We Need an App

If you are a regular user of a tablet computer then you may already be convinced that mobile is the future. The convenience, power and relatively low cost of mobile devices versus traditional laptop computing put us on the path where smartphones and tablets consume more of our time and dollars for our benefit. Throw into the discussion the record-breaking quarterly revenue reported by Apple last week ($46.33 billion) and you may decide that, for your department or organization, “We need an App.”

Perhaps you worry that you are missing out on an exciting technology trend, almost as bad as not having a web site. There are many ways an app can empower your team, but you want to come up with a clear statement on what your app will help you accomplish. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Promote your business

You have found a great way to promote your products via a free app. Some examples:

  • An interactive catalog of your products. This sounds simple enough, but Sony Music Entertainment takes this to a new level with “Jimi Hendrix: The Complete Experience.” This app provides entertaining content on the guitar legend, including music and photos, while promoting songs available for purchase on iTunes. Think of what this could do for a medical device catalog.
  • A utility app that is useful and highlights your business. Examples include the Winchester Ballistics Calculator, and the Bloomberg app for news and stock quotes. Both target very different audiences, but give each a reason to keep coming back.
  • A novelty app that is fun and promotes your products. The Virtual Zippo Lighter app shows off these collectibles and is a must-have for your next Rush or Justin Bieber concert. Download it and you’ll see why it’s a keeper.

Just like a web site it is important that your app is sticky and gives users a reason to return. You are using the app to build a customer relationship. Make sure that it is useful, interesting and promotes your brand without being too in-your-face about it.

Make money, save money, or solve a problem

Have you found a problem to solve for your customers that they are willing to pay for, or that you can include as a value-add for an existing product?

Do you have a way to save money by streamline internal operations? If you have a paper-intensive operation and you are looking to go paperless, a tablet can be the answer.

The possibilities are endless, just as they were with the advent of the PC and the World Wide Web. The key is to listen to your customers, both internal and external. Find out what their pain points are. Think about what hurdles you will have to overcome: if wireless connectivity is limited, local storage and syncing to your corporate systems may need to be built in. Focus groups or a customer site tour can be very helpful. Consider using Customer Development. An idea for an app can come to light any time you talk to customers. This is why you don’t want to outsource customer service.

Print money (i.e. get rich)

Hearing the siren call of the app gold rush, you think you have the killer app idea that will make you a fortune. No matter how good your idea is, marketing will be critical. The app market has pushed down pricing to the point where some users complain about paying $2.99 for an indispensable app while sipping a disposable $3.00 latte. You need to examine the app market, your potential competitors and determine what customers are willing to pay for your solution. There is a great deal of competition for customer attention in any major app marketplace. Getting rich from your app is the extreme exception, despite what you see in the media. If you have a great idea for something that people will pay for and you market it properly you still have a chance at success. Just don’t think it will be easy.

Further Reading

Rather than repeat them here, take a look at the questions listed in my previous article on marketing and Customer Development. Answer all of them. Just because you build it doesn’t mean people will download it, even if it is free.

The Business of iPhone and iPad App Develoment provides great suggestions on how to come up with app ideas and useful strategies for marketing your app. I think you will find it helpful no matter what mobile platform you choose.

About Andre Oporto
Creating mobile and cloud-based productivity and collaboration tools for business.

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