So, you’ve decided to build an iPhone app for your company and you want to make sure it sells in the App Store. How do you market a new product? What are some emerging trends in the world of iOS and Android development?
Enter Ryan Matzner and Rameet Chawla, the head honchos here at Fueled, an app design and development company that helps startups and enterprises alike build their mobile and web products. They have made over a quarter billion dollars in sales for their various clients, some of whom end up working at the Fueled Collective, a coworking space comprised of over 25 tech companies.
What are the best/worst ideas for apps in today’s market?
Ryan has seen it all, as the agency receives about 300 product pitches a month. Here’s where most of them go wrong:
“I think people bring app ideas to us that sound really cool, and in theory a lot of people would use them, but I wouldn’t use it, and they wouldn’t use it. So, if I wouldn’t use the app and they wouldn’t use the app, then who would?”
The director of Fueled also discourages cynicism when coming up with your business strategy.
“You [may] kind of have this broad vision of ‘the idiot masses will just use our app because it’s out there and it exists,’ but that’s not really true. People aren’t dumb. They use things that are interesting, that are compelling, that are helpful, that are good. And just building something that’s gimmicky and silly that you think people will use because it exists is a terribly flawed concept.”
According to Matzner, the apps that work best are those that facilitate transactions.
“The new area people are thinking about are the things that more directly generate revenue, tools that help you buy things, help you leverage existing services like taxis (Taxibeat), or connecting with people in a way that drives revenue rather directly.”
Social media and coupon products, like LivingSocial, are losing popularity, or have become too difficult to beat.
“There are just too many crappy deals out there. It’s just flooded with garbage.”
Matzner gives an insightful example of a common idea that you should stay away from.
“Getting restaurants to do anything is nearly impossible. It’s a tough market. And it’s also one of the markets that people think about or have ideas around the most frequently, because it’s very accessible. You’re in restaurants, you think ‘Oh, wouldn’t an app be great for X,’ and people have been having those ideas for years. It’s really about the execution, and executing on that stuff is really tough.”
What if I have a really small budget?
So let’s say you have about $5,000 to spend, and you just want to experiment with an app idea. What do you do? That’s where the idea of an MVP, or minimal viable product, comes in. Most companies don’t like to take too many risks when it comes to spending money, so they release an extremely basic version of a product to gauge its popularity before adding any other features.
Ryan suggests that “if you had a 5k budget, the best thing to do would be to invest it in a quick and dirty demo with somebody. Find some freelance developer, and get them to build out something that works. Don’t worry about design. Just ignore design. Build something that functions a little bit as a starting place that you can actually show people.”
From here, you now have a cheap prototype that can be used for pitches and raising more capital. By the way, you may have seen several entrepreneurs going on crowdsourcing sites like Kickstarter or Indiegogo. Not only are these websites hit-or-miss as far as their potential for funding, but you only have up to 60 days to raise any money.
“Crowdsourcing is a lot tougher than it sounds. Not only does it have to be a compelling idea, but you just have to be really good at marketing it. Don’t think for a second that you can just set up a Kickstarter page and generate 100k in revenue. It’s a lot more complex than that.”
How should the User Interface (UI), or User Experience (UX), of my app be designed?
The UI and UX are the overall planning of how a piece of software works. This could include how buttons are arranged on the home screen or menu, or which pages lead to where. Designers and producers will often use flowmaps and other such tools to organize the flow of an app as the consumer will see it. Ryan stresses that “keeping the UI really simple is very important. I think, all too often, people think that they can explain the UI with some intro menus and that people will get it. You’ve already failed if that’s your theory. It needs to be simple enough that there is no explainer screen. There are no hints. It’s just obvious. That’s our sort of guiding philosophy on information architecture.”
How do I get people to download my app?
“If it’s web-based,” begins Matzner, “then [search engine optimization (SEO)] comes into play really heavily. If it’s strictly mobile, then it’s driving users to download your app, which is really tough. It is really tough. Thinking about the right keywords and optimizing it for the store is important, but that’s just the first step. Getting it reviewed, getting it mentioned, creating some sort of viral element that people are sharing something from your app, driving other users to it, I think is really important.”
Many apps are free to download, and not all of them use advertising or in-app purchases for upgrades. According to Chawla, “the traditional form for an app that doesn’t make money, is to grab a bunch of users and then sell to the larger version of yourself.” One example of this is Instagram, which sold its service to Facebook for $736 million in 2012. More creative techniques have been used as well. “Elevatr is making money off of helping people execute their ideas. It’s not an ad, it’s not an in-app purchase. But it’s specific to what [Founder David Spiro’s] app’s doing. So if you’re going to get creative, you just have to think about what service your app is offering, and then see if there’s something you can do there that’s outside of the norm to add value to your customers.”
What would Ryan and Rameet want first-timers to know?
Ryan reminds the app-builder to pay attention to issues that will come up after the product’s release, such as marketing and quality control.
“In many ways, marketing and distribution are more difficult than actually building out the app. Building an app is not the sort of thing where you create a piece of software, and then you just throw it up and see what happens. There’s maintenance. There’s attention that needs to be paid. You want to update it, tweak it, fix it as you realize how your users are actually using stuff, what excites them and what doesn’t.”
Rameet emphasizes the MVP mantra.
“You want to try and not build the perfect app. Just build something, to get it out there. A lot of people, especially first-time entrepreneurs, always want to make sure it’s feature-rich, and you can do this, and you can do that, and if you can’t do it then it’s not going to beat the competition. That’s not the case. Just build out that core feature and just release it. Don’t work on something for a year and then release it. Work on something for a month and release it.”
Fueled is the world’s premier development and strategy firm specializing in creating Android and iPhone apps.
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