The Most Important App Metrics
To Track For Startup Success

The great baseball legend Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” While this lesson is applicable across almost any area of life – it’s especially critical in app development. Here’s the caveat; while an end goal is of critical importance, what is equally as important is being able to track the performance of this goal so that you clearly understand whether you are actually moving closer to that goal or pushing further away from it. While tracking performance for most businesses can be challenging for many businesses, app startups have an advantage – tracking app metrics is quite simple if you know what to track and what to look for. 

Unfortunately, many apps fail and there are definitely more failures than successes. Successful startups heavily assess the metrics associated with their application so that if something isn’t performing as expected, they can catch it quickly and bring it up to par. For many ‘failed’ apps, only a few numbers are given consideration – especially traffic and revenue. While these factors can give some insight into an app’s performance, high traffic and revenue alone doesn’t mean your app is succeeding. Consider these scenarios and whether they truly identify a successful startup situation:

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  • App “A” receives 50,000 new downloads every month, but only 1% of them visit the app a second time.
  • App “B” earns $100,000/month in revenue; more than most app startups. However, they spend $110,000/month on advertising.
  • App “C” has a download rate of 20,000 users per month to it’s free version, but almost no subscriptions to it’s premium versions.

Are these apps successful? They are if you only consider traffic and/or revenue, but when considering other variables, it is obvious that neither of these examples are sustainable over the long term – and maybe not even over the short term.

The key to ensuring that your app is performing successfully is to track the right KPIs; constantly checking them to make sure that you are reaching the right objectives. Why are app metrics important, specifically?

  1. They can help you identify opportunities to improve your software or strategy.
  2. They can help you identify when your strategy is not performing up to par.
  3. They give you a historical representation of whether you are experiencing growth over a specified period of time.

In the following article, we will take a look at which app metrics are most important over each stage of the software development and launch process.

When Should You Track App Metrics?

When Should You Track App Metrics?

There are many different types of app metrics that can be tracked, but knowing when to track each metric is as important as knowing which metrics to track. Some metrics are better tracked during the launch stage, while others are more important during the growth and scale stages.

  1. Launch: This stage is the beginning of the app journey when an app is just released to the market. In this phase, metrics can help you prove your concept, identify new opportunities, and catch potential weaknesses in your application.
  2. Growth: This stage represents the time when an app concept has already been proven and the developer is seeking to retain and monetize their users. Metrics here can help you improve engagement and improve the lifetime value of each customer.
  3. Scale: In this stage, metrics allow the developer to improve their brand image and compete better in the marketplace.

Launching With The Right App Metrics

Once your minimal viable app has been created and launched to the app store, there are three app metrics you should be especially focused on to make sure that you are on track with your marketing and executional assumptions:

Number of Downloads

The number of downloads or installs you receive provides immediate feedback on how well your app is performing in the market. If you are receiving many downloads, or many downloads relative to your marketing efforts, then you know you are on the right track. Very few (or zero) downloads likely suggests that something is flawed in your marketing strategy, your app description, or your assumption of the customer problem.

According to CBInsights, approximately 14% of apps that fail do so as a result of poor marketing. Knowing how to advertise an app is key to achieving a high number of downloads. If a lack of marketing is holding you back from reaching users, here are a few techniques you can implement to improve your number of downloads:

  • App Listing Optimization: In many cases, apps can fail because they don’t express the benefits of the solution well enough to users. While marketing an app is critical to its growth and success, statistics show that 63% of users discover a new app through the app store. Consistently optimizing and A/B testing your app listing will allow you to slowly perfect your listing for best performance.
  • Paid Advertising: Paying for ads through platforms like Facebook is an easy way to drive targeted traffic directly to your application. With millions of users, these advertising platforms allow you to reach consumers from your exact demographic and generate new downloads. The caveat is, ads can be expensive for a startup – especially if they aren’t optimized for best performance. Like app listings, it is critical to constantly test, optimize and improve your ads for best performance and lowest cost.
  • Referral Marketing: An extremely effective method for getting new users to your application is to tap into the network of any current users. Dropbox, for instance, offered extra storage to users that invited their associates to sign up. By employing similar referral strategies, you can acquire more users faster and for a fraction of the cost. Furthermore, this type of marketing adds in an extra layer of buyer confidence – since the referral is coming directly from someone they know and trust, they are more likely to respond positively.

User Retention

App downloads relate to how well you are able to attract users to your application, but does not measure how successful you are in engaging those users. The level of user retention on the other hand, will give you a better understanding as to whether the users you attracted actually return to the app after their first use. According to Loyalytics, across every industry, the average app only retains 20% of its users after a period of 90 days.

How is user retention defined? Usually, it is defined as the number of users that return the app at least one time within 30 days or one month.

If user retention is low, this means that while people are downloading your app, something is causing them to abandon it. Statistically, 1 in 4 users abandon an app after only opening it once. This can be for one of many reasons – maybe the app was too difficult for them to navigate; maybe they simply forgot about it; or maybe, the app just doesn’t solve their problem the way they expected.

The first step to improving this app metric is to identify why users aren’t returning. Furthermore, these steps will help you improve your user retention:

  1. Improve The Onboarding Experience: Consider the process that a user will experience as they download, install and use your app. Is it simple to understand? Does it have a familiar navigation? App users have very limited patience – if they don’t understand your software right away, it’s very likely that they will abandon it. Make sure that users understand exactly how to use your app – whether it be through user videos, an initial tutorial, or a strong FAQ section that answers their usage questions.
  2. Implement Push Notifications: App users don’t just use a single app, and in some cases, they may use several apps to accomplish the same goal. Even if your app perfectly suits their need, they may not have realized its effectiveness at first exposure. They may have even forgotten that they downloaded the app – or may have planned to come back, but never did. In any case, push notifications can remind users to come back and give your app another chance. However, push notifications can become annoying to users if they are overused; and if misused, can be a surefire way to ensure that a visitor deletes your app immediately. Use push notifications only on rare occasion, and consider how receptive your users may be to these notifications before launching them.
  3. Retarget With Ads: A less intrusive way to regain the attention of users that have abandoned your application is to use retargeting ads – ads through Google and Facebook (among other platforms) that allow you to directly reach individuals who have downloaded your app, but have not returned since their initial visit.

Cost Per Acquisition (CPA)

Outside of making an app go viral to receive organic traffic, it is likely that any long term customer acquisition strategy will come at some cost. Likely, you will need to engage in a combination of paid marketing techniques to promote your app and draw in new users.

Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) refers to the amount that must be spent to acquire a single user.

CPA is an extremely important app metric – if the cost to acquire a customer is higher than the value of that customer, you may quickly find your startup falling into the financial red zone. By tracking cost per acquisition per marketing channel, it is simple to identify which of your marketing efforts are performing well, and which ones are too costly for the business to sustain.

There is no quick fix to improving your CPA; however, every marketing channel needs to be optimized for best performance. As you optimize your marketing strategy to perform more effectively, you will slowly begin to reduce your CPA until it is optimal for your specific business. The optimal CPA for any business is one that is lower than the value of the customer that has been acquired. A business that earns a revenue of $1 per customer cannot sustain a CPA of $5, while a business that makes $1,000 per customer would find a $5 CPA to be more than ideal for the growth of their startup.

Tracking The Growth Of Your App

Once you’re able to acquire new customers at an acceptable cost, and are able to retain those customers over several months; it is important to track how users are using your app so that you when you acquire a customer, they stay around for the long term. As you grow your application, several other important app metrics come into play, such as Stickiness Ratio, Average Session Time and Screen Views Per Session.

