How to Become a Successful Appreneur and Build a Mobile Business

If you are reading this, most probably we do not need to convince you of the importance of mobile applications. After all, even the fact that the modern English has already coined a word defining an entrepreneur working in the mobile application industry is proof enough. So, what does it take to become an appreneur today and how to create a successful mobile app business?

The Idea

No matter what business-line your startup takes, it always begins with an idea. It is either something that you have been planning for some time or a sudden “aha” moment or even a bad experience that you know how to improve. In the age of mobile devices, literally, all innovations can be implemented as a smartphone application.

We have apps for almost everything – planning our tasks, managing our finances, monitoring our health and fitness, controlling our home devices, social networking, and many others. Moreover, with the rapid development of the Internet of Things, we find connected devices almost everywhere. Today, almost every process can be translated as a mobile solution, thus new startup ideas are easy to come by.

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Market Research

That may sound disappointing, but in most cases, the startup idea is not unique. However, that should not discourage you, as your product can have additional features, be more effective or user-friendly than that of your competitors. However, to determine the true business value of your future application, you need to do a proper market research.

For a proper market analysis, you should be able to answer the following questions:

  • Who is my target audience?
  • What issue does my software address?
  • Am I solving a local problem? Is there a market for my solution elsewhere?
  • How do my competitors tackle this problem?

In the course of your market research, you should talk to your prospective users, monitor the media and social networks to see whether your solution is relevant, and check what your competitors offer to see the supply-demand ratio. It’s a good idea to download several similar apps and use them to see their strong points and deficiencies. Analyzing the competitors’ products can help you shape your idea better.

For example, if you think of creating an app to provide healthy recipes every day, you will find dozens of similar apps on the market. However, you can include integration with the local groceries stores, for your users to immediately shop for the necessary ingredients or even get them delivered to their doors. If your competitors do not offer such feature, you will immediately stand out.

Project Planning

This is a very broad task consisting of a number of smaller ones. First, you need to decide whether you are going to build an app for Android or iOS, or would you opt for cross-platform development to cover both and so double your customer base. There are, of course, other mobile platforms, but at the very beginning you can aim at the two major ones, and that should cover more than half of your expected audience.

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Think of how you are going to organize the development team. There may be several options:

  • Your own in-house team. You may need to hire additional professionals for the tasks, which cannot be performed by your current team. This may be one of the best choices, as an own team can be relied on to deliver good product quality and, what is especially important, provide ongoing support and maintenance.
  • Freelance developers that you can hire on various job marketplaces. This option may save you some costs, as freelancers are highly influenced by competition. However, with freelance developers, you may face certain difficulties with organizing the flows and synchronizing the work. Besides, you will need to plan some additional resources for ongoing project management, as well as further maintenance and support.
  • Outsource to software development companies. This option can turn out to be more cost-effective than in-house resources, moreover given that you don’t need to provide the hardware and software resources required for the development. Besides, you may also contract the same company for continued support and maintenance and expect quality performance, as they will be supporting their own product.
  • White-labeling. This option will suit you if you do not want to involve with custom software development at all. However, this will require some very extensive market research, as you will need to find an application that performs exactly as you want it to and market it under your brand name. Besides, the development company must work by this model, too. However, on the plus side, with white-labeling you will be able to dedicate all your effort to marketing the product and leave all the matters related to the engineering to your partner.

If you decide to create an application on your own or engage freelancers, you need to put together the technology stack for your app development. The market is now full of various tools, platforms, and frameworks designed to make mobile app development easier. One of the main trends in JavaScript-based engineering, and you can find all sorts of JavaScript tools for your project – both for the front-end and back-end.

By the way, if your first experience with building a mobile app is successful, you can also offer engineering services to other brands, as an additional line of business. In this case, a professional team and an effective technology stack will be a truly valuable asset.

The Prototype or MVP

If you are starting an app development company, it may happen that your budget is insufficient to build a fully-functional application and start marketing it. In this case, you need to look for investors who are willing to back your project. However, you need to show something to the investors to convince them that your idea is worth supporting. What you need is a prototype.

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A prototype is an interactive simulator of your future application. It should demonstrate the core functionality and showcase the main business value that the application offers. Having a working prototype can make your negotiations with investors much easier, as “seeing is believing”. Therefore, it is a wise strategy to invest in a high-quality prototype before actually creating a mobile app.

Another approach is to start with a minimum viable product or MVP. An MVP is the first version of your solution that contains just the main features. Early MVP release allows you to collect user feedback, evaluate the interest towards your product, measure various metrics that can suggest possible improvements, and gather your initial clients’ database.

An MVP is released as a landing page describing the product and inviting users to sign up for notifications, thus allowing you to judge about potential popularity of your startup idea with the public. On the basis of the data yielded by the MVP analytics, you can make some tweaks to your app or even modify the scope focusing on other features.

