10 years ago developing a new product was a huge undertaking with massive investment and barriers to entry. Now, anyone with an idea (and some capital) can develop an application - this is an exciting time for innovation and for budding entrepreneurs. In fact, we are experiencing a record high of entrepreneurship with over 27 million working-age Americans--nearly 14 percent-- that are starting or running a new businesses. (report from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), sponsored by Babson College and Baruch College)
That being said, according to fortune.com, 9 out of 10 start ups will fail in the first year. Having a successful app seems akin to winning the lottery BUT there is more than chance and luck at play here. What can you do to better your odds of success?
Whether it’s a consumer mobile application (like spotify, airbnb, periscope), a B2B application (like Lucid chart, Voip or Salesforce) or a custom system being designed to drive efficiency in a specific company’s business, taking the time to think through the next four steps will help set you up for success.
Will Your Application Make You Money?
Validate Your Idea!
Unless you are building an app for yourself this question is the most important question you can answer. Here are the key pieces of the puzzle that need to be determined in order to answer that question.
Identifying the problem that your app will solve. This should be the driving force behind your idea and is often referred to as a pain point. The more acute the pain point, the more valuable your application will be. The top reason startups fail is that they make products that no one wants.(reference - http://fortune.com/2014/09/25/why-startups-fail-according-to-their-founders/)
Figure out who specifically has this problem or who is experiencing this pain point. This will be your target audience. Understanding your target audience, their preferences and their habits will go a long way to building a better product.
What else is out there that may solve the same problem? Other apps? Other solutions? This is called the competitive set. Competition can be a good thing as it means there is a market but too much competition can mean the market is oversaturated.
How is your idea different or better, or both? This is how you can differentiate yourself from the competition. Even in a saturated market, if you have a differentiator that is important to your target this will set you apart. Determining your differentiator (s) will help you establish your unique selling proposition (USP).
What is your market size? How many people could potentially buy your application? This is the opportunity. For example, if you have a product that you are selling to teachers in the United States and there are 1.3 Million teachers in the United States then your market size would be 1.3 Million. However, if you are only targeting female teachers and 76% of teachers are female then your market size would be 988,000. The more defined your target market, the smaller the market size.
How much will your target audience be willing to pay for your application? Without a big research budget, this is difficult to quantify. However, qualitative data can help enormously in the early stages. Talk to a few of the people you think might be interested in this and see how acute the pain is that you are solving, determine their interest and, if possible, see what value they put on this solution. Of course this will be hypothetical at this point but it will provide you with context.
In researching and thinking through the above you will have identified:
- AThe problem you’re solving
- BYour Target Market
- CThe Competitive Set
- DUnique Selling Proposition
- EThe Market Opportunity
- FPrice point
If you have good business savy or are willing to put in the time to learn, you can do all of the above yourself and hit the ground running. However, some entrepreneurs find it helpful to involve a strategic marketing expert to either verify assumptions or work with you to formulate the above. Some development agencies will offer a market assessment package for an application idea which could end up saving you a lot of time and, in the long run, money.
If you determine in step 1 that you have a viable product opportunity then move on to step 2.
Building Your Application
Once you have validated your idea (see above), it’s time to figure out how to get it built. While investment in digital applications is substantially less than it was in the past you will still need some capital to get you started, not to mention a lot of sweat equity.
Depending on your applications critical success factors (which could include: initial capital investment, quality of validation research , competitive set etc.) you will need to decide what level of completeness you want your first build to be.
Prototype - this is often creative inserted into a prototyping tool like Invisionsoft
Minimum Viable Product (MVP) - a product with just enough features to gather validated learning about the product and its continued development
Alpha Product - Alpha version describes a development status that usually means the first complete version of a program or application, which is most likely unstable, but is useful to show what the product will do to,usually, a selected group
Beta Product - the beta version is usually the last version before wide release, often tested by users under real-world conditions
Understanding what it takes to build an application can help you determine what you can do yourself and what you may need help with. A good development partner will work with you to fill in the gaps.
In order to build your application, you will need:
- AA wireframe of your application logic
- How will people engage with this app? What is the functionality needed to make this user friendly product (ie. if my customer clicks on this, then this happens)
- Depending on your application, this can be a lengthy process. If you have the time, it can be quite enjoyable but if you are juggling a full time job, family etc. you may want or need some help on this.
- A solid information architect will be able to take your thoughts and lay them out in a logical format for you. Then together you can iterate and adjust until you have reached the optimal structure. This will serve as the map for the end product.
- Often times a new app comes without a pre-existing brand. This means it is essentially a blank slate. Your design (also referred to as UI) should be developed with your target audience (defined in step 1) in mind.
