At the beginning of 2015 in Portland, OR, I was having happy hour with friend and mentor, Jonathon Hensley, CEO of Emerge Interactive. We were catching up and talking about a trip he was about to take to New York, NY for a client meeting.
At the time, my company Chamber DS was still young and growing fast, so I prompted the meeting in order to pick his brain and validate I was focusing on the right details as the leader. On that day he gave me one of my most cherished pieces of advice, “you have to know your "New York" before you start down the road to it” -- referencing the trip he was about to take. It seems simple and commonsensical, but given everything at the time it helped provide profound clarity for me.
The idea is you have to know where you are headed in order to plan the best route to get there, before you hit the road, otherwise the odds of reaching your intended destination in an efficient and effective manner are greatly diminished. You may not know the exact path you’ll take, and that’s totally fine, but by having direction, a general destination and a sense of what it will take to reach it, you will greatly improve your chances of success.
Hopefully this book will be your guide to achieving your mobile app destination. The first step starts with an overview of the proven path.
The 8 parts to creating an app, boiled down into 3 phases:
Phase 1 – Strategize
Phase 2 – Build
Phase 3 – Execute
This book is a guide to help you transform your app idea into a viable mobile solution, while equipping you with the process, hacks and pitfalls to watch out for along the way.
The content in this book applies to the technology layman, technology expert, newbie entrepreneur, and seasoned business professional, whether it's for a newly formed start-up or a multinational multibillion-dollar organization (I’ve applied the strategies in this book to all those scenarios already).
At a minimum, I suggest skimming each chapter of this book to elevate your understanding of the venture you're about to embark on.
The purpose of this book is to provide an extremely execution-oriented, action-prompting, step-by-step manual that points to real life examples, case studies, and data. This book utilizes business fundamentals that have stood the test of time, and are now repurposed to align with a fast-paced mobile technology age. My hope for this book is that it also stands the test of time, leveraged as a tool for how to approach the creation of mobile technology, and radically redefines what a mobile app can mean for an individual or an organization.
Today, it’s harder than ever to get a return on your mobile app investment, and it won’t be any easier next month, next year or five years from now.
This book’s content applies whether you are a solopreneur creating an app business, part of an organization interested in exploring a mobile app initiative, or wanting to improve an existing mobile strategy. Your understanding of the rapidly changing mobile app environment is vital to your success in it.
The mobile landscape is changing rapidly, and will continue changing rapidly, while the user continues maturing, expecting more and more from their mobile app experience.
Many think mobile apps will die out. I concur, the idea of mobile apps will only evolve, not dissolve. So when asked where I think mobile apps are going, I like to point to the more literal components of the term “mobile app,” and what the term represents.
Mobile - capable of moving or being moved readily. A wireless-enabled computing ability.( www.Dictionary.com)
App - the quality of being usable for a particular purpose or in a certain way; relevance (www.Dictionary.com). Essentially, a specialized and personalized packaged experience.
The form factor of mobile apps may change, but the idea of providing a wireless and specialized experience will only evolve, not disappear.
A form factor is the format, the layout, the representation of which something is displayed or experienced. For example, an iMac and an iPhone are different “form factors”.
Just as the telephone has evolved to become the smartphone (a personalized pocket-sized computer that performs a million other tasks besides just make a phone call). That’s the same way the mobile app will evolve to fit the latest technology form factor, probably eventually shed the term “mobile app,” altogether but retain the original purpose: to provide a wireless and specialized experience to the user.
These changes will sprout from current technologies and comparable frameworks. Just as we saw the evolution of the internet, and then how Google dominated the web, we see app store platforms undergoing deeper learning and analytical insights, causing a maturation of apps and users alike.
As the market floods with apps, the gimmicky tactics fade, and the core fundamentals of mobile business strategy stand out and stand strong.
Tactic Mobile is designed to also stand the test of time, applying old school business tactics in a new school and mobile specific way.
This book will break down the fundamentals step by step, while also pointing out various hacks and pitfalls to consider along the way. I’ve experienced several mobile app successes and failures myself, as well as interviewed over a hundred others who have experienced hundreds more. Their strategies have influenced this book and inspired a collaboration of “how-to” information that has been packaged into this one single manual to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your mobile business venture investment.
If you are anything like I was a couple of years ago, you’ve probably had at least a dozen app ideas by now (a couple being great ones!), and are wondering how to cash in those ideas for millions so you can quit your job. Sound familiar?!
Not you? Well, then maybe you’re a different kind of entrepreneur, an intrapreneur even, trying to cash in on an idea in another way. Perhaps you’re looking to ensure an app idea or mobile company initiative is well thought out and a validated business solution before presenting it to leadership. If the goal is to create team-wide buy-in for a company initiative, I mean, who doesn’t want to know how to research and tee up a revolutionary solution for their team to ultimately look good to management and all their peers.