Tracking The Growth Of Your App

Stickiness Ratio

While user retention (or how many people visit the app multiple times per month) is important, an app’s Stickiness Ratio takes it a step further. Specifically, the Stickiness Ratio is formulated by first tracking two other metrics – DAU and MAU:

  • Daily Active Users (DAU) refers to the number of users who visit your app over a 24-hour period.
  • Monthly Active Users (MAU) refers to the number of users who visit your app over a 30-day or one month period.

Stickiness Ratio is calculated as the ratio of users per day in comparison to users per month – or DAU/MAU.

If an app’s stickiness ratio is at 10%, this would mean that on average, a user visits the app 3 out of 30 days. Likewise, a stickiness ratio of 90% would mean that on average, a user visits an app 27 out of 30 days.

Increasing the ‘stickiness’ of your app means transitioning users who use the app a few times a month into those who use an app multiple times per month. This can be done by improving the in-app experience, reducing bugs, offering new features, or by incentivizing users for using the app continuously throughout the month.

Average Session Time

It’s a great thing if people are signing into your app often, but the true test of how engaged your users are is how long they stay on your app when they visit. Consider an app like Snapchat, where users not only sign in often, but spend hours engaging with the application and it’s network. Popular mobile games also have long average session times – engaging the user so that they stay on for long periods of time.

There are some ways to minimally improve average session time like gamifying the experience or regularly updating with fresh content – but people stay on apps that solve their problems and command their attention. Focus on improving your solution to truly meet the need of your users and it will automatically entice them to stay on your app for a longer period of time.

Screen Views Per Session

As its name implies, this app metric refers to the average number of screens viewed during a single session. In general, the more screens that a user interacts with during each session; the more engaged they are with your application. Typically, an app with a high number of average screen views per session, will also have a high average session time and a high stickiness level.

Since screen views per session relate directly to engagement, improving this metric often comes down to delivering the features and abilities that your audience is looking for. When users find a great solution to their problem, they tend to engage more thoroughly with that solution, visit it more often, and view more screens each time they visit your app.

Bonus Tip: It’s not just about how many screens a user views, but also how they engage with those screens. Use a great heat mapping or screen recording software to gauge the user’s experience as they use your app. This type of software will give you major insight into what pages, features and screen areas are most important to your audience – and on which screens they are dropping off. Use these insights to improve on areas that are not performing well, or to create a more desirable feature list that better reflects what the user is looking for. Furthermore, this type of software can help you identify issues and bugs within your application such as app crashes, latency issues and loading speed.

Using Metrics To Scale Your App

There are also some subjective app metrics that aren’t necessarily ‘hard data’, but that can still be used to effectively improve your app software. While many metrics require you to analyze the data deeply to pull out valuable insights, these metrics provide you with the feedback you need – right from the customer’s point of view. While there are many metrics that are important in this stage, two subjective metrics that are extremely critical are App Reviews and Net Promoter Score.

App Store Reviews

There’s an old saying that goes, “The customer is always right.” Whether this is 100% true or not, there is one thing that is a definite fact – reviews from previous users will weigh heavily on a potential user’s decision to choose to download or not download your application. According to studies by Apptentive, 59% of people check an app’s reviews before downloading it. With a majority of positive reviews, customers become excited about downloading an app so that they can experience the same level of benefit as previous users. Likewise, even a single negative review can turn off a potential user if it is powerful enough to make them believe that they will meet the same fate of dissatisfaction – and if they still download and eventually realize the same fate, it is likely that they will leave an equally negative review.

As an app startup or developer, you have little direct influence on this metric. However, by paying attention to what users are saying about your app (whether positive or negative), you can get a better grasp on what is working with your application, and what needs to be fixed to suit your customer’s needs more effectively.

Even without reading reviews, your app’s star rating can equally persuade users to download or not download your app. A rating under 4 stars may have the ability to instantly convince a potential user that the app is not worth their time. Welcome all feedback about your app, whether positive or negative. The first step to optimizing your app for best performance is to know what aspects of your software are helping your users and which are hindering them from a successful and positive experience.  

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Net Promoter Score helps businesses measure customer experience and better predict potential growth. This metric isn’t just centered around software, but is used by all types of businesses over various industries to better understand customer satisfaction.  

NPS is calculated by comparing the difference in the number of users that are considered ‘detractors’ and those considered ‘promoters’. Specifically, Net Promoter Score is calculated through the following steps:

  1. Customers are asked to rate your app/product/brand on a 10 point scale; with 1 being the lowest satisfaction score and 10 being the highest.
  2. These customers are then categorized into three groups – detractors, passives and promoters. Those who rate between 1-6 are considered detractors, or unhappy customers that can hurt your app or product through negative word of mouth. Those who rate between 7-8 are considered passives, or individuals who are relatively satisfied, but can easily be swayed to a competitive solution. Those who rate a 9 or 10 are the most loyal customers who will continue to use your app and may even refer others to download it.
  3. Calculate the percentage of those in each category. For example, if 100 users are surveyed and there are 20 detractors, 30 passives and 50 promoters; then this would calculate to 20% detractors, 30% passives and 50% promoters.
  4. Finally, NPS can be calculated by subtracting the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters (% of promoters – % of detractors). NPS is not expressed as a percentage however, but as an absolute number. In the above example from #3, the formula would look like this: 50% promoters – 20% detractors = +30 NPS

Net Promoter Score can range anywhere from -100 to +100. Any score over 0 is considered a good score; over 50 is considered an excellent score; and over 70 is considered as the best of the best. A score under 0 means that there are more people dissatisfied with your app than those that are satisfied; and more research needs to go into figuring out what your customer is really looking for to increase their satisfaction while using your application.

Making App Metrics Work For You

 

Having knowledge of how your app is performing is critical – however, metrics are useless if you just occasionally look at them and do nothing to improve them. Every app metric has a purpose, and understanding the purpose behind each can help you continuously improve your app for better acquisition, longer retention, longer per-session usage, more referrals and a higher satisfaction.

It’s not only important for you to understand how these metrics relate to your product, but it’s also important that you’re able to gather the right insights and deliver them to your app developers so they can translate them into code and create the features that will really drive the success of your app.

If you need help choosing the right metrics for your app or analyzing the tremendous amount of data you collect, we’d love to help! Contact us to discuss your app with one of our startup consultants to find out how to use app metrics to take your startup to the next level.

How To Start A Tech
Company Using Lean Startup

Launching a tech company of any type is an intimidating process. First-time entrepreneurs often have no idea how to start a tech company, they just have a great idea and a desire to win. Unfortunately, a great idea isn’t enough. There are many steps between the idea stage and the rapid expansion stage; and if you aren’t clear on what those steps are, you can quickly become overwhelmed with the process and give up.

While not making it to launch sounds like the worst thing that can happen when developing your startup, there’s actually something worse that can happen. You can spend tens of thousands (or more) on app development, only to launch your tech and find out that nobody wants it. A tech startup can be a major success, but if launched without covering the right bases, it can also be a major waste of time, money and effort.

Fortunately, there is a process for building a great tech company, and it follows the principles of Lean Startup. Ready to launch your software business? Here’s what you need to know about how to create a tech company using lean startup.

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What Is Lean Startup?

Lean startup allows a tech company to constantly advance the development of their software, while radidly learning more and more about their customers, their challenges and their desires

If you thought the only steps to creating a successful software solution was to build it and launch it, your strategy is hugely flawed. There are many really cool and interesting apps in every app store that no one ever downloads and no one ever uses. Those who know how to start a tech company know that a company isn’t successful because they have a cool product; they are successful because they have the right product for the right audience, and are backed by the right people.

