brutal-truths-app-creators

Alright I’ve had enough. Look I’ve been on both sides of the table as an app creator and as a hired app promoter.

I know what it’s like to pour your heart and soul into an app idea and release it into the world. I’ve had horrible app launches where my apps do not generate a single download as a paid app. Trust me I’ve been there.

And…

I’ve been on the other side as a hired gun, looking at an app and thinking how the hell am I going promote this thing? I am not attached to the idea and frankly have seen other slightly modified versions of it. However, the person on the other side is convinced that it will be a success.

Look I get it.

As entrepreneurs we have to believe in our own B.S., the odds are completely stacked against us.

But…

I believe that I have the self-awareness to realize when my idea just isn’t that great. Sure it may take a few iterations, but I will eventually figure out that the idea is a dud and I can move on to the next.

This post is as much for you and it is for me – to act as a reminder that entrepreneurship is a journey and that some ideas just aren’t worth holding onto.

Here are 7 brutal truths that every app entrepreneur should face.

1. Your idea is not as unique as you think it is

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Every Tuesday, I do all my client intake calls. These are usually potential clients who want to either work with me or just pick my brain. I go into each call with the sole purpose of helping the other party and providing as much insight as I can.

I don’t try to sell.

So on any given Tuesday, I will be on 10–16 calls and you won’t believe the number of times people think they have a unique idea. Most of the time, it’s a slight modification on an existing idea, but the difference isn’t big enough to an outside party.

Maybe I’ve become jaded because I hear so many ideas and have launched so many different ones, but I don’t think it’s that.

I believe my experience through the podcast, agency and my own apps have allowed me to really see the unique ideas and more importantly see the elements of the well executed ones.

When thinking through your idea, don’t just make a slight improvement on an existing product, re-think the whole problem and how you would solve it if no other solutions existed.

2. Understand the difference between feature vs product

When I launched oSnap I thought this camera app would overtake Camera+ as one of the top paid camera apps. It was different allowing you to tap anywhere to take a pic and it was completely gestured based.

I thought since Clear was completely gestured based and became an Apple darling that I could replicate its success.

After a period of really analyzing the app, I realized that the it’s just a simple feature and one that might not be wanted by most users.

You see Camera+ targets the professionals and the power users while my app targets the casual user. And I realized a normal user…

  1. Isn’t going to want to pay for just a cool feature
  2. Find that the feature isn’t worthy enough to switch from the default camera app and the ease of swiping up on your lock screen to activate it (admittedly this is me).

3. Great marketing cannot save a bad idea

I get that most app creators suck at marketing that’s why they come to me, but you must understand that even my most brilliant spins on a story can’t save a bad idea.

I believe that I’m the best app growth hacker in the business. I can drive press coverage using my connections and downloads using my growth hacks, but these activities may only mask the fact that your idea just isn’t good enough to stand on its own.

There’s a saying that great marketing can only make you fail faster and I completely agree.

4. Growth hacks are NOT sustainable

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This is contrary to everything I do, but something I truly believe in. You see I know I can drive growth, but I’ve had a hard time driving sustainable growth.

Without the proper viral mechanics, these growth hacks will only lead to a burst in downloads and you will have to use advertising as a way to continue that growth.

Trust me I’ve seen this with my big time clients.

When building your app idea, make sure you put in the proper viral mechanics so that one download leads to more downloads. And with the right growth hacker you will start to see these growth hacks have lasting effects.

5. Don’t over-emphasize launch day

Every single entrepreneur gets nervous the day before launch and the day of launch. I’ve gotten many nervous (sometimes harassing) emails from clients the day before their launch.

From a PR perspective, launch day is important. Reporters want to cover new and interesting things, so you have about a 5-day window to make the most of your launch.

After that 5-day window, you’re considered old news.

While you should certainly use this opportunity to get your app in front of as many eye balls as possible, you should also realize that it’s not going to make or break your business.

Think of the launch day like your wedding anniversary or birthday. It’s a big day, but it’s what you do during the days in between that make all the difference.

6. You will have more ideas

One of my most memorable app launches was helping Bumper Jump get featured by Apple. Austin Shaf, the creator of the app, came to me looking for marketing help and advice. He was considering seeking a publisher for the app since the previous version of the app was not getting any traction.

After one look of the app I knew we had a potential hit on our hands. I told Austin that I really liked the app and thought we could potentially help him get it featured by Apple. If we succeeded he would have 1) have the Apple connection for future Apple features; 2) enough downloads to cross-promote his other apps and 3) have the social proof to create even more hit games.

Lastly, I also told him, if we didn’t succeed in the Apple Feature, then he would have other great ideas that he could pitch to publishers. “This will not be your last idea” I told him.

He agreed to having us help him and we landed the Apple feature. Now he’s on his way to more awesome apps.

7. Portfolios make great companies

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I believe very few indie app developers succeed with just one app. It is those that build a portfolio of apps that really make it big in the app space. Big companies such as King, Supercell and Rovio have built massive portfolios.

Indie developers such as my mastermind friends have also done well with a portfolio of apps. These include companies such as eTips, Richard Wagstaff and Daily Spark creator Muoyo Okome who went on to sell his app portfolio for multiple six figures.

Having a portfolio of apps allows you to:

  1. Diverse your revenue stream.
  2. Cross-promote between apps.
  3. More easily sell your app business. Buyers are more interested in an app portfolio than just one individual app.

You don’t have to start with a portfolio of apps, you just need to have the right mindset when building your first one.

Conclusion

Having the luxury of the podcast, agency and my own apps has allowed me to really see the unique ideas and more importantly see the elements of the well executed ones.

Playing both sides of the table as an app creator and as a hired app promoter allows me to see certain truths that most app creators are not willing to face.

Leave a comment below and let me know if I’m full of B.S. or which ones you agree with most.

Steve Young

Founder at AppMasters
I started building apps in 2011 and my first app hit #8 under educational games. I started making a few hundred dollars a month, but had no idea what I was doing. Then in 2013 I decided to start a podcast so I could pick the brains of app creators that I admired including the co-founder of Shazam, Tapbots, Crossy Road, etc and that changed everything.

Now I run an app marketing agency where we’ve helped 8 clients get featured by Apple, 5X downloads with ASO, and get coverage on Techcrunch, Mashable, Venture Beat and other major publications. I also write about apps on The Next Web, Entrepreneur.com, and on my blog AppMasters.co.