The other day I read an article that said that 1600 apps are being published every single day.
That means that the moment you hit the publish button on the app store (or whatever), another 1599 people will do exactly like you just did.
Just to be clear upfront. I've never built an app in my entire life. I don't even use a smart phone. So if you want the opinion of someone who has a clue about how to build an app, I'm the wrong person.
But if you want the perspective of someone that understands how markets work, what the psychology of your end customer looks like and how to actually launch something, I might be your guy. Or not. It's up to you.
Unfortunately, building a product and then putting it out there isn't enough anymore these days. Building a product isn't the challenge anymore. Everyone can build a product or an app (1600 apps released every day).
It might have worked back in the days when we had a supply driven economy. When access to information, goods and what not was highly limited. You only had to publish something new and people would go crazy and buy it.
This doesn't work anymore in the demand driven economy we live in today. Today, everybody knows about everything and can easily get everything from everywhere with the simple click of a button.
The real challenge these days is about how you can conquer a market. How you can build up traction and ultimately sell your product. And that's what I'm going to talk about here.
If you still feel like you only need to publish your app and it will be an instant success, no hard feelings. You can stop reading right here. Because I have no clue how to write a single line of code. The only things I know about is how to launch and build up traction for your app. That's it.
What's even scarier than the fact that so many apps are being released every single day is the fact that there are already millions of other apps out there. Millions of other apps that are competing for your customer's attention. And ultimately your customer's time and money.
Sure, your app is unique. And nobody has done anything similar before.
And you put a lot of work into developing it. But here's the thing:
So did all the others. They all put in as much effort, time and money as you did. They also feel like they did something very, very special. And probably they did. Just like you did.
And in a perfect world everyone would use your app. Every person would download and use every app that only remotely solves one of their problems.
But unfortunately we don't live in a perfect world.
We live in a world where your potential customer's bandwidth is highly limited.
There's only a certain amount of advertisement, products and content your customers are able to consume and digest.
And it's very, very (very) likely that your potential customer was already bombarded by hundreds of marketing messages, sales pitches and offers to download, use or install another app or whatever product before you even got the chance to open your mouth.
Their bandwidth is already fully taken. No space left.
Chances are that people might not even recognize that you exist, even though you might have the perfect product that might safe their lives.
It's a freaking jungle out there.
The moment you hit the publish button you're competing with millions of others.
You're competing with the fat guy that hangs out in front of his computer 24/7 that just released his app or product.
You're competing with that Indian guy that has 10.000 developers working for him that just released his app.
You're competing with multi billion dollar companies that just released five apps simultaneously.
That's how crazy it is out there. It is a freaking jungle..
And that's something a lot of startups and their founders seem to forget.
I always forget this when I release an e-book on Amazon and no one buys it.
And then I'm super upset about it.
And I see this behavior at every startup event I attend.
I see the same patterns every time I mentor at some of these events.
I ask the same questions over and over again.
And I get the same confused and helpless looks over and over again.
So I decided to write a post about it.
Not just for you, but also for myself. Because this is some sort of checklist that I came up with over the years. And I don't want to forget all of these things. Feel free to use this as well.
I decided to write a post about some of the most important things you should think about before starting to work on your app (or any other product actually).
# HOW DO YOU GET YOUR APP ON PEOPLE'S PHONES?
This is the first thing people seem to be very good at ignoring.
How the hell do you get your app on people's phones?
And I don't mean that people need to download it and then install it. No, what I really mean is how do they find out about you? And why should they even download it. And use it over and over again (because that's what you ultimately want, right?)
Simply uploading an app to the app store doesn't work anymore. There are 1600 apps released every single day. These are all competing for your customer's attention.
Some of these app companies have lots of money to spend on user acquisition. Millions.
Some of them have an entire team that has already released hundreds of apps.
I'm not saying this to scare the shit out of you.
I just like to put things into perspective.
Here's another thing worth considering before you jump right into developing your app.
Ask yourself the following question:
“How many apps do I have on my phone and how many do I use on a regular basis?”
Think about it. And if you don't know, grab your phone and take a look at it.
How many apps do you have on your phone? And how many of them do you use regularly?
The average amount of apps people use is about 5. Among these are usually Facebook, Twitter, Tinder (depending on your age), an e-mail client, a public transportation app and some sort of calendar or productivity app.
This is about the average number of apps people use on a regular basis (maybe a bit more, maybe a bit less).
If you believe that your app doesn't have to compete with these huge apps like Facebook, Twitter, etc. you're wrong.
At the end of the day these are the apps you have to compete with. The only apps!
These are the apps that have taken over your potential customers bandwidth. Their brainpower. All of it..