When you launch a full-scale software solution, you inherently make several assumptions. Even with secondary industry and customer research, you are still only making an educated guess as to:

  • Who your consumers really are.
  • What problems your consumers are actually facing.
  • What type of solution your consumers are searching for.
  • How much your consumer is willing to pay to solve their problem.
  • Whether enough people experience the problem to make a successful business.

The true intentions of a startup is to answer these questions using real consumer data, and to validate each and every assumption as you build your product. Instead of figuring out that you built the wrong thing after you built it, the right strategy will help you identify weaknesses and errors in your startup plan before making serious investments into the wrong areas.

This is the value of adopting a lean startup process, and why those who know how to start a tech company often adopt this strategy. Lean startup incorporates a build-measure-learn feedback loop – launching software in small iterations, testing it with real consumers, analyzing the data and proving the concept at every turn. What’s the major advantage? If at some point during the measuring process you learn that consumers aren’t responding as you assumed they would – you can pivot immediately instead of continuing to develop something that they don’t want.

As much as we’d like to think that our idea is the perfect idea, this is often not the case. Facebook in 2018 is incredibly different than it was in 2006. If they built the perfect product, why would they continue to change; adding new features, changing features, and deleting others? Because people change, the market changes, the competition changes, needs change – and when they do, your startup better change with it if you plan to stay in business. When you know how to start a tech company using lean startup, you can adapt and remain flexible with the market – using data to lead you. Lean startup allows a tech company to constantly advance the development of their software, while rapidly learning more and more about their customers, their challenges and their desires. As you learn exactly what your customers want, you can more accurately serve them and always ensure that you are delivering the software product that they are most likely to adopt.

 

How To Start A Tech Company In 6 Steps

Launching your first-version software doesn’t have to be a long and difficult process. Sure, developing technology can be challenging and there are many variables; but with an agile development and lean startup process, you can minimize the time and risk associated with launching a startup. Here are six steps to launching your tech company the right way.

 

1. Minimize It To The Core Features

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the whole city didn’t have to be built for a few families to make it their home. Likewise, your software doesn’t have to include every feature under the sun before you launch it. In fact, launching a feature-filled software solution is the most risky approach to software development. Instead, minimize your concept to just one or two core features – the features that you believe will help users solve their specific problem most effectively. Typically, users aren’t going to adopt every feature a software offers – the ones that they don’t use will ultimately become a waste of the effort it took to build it. The better approach is to test the market with only a few features, prove the concept, and then build the next set of features after validating exactly what the market is demanding.

However, when you have your mind set on what you want your software to look like, it can be challenging to decide which features are actually “core”, and which ones are additional frills that aren’t necessarily critical to the functionality of the software. Follow these three steps when seeking to minimize your technology to its core features:

  1. Define your target market: Your technology might serve multiple customer types, but initially, it’s best to focus on just a single target market. Selecting a narrow audience will allow you to intensify your focus on a specific consumer sector and penetrate that particular niche – instead of going head on against more established solutions. Draw out your ideal user – How old are they? What do they do for a living? What do they read and watch on television? Where do they live? What is their income? Most importantly, what problem are they facing?
  2. Create a storyboard: Plot out how individuals will use your technology; each step that they will take as they journey through your solution. Think of how they will use each feature, and how each feature will help them solve their problem. Consider the primary goal of your technology, then write out the user flow – this will help you determine all the features of your tech concept. Prioritize these features – which are truly necessary to meet the primary goal and which could be eliminated without really affecting the user’s end goal?
  3. Remove non core features: Once you’ve determined which features are low priority, remove them. Your solution should now only include a few features that make up the entire user flow; but if it still has too many, create a new storyboard and prioritize again to see if there are additional steps that can be eliminated to create a true minimal and viable product.

 

2. Get To Market With An MVP

Now that you have a first-version software concept that is minimized to only it’s core features, it’s time to prove your concept. Getting to market quickly is key, and it’s not always necessary to even build the technology fully before launching it. There are several different types of Minimal Viable Products that you can consider, but the one you choose should be based upon the goal of your test. Here are the most popular minimal viable product types:  

  • Smoke Test: Build a landing page, send traffic via ads, and measure how many people sign up.
    • Goal: To test user interest.
  • Pre-sell: Launch a crowdfunding campaign and measure how many people donate.
    • Goal: To gauge user interest and raise funds.
  • Concierge: Perform services manually; giving clients a hands on service before automating it with technology.
    • Goal: To create new ideas, generate feedback and collect data about consumers.
  • Wizard of Oz MVP: Make it look as if the features are automated, when really they are manually performed behind the scenes.
    • Goal: To test assumptions about product and customer behavior.
  • Piecemeal MVP: Take a pre-built technology and customize it to perform the necessary functions.
    • Goal: Prove concept before making a larger investment into product development.
  • Single-Feature MVP: Develop solution with one or a few core features and launch it to the market.
    • Goal: Gain traction and validate feature assumptions   

 

3. Attract Early Adopters

Once your minimal viable product has been launched, it’s time to start attracting users. You don’t have to go all out and spend tens of thousands of dollars on advertising your app – but instead, send a limited number of users to the application in testible numbers. A couple hundred users can give you incredible insight into whether you are on the right path, or whether you are building something that the market doesn’t want. Even a small amount of users can give you humongous amounts of information. There is no point in sending tens of thousands of people to your solution if you haven’t even proven that you have built the solution that they want.

  • Self Promotion: You’d be surprised how many startups gained the first handful of users because the founder simply just put in the necessary hands-on work to acquire them. Tinder’s founders for example, posted flyers around campuses and told people about the app at local campus bars. If you can identify individuals that would benefit from your technology, contact them – tell them about your solution and explain to them how your solution would solve their specific problems. One hundred handshakes could be the first domino in locking in your first one thousand, one hundred thousand or even one million users.
  • Communities: Becoming active within online communities can provide great access to early adopters and industry influencers. Platforms like Reddit offer categorized sub-channels where you can communicate with other individuals that are interested in a specific subject. The key to succeeding in any online community or forum is to not go in with an attitude of selling something. Instead, be helpful and showcase your expertise about the subject to assist others with their questions. Become an active part of the community. That way, when you do post about your software, people will know who you are and you won’t seem like a greedy self-serving startup that is spamming the network.
  • Influencers: You don’t always have to convince a million people to try your software. Sometimes, you can convince one person who has a large audience, and let them do the persuading for you. Part of knowing who your consumers are is knowing who they follow – authors, blog writers, YouTubers, industry experts and etc. Try to build relationships with these individuals. Allow them to test your software for free, and ask them to review it. Keep in mind however, your competitors are probably also contacting them asking them for the same thing. Just like when dealing with communities, figure out how you can offer something that benefits the influencer – before asking them to do something that solely benefits you.

