The following question is one that I see far too often when I see folks developing an app. It’s even something I have experienced before. It is often a fatal mistake that folks experience when developing an app because they are not thinking about the business side of the process. They may not have a network to help push them in the right direction and/or they just fall into despair given the challenges that is already on their plate.
Let’s get to our next reader question:
[alert color=”blue”]Anonymous Asks — “I’m almost done with my first app that I completed in my spare time (have worked on others before via freelancing) and I’m wondering if there is anything I should expect before launching? Should I create a website or wait to see if popularity builds?”[/alert]
Without a doubt this is the number #1 mistake I see developers making and it is such a devastating one to make. Believe it or not, I have even made this mistake… twice! I’ve sensed that this is certainly a learning curve moment.
The first game that I built I was focused on learning how to put together an app on the platform. I put together the graphics, the code, and tested it between my wife and I. The problem is that I magically thought everyone would rush in to try my app. I released it and earned $158. Did I mention that this was in the early days? Oops!
The second game that I built I knew much more about the code and process. If only I had someone smack me upside the head about a few things beyond that… eh, anyway! Near the end of the development I made an effort to be covered by the press in order to spread the word. Thankfully several folks came out and wrote about my project, but it wasn’t enough. I released the game, earned $90 and was approached by someone to acquire the project. That opportunity ended up falling through, but why only $90? Well, a lot of things went wrong there that I’ll cover in future posts. Basically, the core lesson learned here is that execution matters as much as building an audience. While I received press I stumbled on both points. This one ended up stinging the worst as I watched games come out a few months later using the same mechanic.
Thank goodness I figured it out by my third product. The project ended up doing far, far better, earning more than $20,000. I had a website, spoke with the community often, focused on the execution, and more.
If nobody knows about you when you launch then your app will go nowhere and you’ll be stuck fighting an uphill battle. That battle can be eased if you magically hit something that becomes a viral hit, but don’t bet on that. These days the battle is even worse given the environment we’re in today. You’re looking at ~1300 being pushed to iTunes per day so you need to make an effort to build an audience for your product as soon as humanly possible.
Ways to build up an audience
Create a website as soon as possible
You don’t have to talk about what you’re doing, but you can use this as an opportunity to tease what you’re building. If you throw up a website and begin to collect e-mails it can give you insight into the problem you may or may not be solving.
Maintaining a blog of some sort or simply writing content on Medium is one way that you can constantly expose yourself to an audience. You want to consistently provide interesting and useful content for the people you’re serving.
For example, if you’re building a game you might consider providing technical material that explains the problems that you’ve encountered and how you’ve moved around them. You may also consider doing a live stream Q/A session with your existing community.
Don’t ignore the people who have already jumped on board! They’re seeds that need care so make sure you’re pushing content to them frequently.
Hang out with your audience
Visit forums and talk to your audience. Help answer any questions they may have which can help build your credibility with a group of people. This will help build your credibility.
Build relationships with your audience by doing the hard work and hunting them down. This also includes the press if you can say hello at events. You want to expand your social graph as well as you possibly can with people who matter most.
This is an uphill battle that you’ll need to accept. Expect to spend months, even years, being on the ground floor with your audience trying to expand your reach.
It’s important to be mindful that you may not be able to nail down an audience. If this happens you need to know when to move onto a different path and be willing to accept that.
Capture your audience as soon as you possibly can. If you release your first product and gain 100 loyal fans, you can release your second product and immediately tap into those fans.
So, as you’ve noticed by now, there is a lot of footwork that goes into this. You don’t want to be looking at next to zero downloads when you release your app. It can be a devastating blow mentally and one that will break people instantly.
Being featured by Apple can be an absolute godsend, but you really have to do many more things just right to have a chance here. I’ve worked on projects that were absolutely incredible (with a ton of reviews, 5-star average), and still failed to get on the app store home page. Don’t bet on this happening.
Now, there are exceptions to all of this. Maybe you’re only creating the product for fun. What I would call a passion project. In that case it no longer matters. But lets be honest. Some part of us all hope that we do well enough that we can sustain further applications. Eyeballs are nice. Money is nice. Do a little work before hand to give yourself a chance.
That’ll do it for today! Great question Mr. Anonymous. If you have a question use the hashtag #xmcdojo or reach out to me over on the contact page!
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Don’t blindly work on your product and then show it to the world on your release date. Show it to the world as soon as possible. Talk to people about your project as soon as possible. Build an audience of dedicated fans as soon as possible. It’s hard work, but it’ll pay dividends in the future.
Has this happened to you? How did you adapt to begin growing your own audience? Let me know in the comments below!