Business Plan

A comprehensive business plan is an absolute “must-have” for your contacts with investors. The business plan should include both short-term and long-term strategies and contain a detailed explanation of the following:

  • The work scope of your application development
  • The amount of investments you require
  • The monetization strategies you’ll apply
  • The possible investment return models

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A detailed and realistic business plan increases your chances to secure investments into your product. Besides, a good business plan can help you even if you rely on your own budget and are not going to attract investor funds. Checking your progress against your initial business plan may help you identify problems and opportunities and adjust your marketing strategy.

Attracting the Investors

On the average, the cost of developing a mobile app starts at $40,000. Depending on your actual functionality scope and use of advanced technologies, for example, augmented or virtual reality, the cost may vary.

If your own budget allows covering the development and marketing costs, so much the better. However, very often young mobile app companies turn to investors to support them when they only start the app business. Depending on the amount you need to start the production, you have several options:

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  • Crowdfunding. This is, strictly speaking, not investment but a simple financing of your campaign. Crowdfunding participants usually do not expect any return on their contributions. There are several crowdfunding platforms, such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo. With crowdfunding, the trick is to prepare a truly catching presentation of your future product. You need to engage people and make them want to support you. A rich presentation of a working prototype may do the trick.
  • Angel investors. These are individuals who are passionate enough to invest their own funds into your startup. They want to be a part of your industry and this is how they make their wish come true. With angel investors, you can expect relatively moderate investments, as it is their personal money they will be giving to you.
  • Venture capitalists. In this case, you can expect higher financing, however, venture capitalists are going to be more critical towards your project. The reason is that venture capitalists invest funds of other investors and are responsible to them. That’s why they are more likely to give positive answers to startups that have already somehow progressed in their development.

Monetization Strategies

Actually, this is what you need to think over, even before contacting your prospective investors. In short, monetization defines how you are going to earn money with your application. Before we go on – releasing a paid app from the very beginning is not a good idea. The market is overcrowded with free applications, and the chances that a user will scroll past free apps in Google Play or App Store are infinitesimal.

So, release a free app. In this case, the logical question is where your earnings will come from. There are several ways you can monetize your application:

  • Advertising. This is one of the most common monetization tools when you display partner ads within your app content. Your revenue will be coming from clicks on ads or banners. Advertising is one of the easiest monetization strategies, however, it has a major drawback – users mostly hate it.
  • In-app purchases. Your app remains free to download, however, some extra items or features have their price. This strategy is better suited for games, where you can set prices on lives, artifacts, extra time, new levels, and etc. Devoted gamers will be willing to pay for an extra life instead of waiting for replenishment.
  • Freemium model. With this strategy, you are going to offer two versions of your app – free and premium. The premium version, which you are going to charge for, should contain an enhanced scope of features that are unavailable in the free version. However, be careful with the free version scope – it should have a clear value and be easily usable. Creating a free version stripped of the most important features is not going to make your app popular.
  • Paid download. Yes, we’ve said that it is not a good idea. However, this can work if the product you are about to release is unique and valuable. In this case, your users will be willing to pay for it, even if there is no free version at all.

Marketing

In fact, if you’ve developed an MVP before releasing the full version of the app, this is when your marketing has already started. The MVP will give users the feel of your app, allow them to try it and decide whether they want to continue using it. The information it brings to you is another benefit, as it helps you see whether you are going the right direction.

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Other marketing strategies include social media and mass media marketing. Create a business page on Facebook and corporate account on Twitter. Set up a Telegram channel for questions and answers. In short, use the same channels your customers use, and they will start recognizing your brand soon.

Launch promotional campaigns, free trials, early-bird offers. For a start, while you are just building up speed, you can sacrifice some of the profit. Focus on user experience instead. In addition to positive user feedback, you can also benefit from viral marketing when your users will recommend your app to their friends and family.

Application Updates and Support

Your job is not done with the release of your mobile app. If you want to run a successful mobile app business, you need to release updates and patches improving the quality of your app. This is another argument for engaging a permanent development team or signing a long-term contract with an outsourcing company.

Your users expect the functionality to be advanced. They want to see new features, UI redesigns, new useful integrations. This will increase the overall user engagement and will ensure that your app will not be abandoned or altogether uninstalled after a couple of runs.

Application support is another function that cannot be ignored. Your user community will appreciate the prompt response to their inquiries and help with any issues they face. For that purpose, you need to maintain a support channel where your consultants will help people enjoy your app to the maximum.

We hope that we’ve managed to throw some light on the main things that should be taken care of if you wish to enter the market of mobile applications. If you are thinking about how to start your own app business, you are about to embark on an exciting journey of challenges and hard work. But isn’t this the recipe for success?

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