 

4. Evaluate Data

There is nothing that will tell more about your solution, strategy and user than cold hard data. Everyone pays attention to the number of downloads and the amount of revenue the sofware is generating, but these aren’t the only app metrics that matter. There are many other metrics that should be analyzed frequently, including but not limited to:

  • Active Users: It doesn’t really matter if you have 1,000 users if zero are actively using it. Both Daily Active Users (DAU) and Monthly Active Users (MAU) are important to analyze. DAU tracks how many users actually open up and use the software in a single day while MAU tracks how many use the software over the period of a month. Unlike total sessions, each user is only considered a single time, as opposed to counting the same users over and over if they sign in multiple times throughout the day or month.
  • Average Visit & User Behavior: These metrics allow you to analyze how long users are staying on your software and what they are doing while they are there. Average Visit gives an average of how long a user session lasts, while user behavior tracks what pages they visit and how long they stay on each of those pages. To learn more about user behavior, it is a great idea to use heatmaps and screen recordings. These tools allow you to see exactly what users are looking at, focusing on and clicking on while using your software.
  • Retention Rate: Just because you’re able to get people to your app, doesn’t mean that they’ll continue to use it. Retention rate lets you know how many users you’re able to retain over a set period of time and how many you lose or ‘churn’. Retention rate helps you identify the relationship between your marketing initiatives (how well you are attracting people to your software) and your engagement strategy (how effectively you are getting people to engage with your software).
  • Ratings & Reviews: Solutions that are able to sustain over the long-term are those can maintain great ratings and reviews. Software and app solutions operate in a very competitive space, and no matter what great things a company says about their products; it will never have the same effect as what other users say about it. Ratings and reviews are subjective metrics that can have a major influence on how successful a software solution becomes. You may be getting a great deal of traction today, but if you aren’t receiving a bad rating average – you may find it extremely difficult to get even a single new user in the future.
  • Cost Per Acquisition: Attracting customers to your app may not be worth it if it’s costs an insane amount to acquire them. If your per customer acquisition cost is more than your customer spend; you’ll operate at a loss and may find it extremely difficult to continue to sustain your business.

The numbers tell the true story of your business. If you don’t know the statistics, then you definitely don’t know how your business is actually performing. One could assume that they are on track because they see new downloads coming in each day, but they may miss other numbers that tell the real story – like a high customer acquisition cost or an extremely low retention rate. Most of all, the numbers behind your business tell you whether you’re on the right path, or whether you’ve made a mistake in your assessment.

 

5. Pivot Or Persevere 

In the optimal and ideal situation, you will look at the data and everything will be going as expected – acquisition costs will be low, everybody that downloads the app will use it for months and months, you’ll get fantastic reviews, and your tech startup will become the best solution in your industry within a month’s time.

Does this sound too good to be true? It is.

What will most likely happen is that some of your assumptions will be validated by the data, and it will be proven that some of your assumptions are flawed. Discovering that some of your initial assumptions are incorrect is to be expected, and it’s not a bad thing. Each time you are unable to validate your assumption, you are given an opportunity to make a shift and find exactly what your consumers are looking for. Each time you prove or disprove an assumption, you have the opportunity to do one of two things – pivot or persevere.

When the data shows that your assumption was correct, the only move that makes sense is to persevere or stay on course with what you are doing. To know whether your data proves your assumption, you should have goals set in place – what conversion rate you expect your marketing campaigns to convert at, which features you believe users will use the most, how long you believe users will use your app during each session, how many weeks or months you believe they will continue to use your software before they churn, and etc.

On the other hand, when the data shows that users aren’t responding to your software the way you assumed they would, a pivot is likely in order. A pivot simply means to adjust to a new path, and hopefully, a more successful path. Let’s say for example, you find that you many users download or trial your software, but that they only stay on the software for a minute or two before exiting. In a case like this, there is likely a reason for this behavior. Some possible causes of this could include:

  • Users were interested in the marketing message, but the solution did not meet their expectations.
    • What can you do to fix it? Change the marketing message to better reflect the actual solution, or change the solution to match the marketing message (which may reflect what users really want).
  • Users found it too difficult to use or navigate the software and left in frustration.
    • What can you do to fix it? Work on a better user experience or provide better education on how to use your software.
  • Users ran into a bug and weren’t able to perform the intended actions.
    • What can you do to fix it? Identify the bug and fix it.

The whole idea of a startup is to find out what solution your consumer is really looking for. By running tests and choosing to pivot or persevere based on real data – you can ensure that you are building software that really has the potential to succeed.

 

6. Scale Everything

After testing and testing, using data to make the right pivot/persevere decisions, and building a solution that is a hit among early adopters; it’s now time to scale it to the masses. Since your marketing plan has already been tested and validated, you should be able to amp up your campaign and draw in more and more users.

In many cases, it’s at this stage where startups will begin seeking initial seed funding. With user data in hand, startups with a validated solution have a much stronger investing position than startups that are only coming to the table with ‘cool tech’. These startups not only prove that they know how to create innovative technology, but also that they know how to start a tech company with a strategic and well-planned approach.

 

The Most Important Step in Launching Your Startup

In essence, these six steps will help you build the perfect product with an agile and lean approach. Putting them all in action however, can be much more difficult in practice. Actually, building a lean tech startup is much tougher than simply just writing a list of features and having a developer build out. Launching a lean tech startup means slowing down the development process, releasing in small iterations, testing each iteration along the way, and bringing on customers in small increments. The upside is, at each iteration, you strengthen the potential for success of your concept and decrease the risk of failure.

The most important step – is taking a step. You can research how to start a tech company, and come up with an awesome software concept; but if you never commit yourself to taking the first step, you’ll never see it through to fruition.

We’d love to help you bring your tech company to life. Our startup consultants have worked with hundreds of app startups around the world. Ready to take the first step in bringing your app idea to life? Contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our tech startup experts!

Detroit Startups: Launching Your
Tech Startup in the Motor City

A decade or so ago, nobody could really tell where Detroit was heading. A major shifting in the automotive industry left the Motor City in confused state, and the effects of the recession were evident in every part of the city. Foreclosures on homes and commercial properties became an everyday occurance, leaving a path of abandonment that was felt by those in the city – and even those in the surrounding metro area. Times were troubling and the future looked bleak. Many wouldn’t have predicted that the city known for its automotive manufacturing would break one day breakout as Detroit Startup City. When everyone was packing up and leaving the city in droves, no one would have guessed that it would one day be a place where investors flock to invest hundreds of millions of dollars, or that it would one day be a hub of new tech innovations. Detroit startups are driving the city forward, and if you’ve chosen Detroit as the headquarters for your tech startup – you’ve chosen the right place.

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Why You Should Launch In Detroit

For us at ThinkLions, there is nothing that makes us prouder than serving Detroit startups. While our business plan writers and app developers have served clients around the world, there’s always something special about working with awesome entrepreneurs right in our city. Amazing things are taking place in Detroit, startups everywhere are taking notice – and we love being a part of that.

Why are so many startups now migrating to the Motor City? The simple answer is – because Detroit startups are smart and they see the many advantages to launching and operating here. With a seemingly endless number of benefits, there is major value in being a part of the Detroit startup scene. Some of the major advantages to launching your tech startup in Detroit include:

  • Office Space is Cheaper: In most metro areas, office space can be ridiculously expensive; and for a startup, rent can be one of their largest fixed expenses. Detroit startups however, are able to access cheaper office space than most metro areas around the nation. Although rent prices are on the incline in recent years, there is still plenty of vacant office space all throughout Detroit where rent is super affordable for a new startup. Not ready to take on a full office space of your own? Maybe you’d be interested in joining one of the many many co-op and shared workspaces like Bamboo, WeWork, Regus or SpaceLab. There are also several startup and app incubators that you can join to help move your startup forward like SPARK (nearby Ann Arbor) and Techstars Mobility.
  • It’s Where The Investors Are: Ever since Cleveland Cavaliers’ owner Dan Gilbert began investing millions and millions into the downtown Detroit area several years ago, investors have been flocking to get in on the action. From real estate to startups, investors are now buying into any and everything Detroit-based that can provide a great return. According to a new report by Michigan Venture Capital Association, there are 35 active venture-backed Detroit startups representing 25% of the startup companies currently growing in Michigan. While 2009 brought in a whopping $131 million in total venture capital investment – this was minimal in comparison to the $222 million that was invested into Michigan startups in 2016.
  • The Talent Is Immense: There was never a question of whether talent lives in Detroit; just flip through the Billboards Top 100 anywhere from the 60s through the mid-70s and you’ll see that the city isn’t referred to as the Motown for nothing – real talent lives here. From amazing artists and musicians to incredible marketing firms and app developers; there are thousands of top-notch talent providers that can help you progress your startup.
  • You’ll Love The Scene: One of the best things about being a Detroit startup is working in Detroit. Downtown is buzzing with awesome new restaurants, museums and exhibits, fairs and festivals, and things to do. Any Detroit startup owner in the downtown area will tell you – there is always something awesome to check out, whether it’s the food trucks on Campus Martius or the city’s beautiful architecture.

