Launching your first mobile app? Read this
The digital landscape is changing rapidly, leaving many entrepreneurs confused about the best strategy to launch and market their apps, especially on mobile.
Following are three common questions that invariably come up during my conversations with young entrepreneurs:
- Best time to launch an app: “We've build the core functionality. Should we add more features to make the app more useful and differentiated before launch?”
- User acquisition strategy: “How do we get people to use it with a start-up budget? Should we invest in branding at all?”
- Monetization: “What are the best ways to monetize?”
In this post, I am touching upon some high level marketing philosophy around the above questions. If you are looking for tactics, stay tuned, I’ll cover those in my future posts.
1. Don’t load your app with too many features:
The easiest way to determine when it’s the best time to launch your app is when you are confident that your app is ready to create value for your chosen segment of population. Never launch an incomplete app, but also don’t load it with too many features before you put it in the hands of your first users. Focus on building an experience, not a suite of features.
Adding too many features in the first version of your app could pose the following challenges, in addition to increasing time-to-market and development costs:
- Losing flexibility: To build a successful app in the long run, you need to respond to user-feedback and iterate fast, which will be difficult if you have too many things to change.
- Confusing users and yourself: It’s already hard to stand out among thousands of apps launching every minute and to be able to clearly communicate your core value proposition. Adding too many features will only confuse your audience (and you) and will likely dilute your core value proposition.
- Adding features vs killing features: Adding new features will give you opportunities to generate user-excitement, especially when you've learnt how badly they want those features. Also, when you respond to user feedback in the form of product improvement and new features, it presents another marketing opportunity to engage users and build loyalty. Axing unused/undesirable features is just a waste of time and communication around it is often complex. So, it’s always a good idea to keep room for adding features and functionality.
2. Marketing alone can’t help you succeed:
Access to huge marketing budgets and resources alone cannot guarantee success. It shouldn’t be difficult to recall some big name companies with virtually infinite marketing budgets and best marketing talent that have failed to power their apps to success. Marketing is about communicating the true value proposition of your product to the right audience, at the right time, in the right context, and through a credible medium (Hint: Pop-under ads are the best way to ruin your brand and to waste marketing dollars).
Unless there is real value that your app creates for people using it, no level of marketing can get them to “use” your product. Even if you are able to get some initial traction by spending crazy money on user acquisition, engagement metrics will start dwindling quickly if the product doesn't carry itself.
First few users are your product as well as marketing teams. Treat your first users as your product and marketing teams. How quickly you are able to process user feedback and adapt your product strategy will determine your chances of building a product that your next set of users will love.
Your first users are also your best product advocates. Building trust with the early adopters of your product means you are seeding powerful word-of-mouth that will catalyze your marketing efforts and help build a community of engaged users.
3. “No marketing” is better than Bad marketing:
Anyone who claims they can magically make your product a success, is likely selling you false promises. In your marketing discussions with them, you’d often hear jargon like “Hashtag marketing”, “Viral marketing”, “Augmented reality”, “Customer get customer” etc. I’ve sat through agency briefings where they came up with strategies that would have basically incentivize users to spam their networks with your marketing message (Eg. Hashtag contests). Don’t fall for it.
They might come up with shiny creative and cliché marketing messages that you’d probably get sold on. But, what looks exciting to “you”, might not always resonate with your users or might not be the best communication to drive desired actions. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and try exploring the marketing experience you are going to deliver to them. Marketing and product present a unified experience to your audiences. So, over-the-top and desperate marketing can ruin the whole experience you are trying to build for your potential customers.
“Marketing is more of an art then a science”
It’s about using your intuition, building hypothesis, testing and experimenting, learning, iterating and then scaling what works. And then experimenting again. Not everyone who seems to talk intelligently about SEM, SEO, DRM, analytics and other marketing channels and tools is a good marketer. Good marketers first understand and internalize your vision and goals. And then, work diligently to figure the fastest way to find what works best, without damaging your brand and user-experience. Oftentimes, you might be the best marketer you can hire.
4. Your App will monetize itself:
While I agree monetization is one of the biggest challenges for app developers, it’s also something I believe entrepreneurs over-obsess about, especially during the initial stages of product development. When you get enough users, they’ll tell you how you can create more value for them and the eco-system. That’s when you can start to think about how you can monetize that value. If you focus on creating value throughout your product life-cycle, you’ll earn user-trust that’ll lead to many monetization opportunities. Create value for them and they’ll create value for you.
To be continued in Part 2, stay tuned…
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this post are my personal opinions. The information, facts or opinions appearing on the post do not reflect the views of any of my current or past employers or entities I am associated with.