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How to Build a Great Mobile App, Stage I: Planning

Published: April 22, 2015

Author: Craig Weinberg

Planning, building, testing, and launching an app is hard business! It’s not for the faint of heart. But, it is certainly a winnable and worthy endeavor, especially as mobile traffic surpasses desktop. You’re probably asking yourself the same questions that thousands of marketers are – should we build an app? Is it worth it? Will my customers use it? Can we figure out this mobile thing?
First, take a minute to breathe. Before any code is written, before large checks are cashed or even MVPs (minimum viable products) are built, this post teaches you the fundamental, four-step approach to planning your mobile product launch.

1.    Understand your market and category

Collectively, the iTunes and Google Play stores have over 2.5 million apps! Marketing your app amongst that kind of competition is difficult, even with the largest marketing budgets, so you need to do work up from to establish an identity and a niche that helps you stand out from the crowd.
Research your target category. For example, if you are launching a video app, spend some time looking at the video category’s top apps. What is their USP (unique selling proposition)? What do those apps do better than every other video app? What do they do worse? Are there underserved niches that you can turn into an opportunity for your app to own/win?

2.    Understand your (existing) audience

Not all audiences are equal. In fact, what makes them unique are their differences! When launching a mobile product for the first time, it may be hard to pinpoint where your current and hopeful audiences are. Begin by relating any and all insights from your current customer base to your intended mobile campaign. What do your web analytics say? What type of demo data do you have from your sales? Who are your biggest cheerleaders and advocates on social media?

3.    Know your goals and KPIs (These may change, so have no fear!)

Focus. Focus. Focus. Most brands and developers are in such a rush to just produce an app that they often neglect to seriously think about their goals. Slow down. Get feedback from your entire team – marketing, product, development, PR, etc. – and think deeply about what it is you want users to do when they download your app.
Create your top five objectives. Now, trim them to one or two! Yes, become that focused. Apps that try to do too many things confuse users. Confused users do not return to apps. Don’t let your app make a fast track to the app graveyard screen! (We all know that one, don’t we?)
Even as you try to stay focused, be flexible and forgiving. You will find that your KPIs may change post-launch. Much of this depends on how your users respond to your app and how iterative you are in refining it based on their feedback.

4.    Invest in the data

We will save the nuts and bolts of this for a post later in this series. But, just remember that you cannot use data that was never collected! Not collecting the right data – on how your users interact with the app, where your conversions are occurring, and, most importantly, what is bringing them back to your app – is one of the biggest mistakes we see brands make. It’s a bit like going on a road trip in a beautiful convertible to an unfamiliar area without having a map at your disposal. You can have the most beautiful, functional app in the world, but remember: it can’t steer itself.
Hopefully by this point, you’re feeling a little less overwhelmed about the world of apps – and finding your place in it. The next posts in the series will cover how to assess costs and spend, how to choose the right technology partners, and how to set up tracking to bring in the invaluable data we mentioned above. Until next time…

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