A Matter of Fine Tuning

Sadly, many first time app creators don’t plan beyond the build and launch. There is a sense of “I’ll do everything perfectly, and then I let it run itself”. There are several misconceptions in the statement, the first of which we should all dispel. That is “perfect”. It is an impossible ideal you will always be chasing, because users, technology, habits and even your own perceptions change, meaning there is no magic condition that is without its downsides. We want the best app we can create and keep great, which means, as always, vigilance, input and flexibility.

The Price is Right

Setting the Price Scheme for Your App

Excluding anyone who does this as a hobby and wants to give it away, it’s time to figure out how to monetize the app. Let’s look at the primary pricing models app creators use:

  • Free (Apps): Get your users in the door quickly with a free download and then collect ad revenues. Just be mindful who controls the conversation here – you or the ad companies.
  • Free (In-App Purchase): Same idea about getting new users, but here you have the chance to see a profit from the same users multiple times when you unveil new features or levels of usability for your app. This is probably the most profitable method.
  • Paid: You know every user will be paying for the value you bring them, but it’s a kind of one-and-done approach, as new revenue generation means constantly getting new users.

What else is important when it comes to price?

  • Try different approaches to app costs. $0.99 is the standard, but fails to deliver any impression of your program being something “special”. Anything over a dollar tells the user, “you get more value here than you usually would”.
  • Look at the competition. See how successful they are in their app pricing and use that knowledge to develop your own price strategy.

A big thing to realise is you don’t want to try and replace everyone. Let users use the built-in calendar instead of forcing them to use one that only works on your app. People love mobile technology because they can integrate everything into one system, so don’t attempt competition against the mainstays of mobile technology. Focus on what your smartphone and/or tablet app is supposed to do and skip some of those fancy, but unnecessary extras. Use what is already out there to have your app fit the way your users are already using their phones. Also:

  • The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, so always think about improving user experience by simplifying and cutting out unnecessary steps.
  • Follow the latest trends and updates to make sure you are at the front of the pack when it comes to innovation. These devices, smartphones and tablets, are powerful little machines, so always think how to harness that power and the capabilities of new technology in interesting, new ways.
  • Be clever or quirky. You’re always fighting against a massive crowd, so what makes you unique is often all you’ve got to stand out. Don’t be afraid of laughs and smart references. Your crowd appreciates the little things, and, importantly, passes the word on.

You Only Get One First Impression


Just because someone downloads your phone app doesn’t mean their interactions go much farther than that. You have to “onboard” users, which means get them to download and then, more importantly, continue to use your mobile app. That means that first usage is key to keeping this relationship going long-term.

Walk your users through their first use. Show them around, give them the tour they need to make sure they see everything there is to offer. Don’t make it mandatory, because some users want to explore on their own, but make sure everyone can navigate between small bits of information and go back if they miss something the first time around.

Get Users Involved

  • Allow them to make the application theirs. Select a colour palette, register a username, or something that makes them feel they don’t have the same thing as everyone.
  • Social Media. Have them link it to what they’re already using. Everyone loves integration.
  • Thank them with a freebie. If they get through the tutorial, reward them, even if it’s with something they get anyway. It makes people wonder what else there is to be had if they keep exploring.
  • All Work and No Play… Turn it into a game, which just means make users feel they achieve something. Something as simple as usage statistics and a couple benchmarks (100 connections, 50 messages sent, etc.) gives users a sense they should keep going to reach the next “level”.

Have an Analytical Mind for App Development

Using and Learning from Data

Just by virtue of having an active app, you are going to have all sorts of new data to play around with. So, what are you looking for?

