To App or Not to App? That is The Question

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Technology continues to race ahead at warp speed. The world’s first website went live in 1991. Now, 22 years later there are over half a billion active websites. 

Facebook has over 955 million users, Twitter 500 million, while You Tube has four billion views per day. In Feb 2012, Apple offered a $10,000 prize to the person who downloaded the 25 billionth App; since then, the App industry has continued to gain pace and is showing no sign of slowing down. 

As a business owner, author and mentor I wanted to find out whether developing an App of my book would be of benefit to my business. I liked the idea of having my own app but wasn’t prepared to invest my own money solely for vanity reasons – the product would have to have a purpose and offer added value to the user. 

When I wrote my book Do it! Or Ditch it, there was so much I wanted to say and share but with only so many words and pages, it was impossible to include everything. The App was born to add additional resources, such as a business planning template, workbooks, and a self-assessment questionnaire featuring the DISC personality profiling technique. I liked the fact that unlike a book, an App has a pulse, because it can be constantly and easily upgraded - it grows and evolves with each new injection of life. 

In the early stages, in addition to deciding what content to include, we also needed to decide whether to sell the App or give it away.

In the brave new world of sales and marketing the value of building relationships cannot be underestimated. I decided to give away my App for free, which meant I was able to share valuable content, at no cost to the consumer. My intention was to offer the consumer great value, while also giving them the chance to hear about me and my products; the hope being that they may later wish to know more about my products and courses. This approach sits comfortably with my dual philosophy of ‘giving before you get’ and not putting a price tag on everything you do. 

If you are thinking of developing your own App, I hope the tips below will help you decide whether ‘to App or not to App?’ (with apologies to Shakespeare). 

App development is not for the faint hearted. If the development and marketing of an App isn't well planned, it can consume a lot of time and money with little or no reward – which is a concern for a business owner. On the other hand in an increasingly App-friendly world, where everything and everybody is going mobile, business owners can't really afford to ignore them.

It is my belief that if done well, an App can increase brand awareness, unlock new markets and fundamentally improve bottom line.

Here are my Top 8 tips for App development (based on my experience): 

1. Have a strategy

An idea on its own is not a strategy. Just because you have an idea for an App doesn't make it a viable proposition.  It is important to define what you are hoping to achieve. Is it to increase revenue, improve the customer experience or make your employees more productive? Next, consider what your business model will look like. You can't just throw an App on the App store and hope it will be found. You need to get the word out. An App needs to be marketed like any product and any other customer-facing aspect of your business.

2. Make sure it solves a problem and delivers value

Create an App that solves a problem; not one that just regurgitates the content on your website. People like to use Apps that serve a purpose, whether it is information driven, makes them laugh, helps with productivity, etc. People need a reason to download an App so when creating one, ask yourself, “What’s in it for my customer?” “Why would they want this App?” Think about the potential benefits.  

3. Make sure your customer wants to come back for more

You need to give your customer a reason to keep returning to the App.  The majority of then, once installed, are looked at once and never revisited. The content and features within your App need to be kept constantly up-to-date and reusable. For example, using push-notification messaging is a powerful feature for on-going engagement with your customer.

4. Make it social

Allow the App to market itself by making it social. Build in benefits and features that inspire social sharing on Twitter, Facebook etc.  Remember, you are building a viral tool now, for a viral society.

5. Build in analytics

Make sure you integrate analytics so you can learn how, when and where your App is being used – and by what kind of audience.  You can identify your best segments by demographic, personal interests, geography, style of usage and more. This will help improve product roadmaps and increase the level of engagement, customer retention and the rate of conversion to other products and services.

6. Test and test again

Apps live and die by their ratings and the reviews they receive via the App store.  I have read countless reviews for Apps where customers are complaining about the App crashing and so give it one-star write up. I highly recommend coordinating a closed beta-testing phase, so the App is very well tested and you can respond to insightful feedback before the launch, rather than after it is too late.

7. Build in contingency for App Store review and possible rejection

Build in contingency time for the review phase and the possibility of your App being rejected by the App Store. Their acceptance guidelines are constantly updated so don't get caught out, or you might miss the big ‘go-live’ date (and launch party J).

8.  Work with professionals

I said from the very beginning of the process, that I would rather not have an App at all, than have a second rate one. I chose to work with a company called Paper Bag Ltd. Working closely with Gary Gallagher made the journey far less daunting and the advice and guidance he gave me was invaluable.

Even though it has only been a few weeks since the launch of my App there have been several thousand downloads, positive reviews and, most importantly, great feedback from users who are finding the tools and techniques very useful.

I’m glad I ventured into the world of Apps and look forward to the journey ahead wherever that may lead

To download the DO IT! OR DITCH IT app click here

Bev James is CEO of The Academy Group including the Entrepreneurs’ Business Academy and The Coaching Academy. She is bestselling author of Do It! or Ditch It® (Virgin Books) which is now also available as a free business app. Bev was recently appointed Director of Mentoring for Start Up Loans, a government initiative for young entrepreneurs. 

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