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3 Steps To Validating Your App Idea

All successful apps begin in the same way – as innovative ideas. To help you validate your app idea, we examine what you need to know, do and expect to determine the market demand and long-term viability of your app.

So you’ve got a great idea for the next app that is going to change the world. Most likely, you’ve browsed the App Store and seen there’s nothing else like your idea, so now you’re seriously considering joining the new wave of App Startups taking the shortest route to financial freedom.

But will your idea stand out from the crowd in the app market? How do you know whether there is a target market large enough that are looking for an app like yours?

Based on a small sample size of you and those you’ve mentioned your idea to, these are difficult questions to answer.

Before you start investing time, money, and effort into developing an app that others may or may not use, you need to spend the time upfront to validate your idea. Idea validation will help you focus your efforts on creating an app that people want to use and increase your chances of building a success app startup.

To help validate your idea, let’s examine the three steps to making sure that your app can attract users and generate revenue.

 

Research

Researching the size and shape of your market is a critical step in influencing the direction of your app idea. Is your target market broad enough to support an app funded by advertising? Or is it perhaps niche enough to generate word-of-mouth recommendations and community loyalty?

Seeking out similar apps is an easy way to start, but we
 don’t necessarily need to identify existing competitors to prove that we’re building something that people want. If we can’t find competitors, we can alternatively look for people blogging about problems that the app idea solves, or discover if people search for topics related to the app. Luckily for us, there are more research tools and data sources freely available to do such research than ever before.

In a previous blog about naming your app, I discussed how more apps are discovered through the App Store’s keyword based search engine than any other discovery method. When it comes to validating your app idea, use the Google Keyword Planner tool to find the audience who is seeking a product like your app idea.

Type in words associated with your app idea, like the problem you are trying to solve, the benefits your app will provide or other terms associated with your concept. You can also use App Store Optimisation tools like Search Man or Sensor Tower to help find the right keywords for your app. The keywords can then be optimised based on search locations to see the average number of local and global monthly Google searches. This is a good indicator of market demand and, in turn, the validity of your app idea.

 

Minimum Viable Product

It’s tempting to include every feature that your potential users could possibly want as part of your app idea. This would appear to maximise the app/market fit and, in turn, the chance of market success. But there are three main problems with this ‘all-in’ approach:

  1. It’s possible to include ‘too many’ As the number of features increases it becomes more difficult to build a usable product, and the result is often a confusing interface through which the user cannot navigate even simplest functions.
  1. The market potential of your current list of features is anybody’s guess. You have yet to test all these features with real users, so would you really want to risk excessive development time for features that may be unwanted?
  1. It’s not practical and doesn’t make good business sense. Even if you can afford to do so, there’s no point delaying the launch of your app by months and investing thousands more dollars if you can launch earlier and still achieve success.

The challenge is to determine which features are required for launch and which can wait for later updates. At this idea stage, you need to build the minimum viable product (MVP). The idea here is create an app prototype that has just the required features that address the problem you are trying to solve or demonstrates the core value of your product.

The MVP can then be shared with early adopters to see their response. Are people excited to use it? Are their needs or problems resolved by using the app? Is it easy to use? Note this feedback and revise the app.

I should reiterate: Building an MVP is not the same as creating the best app product. Your app idea is not yet at the ‘sweet spot’ where the minimum features satisfy the maximum number of users.

MVP

The minimum viable product has fewer features than an app at the sweet spot.

The MVP is a much earlier product than this ‘sweet spot’. It’s the minimum product that can be presented to the market in order to attract some paying app users and to validate the research about what they want. Market research gives us a good idea of how to achieve the MVP, while the MVP enhances our findings and takes us to the next stage.

So how do you go about building the MVP?

Use your existing research

Your research into similar existing apps and target market trends provides the best foundation for feature prioritisation. You should have a good understanding of what really matters
 to your potential users: their principal needs and motivations, and their relative importance. If you researched the App Store and Google Keywords, the features that appear most frequently should come higher on the list.

Prototyping

A prototype MVP is something you can often build in a few days as an actual functioning stripped-down app with the core features offered. As part of Launchpad’s Idea Validation process, my go-to prototyping tool when creating the MVP for App Entrepreneurs is InVision. Not only does InVision allow you to transform your App Idea into a clickable, interactive Mobile prototype; it’s also free to use! Creating variations of the basic app interface on a prototyping tool like InVision will greatly assist you in identifying and prioritising the features that will maximise you app idea’s potential success.