There’s limitless opportunity when considering how many people have smartphones, and how many are expected to have them in the years to come.
There are unlimited possibilities to what a mobile app can do for one’s personal financial situation and business success.
After all, there are 2 BILLION smartphones in the world today and another 4 BILLION expected by the year 2020 (that’s twice the users in less than ⅕ the time!)
Limitless opportunity to acquire and monetize users!
If just 1% of today’s smartphone users downloaded your app idea today at 99 cents, there would be 6-figures in your bank account. That’s what I call massive opportunity!
No success in business happens overnight but nothing in business happens faster than something mobile enabled. I know what you’re thinking; I’m thinking it too. You’re thinking, man, I have this idea but how do I get it into the hands of all these users!
But where to start? An app developer? This line of thinking is where the biggest mistakes occur. That’s unfortunate because this thinking regularly sets people back years and, in some cases, hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars in wasted time and money.
Good thing you’re reading this book!
In early 2015 an app owner called me to salvage their app development experience. I can’t reveal specific details due to the combination of the non-disclosure agreement and the app not making it to the public domain, but for the purpose of the story and points made throughout this book, James came to me with what I’ll call the Uber of Plastic Surgery.
James wanted us to solve a long road of app development problems. When I asked him to expand on the app, rather than tell me about the concept, he dove into his long history of working with app developers on the project.
To summarize, James had an idea and wanted to go cheap without doing much business planning or due diligence. He went to India to have them develop the app (a $15,000 price-tag turned into a $45,000 sunken cost). The code was then shipped back overseas where the next developer claimed they were a US-based company, but it turned out that they were outsourcing overseas.
They experienced a nightmare of budget AND scope creep. They paid more for the development than was initially agreed upon to update the scope of work to align better with the project’s needs.
This all too familiar scenario resulted from a combination of three separate failures in due diligence:
By the time we took a peek under the hood and did our code evaluation, it was around the two-year anniversary from when they first started development. Not to mention, they had nearly $150,000 into it with three different app development companies.
In all honesty, it was a Frankenstein's monster of a code base. Random pieces of code were essentially “duct-taped” together with other extremely outdated chunks of code. The scary thing is, this is not an uncommon experience. Silicon Valley is littered with stories of gung-ho app creators shooting from the hip and not doing the due diligence to know how to prepare properly.
Though the name may imply it, app development isn’t as simple as just developing an app.
And this is just on the technical end. There is also a whole business purpose to consider.
What I reveal in this book will give you the best chances of being successful in the app stores without wasting thousands to potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars to do so.
Alright, let’s be honest with each other...
You don’t want an app to just have an app.
I mean, it looks great on a business card, but there is more to it.
You want what the app will hopefully deliver, right?
Hey, I may be wrong. However, what’s the point in spending thousands to tens of thousands of dollars on building an app that doesn’t produce something more valuable than at least the investment? Breaking even is good, but breaking the bank is even better.
Truth: the app is just a vehicle to make money, or to provide value that will directly or indirectly lead to money.
PLUS, you want to spend as little money as necessary to create this return. Am I right?
Think about how sophisticated the technology is on its own, plus how it then integrates with all the components of business (components like accounting, marketing, sales, customer support, etc.), plus all the added uncontrollable above. It’s almost like trying to hit a bull’s-eye 200 yards away while shooting from the hip and wearing a blindfold.
Luckily, I’ve collected from various experts the necessary case studies, experience, and data to help you hit the mark. This collected knowledge base will help you see the industry with 20/20 vision while teaching you how to fine-tune the scope. This way, when finally deciding to take a shot with your app, your shot is refined and much more accurate. To do this, we must look through the lens of someone wanting to embark on an app business venture, not as someone with an app idea.
After working with executives of multi-billion dollar companies to start-up entrepreneurs on their mobile app concepts, there are definite similarities in the apps that are successful and those that fail.
It may seem counterintuitive, but the more money a company spent on app development didn’t correlate to a more successful app.
I’ve had the opportunity to create many different types of apps, from enterprise solutions to consumer-facing, and the trends I’m going to share hold true for all apps. Why? Simple: the majority of these trends are based on fundamental business strategy.
What do I know?
I’ve been a serial entrepreneur my whole life. I have started businesses from scratch that were successful, and ones that were money-bleeding failures. No matter the ultimate outcome, I remained open to learning and actively sought mentorship. My open-mindedness and dogged determination paid off in key insights into what causes businesses to thrive and what causes them to languish.
In March 2016, my latest company, Chamber DS, a mobile innovation agency, joined forces with Emerge Interactive to dominate the world of digital innovation. Since 1998, Emerge has been a major player in digital platforms for some of the largest and most courageous brands in the world.
What's unique about Emerge is that they are masterful at helping ideas and companies scale, while preemptively dealing with the complexities of scale, ranging from strategy to implementation.