  • How do your users behave? What do the people who use your app long-term have in common? Is there a difference in devices? Age groups?
  • What features in your app are people using? Is anything just a complete miss? Is that because they don’t like it, or they just don’t realise it is there?
  • Is your app running properly? Is it crashing? Are there lots of errors? Are your users running for help from your support? Why?
  • Are things simple enough? Are users following the same logic you built to get them where they want to be quickest, or are they going through circuitous routes to get there?
  • How’s your pricing? See any significant changes as you experiment?
  • Where are users coming from? Is Facebook driving your downloads, or is it a dud?
  • If you want help, try using tools like:
  • Try making minor changes, using controls and following the scientific method to fine tune what you’re doing, rather than simply making sweeping overhauls of your product. This goes for your marketing, graphic design and user experience. No stone should be left unturned, but don’t hurl the stone down the mountain in frustration either.

Build Brand Loyalty

How to Establish a Following

Mobile users love to find new and exciting apps, but once they find a good one, they can get pretty loyal following that app, its success and its evolution. You’ve got a great opportunity to spread the word through such people, so make sure to treat them well and make their job of passing on the good news as easy as possible. This means:

  • Keep the conversation going. Use forums and discussion groups to keep talking with people who face the problem your app will help them overcome. Have some good canned responses and phrases. Your followers will pick up the lingo and that ensures a somewhat consistent message.
  • Find the people who are pushing your app. Look at who’s taking advantage of your in-app purchases. They are using your app to the fullest, so throw them a freebie every once in awhile to show you appreciate.
  • Don’t be antisocial. Don’t set alarms and notifications that go off late at night, or spam anyone’s inbox or social media. No one likes those guys, so don’t be one of them.
  • Stay fresh. Even if users don’t think your app is perfect, if they see support is forthcoming and there is an effort to make things better, you’re going to have people ready to see what else you have to offer.

The Good Word

We’ve touched on the effectiveness of a good word-of-mouth campaign, but let’s dig a bit deeper into what makes this approach, as well as other, more traditional methods.

Build Your Street Cred

The Word of Mouth Approach

The neverending “discussion” exists that you should get involved in, but the truth is this is never one monolithic idea that can only be approached in one way. Think of a politician and how their message is, in general, the same, but somehow its delivery is very different at the golf course than it is in the processing plant. That’s what we have to think about now. What are the many different ways people could view the app, the company and the problem we solve. We are going through the who, what, where, when, why and how of the matter, and each question could have many answers.

Say your app shows people where to recycle old mobile app manuals. How would they approach this? Well, in several ways:

  • Recycling
  • Cleaning house
  • Going paperless
  • Dissatisfied with the advice about my app

And, of course, there are many other sides to that coin, but very quickly we see several different audiences are addressing several slightly different problems with the same solution. That means they are going to look for that solution in different venues, whether they are discussion groups, forums, news outlets, etc.

Get a Professional

Using Journalists and Bloggers

The internet has brought a form of democracy in getting your message out there, but that doesn’t always mean people are going to automatically listen. For that, at times, you might look to someone like a journalist or a blogger who does have an existing following and might be interested in what you’re selling. Try to find people who:

  • Are speaking to the audience you want. Don’t waste your time looking for everyone to publish something about you. Find people with a reasonably large group of active readers. Make sure just because they have a podium to shout from that people are listening.
  • Willing to listen. It may seem obvious, but go for low hanging fruit and find people you or your colleagues might know. If there is some personal or professional connection, they’re far more likely to hear you out. Also, try and at least call to get in touch, otherwise you may find your emails in a lot of spam and junk folders.

Know Your Niche

Narrowing Your Targeting

It’s very important you know what makes you special. This goes back a bit to when you picked your category before you launched your app, but really think about how your application excels. Then get yourself into some “Best of…” lists, because most users want to see and search for that kind of easily digestible information. See what kind of lists are out there in which you think you belong, then get in touch with the author and see if he agrees.

How’s Everyone Else Doing It?

Studying the Apps Competition

You should now have a good idea of where your traffic is coming from, but using something called “backlinks analysis” you can see where your competition’s traffic is coming from too. To do this, you can use tools like:

  • Ahrefs Backlinks Checker - free, but only the paid version will give you the whole picture
  • Similarweb - the free version is effective in giving you an understanding of traffic sources

If you see your competitor has a whole lot of people linking to their app or homepage, that means lots of people out there are interested, and you should be app to convince some of them to link to you too!

