You’ve invested your blood, sweat, and a lot of loot into an app launch endeavor that sounds like a surefire hit. But what if it isn’t? What if all of this is for nothing and you end up being blacklisted by every venture capitalist for the rest of your life?
Even if you’ve followed all the rules, it’s natural to feel anxious as a product is in development. Fortunately, there are several boxes you can check as you prepare to develop a product that will allow it to succeed. Knowing what you’re up against and having a little patience is half the battle.
Why starting with an MVP is so important
One thing to keep in mind as you start to set the wheels in motion is that your main objective needs to be focused on a true MVP. Sometimes our customers come to us with a lot of great ideas for all kinds of features but you’re far more likely to succeed if you release in iterations, allowing you to rapidly test and gather feedback to refine the app in waves.
Starting with an MVP allows you to get to the market quickly and test the product in the real world with a “minimum” investment. Going beyond this requires a much larger investment and ends up being like blindfolding an otherwise great hitter in a game of baseball – there’s still a small chance for a homerun but more than likely, contact will send the ball sailing but it will land out of bounds. A good example of this is how the streaming platform, Quibi, fizzled out shortly after launch despite a massive investment on an idea that “sounded good.”
Consider that somewhere between 80% and 90% of apps are abandoned after the first use which usually leads to total failure not far down the road. Understand that your average user isn’t going to do a deep dive into your app to appreciate all your hard work. By starting small and delighting your early adopters, great rapport will help solidify the foundation through positive sentiment, allowing you to take manageable steps toward your more ambitious goals.
5 steps to a successful app launch
To get a useful MVP to market, mind the following steps and remember: while walking might not get you somewhere as fast as running, a stumble while walking is much easier to recover from than when charging ahead at full speed.
1. Figure out costs and get money
The most common question any software development company is asked is, “How much does it cost?” You won’t know an exact price for sure until you’ve had time to discuss the project in detail, but expect somewhere between $100,000 and $300,000 to build an MVP. To understand everything that goes into developing a new product, refer to our infographic and read through the content in our blog, “How Much Does It Cost to Make an App in 2021? [Infographic].”
The challenge most face is getting the money to complete the first development phase which can take two to six months then float the app along during its early days. Backers and stakeholders need some kind of proof of concept such as a prototype that’s been tested before handing over any money.
In some cases, crowdfunding through a site Kickstarter can work but most turn to venture capitalists and other investment sources. You’ll need a great pitch deck to get your point across whether you’re looking to get the initial funding to build a prototype or ready to build the MVP. Usually, you’ll want to hold off approaching investors until you have a working prototype but some will be keen to at least fund a Design Sprint that produces a prototype by the end of this week-long event. However, expect to have to scrape this sum together yourself which is usually around a manageable $30,000 – most entrepreneurs pool money from their network while others take out a bank loan.
2. Learn everything you can about your audience and nail down your value proposition
“People will love it!” you tell yourself repeatedly and anyone else who will listen to your idea. However, all you truly know at this point is that you love your idea and expect others to follow suit.
Most likely, you’ve decided to pursue building an app because of something you’ve identified in the market, either spinning a competitor product or less commonly because you’ve identified a novel solution to some problem. Often, this amounts to a cursory look and only scratches the surface.
You’ll need to study your intended audience closely to construct personas that play a key role in helping build perspective outside of your own and develop around your findings. Adapting around the reality of what you discover helps ensure that you’re not just building for yourself. You’ll use this information to establish your value proposition which you’ll use to construct messaging for your marketing initiative.
3. Have a well thought out analytics system in place
Personas help you identify people who should be ideal candidates for early user testing, such as the prototype during the Design Sprint. It’s important to not only listen to explicit feedback but observe and analyzing their actions. Make sure to look for willing candidates in your network who fit the bill before going with professional testers as someone “off the street” is more likely to engage with your app naturally versus professional testers who are inherently conditioned to methodically comb through your product.
The actual product will require a solid mobile app analytics system in place from the beginning to analyze how your users actually engage with your app. You’ll need to capture user flows through the app and collect enough data while in beta before launch to pivot enough to ensure users are doing what they’re supposed to as well as not getting lost. It’s important to be able to identify performance metrics like conversion percentages for actionable items on your app, how users behave against personas you’ve generated, average revenue per customer (ARPU), and so on.
4. Start marketing early
You should ideally start marketing around the time your product is in beta. At this point, you’ve been able to see firsthand how users respond to the prototype to begin work on the MVP and should have an idea of how to position it to your audience.
The trick is getting your product in front of the right eyes during the first marketing push before the app launch. A website and social media should be a given by now so these should be established as soon as you decide to move forward with MVP development. Find groups on sites like LinkedIn or Facebook and good subreddits where you can join discussions and get eyes on your product as well as use more visual channels like TikTok where fun content can help generate buzz.
Once your product is launched, you’ll want to double down and work in other strategies with your marketing efforts to broaden your exposure. To further promote your app, you should submit it to product discovery sites or competitions, leverage any kind of pricing deal, and try to get on the radar of viable influencers.
On social media and any in-app feedback channels, make sure to communicate that you’re listening. You can do this in several ways from responding to individuals to discussing feedback you’ve collected on places like your blog, social media posts, or YouTube channel.
5. Launch it!
Going for perfection will end up causing more problems than it will solve, surprisingly. The goal is to get a functional product on the market as soon as possible before you start obsessing over every little detail that could be “just a little better.”
App-breaking bugs should be squashed before launch but you’re not always going to find them until the app is live. In most cases, issue-tracking software like JIRA which we use here at Blue Label Labs will still have several open tickets for various matters and once an app hits the market, that list often grows quite a bit. With a good knowledge of prioritization, product managers can systematically organize tickets according to the severity to tweak the app for its next iteration. To once again quote the founder of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman, “You may have heard me say: If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”
Try not to sweat the small stuff as it’s all part of the process!
Blue Label Labs can take you from idea to a successful app launch and beyond
Blue Label Labs epicenter is solution architecture – everything from the big picture to granular details is captured in our design and output. We understand how to take big ideas and break them down into manageable chunks for an iterative release process. In doing so, we’ve helped hundreds of businesses build products with ever-increasing value. For more information on how we can help you can get your idea to market, touch base with us to schedule a chat.
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