Austin Church is probably one of the smartest and talented app publishers I know. He kindly agreed to share some of his knowledge here – Elaine Heney
One of the weirdest things about the app business is that it attracts all kinds of people with diverse skillsets. If you’d asked me in the fall of 2011 if I’d ever start creating mobile software, I would have raised an eyebrow and put my hand on your forehand to check you for a fever.
Me? Moi? Create apps? Good one.
My expertise includes dangling modifiers, split infinitives, and a smidgen of marketing strategy, not Objective-C, distribution certificates, and user interface design. But the weirdest thing of all is that in the past two and a half years I’ve developed lots of apps for myself and clients, gotten my fair share of downloads, and sold gobs of source code, and I still don’t know very much about the nuts-and-bolts of building an iOS application.
When I reflect back on my experiences as a developer of iOS and Android apps on the road to Appiness, two lessons come to mind.
Lesson #1 – Play to Your Strengths
When you decide to create a mobile app, you are starting a new business. As with any new business, if you try to do everything yourself, you will, in effect, have one foot on the gas pedal and another on the brakes. Sure, you’ll make some noise and burn some rubber, but you won’t really get anywhere.
In his book Let My People Go Surfing, Yvon Chouinard has something to say about relinquishing control: try to make yourself irrelevant in your own business. To get out of your own way, you have to create repeatable systems that run without you.
Take out a piece of paper and a pen, and give some thought to these questions:
What are your goals for your app business?
Why haven’t you met them? What has slowed you down?
Do you need more money to spend on hiring an assistant or project manager in order to replicate or replace yourself?
Do you need to recruit better talent so that you run into fewer design and programming issues?
Do you need to find office space so that you can work with fewer distractions?
Do you need to buy source code and create apps that will pay for the bigger, fancier apps that you really want to create?
Do you need to take the plunge, quit your nine-to-five job, and focus exclusively on apps?
Everyone has her own motley collection of business aches and pains. If you slow down long enough to identify them and muster your creativity, honesty, and courage, you can brainstorm remedies, one by one.
Or how about the toughest question of all:
Are you the problem?
Perhaps your team wishes you’d spend less time meddling, or perhaps there simply isn’t enough of you to go around. That was the challenge I faced last year. My marketing, copywriting, and consulting clients were taking up all my time. I needed someone to help out with that side of my business and free me up to focus on apps. But I couldn’t afford to hire someone full-time. I hired a barista at a local coffeeshop for 10-15 hours a week, and we scaled up his hours over time.
Once he had started to learn the rudiments of app development, it made a lot more sense for me to again play to my strengths. What am I good at? Writing, making money, finding app ideas, and project management.
So I focused on transitioning more of my marketing clients to retainer relationships to pay for designers, coders, and virtual assistants. He would do research, set up apps in iTunes Connect, create all the new accounts and IDs, and do keyword research.
I could have watched hundreds of Xcode tutorials and taught myself Objective-C. I could have signed up for a lynda.com account and learned enough graphic design to frankenstein together some icons, buttons, and toolbars. I resisted the temptation.
Takeaway: Play to your strengths and offload everything else. This will enable you to move much faster and keep up your energy and enthusiasm.
Lesson #2 – Get Serious about App Marketing
You have a problem.
By the end of this year, the App Store will offer one million apps from 350,000 developers. Twenty-five of those developers—such as, King (Candy Crush Saga) and Super Cell (Clash of Clans and Hay Day)—make 50% of the revenue, approximately $60,000,000 per month.
The other developers earn, on average, only $170 per month.
Yikes. Obviously, $170 per month is not what we indie developers have in mind when we make apps. We could make more money than that running a lemonade stand!
So we have a choice to make: we either let their apps die a slow death in the App Store, eventually selling them to other developers for pennies on the dollar. Or we get serious about app marketing. Maybe we even fall in love with it.
You might be wondering how do big developers make so much money. More importantly, how are some indie devs able to achieve such heights of “appiness”? Do they build better games? Do they know the right people at Apple and tech blogs? Do they have tons of money to throw at cute character artwork and one-of-a-kind game mechanics?
Sometimes. But more often than not, the secret to appiness questions is really no secret at all.
Marketing is the path to appiness.
Because marketing doesn’t seem very sexy or special, many indie app developers ignore it. They don’t create buzz. They don’t spend time on Twitter developing relationships with bloggers. They post on social media as an afterthought.
Only after their fancy new apps drown in the App Store without so much as a gurgle, do many of them start to wonder whether they should have put more time into marketing.
There is no fast, easy, foolproof plan to making millions in the App Store with only your iPhone, a roll of duct tape, and a sassy Capuchin monkey.
But if you create high-quality apps and are willing to execute a smart marketing plan to double your downloads and make more money the “old-fashioned way” with patience, cleverness, and hard work, then there’s hope for you.
Appiness: An Unusual Guide to Doubling Downloads, Minting Money & Finding Freedom
I wrote a how-to guide for indie developers with specific step-by-step instructions for effectively marketing your apps.
You may be reading this blog post because you’re disappointed with your app business or at least want more out of it. You want more downloads, more revenue, more freedom.
You can take the path I took and spend hours and hours on experimentation and trial-and-error, trying to identify the best ways to make your apps a success. Or you can get Appiness and learn in a couple of hours what I have pieced together over the last two and a half years.
Plenty of guides on app marketing already exist, but Appiness is the only plan you’ll need to share your app with the world: 22,000 words of no-nonsense advice on how to make your app business a success.
To get the guide, go to here
But even if you never get the guide and put it to work for you, you’ve got to get serious about marketing.
It’s crazy to do the same thing and expect different results.
You have the opportunity to make 2014 the year that you become a successful developer. So play to your strengths. Get serious about marketing. Start walking the road to Appiness. I would love to be able to say, “I knew her [or him] way back when….”!
What aches and pains have you faced in your app business? What are your favorite app marketing tactics?
Take a moment to share in the Comments section below.