Why Detroit? Detroit startups get the rare chance to be a part of something new. Sure, you can run to Silicon Valley and be a small fish in a huge pond of sharks; or you can be a part of Detroit startup success and build your business here while the opportunity is super advantageous and the resources are thick for any new startup.

Who’s Leading The Detroit Tech Startup Scene?

There are hundreds of startups now operating in Detroit; many of which are growing rapidly and helping Detroit progress it’s startup tech scene. We’d love to go through and give a spotlight to all of them, but here are 3 of our favorite standout Detroit startups!

Greenlancer

Greenlancer is an awesome Detroit startup that “facilitate[s] the design and fulfillment of permit-ready plan sets for the solar industry.” The startup uses proprietary technology and their network of engineers to help clients design and sell clean energy systems. Providing services like feasibility studies, concept designs and permit packages, Greenlancer uses standardized templates and workflows to create solar design documents. With a network of qualified freelance green energy designers and engineers (or “Greenlancers”), the platform manages all information as it passes from each each expert until the documents are completed.

Greenlancer has raised over $5.5 million in investor funding to date from 5 investors over 2 funding rounds.

BoostUp

Detroit startup - Boost Up

BoostUp’s mission is to “remove the anxiety associated with life’s biggest purchases”. Using automatic deposits and purchase roundups, BoostUp allows users to quickly save up for big purchases like cars or homes. Furthermore, this Detroit startup has several partnerships with major brands like Hyundai and Quicken Loans who dollar match for discounts up to a certain amount.

BoostUp has raised around $1.7 million during 3 investment rounds.

Ambassador

This startup helps businesses transform employees and customers into brand ambassadors. Located in Royal Oak, a suburb of Detroit (and the Ambassador Bridge), Ambassador allows businesses to incentivize those who refer their friends and associates from social networks. Ambassador has served several high profile customers like PayPal, Spotify and Progresso, among others.

Since inception, Ambassador has raised $5.2 million over four rounds of funding.

Is Detroit Right For Your Startup?

Yes… but maybe I’m biased – I grew up here, I live here and I run a business here. The true answer is, it depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re looking to be in a super established cut-throat market where thousands upon thousands of startups are pitching a handful of investors, check out Silicon Valley or New York – Detroit doesn’t have that vibe. Detroit is a place where startups are working together towards the goal, all fighting to get Detroit on the map; and to succeed as innovators while doing it. Low rent, a buzzing startup scene… these are only a few of the many benefits of being a Detroit startup, but being a part of the camaraderie of a rapidly growing startup economy, that’s the quality you won’t find anywhere else.

When you get here and start setting up shop – make sure to contact me, I’d love to have a coffee and learn more about your company! And of course, if you’re launching an app startup, give us a call – we’ve helped dozens of app startups raise millions of dollars and launch their innovative app tech through our business consultancy and app development services. If you have an app idea, and especially if you’re a Detroit startup (but even if you aren’t) — we’d love to help you bring it to life. Contact us today and let’s discuss your project.

How To Create A Dating
App That Doesn’t Suck

There was a time where it was uncommon, and even a bit weird, to say, “I met a great guy/girl online!” In some cases, meeting someone online even seemed a bit taboo. To stir the pot even more, at some point someone figured out how to create a dating app for smartphones – and finding love moved from online to the palm of our hands.

Today, online and mobile dating is a natural part of our culture. According to The Knot, online dating is now the most common way of meeting for engaged couples. But let’s face it, there are almost as many dating apps on the market as there are daters; and out of all of them, only a handful are able to secure more than a couple thousand users.

If you’re looking to launch a startup in the mobile dating sector, I’ll be honest… you’re facing a tough challenge. There’s a very thin line between great dating apps and cheesy dating apps, and a disappointing ratio of dating apps that succeed to those that don’t. The good news is, if you know how to create a dating app startup the right way – you can drastically minimize your risk of failure. There will be a next greatest dating app, will you be the one to create it?

In this article, we’ll explain what you need to know about creating and developing a dating app, and specifically, we’re going to explore exactly how to create a dating app that doesn’t suck.

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Why Dating Apps Suck

First, let’s clear something up – not ALL dating apps suck, just most of them. Also, not all of them suck for the same reason. There are some apps out there that have millions and millions of users, like Tinder and Bumble. Some others serve super niche markets, and may have a smaller but still significant user base; like Bristlr, the dating app for beard lovers, which has around 150,000 users. If there are millions of mobile daters out there, why do so many dating app startups fail? Simple… because they suck, and here’s three reasons why:

  1. User Goals: Most dating app entrepreneurs don’t actually know what their intended user really wants – and if you don’t know what they want, you’ll never know how to build a dating app that meets their need. What does it mean to date? Does this mean someone is looking to date a bunch of different people and enjoy their single life – or that they are dating to hopefully find a special someone? Dating apps are easily accessible and often used by a wide variety of daters with conflicting goals. Some users may be looking for a whole life companion, while others may be looking for a one time hookup. Popular online sites like Match were able to attract individuals with similar goals by charging higher fees and making the matching process extremely thorough. For someone searching for long-term potential, swiping on Tinder may lead to many many low quality dates before a real match is ever found. According to Psychology Today, only 8.9% of Tinder’s users actually use the app due to a desire for a relationship – while the majority of people have signed up solely off the hype.
  2. Copycat Innovation: While there are probably hundreds of dating apps on the market, many of them seem almost identical in technology and functionality. Or, they use the same technology but serve a niche market instead. Tinder introduced the “swipe dating” model for instance, and since then, a hundred other swipe dating apps have hit the market. Maybe one is a swipe dating app for farmers, or a swipe dating app for people who love country music – but innovation in the mobile dating industry has been relatively flat over the last several years. Many brands have figured out how to create a dating app, they just haven’t figured how to create one that actually moves the industry forward.
  3. No Growth Plan: Some dating apps seem promising at launch, gaining some hype in the early days only to quickly fall completely off the map. Successful dating apps require a deep level of traction and a strong momentum.  Even the best dating app concept won’t succeed if they are unable to drive enough people to the app to make it worthwhile. Dating app consumers aren’t extremely loyal – if there isn’t a large pool of potential daters available in their specific areas, they’ll quickly move on to the next dating app. Likewise, if they sign in every day and there are never any new potential matches, they will move on to an app with a deeper local penetration. Knowing how to build a dating app means more than just creating a great idea, you also need to implement an effective growth strategy that builds the necessary momentum.

