Mobile apps are very exciting and many people want to get into the mobile app business. And while the mobile apps space may be exciting and full of innovation, just about all mobile apps face three main challenges that you have to plan for and have a way to conquer. If you do, your app will have a high chance of being a success.
First: creating the app
If you are a developer, creating the app may be relatively easy for you. But if you are not a software developer, you may need to either hire someone or learn to code. Hiring someone is expensive and I rarely recommend it because you take on all the financial risk in case the app is not a financial success. There are many resources out there to help people to learn to code and take the intimidation factor out of software development. If you decide to learn to code, try to use sites like stackoverflow or indie sites like g33ktalk (read as GeekTalk) to learn from, and get help from top software engineers.
The resources you have are money and time. So it is ultimately up to you which of the resources you want to put into the creation of your app. My recommendation would be to invest your time, and attempt making the app on your own despite this being an intimidating thing to try for most people. Even if the app is not a huge success, you will have given yourself an invaluable skill and will be able to make your next app which will have more and more of a chance to succeed as you gain experience.
Second: marketing the app
Marketing and promoting mobile apps is very difficult. Most apps are discovered in the app store. The next best place to market your app is the web via press, social media, and SEO. And the third most common way people discover apps is from social recommendations. But to fuel social recommendations, you need to get the original people onto your app so they can then like your app enough to recommend it to friends.
So since ultimately, your main distribution channels are the app store and the web, you must figure out how to promote your app on at least one of those very well (but of course, it is better to get both the web and the app stores working well for you).
Third: making money from the app
Depending on the type of app you have, various monetization paths can be available to your app. But nearly all of the traditional app monetization strategies monetize poorly on a per-app basis. The single most common way to monetize a mobile app is through ads. But ads on mobile app make even less money than they do on the web, and users hate them more. That means is you will get extra bad reviews about your ads in addition to a less than optimal monetization strategy.
So I don’t recommend placing ads on your apps unless they really make sense for your app, and are done right and tastefully. What I do recommend is to think about how you will make money from your app before you begin creating the actual app. There are a number of business models that are available to you. For a full discussion on different business models, please take a look at a an article about different business models I published earlier.
Roughly speaking, the single best business model for apps is to have a free app inside which there is a subscription to something that people can sign up for and pay you on a monthly basis. That way you get the most users to your app, some of whom may convert into subscribers. But that doesn’t work for all apps because not all apps are “repeat-use” apps. For apps that are intended to be used for a short time, making the app paid may be a way to go. That way you get paid upfront. But paid apps are incredibly difficult to promote since most users will try the free apps from your competitors first. So before attempting a paid app, make sure you have a very strong marketing strategy so you can stay competitive with the free apps.
As you can see, creating the app is just the beginning of the challenges that lie ahead of you. Before you embark on your app-business journey, try to plan for how you will be able to market the app and make money from it. While plans don’t usually work out exactly as intended, you should definitely have a solid idea of your options.
Alex Genadinik is a mobile developer and the creator of some of the most helpful business plan apps for planning and starting a business. The apps are available on iOS, Android and the Kindle. Alex holds a B.S in Computer Science from San Jose State University. Please say hello to Alex @genadinik on Twitter, and let him know what you thought of the article.