth through positive reviews can help propel your app into the "Angry Birds" category. At least it can't hurt!