Coming Up With A Dating App Concept

The point of any dating app should be to make dating easier, more convenient, more effective, or at least, more fun. Nobody needs just another dating app, people need the right dating app that will actually serve their need. When developing or evaluating your dating app concept, consider the following questions:

  • Who Are You Helping? Knowing your customer is everything. Not every dater is the same. A 20-year-old millennial dater may be looking for something totally different than 50-year-old recently divorced dater. If you want to know how to create a dating app that wins – first decide who you will serve and identify the pain points that they have with dating. Also, find out why consumers in that segment have trouble meeting their dating goals with current solutions. The more you know about your user, the better you will be able to serve them.
  • How Are You Helping Them? Once you know your consumer’s goals, it will become easier to figure out how to help them. Identify what your customer truly seeks and design a solution that helps them meet that particular goal. No one wants another app that “helps singles find dates” — but millions might want to use “an app that helps millennials find long term relationships with people of similar interests” or “an app that helps divorcees meet one another to form new relationships” or “an app that helps single parents have fun with other adults”. It’s not necessarily always about being niche, but it is always about providing a real solution to a real problem.
  • How Are You Different? Consumers aren’t typically loyal to just one dating app, in the same way that most people have profiles on multiple social media platforms. If your concept isn’t different enough, why would users stay on your app instead of using the three other dating apps they have installed on their smartphone? Knowing how to start a dating app requires out-of-the box thinking – be creative, be innovative; do something new. When everyone else is releasing swipe-based dating apps, figure out how to create a strong video-based dating app concept. When everyone else is focused on interest-based matching, consider perfecting the “mystery match” angle. I can’t say exactly what will work for you, but I can tell you what definitely will not work for you – reusing the same technology and concepts that dating consumers have seen a million times already.

Proving The Demand

It is a fact that people want to date, and that people are open to using technology to help them. It is an only assumption however, that your concept is the right one to help them meet their dating goals. Prior to your dating app development (before even touching the first line of code, it is important to prove that singles would even be interested in using the dating app concept that you have developed.

Instead of jumping the gun and immediately hiring your local dating app developers; start by blueprinting your idea to visualize how it will look, then have it designed. Develop a low-function (or no-function) demo or prototype, or in some cases, even a well put together app video will do.

Create a focus group of individuals within your specific demographic. If your dating app specifically targets 20-35 year old musicians who are looking to date other musicians – get ten single musicians together to form your focus group. Show them the demo, ask them questions about their thoughts and encourage them to give feedback; open up the floor and allow them to ask you questions about your concept. By going through this focus group process, you will realize one of three things about your dating app concept:

  1. It’s awesome just like you thought it would be. Everyone loves it, says they would use it and tells you that it’s exactly what they were looking for. You’re ready to move to development.
  2. It’s sort’ve cool – most people like it, but many people also had suggestions about what could make it better. With a few tweaks and a slight pivot, the app concept can be strengthened and made more effective.
  3. Everyone hates it. The majority of people remark that it wouldn’t really help them, or that it wouldn’t help them better than other solutions. Either way, the cost of making a dating app is extremely high – and you just saved tens of thousands on wasted development. Back to the dating app drawing board you go!

If you want to know how to create a dating app that doesn’t suck, the first tip is – make sure it doesn’t suck before you develop it. Focus groups give you the opportunity to test the awesomeness or suckiness of your concept before undertaking the expense and effort of developing it into a functional application.

how to create a dating app - vector with two smartphones

Creating A Buzz

Dating apps often fail because they can’t generate enough traffic to sustain the demand of their users. Imagine these scenarios:

  1. You are a startup in Chicago and you just launched your dating app. A single man in Detroit downloads the application and finds that there are no matches in his area – and actually, only a few total users in his area. He deletes the app.
  2. You are a startup in Miami. A single woman in Miami downloads the application and views the limited pool of potential daters. She logs out. She signs in two weeks later and the pool still only includes the same people that were there weeks before. She deletes the app.

Downloads mean very little if there is no retention; and if there is no momentumous traction to your dating app, users likely won’t stick around for long. The success of your dating app will lean heavily on how you launch it and how you market it.

Launch Regionally

There’s really no point in immediately launching your dating app to a huge market. Consider the first scenario – if there are very few users in a region, there is very little value for a consumer within that region. For dating apps to work, there must be a dense pool of daters within the region that a consumer will want to date.

Start by launching in one city. Penetrate that city as deeply as possible so that daters in that city can access a large pool of potential matches. Once successful, scale into another city (or several cities), and then throughout a whole region. As you create more buzz, the user adoption process will become much easier each time you scale.

Develop A Strong Marketing Strategy

Knowing how to make a dating app means very little if you aren’t able to get it in front of your audience. Dating app startups have less options when it comes to marketing online. Some platforms, like Facebook, don’t allow dating apps to purchase ads, which limits the opportunity for these apps to reach social media audiences. Marketing is critical to building traction for your dating app. Consider scenario 2 – if new daters aren’t constantly being added to the network, users find no reason to revisit the application.

Be creative in your strategy. Some dating apps start at universities, advertising their apps on site (Tinder partnered with sororities). By launching regionally, you can even take advantage of traditional regional marketing channels such as radio and television. For more ideas, check out our article on how to make an app go viral.

Finding The Right Developers

Lastly, it’s important to have the right dating app developers on your team. Your developers shouldn’t only understand apps – but they should specifically understand the functions of dating apps and be highly experienced in building technology with a lean process.

At ThinkLions, we know exactly how to start a dating app that doesn’t suck. We have worked with several dating app startups – helping them raise hundreds of thousands in investor seed funding to bring their app ideas to life. Ready to create the next major dating app innovation? Contact us today and see how we can help you reach your app startup goals.

What Can You Learn From These
5 Unique And Interesting App Ideas?

Over the last several years, the growth of mobile apps have allowed us witness the launch of some of the most life-changing technology the world has ever seen. Unfortunately, these days, unique and interesting app ideas are few and far between – for every Uber there are 20 app copycats and for every Tinder there are 100 other swipe-based dating apps that you’ve probably never heard of. Developers know how to create an app, but creating unique, first-moving and extremely interesting apps? Well, that’s something only few tech entrepreneurs can truly achieve.

This post isn’t about the copycats. It’s not about the entrepreneurs who took a concept, added a small feature and claimed to have developed some “disruptive” new app idea. Instead, it’s about the innovators, the ones who saw a problem and created a new interesting way to solve that problem. Furthermore, we’ll show you what you can learn from these interesting app ideas so that you can come up with your own unique app solution.

In the following list, we’ll offer the ten most interesting app ideas that caught our attention. Here’s the awesome part, none of these apps are especially complicated – and they were created by someone just like you; a normal person with a great idea, a high level of commitment, and a focused follow thru.

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5. Dubsmash

the most interesting apps - dubsmash app screens

Dubsmash is a unique video recording app that was created by three German engineers in 2014. The app allows users to record and blend lip sync videos. With the app, users can choose their favorite music or sound clips, blend the content with their videos, add special effects to the video, and create one-of-a-kind videos that can be shared with their friends.

Like many other social type apps, Dubsmash feeds into our need to connect with one another – and to simply kill boredom. Dubsmash created a craze with users around the world; uploading and sharing millions of their fun (and often funny) lip sync videos. The hype around Dubsmash created a FOMO situation – users had a fear of missing out on the social action.

What really drove the Dubsmash craze was the participation of several celebrities. Whether it was Lewis Hamilton lip syncing to a sound clip of Chris Tucker in Rush Hour 2; or Hugh Jackman, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Lopez or Rihanna lip syncing to their favorite clips – Dubsmash was able to create fans out of some of Hollywood’s most effective social influencers.