All the other apps didn't make it. All the other apps failed at getting some of your prospect's bandwidth and attention. And now they're gone.
I know it sounds tough. And it is tough.
So think about how your app will actually end up on your customer's phones.
And then think about how it'll stay there. Forever.
Write it down.
Seriously, write down the path your users need to go through to find out about your app.
Unfortunately getting featured on Techcrunch or any other tech media doesn't really help either.
Why not? Here's why:
Getting featured on Techcrunch or Producthunt is pretty much useless (in the long run).
You'll be competing with thousands of other companies that want your user's attention. The exact same attention you want. The exact same attention that's very limited.
And the folks hanging out on these sites will get exposed to hundreds of new apps or products each and every single day. It's probably the toughest competition you can get yourself into. Shark tank is a joke compared to this.
The folks hanging out on these sites are absolute power users.
They usually download, install and uninstall apps within a few minutes. They barely use them before they uninstall them again. That's the only way for them to make sure to stay up to date.
Just like you started skimming blog posts that someone posted on Facebook. You barely get what it's all about. You spend maybe half a minute and that's it.
Same with power users on Techcrunch, Producthunt or any similar site.
I guess the real innovation, the real brain work needs to be put into coming up with a proper process of how you acquire new customers as cheaply and as efficiently as possible. To me, that's the real innovation behind every app.
Today, it's barely about product innovation anymore. It's about go-to-market innovation (for 99% of the startups out there at least)..
# WHAT'S PEOPLE'S REAL INCENTIVE TO USE YOUR APP?
This is another thing I feel a lot of people try to ignore.
What's people's incentive of using your app?
There's always a good incentive and there's a real incentive.
A good incentive is solving a problem.
But guess what. Everybody else is also solving problems.
Entrepreneurship, starting companies and coding apps has become so mainstream that almost all of us have read the same books, the same blogs and participated at the same startup events.
We all know the deal. We all have the same knowledge. We know that we need to solve a problem.
Hence, simply solving a problem is not a competitive advantage anymore.
Nor is it a guarantee that people will use, let alone find out about your product.
A real incentive is something a lot more powerful.
It combines solving a problem with something everybody wants to have.
If you're selling to end customers, this might include:
Help people make more money. Everybody wants to make more money.
Get them something for free what they usually have to pay for.
Get them something a lot cheaper (discounts were abused these past years so this doesn't work that well anymore).
There are some other incentives, such as, make their lives easier, help them make more friends, loose weight, pick up girls, etc.
Basically, it boils down to helping people lose weight, get rich and pick up the other sex.
Everything else is intangible and not enough.
If you want to sell to businesses it always boils down to help them make more money. It's sad, but that's the only thing that really counts. The real incentive.
You can help businesses make more money by:
Helping them to do their work faster.
A proven and documented 50% increase in getting their things done will increase the number of deals they can close. Which leads to an increase in sales they can make. Which increases their revenues. This is your sales pitch. Your unique value proposition. You won't need anything else. More time. More deals. More sales. More revenues. Use numbers.
Helping them to increase their conversion of prospects into paying customers.
Instead of converting maybe 5% of all potential customers, you'll help them to increase that number to 15%. That's your sales pitch right there. That's your unique value proposition. Nothing else. Again, use numbers.
Helping them to reach a customer group they weren't able to properly reach before.
- Why? This means more revenues for them. Which in the end means more cash. Again, use numbers.
Helping them to get rid of employees.
Employees cost a lot. If you help corporations getting rid of some, they'll start listening to you. Numbers..
There might be some other things that might help you to sell your product to corporations. But these are usually not very tangible and won't get past most CFOs.
So always, always look at the real incentives. Not just the good incentives..
# WHY WILL PEOPLE USE YOUR APP OVER AND OVER AGAIN?
You need to come up with something that makes your users come back over and over again. That makes them want to use your app over and over again.
Nir Eyal called this a hook in his book Hooked: How to build habit forming products.
I highly recommend reading this book if you want to understand more about the success behind companies, such as Facebook, Twitter and the likes and how they were able to build habit forming products.
At the end of the day, what their success boils down to was the ability to make the usage of their app or platform a habit. They weren't simply solving a problem. No, they had a smart system in place that made you addicted to using their service. And then it became a habit.
A habit that has become so normal that we don't even recognize it anymore.
Checking Facebook hundreds of times a day. Swiping left and right another 50+ times a day. Checking your retweets every half an hour..
And one of the reasons why these services were so successful are their external triggers, that exploited internal triggers (more on this in a bit).
I don't know if you remember this, but when you signed up for Facebook, Twitter or any other service you received notifications over and over again. It's actually super annoying, but back in the days no one did it so it was quite a big thing. Same with Twitter.