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Landing Page

Once you have researched your target market and conceptualised the MVP, you need to micro-test your app idea to validate it’s potential. You may not have an app yet, but you can still have potential users sign up for it by creating a landing page that describes the main benefits of your app, the key selling points and the core problem it solves.

A promotional landing page doesn’t take weeks to plan and develop. A simple teaser page can be created in less than a day and will deliver a number of tangible benefits:

  1. It allows you to market your brand and benefits, even if passively to begin with. If you decide to talk publicly about your future app concept, for example in social media post, you can refer the people to the teaser URL.
  1. Search engines will be able to index your domain. It can take weeks for a new domain name/website to appear in some search engines, so an early teaser page can start this process while the app is developed. Furthermore, if the page looks beautiful and the app sounds appealing, people will link to you from their websites, which is great news for the app’s future search engine rankings.
  1. The teaser site can help you build a database of interested potential users. These people can be notified when the app is launched, which guarantees you some initial interest and early feedback. If they have granted you permission, you can also survey them during the application development, perhaps to ask whether a particular feature would be valuable to them.

To create your landing page, use platforms like Launchrock or KickoffLabs. Both platforms allow you to easily make a free website and email collector. Furthermore, they provide built-in analytics to include as part of your landing page. So pick a template, add content about your app idea and start sharing the URL.

Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 10.49.24 pm

The landing page for Cleaver & Co. Hair’s Web App. Source: Cleaver & Co. Hair

Once your landing page is ready, you need to start sending traffic to it. There are a number of free options to gain visibility for your landing page, like posting your app to applicable subreddits, sharing on social media, and contacting blogs and websites related to your idea.

There are also paid options that you can use to get exposure for your idea early in the process. A small ad campaign through Facebook Marketing or Google Adwords provides an affordable option to present your app to a wide audience of early adopters that may be in your target market.

Across all the promotional options for your landing page, be sure to focus on collecting the email address of visitors. This will allow you to engage with potential users throughout the full app development process and let them know when the app launches.

 

Before validating your app idea…

By applying these three steps, you will have a much more successful app upon release than you would have if you hadn’t validated your idea.

You will know the market demand for your app. You will know the features to include in your app. And most importantly, you will know that there is an audience waiting to download your app.

What other tips do you have for app validation? Let us know in the comments below.

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An App Entrepreneur’s Guide to Facebook Marketing

To advertise your app successfully on Facebook, you need to understand Facebook’s unique opportunities, and how it differs from other marketing channels. Within this guide, we highlight the core aspects of Facebook mobile app marketing, explaining the process from start-to-finish and providing tools to scale your operations towards sustainable and cost-effective ad campaigns.

 

More and more business are moving their budgets away from traditional advertising channels and increasing their social spending. According to eMarketer, Facebook’s social platform commands the highest market share in mobile ad spend with 37%. Why is this the case?

It’s simple: Facebook Advertising works.

However, putting together a Facebook campaign is no small task if you’re attempting to scale operations and maximise your ads’ ROI. When you’re trying to get people to download your app, every user – and every dollar – counts.

The upside is clear — Facebook is something you want to explore if you’re looking to grow user adoption. But if this is your first foray into paid acquisition or Facebook ads in general, it can be daunting to set everything up.

But worry not — the following step-by-step guide will walk you through everything you need to know about the Facebook campaign creation process from conception to execution.

 

Finding your uniqueness

So here’s something you probably already know from scrolling through your Facebook Newsfeed: Most users only spend one second on an ad before moving on. This is an extremely short window of time to grab their attention, show value, and get them to take action.

The best way to capture a user’s attention is to provide a clear message. As discussed in How To Optimise App Store Screenshots, the visuals should depict what the user will get from your app. If your app is a mobile game, your ad better show off the core gameplay. This seems like common sense, but you’d be surprised how an ad transforms when people brainstorm visuals — a smiling guy, multiple tag lines, the presence of a phone etc. These visuals may be valid in the right context, but when put together, add noise that confuses your message.

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 10.32.18 am✗ Cluttered with too many tag lines                  ✓ Shows value and prompts user action

So how do you achieve clarity? You identify your unique selling point, or USP. This is something you offer that your competitors don’t, or something your competitors don’t do well. It’s what sets you apart in the marketplace, but also the core of your app’s experience.