During the highest point of its popularity, Dubsmash served over 100 million users around the world.

Interesting App Ideas – Insights:
Your idea doesn’t have to be revolutionary, but it does have to be “different”. Being the first mover of an idea allows you to capture the market, and its influencers, with a fresh idea that has never been seen before. Influencers play a huge role in what consumers find ‘interesting’ – get them talking about your idea and their followers will do what they do best – follow.

4. Puddle and Pile

interesting new app ideas - puddle and pile

Wherever a problem exists, there will be an entrepreneur seeking to create a solution – and puppy poo is no different. Puddle and Pile is a puppy training app that allows pet owners to learn their canine’s toilet patterns, monitor their schedules, predict “puddle periods” and alert them before accidents happen. Relying on data inputs, the app uses smart technology to remind you when outside time is needed. Furthermore, collected data can be shared with veterinarians for diagnosis in case strange patterns arise.

Puddle and Pile was created by the Paul, Fiona and Keren Manser and is available for $1.99 in both the Apple App Store and the Android Play Store.

Interesting App Ideas – Insights:
Successful and interesting app ideas may not always be glamorous, but they solve problems for a large portion of their intend market. Whether you think a dog poop training app would gain mass success is a matter of opinion, but one thing is for sure; there are millions of dog owners around the world, and each and every one of them must deal with puddles and piles in one way or another!

3. Cheatsheet Widget

Interesting & Cool app ideas - Cheatsheet Widget

Let’s face it, security means everything – whether it’s the password to our email provider or a code to our gym locker. With so many passwords and codes to remember, security can become an issue when we accidently secure our items or accounts… from ourselves! Christopher Overholtzer, a California-based developer, had this same problem when he launched the Cheatsheet Widget in 2014. Like many of us, he found himself always forgetting his ID numbers and the passwords to his many accounts.

Cheatsheet is an app that helps your remember all of your codes and passwords – ID numbers, license plates, luggage combinations, bike lock combinations, locker combinations, and all those other numbers that we fail to remember from one day to the next. The app has over 150 hint icons to help users easily organize and locate their information. Cheatsheet is also compatible with the Apple Watch, making it ultra convenient to those who need to quickly pull up their code or password.

Interesting App Ideas – Insights:
Interesting apps don’t have to be complicated; sometimes simple mobile app ideas get the job done jus as well. Cheatsheet is an ultra simple app that provides an extremely beneficial service to a mass audience. While you may not use Cheatsheet everyday, users tend to rely on it heavily during certain times – such as when they are traveling and must remember their luggage codes. Don’t overcomplicate things – find a problem and create a simple solution to help others overcome it!

2. ParkJockey

Interesting app ideas - ParkJockey

There are dozens of parking apps available in the App Store; the issue is, many of them do not have the bandwidth (enough parking lot partners) to make them effective in a realistic setting. ParkJockey is a mobile app that connects drivers and available parking spots to eliminate the dreaded “parking spot search”. Specifically, the startup bridges the gap betweens drivers and parking lot operators; allowing drivers to find the most ideal parking spaces and book them instantly (pre-booking or real-time booking).

Park Jockey currently operates in the UK, Chicago, Miami, New York City and San Francisco. The startup has an estimated annual revenue of $4.2 million and has secured partnerships with several corporations including mobile payment services provider, PayByPhone; ticket sales company, Ticketmaster; the Miami Heat basketball team; American Airlines; Odeon Cinemas; and online reservations leader, ResDiary.

Interesting App Ideas – Insights:
Interesting app ideas usually aren’t the only solutions serving their market. In many cases, successful apps solve the problem better or more effectively. ParkJockey was able to secure the right partnerships to make their app as useful as possible within the markets that they serve. Look at your competition and find their strengths and weaknesses. Capitalize on their weaknesses to create an advantage.

1. Shapr

Interesting mobile app ideas - shapr

Hailed as “Tinder for networking”, Shapr is an app that helps professionals connect with one another. Using a sophisticated algorithm, Shapr provides users each day with several profiles of other professionals within their vicinity that have similar interests. A quick swipe to the left or right will indicate whether they want to connect with the professional, or pass on the opportunity. If both users swipe right (indicating they want to connect), messaging capabilities open up to allow the two to connect with one another.

Shapr was launched in 2014 and has raised over $16.5 million in funding from over 80 private investors. While other professional social media platforms exist (like LinkedIn), Shapr specifically targets millennials, who are growing more accustomed to the “gamification of life” – or the gamifying of processes to streamline them or to make them more effective. Shapr now has over a half million users active on the app and generated more than 3 million matches in 2017.

Interesting App Ideas – Insights:
The best app ideas aren’t always that innovative. Sometimes, an existing idea can be introduced to a new market to solve a totally different problem. Tinder, for instance, solves the issue of meeting interesting people – for dating. Shapr, on the other hand, solves the issue of meeting interesting people – but for professional purposes. Look for opportunities in existing apps – can that same technology be used to serve a similar problem for a totally different market? If so, you may have major opportunity!

Ready To Build Your Interesting App?

Unfortunately, a great app idea means very little if it only sits in your head and never makes it to the App Store. If you’re ready to take the first step and bring your amazing app ideas to life, we’d love to help. Contact us today for a free consultation with one of our app startup specialists!

How To Advertise An App
For Maximum Exposure

Developing an awesome app is hard work, but when it’s finally launched into the market, that’s where the real work begins. Many app developers and app entrepreneurs know how to create an app, but they have no idea how to advertise an app. The truth is, the mobile app market is highly competitive and advertising apps properly can be extremely difficult – especially when you are competing against established players with huge marketing budgets.

It’s easy to envision the end result – millions of users downloading the app and telling their friends about it; but how to do you get there? How do you advertise an app? Even knowing where to start is a challenge, especially when your marketing budget is low or non-existent.

In this post, we want to explore exactly what it takes to advertise apps the right way; getting your idea in front of the consumers who will most benefit from it and persuading them to download it. To get the best advice possible, we turned to several experienced app entrepreneurs, app marketers and marketing experts and asked them – what is the key to marketing and advertising apps?

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How To Advertise An App – The Must Do’s

It’s always nice to try out cool marketing tactics like contests, giveaways and other out-of-the-box ideas – but none of these methods are effective if a few app marketing basics have not been established. More specifically, every app startup needs to: build an associated website, optimize for App Store rankings (ASO), and optimize for Search Engine rankings (SEO).

Andrew Glantz, founder of GiftAMeal, suggested the following – “There are several ‘must-dos’ when marketing apps. You need to ensure that your app is easily discoverable with valuable keywords, have preview app screens that accurately capture the value of your app to potential users, and provide a compelling app description.”

The way your app performs in the App Store is extremely important. Apps that are featured receive considerably more downloads than those that are not; and those that show up first for related keywords receive considerably more downloads than those that are ranked in lower positions. Not only does your app description need to be written with a persuasive and consumer-forward tone – it also needs to cover ASO basics to ensure that it is visible to potential users.

How To Advertise An App - The Must Do's

Stav Tishler, Head of Marketing Communications at Lightricks gave the following advice, “SEO – that’s how people find your apps online. If you’re buried all the way on page 13 of a Google search result, will anyone ever find you? Does anyone even click to the second page of the SERP? I don’t know if I ever have.”