I actually did an experiment not too long ago. I registered a new account on Facebook and didn't do anything with it. The amount of emails I received to get me back onto Facebook, to start using it was insane.
Unfortunately, these hooks don't work as well anymore as they used to back in the days. But there's a general list of triggers you should take a look at. These so called external and internal triggers. External triggers, such as reminders, call-to-actions and emails should always try to exploit some of the following emotions, the internal triggers:
Dissatisfied, lost, tense, inferior, bored, lonely or confused.
Every time you feel some of these emotions (or internal triggers) you'll grab your phone, open that app and know that it will help you get over all of these things.
That's exactly what Facebook does for you. Or Twitter. Or any other successful app.
# WHY MOBILE FIRST AND NOT WEB?
It seems to me that everybody wants to make an app these days.
Even if people have no clue about how to make an app (like me).
Every time I'm at a startup event I ask myself the same question:
Why do these people go mobile first?
The question I then ask people is why they don't make a web app (that's what we call a website these days) first.
And the interesting thing is that most people didn't even think a single second about why they actually want to make an app. Or why they shouldn't do a web app first.
I know it's very tempting to develop a mobile app because you can potentially target everyone on this planet earth. That's super smart.
Unfortunately that's not big news anymore and even the most remotely living person on this planet got it. And tries to get a piece of the cake.
Everybody got it. And everybody wants a piece of the cake.
That's why there are 1600 apps released every single day. And don't forget about the millions of apps that are already out there.
Hence, one of the biggest criteria on why to make an app aka easily acquiring users through app stores is a bad idea. I know there are some more good reasons why to start with an app. Like the future is mobile and blah, blah.
But let's face it.
And let's take a look at an entrepreneur's perspective. Your perspective. My perspective.
Mobile apps are pretty damn freaking expensive. And it takes a hell lot of time to build them. And a hell lot of effort to make them nice and shiny. But we have no clue about whether or not anyone might ever use them.
So why not build a simple web app (or website) first, see if you can get any traction and once you know that it works you can start working on your app?
It can be as easy as launching a blog, creating great content, collecting email addresses and then simply selling PDFs or whatever.
That's how one of the most successful German apps of the past few years did it.
Now they have an active community of 5mn+ users (completely bootstrapped without any investors) and probably make a few millions a year.
Think about it..
Do yourself a favor and think about it first before you rush into building an app.
I'm sure you could do whatever you plan on doing with a web app or a blog first.
Don't be stupid. Decrease your risk as much as possible. Put in as little effort, time and money as possible into developing the final product. Build traction first. Find out what your users really want.
And once you have that traction (or revenues) build the app. Or not.
Maybe it even turns out that you don't even need an app..
# HOW WILL YOU MAKE MONEY WITH IT?
Very obvious, but still lots of folks seem to ignore this.
Sure, you could try do it Tinder or Instagram style. But it's more likely to win the lottery. And I'm not quite sure if I would want to base the next 5+ years of my life on one huge gamble.
On winning the lottery.
Think about it. Really think about it for a minute.
And then decide. It's up to you..
What a lot of smart people did, is that they looked for something of value their app could provide. Something they could sell. Or whatever. And once you're able to sell the underlying offer, start building your app. But not before.
If you want to offer book summaries on a mobile app, don't start with a mobile app. Start with a simple website where you sell the summaries. Build a Wordpress blog in one hour. And then send traffic to it.
And once you get enough traction and a proof of concept, meaning that you sold some of your stuff, build your mobile app. Or don't. Maybe your customers don't even need an app. I don't know. But you need to know what your customers want first. You need to build up traction first.
And if you don't know how to build up traction you need to learn it now. There's no way around it. Because if you don't know how to build up traction without having an app, you will most likely also not know how to build up traction once you have an app.
You won't just magically learn how to do this once you finished building your app or product. So learn it first.
The same holds true for investments.
If you don't know how to approach your customers, how to get people to use your app or to buy your stuff you won't be able to do it once you raised a boatload of cash. If you have no clue now, money won't change anything.
And investors know this. Or at least they assume it.
If you can't show any traction or sales (or any proof of concept) right now, every investor will highly doubt your ability of being able to do so in the future. And then you won't get any money..
So before jumping into the adventure of building an app or whatever product, try to be able to answer all of these questions (or at least some of them). Or ignore them. I don't care. You don't have to listen to me.
But if you're willing to think about these questions, try to not just come up with good answers.
Try to come up with real answers instead.
Otherwise you might end up having wasted a lot of time and money.
Time and money you could have spent on saving people's lives in Africa.
How do I know that it'll be a waste of time and money?
Actually, I don't. I have no clue. It's just a guess..
Just like you're guessing that people might use your app..