Planning and building a profitable mobile app

There are currently almost 10.000.000 mobile apps available in the leading app stores.

Yes, that is 10 million pieces of software that are out there in the market. And there’s always someone thinking about making a new one. An app that’s going to kick the others out of the game, become super popular and make a ton of money in the process. If you’re one of the people with such thoughts on their mind, then this short guide is for you.

We’ll go through exactly what you need to think about before even starting the project, and then we’ll explain how to start it off on the right foot.

However, if your idea is to build a mobile game, then this post is not for you. The game industry has different rules and nuances you need to learn about. It might be a topic of some other post on this blog, but not this one.

So, let’s get down to business.

How to make sure my mobile app will be successful?

1. Is your app solving a problem?

This might seem like common business sense, but quite often we see enthusiastic people on their way to build an app they believe in without actual need. What does that mean? Well, either they or someone they know encountered a specific problem, and they feel they could easily solve it with an app.

That’s a great starting point for any business - identifying a problem, a pain point that you can find a solution for. But, it’s a terribly bad idea if you don’t do a couple of things before running into a demanding venture.

mobile-app-profitable-1

If you think you have a perfect solution for your aunt Gracy’s cat’s problem, first make sure that other cat owners are struggling with the same issues. Your aunt and her friends aren’t a very large user pool. So, once you’ve identifed the problem, you need to do your research.

Are there really enough potential users? You don’t need to find 10.000 people, a small relevant sample will do. Find an online venue (Facebook group, Twitter, email list…) where your target group gathers and give them a questionnaire in a form that works best for you. Use this to find out exactly what they’re struggling with and how they’re solving it. You can also use this as an opportunity to gather your initial user group. At the end of the questionnaire, offer to let them know about your launch (or offer a discount) in return for their email address or phone number. This will come in handy since you'll have qualified leads before you even have the final product.

Recap:

  • Is it a real problem
  • Are there enough potential users to make the app profitable

2. Who else is solving the same problem?

With millions of mobile apps out there, it's very likely someone else is trying to do the same thing. Find them and research them thoroughly.

How are they approaching the problem? How successful are they? For how long have they existed and how big is their user base?

If they failed, why and how did it happen? You can do the research on Startup graveyard and autopsy.io. These two handy websites will give you a bunch of stories about startup failure. They're not meant to demotivate you, but to help you know what to look out for. There's also a /r/shutdown subreddit, if you prefer this platform for getting your information.

Take a close look at your competitors and find their weak points. Are they failing their users in an important area? Is their service excelling at something particular? Use them as a great source of information and gather as much as you can.

Maybe your service will be complementary to theirs and you can actually partner up? Keep your mind open to such options.

Recap:

  • Go into depth when researching your competitors
  • Keep your mind open to "unconventional" possibilities

3. What is going to hold you down?

Are there any legal implications you should be aware of? If you're tapping into a niche that's rigorously regulated, you need to talk to an expert before you proceed any further.

If you'll intend to collect any personal data from your users, how will you enable security and privacy protection?

No matter what you're doing, it's good to have a lawyer and an IT security expert at least as consultants.

Recap:

  • Legal and security aspects are very important

4. How will you monetize it?

It's a decision you need to make early on as it will determine the profitability of your project.

Are you going to charge for the app? Will you go with the free app + paid upgrades? If you're not an expert in the pricing area, then this is something to discuss with your team or a professional consultant. You need someone who is experienced in the industry.

mobile-app-monetization

There is more than one tool you can use for this including Google AdMob and Facebook Audience Network.

Recap:

  • Think about the money

5. It's a project

Developing an app should be taken as a serious project. And a serious project means there is serious management. You need to plan carefully and find the best team possible. That is not the easiest task if you're just starting out and don't really have much money to throw at this project.

If you're a developer yourself, you'll most likely need a marketing and sales person. Also, another developer for peer review always comes in handy. Make sure you know where you're going with the app and give yourself deadlines. The next step is to actually try and follow those deadlines. Seriously.

If you're not a developer, you'll need at least one, depending on the complexity of the app. Make sure you choose carefully. We wrote about that in our blog post about outsourcing. The same principles can be used if you're a non-tech person who's picking a developer.

Either way, put it all on paper, be honest about what you can(not) do and find the holes you can't fill. Then look for people who could help you on your journey. One can do very little on their own. You DO need a team, no matter how small it is in the beginning.

If you can't pay for them, you can offer them a percentage in ownership. Or you can find a different deal that is going to work for everyone.

Recap:

  • Take your project seriously
  • Hire a team
  • Try and stick to the deadlines

All in all, it is going to be a bumpy ride for you (and your teammates). Buckle up, get ready and good luck!