Our team has been really busy with client projects and we’ve learned so much that it’s time to share some of our lessons learned with you. I think it’s also timely since Brian and I started the development of our first iPhone application three years ago.
A lot has changed since we started back in 2010 and while there is still a lot of opportunity in mobile, there is also increased competition and the market is a very crowded place with over 700,000 iPhone apps and 500,000 Android apps. Since I’ve been in technology for over fifteen years and in the mobile space since its inception, friends and acquaintances often contact me when they have the next big idea. I also talk with entrepreneurs that need help with marketing on a daily basis.
One of the things I’ve learned is that while most people have great ideas, the reality is there are typically many established competitors that are doing something very similar to their concepts. The competitors have either been really successful or in some cases all of them have failed to establish any type of a presence in the market. Taking the time to research competitors is critical to understand the true potential of your idea. Define your direct and indirect competitors and do an informal SWOT analysis to further define your product.
Unless your product is differentiated you’ll find it hard to gain any momentum in the marketplace. The media will typically only consider you if you app is new and unique. They don’t want to write about the 10th competitor that has the same old features of the dominant players in the market. More importantly, there will not be a natural market for your product because the dominant players have leadership positions in the market and very few people want try something that is unknown or unproven.
Before you start development, draw out your design for the product on paper and share it with potential users that will not be afraid to give you critical feedback and challenge your idea. This is the only way you’ll get real world validation that you’re on target. You’ll also get feedback that has the potential to make your app better than you ever imagined. I’ve had clients that have been too conservative and developed their product in a vacuum with little or no feedback from actual users. This results in poor reviews and feedback because the app is only developed for your use cases and others use cases weren’t taken into consideration. Talk to your peers, run an online focus group, or just as someone that you consider to be smarter than you to give you feedback. The more people you talk to the better. It will pay off in the long run.
So many people ask me, what is the secret to success in today’s market? Is it marketing? Is it advertising? What is it?
After trying almost everything, I think there is a few components that are critical to success.
- Do your research before you start coding – know your market and your competition.
- Design a product that is the best in its category – learn from your competitors and design a better product.
- Design a product that is differentiated from the competition.
- Design a sexy app and great user experience – Invest on the best UI/UX designers available.
- Focus on less is more and define a simple yet powerful interface.
- Know that most marketing and advertising options will yield little or no results unless you have a good monetization model. A $0.99 one-time purchase severely limits your revenue potential and ability to invest in profitable marketing and advertising campaigns. This model worked in the early days when consumers had very few options, but things are very different today. Apps need to be free with in app purchases to maximize downloads from media coverage and there needs to be complementary content or functionality that users will want to pay for. Work on developing the largest user community possible by providing a meaningful free version of the app and ask users to pay for the add ones that make the product even better. Learn from other blockbuster social networking and mobile products in like Facebook, Instagram, etc. Build communities for in-app purchase conversion, advertising revenue, affiliate marketing, and other monetization opportunities.
Marketing and Advertising:
- Develop an integrated marketing plan that integrates PR Marketing and Advertising to generate downloads.
- Don’t invest heavily in any campaign until you’ve completed a low cost test campaign to prove that there is potential.
- Define your target markets and identify how you can connect with them – for example if you have a childrens book, identify all the top parenting publications and bloggers that can help you spread the word about your app. Research the top sites and collect their contact information. Develop a press release, write your pitch, and start reaching out to the publications to build relationships and generate media coverage.
- Be committed to your idea and be willing to invest your time into making it successful.
- Know that you are your products #1 advocate – know it better than everyone else and be able to define its unique value proposition.
Good luck with your projects and we’d like to hear about your experiences as you develop and launch the next generation of mobile applications!
Todd Musgrove and the Essential App Marketing Team