SEO is competitive, and ranking highly for valuable keywords includes many factors, such as: on-page optimizations, links from high authority websites and the website’s relevancy to the keyword. Furthermore, SEO is a long-term strategy – but establishing the app’s website early on gives startups an advantage; allowing them to generate organic and free online traffic. Paid ads on the other hand, can allow a startup to receive traffic to their website immediately. Since advertisers must pay for each click however, the benefits of paid ads end once the advertising budget has run out. When it comes to the must-dos of advertising apps, ASO and SEO give startups the ability to level the playing field with more established competitors.

Figuring out how to advertise your app on search engines with the right keywords can be challenging. Adrien Caiazzo, Marketing Director of Narraly (parent company of Flixup.io) says, “We use solutions like www.thetool.io and www.appannie.com to find the best keywords for our app, and also compare those with our competitors’ keywords. Before we could afford other paid avenues, finding strategic keywords was the best way we could get people to find our app.”

Caiazzo also added the following advice for app advertising must-dos, “Make sure the app is functional, as early adopters are incredibly valuable. And use your networks. Friends, old coworkers and family are more likely to download and rate your app than new users. If your app is very innovative; post it to different websites such as www.launchingnext.com or www.producthunt.com. These offer great visibility, and many of the users are passionate about tech, so they give helpful (albeit direct) advice.”

Mobile App Advertising – Establishing Authority

Publishing high quality content has become a leading way of advertising apps and marketing online businesses. Consumers are aware that competition exists in every industry and often, it is the credibility factor that makes them choose one solution over another. Furthermore, each piece of new content a startup publishes becomes another marketing asset; giving the business an additional avenue to connect with consumers. Content however, is extremely competitive as well. The quality of information you are putting out there is much more important than the quantity.

Mobile App Advertising - Establishing Authority

If you want to know how to advertise an app the right way with content, look at Mint.com for inspiration. Before Mint.com was even launched, the founding team already had a target customer in mind – young professionals. To reach them, they focused on their finance blog, MintLife. By publishing strong content, they were able to build themselves to the largest financial blog online. When Mint.com was launched, they already had a direct link to young professionals – their blog already had the market’s attention.

Eric Chiang, Marketing Lead at GooseChase Adventures says, “The most effective way we’ve been able to market our app in the recent months has been to create content showcasing how users are engaging with our app; instead of focusing on content that simply just shows how the app works. In general, potential investors might be interested in hearing about the technology and innovation behind your product – but your target demographic, the people who you’re actually trying to sell to? They only care about how your app will improve their life.”

Brit Armour, Director of Marketing at Kibii says, “Maintaining a blog will help you establish brand awareness and visibility. Most importantly, it allows you to gain trust and credibility by connecting with your audience on a deeper level. You need to appeal to your audience’s emotions. To be considered a thought leader, you must provide extreme value and provide consumers with the expert information that they seek. Content marketing is something I invest a large amount of time into. You can promote your app and its features as much as you want, but if your audience doesn’t resonate with your brand, they won’t give you a second thought.”

How To Advertise An App Through Communities

Like marketing other types of businesses, mobile application advertising requires a strong engagement with your target market – and there’s no better way to engage than social media.

advertise app through social media - lyft facebook feed

Lyft for instance, which has always competed against the larger rideshare company Uber, uses social media to really engage with their drivers and build user loyalty. Lyft’s CMO, Kira Wampler says, “While rival Uber is an efficient delivery service, Lyft is seeking to differentiate itself by offering a combination of ‘humanity and technology.” Social media offers the perfect opportunity for them to bring in the humanity aspect of interaction with their users. As a result, their social media page is filled with awesome customer photos, comments from drivers and passengers, driving stories and other content that engages fans and followers.

Regarding social media, Tishler answered, “Specifically for our apps, which are all about being creative, we use community-oriented social tools: Facebook and Instagram Live, Facebook groups, subreddits, and any new tool available to create a community. This allows us to provide a place for users or potential users to ask questions, get inspired and engage in a community of like-minded individuals.”

Creating Media Relationships through PR

Creating Media Relationships through PR

The way your startup is introduced by the media will play heavily on how consumers perceive your brand and app. When advertising apps, it’s important that the media is not only talking about you, but that they are mentioning your business in a positive light. Media relations requires finding journalists and media sources that cover products and software in your industry, and reaching out to them with a newsworthy story. Here’s the thing – if a media source is worth it’s weight, they probably receive dozens of pitches from startups each and every day. For your pitch to be effective, you must be offering them a quality story – not just another ‘app feature’ opportunity. Nobody wants to talk about another new app – but a startup that just received a high level of app funding? Well, that’s a story worth writing about.

To take advantage of media relationships early on, you may want to consider hiring a PR agency. Tishler points out, “Find a PR company. It’s expensive, but they tend to work. And if they don’t, you’ll know early on and you can find a new one.”

It can also be extremely beneficial to focus on building relationships with social influencers. These are individuals that are within your industry that influence the market through social media – whether it be through Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, or another platform. A single mention from the right influencer can instantly lead to thousands of downloads of your application and can have positive lingering effects when advertising apps.

Establishing Great Feedback – Reviews

Even if you know exactly how to advertise an app and implement every trick and hack; if users come across your app in the app store and your reviews are bad, they won’t download it – especially if it’s a paid app. User trust is built with 20% of what you say about your business, and 80% of what other consumers say about your app.

Whatever strategy you use for advertising your app, make sure to start establishing your reviews early on. Invite people from your personal network to use your app and ask them to leave a review. Incentivize users to leave reviews, offering them free credits or other rewards. Remind them to rate your app with the occasional popup notification.

Establishing Great Feedback - Reviews

Nate Masterson, Marketing Manager at Maple Holistics says, “With a surplus of good reviews, the sky’s the limit. The app with the most five-star ratings is going to hit the top of the search page quicker than those that are lesser reviewed. Having a good rating is all about having a functional app, that does what it says it’s going to do and brings excitement to the user. Asking for a review in a witty way could be just what you need. Being persistent is good, but being clever is better.”

Advertising Apps By Thinking Outside The Box

As mentioned, marketing apps can be difficult due to the sheer amount of competition that you will likely face. Sometimes, startups need to think outside of the box to make sure their solution is visible to their audience. Tinder for example, went straight to the “party” schools to market their application. They pitched the app to sororities and signed up sorors on the spot. They leveraged the participation of these sorority women to persuade the campus’ men to sign up.

GiftAMeal also does on-site advertising. Glantz remarked, “We also physically advertise our app at our partner restaurants. We put out table-tents and window decals at participating restaurants to encourage customers to download and user our app.”

How important is it to think outside the box when marketing apps? Caiazzo of Narraly says, “I try to spend a third of my day on out-of-the-box strategy planning. I think the real questions should be: how do entrepreneurs brighten their creative process to find out-of-the-box ideas? For me, that includes meeting and talking to people, reading articles, brainstorming with colleagues or other companies, and studying other businesses that use creative marketing techniques.”

Advertise Your App Like A Marketing Master

Advertise Your App Like A Marketing Master

The key to knowing how to advertise an app like a master is to test your marketing techniques on a small scale before betting it all on one horse. Focus on the ‘must-dos’ first: creating a strong website with on-site optimization and ensuring that your app description is optimized for ranking highly in the app store. Then move to establish yourself on social media, build media relationships and generate positive customer reviews. If the competition is thick, use out-of-the-box methods to reach your consumers directly or to stand out against competing brands.

Marketing apps can be challenging, but fortunately, we know exactly what it takes to create a winning marketing strategy. Contact us today to setup a free consultation with one of our expert startup consultants!

Do you have an out-of-the-box method for advertising apps? Tell us about it in the comments below!