App promotion in 2014 looks different than it will next year – next year the game will change yet again. But a look at this year’s marketing ecosystem will give you an idea of what to expect and how to prepare.

There are a million ways to advertise online and a million and one ways to market, which is why marketing platforms have evolved to help you with your marketing needs. And, though huge, marketing only forms part of your promotional efforts.

To understand why marketing platforms exist, how they fit into the marketing ecosystem, and how to use them as a core tool in your promotional toolbox, let’s look at the marketing world in 2014.

What the Playing Field Looks Like Now

The mobile marketing world is still pretty new. Though smartphones have only become popular recently, they have skyrocketed in popularity and worldwide sales number in the billions of units.

Google and Apple dominate the smartphone market share, followed distantly by other companies, such as Microsoft, BlackBerry, and Samsung.

Similarly, companies such as Facebook and Google remain strong in the online advertising world, but there are many, many more advertising networks to choose from than there are smartphone manufacturers.

Some ad networks specialize in mobile advertising, others are cross-platform, and others offer specialized ad formats or advertising tools. Variety, however, isn’t always a good thing.

Too many options make it difficult to know which choice is the right one. Knowing the returns and the value of the customers can be a challenge, which is why some marketing companies have consolidated a variety of advertising tools into unified dashboards.

Unified Marketing Platforms as Total Marketing Solutions

Unified marketing platforms, such as those offered by Perion, bring together ad networks, ad exchanges, marketing sources, analytics tools, and more. These platforms solve all the problems presented by 2014’s fractured mobile marketing ecosystem, and let developers focus on their core business of creating great apps.

Analytics hubs give developers the ability to quickly and easily calculate marketing returns, customer values, and assess their campaigns. Other services, such as automated optimization and budget controls, only enhance their utility.

These types of marketing platforms represent the future of marketing and promotion, but that doesn’t mean they solve all your marketing needs. You still need to promote.

Marketing vs. Promotion vs. Advertising

Here’s a quick run-down of the difference between these three:

Marketing – In business terminology, marketing is the most all-encompassing term. It includes the “four P’s,” which are price, product, promotion, and place. The goal is to communicate value to customers, so that customers make a purchase or convert on an offer (such as downloading an app).

Promotion – This term refers to generating awareness around a product or service. It also has the additional goals of increasing demand, differentiating a product, and presenting information about that product.

Advertising – Advertising is one method of promotion, where the merchant pays a third-party to host promotional content. For many content creators, advertising is an ideal monetization method. Due to the extraordinarily low cost of online publication for various forms of content, anyone can become an advertiser and earn money.

In other words, advertising is only one tool in the promotional toolbox. There are plenty of other effective ways of promoting an app, and not all of them involve advertising.

How to Use Unified Marketing Platforms in Your Promotional Efforts

Unified marketing platforms are specifically designed to help developers, advertisers, and marketers take advantage of the latest forms of online advertising. And though a unified platform can assist in online marketing efforts, they should only supplement – and not replace – promotional efforts.

This list highlights advertising and how it fits in with various other elements of promotion:

Publishing – Publishing isn’t just about books, though that is one option. Blogs are essentially online publications. They are the new versions of magazines and newspapers. The more reputable the publication outlet, the better it will be for your promotional efforts.

Networking – Personal networking, from conferences to seminars to webinars, online forums, social media, and Meetup groups, are an ideal way to spread the word in person. Personal relationships and connections are still the foundation of successful business.

Direct Marketing and Sales – Reach out to key industry players directly in order to make business offers or develop partnerships. Though automation rules, humans still run the show.

Advertising – This is where unified marketing platforms come into play. Running a profitable mobile advertising campaign will soon become next to impossible without these types of tools.

Advertising is a promotional tool, and promotion is a marketing tool. For developers to be successful at app promotion in 2014 and beyond, they’ll need to take advantage of the advertising tools that are offered by these types of platforms.