- Large companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars developing a brand, testing it and making sure it resonates with their target market.
- That being said, brands evolve and until you know your app can support that kind of investment, just make sure your design reflects the personality of your product (ie. if you are building an app to watch your pet at home, the design should be fun and playful, if, however you are designing something to track finances and pay bills it should be concise, structured and pull elements from other finance based products).
UX or how a customer experiences your application should also reflect your brand. A good designer will work with your development team to optimize UX based on your target market. (ie. if you are building an application for nursing home patients, the user experience needs to be geared towards their needs - such as older eyes requiring increased brightness and contrast).
- The type of developer you need depends on your application. For example, a mobile app requires an IOS or Android developer, a native HTML app, an HTML5 developer, and for an enterprise application it will depend on the type of services and interactions your application requires to meet your business needs.
- You will require both a front end developer (they will code what the user sees) and a back end developer (they will code all the logic)
- Finding a solid development resource at a good price can be tricky. Offshore firms offer competitive rates but project management and communication suffer. A lot of North American firms provide a solid product but their rates can be triple that of an offshore firm.
- Near-sourcing is gaining some traction in the development world as it combines North American project management with Offshore pricing. Essentially giving you the best of both worlds
- UX or how a customer experiences your application should also reflect your brand. A good designer will work with your development team to optimize UX based on your target market. (ie. if you are building an application for nursing home patients, the user experience needs to be geared towards their needs - such as older eyes requiring increased brightness and contrast).
Drawing inspiration from sites geared for your target audience is a great way of getting ideas for both UI and UX.
- DQuality Assurance (QA)
- QA or testing is obviously an important part of your application and this requires a lot of time and patience, if you are doing this yourself make sure you have enough time to dedicate to doing it properly
- Often QA can be done in teams, if you have friends/family/co-workers that are willing to dedicate a few hours this can lighten your load dramatically
- ll development firms should offer QA but the time and effort they put in can vary dramatically. Make sure you understand what is included in QA as the permutations for even the most simple applications make it impossible for any firm to test everything.
- Mobile apps do not require hosting, however, any web based application will require a secure platform from which to operate on.
Selling Your Application: Now that it’s built,
How are you going to get people to buy it?
Often this critical piece is an afterthought. The excitement of getting your application built overshadows the big question of how you are going to get people using it! Unfortunately, an ‘if you build it, they will come’ strategy is not going to cut it. With over a million apps in the market, the chances that someone will just find you are miniscule.
There are two major strategies you must consider:
- 1Awareness Getting on the radar of potential buyers, making them aware that you exist.
- 2Conversion They are aware, convincing them to give you a try.
Some Common Awareness Tactics:
Digital marketing campaigns (this may include tactics like; ppc, banner ads, retargeting ads, social media strategy etc.)
Influencer strategies - using a person who is well-connected and who is regarded as influential and in-the-know to help spread the word.
Outsourced Sales Team - leverage a 3rd party sales team with industry expertise to help sell in your idea.
Grassroots marketing - get the word out at relevant trade shows, in industry publications or at applicable events.
Strategic partnerships - partner with a complementary business and create a value add package.
Some Common Conversion tactics:
Web presence - create a website to promote the app, it’s features and benefits, this will be a virtual store front.
Content marketing strategy - creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to help build your authority with your target audience. This is a long play conversion tactic. By building authority and loyalty you built trust.
Freemiums - offer a portion of the application for free so users get to try it out and appreciate it’s value.
Early adopter pricing - offer special deals to companies that are willing to get in on the ground floor. This can also provide you with invaluable data to drive product improvements.
A Go To Market Strategy will combine th;e most optimal of the above tactics as it relates to your unique target market to drive awareness and conversion.
Interestingly, more and more development companies are creating and marketing their own products/applications and are therefore well versed in creating Go To Market Strategies. This can be an efficient resource for you since they will already be familiar with your product and the market after developing the application for you. Ask your development partner if they can help map this out with you.
Now What? I’m done right??
This is a great place to be. Enjoy the moment! You’ve built you application and people have bought your application. That’s it right?
Applications are never finished, only released.
To be successful you have to be in it for the long haul. No digital product is created in a vacuum, in fact, it’s just the opposite. Your application lives in a dynamic, transitional environment of shifting competitive landscapes, platform evolution, software and hardware progression, and interface changes. A successful application has to respond to all these variables in a timely and agile manner in order to stay relevant and useful.
If you’re unsure about where to take your product from here, feel free to reach out to us at Troon for a free consultation. If you are ready and raring to go start your project here.