As part of our Rocketfuel Workshops, I help entrepreneur’s determine the USP of their app product by applying the following 5-step process:

  1. List the features and benefits that are unique about your product or service. Do a Google search and compare your features and benefits with your direct competitors. Identify the benefits that set you apart.
  2. Decide what emotional need is being specifically met by your product or service. Think about this from your customer’s perspective and add it to your list.
  3. Identify aspects of your product or service that your competitors cannot imitate. Put a star beside anything that cannot be easily duplicated, reproduced, or copied.
  4. Create phrases about your unique product or service that are short, clear, and concise. Use the words from steps 1-3 that you singled out. Be sure they can be easily communicated to and understood by your customers.
  5. Answering your customer’s primary question: “What’s in it for me?” Make it to the point and state it as a benefit to the customer.

 

Making your first campaign

Facebook provides their free Power Editor to create campaigns. If you followed our 5-step USP process from the previous section, I recommend using Power Editor for your first campaign as it allows you to attach an image that highlights your USP and plug in all relevant targeting information. Simply put, it sets up your campaign’s framework for you.

But don’t go attaching that image just yet!

Make sure that the creative image that you’re using is both relevant and engaging. If you just want to humor or surprise your target users, a Meme image might get some clicks, but very few people will convert.

Facebook Birthday

Humorous? Yes. User conversion? Probably not.

Long story short, avoid clickbait. Best case, users will install your app and then quickly uninstall it when they realise it has nothing to do with the ad they clicked. Worst case, you’ll upset users and damage your brand’s reputation, probably leading to a few bad reviews across your app’s Facebook page.

When you consider that 60.3% of all mobile sharing takes place on Facebook, you need to make sure that your app is part of that number the right way!

Remember the goal of Facebook campaigns: You want conversions, not just clicks. You want good users. The ones who were meant for your app the moment they picked up a mobile device. The ones who will buy your app’s Premium version, subscribe or make in-app purchases.

When making your first Facebook campaign, here are a few things to consider:

  1. The 20% Rule – When you’re making your design brief, keep one big thing in mind — your creative can be at most 20% text. Covering it with copy and call-to-action text won’t pass approval.
  2. Size up your creative – Before you or your designer get cranking on making an image, make sure it’s the correct resolution. If you need a visual reference, the Facebook Ads Guide displays each ad type.
  3. Make your campaign in Power Editor – The whole campaign process within Facebook’s Power Editor is very straightforward with many editing options. Furthermore, Facebook provides a video tutorial to creating ads in Power Editor.

One last thing before you create your ad: creative is much more important than copy. According to Elias Sandler, Founder and CPO of Adquant, Ad Click is determined 90% by creative and only 10% by copy. Simply put: Facebook users want to see, not read. Tune your ads accordingly.

 

Optimising your campaigns

So you’ve researched your user, thought of ways your app stands out, and made your first campaign. Now you need to look at optimising things.

If your ads go untouched — especially on a platform as fluid and changing as Facebook — you’ll see your once-awesome campaign’s budget evaporate with little growth to show for it. Don’t underestimate the importance of optimising, and doing it regularly.

Once you have an audience built up on your app’s Facebook page, or you have an email list to pull from, you can start using Lookalike Audiences. Facebook will automatically figure out who your top audience is through metrics you set, then go out and find people similar to them so you can target them with your ads.

To leverage Lookalike Audiences, first you need to create a Custom Audience with all your existing users. From Custom Audiences, you can locate hundreds of thousands of users who have never engaged with you but have a high likelihood of wanting your app.

This may sound like a lot of work, but it is worth it when you consider that advertisers can lower their new customer acquisition cost by 73% by setting up Custom Audiences.

MarketLand recommends the following ways to target Lookalike Audiences:

  • Similar to mobile app users – Target users that engaged with your app in a certain way. Be it downloading something or making in-app purchases, any trackable activity can be a trigger to make users targetable.
  • Similar to Facebook page fans – You probably have a Facebook Page with some fans, so put them to work for your app. Find other people out there that look similar to your current fans.
  • Similar to website purchasers – This requires you to have a Facebook Conversion Pixel installed on your website, but you can reach people similar to those who previously made purchases on your website. E-commerce apps should find this particularly useful.

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Target optimisation is a great way to save precious budget dollars, so make sure you take time testing and evaluating your ads. Explore the full list of targeting options when building your own campaign, as there are a number of Facebook-specific techniques you can leverage.

 

Your users are waiting…

So you’re now equipped to conceive and execute your own Facebook ad campaigns. This guide should serve as a framework for all your future campaigns to ensure that you find new users and keep people engaged with your app.

Identify your app’s unique selling point. Create campaigns people want to see. Optimise your ads to target potential users.

Many startups are running into Facebook 
without a map, so use this guide to your advantage and secure great ad placement at a much lower cost.

Do you have any tools and tips for Facebook Marketing? We’d love to hear about them.