App project setup 1: What are you trying to achieve?
Over the next few weeks I am going to write a series of posts to guide you through what you need to know to conceive and commission your app project. There is a lot of work that you can do up front, before you decide to engage with a development agency, that will save you both time and money. Development agencies can be a quick and easy way to spend a lot of money; which is fine as I run one *smile*. So the more time and effort that you spend on the pre production phase of the project the smoother the project will run and the higher the likelihood of a successful outcome.
The second wave
The days of publishing an app, to make bathroom related noises or to add a few pounds to photos of your friends, being a license to print money are fading fast. The app gold rush is ending and we are moving into a second wave of apps. With well over half a million apps in the apple app store alone, many of which have never seen the light of an iPhone home screen, this new wave of apps has to have real business objectives and offer and actual return on your investment. As a result, you need to be sure about what you are trying to achieve through the publication of your app.
This may sound like an obvious point. Many would be app publishers have an idea that their new app will be downloaded for a fee and therefore make them lots of money or that their new app will carry advertising and therefore make them lots of money. This is not enough. This is not a business plan. Such an approach is more akin to buying a lottery ticket than having an actual business plan. Some apps will still succeed with this approach. However, these either have a large marketing budget behind them or have been very lucky, or both. Publishers must now consider where their app fits into the broader online strategy of their organisation. What role does it fulfil along side the website, email marketing, text marketing, pay per click, etc.? What is its purpose; what are you trying to achieve?
Remember, it’s possible that you may not need an app at all. Apps are at their best when they do one or two things. They are supposed to allow the users to achieve something. If you are just displaying content then this is most often best served up on your website (mobile optimised of course).
Once you have decided that an app is the correct solution for you it is time to define some business objectives. These might be things like; attract new customers, increase online customer engagement, reduce the number of support calls that you have to deal with, sell more products, improve employee efficiency, etc. These business objectives are your justification for the app project. However, there is no point in having objectives if you do not know if they have been achieved. It is therefore important to turn these objectives into something that can be measured. We call these measurable goals.
In most cases defining measurable goals is simply an exercise in adding some numbers to your business objectives. i.e. reduce the number of support calls becomes reduce the number of support calls by 25%. Obviously you can’t just pull these numbers out of the air. Some considerable research needs to go into this exercise. Once you have a firm idea of what numbers you need to achieve you are then in a position to decide if you can justify the £30k+ development cost of your app and you will be able to see if a return on investment is actually feasible.
Return on investment
Armed with your business objectives and your measurable goals you will be able set a timeline for your return on investment to be achieved. This information will give you some clear criteria as well as a focus for judging your success. Make sure that you put mechanisms in place to enable you to measure the things that you need. This might be analytics packages such as Google Analytics or it could be a specific phone number to call which is only advertised within the app or discount codes that are only made available through the app. If your app is for enterprise / internal use then measure the time that employees spend on tasks and having the means in place to measure subtle things such as employee satisfaction or frustration levels are very important. Measurable goals are only useful if you have the means by which to measure them. This requires some thought.
Need some help?
If you need some help in planning and implementing this important phase of your project then feel free to get in touch and I will be happy to help.
In the next post in this series we will look at how you understand your audience and the impact that this has on your app project.
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“Most of startup ideas are absolutely stupid”
WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum is refreshingly honest, plain-speaking and very focussed. Good interview.