The point is that all of this experience has given me limitless insight into, and opportunity to lead, the most cutting edge mobile innovation projects out there. And what clients pay me over $30,000 for on a regular basis, I’m going to share with you in this book.
Feel free to check out our website at www.EmergeInteractive.com to see some of the work we do and brands with which we work. I’m very proud of the impact we make.
Throughout this book, I’ll use experience from start-ups of my own to success stories and pitfalls of some of my client’s mobile app ventures. These insights will span from the start-up entrepreneur to the Fortune 100 company executive.
I’ll talk about economic trends happening on a global scale, and how global trends are impacting the digital landscape as a whole. Including the various nuances and hacks to leverage through the process when going from an idea to a market-viable mobile app.
I GUARANTEE that by the end of this book you will have learned something worth at least $30,000, since that’s the minimum rate for the strategy I provide, and that has equated to 6-figure savings and even more revenues for some of my clients.
Since we agreed earlier that we’re here to make an app that makes money either directly or indirectly, understand that we’re then here to make some business decisions that will give us the best shot at doing that. In all business there is risk, but it’s about knowing how to hedge our bets so that we can control the outcome to the best of our abilities.
Not only will I do a deep dive into the process of taking an idea to the app store, but I’ll also debunk several myths about starting a mobile app business and what you should consider along the way.
These myths are what currently hold you back from breaking free and realizing the real opportunity of your app idea, and they could be holding you back and causing you to miss out on the freedom and success you deserve.
Luckily it’s not difficult to break free and dissect the opportunity. It’s only involves knowing how and where to dissect, and I’m stoked to help you out there in later chapters, where we’ll dig into the first step of the process, market research for your app idea.
The first myth I want to debunk for you is that creating an app is hard. Yes, to most people, creating an app is new and thus may seem like an overwhelming endeavor. But most successful apps are built to be simple and intuitive, with a clean and organized back end. In reality, apps and technology are as complicated as you make them out to be.
Having an educated perspective absolutely simplifies the process. The best way to gain this perspective is to view creating an app in digestible parts. Mapping out the components of each part, and tackling them one at a time.
For many app owners, or people interested in creating an app, understanding the parts of creating an app is the biggest barrier to achieving success in the stores. The best way for you to combat this obstacle is to foster a burning desire for learning what these parts are, and then identifying what elements you need the most education in.
In this book, I’m going to distil the process of creating a market-viable app plan into 3 parts, where I then dig deeper into the necessary components of each part.
You don’t need to be tech savvy to figure this stuff out. I built a 7-figure mobile innovation business without a background in mobile development or technology. Heck, I studied pre-med in college and grew up on an emu ranch in a small town with one high-school.
After running and owning an app development company, TO THIS DAY, I STILL CAN’T CODE ONE LINE. I don’t intend to waste my time in getting to know how to either. The success of an app comes from the business strategy, so that’s where I spend my time and that’s what we’ll dig into to maximize your opportunity.
My mission: to improve the success rate of new innovative mobile apps around the world. The vehicle is the book you are reading
1. Research. Do a deep dive into the app stores and dissect not only direct competitors but also indirect and search competitors utilizing other software and resources.
2. Concept Validation. Wouldn’t you like to know if the idea was going to work before spending any money on it?
Rather than asking someone like me, “do you think it’s a good idea?”
To only have me respond, “I have no idea, let’s figure it out.”
To know there’s ACTUALLY an opportunity to get market traction and make money before investing any more of your precious time and money, than is necessary. For your idea and any future ideas.
We’re going to spend some time here talking about lean methodology, and the importance of concept validation and app store viability.
3. App Planning. Covers both the technical and business aspects of planning. Once we’ve determined there’s a quantifiable opportunity worth pursuing; we can talk about the elements of the Business Plan we need to consider to launch and create a sustainable return on your investment.
Within these 3 parts, you will ensure you are making validated business decisions to invest your money and maximize your opportunity.
DISCLAIMER: This book isn’t for everyone. Creating an app isn’t a get rich quick process, and app ideas aren’t just thrown into the store and made successful overnight.
An app's success is due to many months to years of work and validation.
All assumptions must be validated!
What happens when we ASSUME without validation?
It makes an ASS out of U and ME
So don’t do it, it’ll cost you money and time!
Trust me; I’ve seen it time and time again.
Remember, we’re building an app to make money, whether directly or indirectly. You’ll want to maximize this opportunity and minimize the risk.
Therefore, this book is for the person looking to develop their app idea to a point of making smart business decisions, while taking advantage of a ripe opportunity with a narrowing window of a crowded store. I will provide a step by step process for create a market-viable app strategy, pointing out hacks and pitfalls along the way. No matter what level of mobile app understanding you have or what your app is for, you will have the necessary information to give yourself the best chance of succeeding, today and in future market conditions.