Then you have a concept that could change the world, transform the way we do... (the thing your app does) and generate annuity income for you and your great grand children in perpetuity. This is seriously worth celebrating!
To assist you in making your new app a great success we have a couple of thoughts you might want to consider.
1. Assumption or Fact?
Your new application is, well, new. New means unknown, uncertain and untested.
There are some facts at your disposal. You should be aware of your budget, your initial team as well as other operational facts about your business.
However, what you don’t know is where the difficulties lie. Let me demonstrate:
- Do you really know how your potential customers will react to the app? Maybe.
- Do you really know what will create the best user experience for your potential customers? Perhaps not.
- Do you really know what your potential customers will be willing to pay for your app? Sort of.
- Do you really know the most effective marketing channel with the highest return on investment for your specific app? Let me think.
But all is not lost
Can you make a educated guess based on research and experience for all of these questions? Yes.
However, to make an educated guess you first need to make an assumption. As economists will tell you, assumptions drive the model or more simply, the assumptions you make today will determine your forecasted results for tomorrow.
The most effective tool to combat assumption and uncertainty is validated learning*.
Validated learning looks a bit like this:
- Make an assumption about something that is uncertain.
What colour interface will work best for our customers? Lets assume blue.
- Test the assumption by running controlled experiments.
An A/B test interface using a control group of potential customers: blue for half the users and green for the other half.
- Analyse the results.
63% of our potential customers completed objective X with the green interface and only 26% with the blue interface.
- Implement the result of your validated learning.
Change from our initial assumption of a blue interface to the green interface which we have learnt is more effective.
- Start with your next assumption.
By following this process you will very soon you will have an app that is what your customers want and love, not based on assumption but on validated learning.
* a term used by Eric Ries in his book The Lean Start up.
2. Tell me, who is your customer?
This might seem like an obvious question with an obvious answer but not so in a digital world.
By way of example:
- Which suburb does your potential customer live in?
- What year did they graduate from university?
- What are they in the market to buy?
- What are they interested in western films, gourmet foods or left wing politics?
- Which websites do they browse?
- Who are they following on Instagram?
- Which device are they using?
- What time of the day are they online?
To create a truly customer centric app the knowledge required about your customer extends far beyond the usual age, gender, language and country. It drills right down into what they do on a day to day basis, what they are passionate about and what communities they are apart of.
To build a sustainable business with your app, you will need to create an app with specific customers in mind and then introduce these customers to your app. If what you create does not appeal to your potential customers they won’t download it, engage with it or buy it. If what you create is unknown to these potential customers they won’t download it, engage with it or buy it either.
The power of digital marketing is that it can reach highly targeted customer segments. Targeted segments being the key.
3. Start with a MVP.
What’s an MVP?
Great question and this is not about basket ball.
In his book, The Lean Start Up, Eric Res describes what he calls a Minimum Viable Product or MVP. It is most simple app that you can initially take to market.
“When accessorizing, always take off the last thing you put on.”
- Coco Chanel
The more simplistic the better. The less features the better. The shorter the development time the better. And, to borrow from Coco Chanel, take out the last feature you thought to include.
And here is why:
- You will substantially lower your initial development fees. This is important as you have assumed that the app will be profitable, see point two. The lower the initial development fee, the less risk for your investors.
- You will decrease the time it takes to start testing your assumptions and validate your learning. Your MVP (Minimum Viable Product) will provide you with a platform to experiment on customers in the real world. Yes, I did say experiment on your customers. It will allow you to gain insight which cannot be discovered through controlled internal user testing.
- You will discover what your customers actually want not what you think they will want. Because your MVP app will be lacking in essential features, your customers will very quickly begin to tell you what is missing. As a result, your future development plans will be led by real world customer insight and not just boardroom assumption.
- You will minimize wastage. By launching with less features and by focusing your development on features requested by real world customers, you will limit the amount of resources (time and money) spent on features which customers do not want.
- You can earn revenue from the get go. Yes, customers are willing to pay for an incomplete app that experiments on them. Crazy but true. If you position the initial app well, your first customers will be early adopters who are excited by the idea of creating something new and by being part of the future success.
Be warned: your MVP app will scream against everything you dream of and believe in. Your app demands perfection but your MVP will be deliberately imperfect. This is hard to accept but the results are worth the pain.
4. Don't Forget Sales
The twenty first century has championed the cause of the unicorn. This is not the mythical creature beloved by children but rather the tech company valued by venture capitalists at over USD 1 billion. View a list here: The Unicorn List by Fortune.
“If you don’t have a sale, you don’t have a business.”
- John Rose, Flicker Director
More often than not these companies have little or no revenue and their shareholders are desperately hoping for the day when their unicorn turns golden.
As the years roll by investors are learning the hard truth that a tech business is very much like every other business: if it does not generate positive cash flow, it is not a sustainable business regardless of it’s valuation.
There are, however, some glorious outliers which ruin my point. Google, for instance, was started in 1997 and only launched Google Adwords (self-service ad program) in October 2000 and became profitable a year or so later. In 2015 Google generated a neat net income of USD 16 billion. But it should be noted that Google is an exception to the rule. If you were to place a bet on an app launching today that had no sales forecast becoming a sustainable business in the long term, you would not like the odds.
So, what is your revenue model? How do you intend to generate sales from day one?
Will you be charging a once off fee? A subscription fee? What are your value added services or in app purchases? Is there potential to earn advertising revenue? How can you monetise your user base?
By planning to make a sale you are planning to build a sustainable business and ultimately this is best for everyone.
5. Prepare for a Long Road
Creation is hard work. It is a long road with many steps.
“Nothing good is created the first time.”
- Kevin Ashton, How To Fly A Horse
The implications of this point are easy to understand but difficult to live.
There is a strong possibility that the first version of your app will not be an overnight success.
It will take time and effort with many app iterations to refine the initial concept and to create a product that customers want & love.
What are the major assumptions you are making in launching your app?
Who are your customers & what did they have for breakfast?
What is leanest app you can bear to launch?
How can you earn revenue from your MVP?
To conclude, don’t be disheartened by resistance or failure early on. Build for the long road. Don’t give up.
Charles qualified with Honours in Finance, is Google Adwords certified and is currently studying his Masters in Digital Marketing.