Don’t Lose Sight of Who Is In Charge

Follow Google

You should always keep tabs on how well your keywords are doing, but you can also use features like Google Alerts to see when people mention you or relevant topics. If you can get in touch with people who have written recently, you’ll find a much more receptive audience.

Make New Friends

Establishing Partnerships

Chances are that you and some others are trying to reach the same people. With our example app from earlier, there are people interested in getting rid of all sorts of other things, so it seems other apps in this category might present us with some good opportunities to collaborate without anyone stepping on anyone else’s toes. If a partnership seems worthwhile, you can even integrate your apps together, sending users their way and seeing new users come in from their app to yours. Just remember, you can’t bribe users to download someone else’s app, just like you can’t do it get good reviews.

The Holy Grail

Getting Featured

The best way to get the word out is when the App Store or Google Play does it for you. This is called “Getting Featured” and is a pretty big deal. These apps are considered the best in the business, so you need to work hard and really make sure you’re in top fighting shape if you want a chance at this. There are a few “shortcuts” though:

  • Align your interests. Apple and Android are always coming out with something they are excited about, whether it is a new hardware or software. If you can find a way to really tap into something in your app and use it to show that feature’s full potential, you can get those companies interested in showcasing you (to showcase themselves). You just have to follow all the latest news and updates really closely to know when you can take advantage of this.
  • Reach out to them directly. Apple and Android have experts who are looking for great apps all the time, but it doesn’t mean they always find them, or at the right time. For that reason, if you think you’re really onto something, go ahead and write. Just be careful not to harass them, because that can get you blacklisted pretty quickly.
  • ‘Tis the season. Are you willing to add some red and green accents, or change your logo to feature a glass of eggnog to deliver a yuletide feel to your app? Some people claim that seasonal apps perform better at that time of year, so if you think yours is centred around a certain holiday, make sure not to let that slip under the radar.
  • Just give it away. The App Store and Google Play sometimes have a special place for app developers who are willing to offer their apps for free over the course of a day or week, but there is even more serious competition for this than usual.

Friends, Lend Me Your Ears

The PR Approach to App Development

Users are being constantly bombarded with information from all sorts of different outlets. However, rather than overwhelming people, this has led to the audience being very receptive to trends in the media and whatever is “hot” at the moment. When you think about a strategy, it’s important to realize that the perception of “news” and what is newsworthy is not what it used to be.

  • You can make news, using what you know and what you have by way of your app. This is a good way to really tap into a team’s potential, so look at who you work with, what they know and how good they are at expressing themselves.
  • Create stories that highlight your knowledge. You’ve got to where you are because you know about something. Write about it and use it to demonstrate your expertise. Readers will understand you have a deeper understanding of what you do and appreciate the advice.
  • Don’t see this as self-promotion. Anything you write should be worthwhile for readers and users. That constant bombardment means users are far more discerning and can easily see through pure advertising. The idea is offering something users will enjoy or use. Think about what works:
    • Controversy
    • Humour
    • Creativity
    • Utility
  • If you are hitting one or more, then you are on track to achieving a win with your audience.
  • Try to address the many problems and approaches we discussed at the beginning of this section. As we mentioned, attacking the problem from several angles diversifies your audience and offers you more opportunities to create unique content that all leads to one solution: your app.
  • When thinking of new topics to write on, use similar approaches as before. Find that ongoing discussion, read lots of articles from competitors and on similar topics, then write your own version. You may be saying similar things, but your voice and your insight are what separate you from the crowd, so use that to maximum effect.
A Guide for Businesses: How to Create Apps
Read this guideline to take mobile and web app development from inception to completion.
Selling Your App in the Marketplace
Learn how to push the freshly created application on the App Store and Google Play
Marketing Apps for Monetisation
Sometimes you have to spend money to market your app. Learn where to invest in promotion to see the greatest returns.
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