On January 23rd, 2011, I gave a 45-minute talk at PodCamp Halifax about building and promoting my app Remembary: The Connected Diary For Your iPad.
I recently wrote it all out in a three-part series of long blog posts. I wanted to get down everything I wanted to say, but I'll admit that it's a lot of text to expect people to read. So here is a summary of the main points, with links back to the main content for those who want more details.
Lessons I Learned
- It's a Very Long Tail
Just having an app isn't enough. In fact, the App Store is crowded with apps built by people who thought that simply getting an app into the store was enough.
- Sales Have Gravity
The App Store obeys certain physical laws - for example, the law of gravity. Actually, this law of gravity is present in sales in general: all products will default to a 'state of rest' of no sales at all. That's right: by default, without any outside intervention, your app won't sell at all.
- Marketing Is Repetition
It's tricky to balance the requirement to get news out to people while not annoying people. I've found that it's usually okay to duplicate tweets about twelve hours apart - usually once in the evening, and again in the mid-morning.
- Adwords Ads Don't Work for iPad Apps
You may have noticed there aren't many adwords ads for iPhone and iPad apps. Do any search on Google for 'iPad' or, say, 'iPad Diary' and often the only ad is from Apple - and it's for the entire app store.
- Mailing Lists Can Work
I created a set of daily (and then weekly) emails that go for a month after signup that provide little bits of helpful advice about starting and keeping a diary - along with a sidebar about the Remembary app and a link to the website. The really nice thing is I don't have to be constantly writing new content - it's "new to them".
- It's a Long Game
It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the latest app you hear about is brand new and has instantly vaulted to fame and fortune - but most of the time this isn't the case. It turns out that most apps you've heard about have been around for a while - they only seem new because they're new to you. But even if the apps happen to be new, the developers usually aren't.
Reasons Why You Should Have an App in the App Store
- You Will Understand Your Clients Better
As the app got closer to ready, I started asking myself many of the same panicky imponderables I had heard from many customers over the years. Do I make it perfect? Or do I get it out sooner? How polished is polished enough?
- It's a Great Career Move
Many iOS developers have told me that the best way to make money in the App Store is to get other people to pay you to build apps for them.
- It's Product Business 101
It's comparatively easy to get an app into the App Store and in front of a potential audience, sales and tracking move quickly, and you can get moving without spending a whole lot of money - but at the end of the day the App Store works just like any other product business. This makes it a great learning tool.
- It's a First Step to Success
You can't get to version 3 without version 1. You can't get to app # 5 without doing app #1. You can't succeed until you've failed a few times.
- Creation is Great
A diary is by its nature a personal, private thing that becomes part of your life. While a video game is something that someone plays with for a few hours and then discards, a diary is used a little bit every day, possibly for years or even decades. It's super satisfying to know something I built is being being used by even one person every day, to record and reflect on their life.