A couple of days ago, I was on a call with a group of people discussing IP, Inventions and Commercialisation, and an interesting question arose regarding how to deal with or commercialise a Mobile App.
The answer I gave was a bit of a summary as the meeting was winding down and we were short for time for me to dive into details, but later on that evening, I got the sense that I could have given a much better response. So consider this post to be about fixing the past.
How do you deal with Apps?
Well, there are many considerations, but it very much depends on what it’s for, what it does, who the customer is, and what the marketing budget is. The very first question should be who is the ideal customer? In other words, is the App directed towards a person / a company or organisation, both companies and people, or a machine? Further what industry / sector(s) is the app for, how do you see the monetisation working? Are you looking at customers to buy the app at the point of download, or are you looking at in-app purchases? Or is the business model one where the App will be issued out for free, but an advertising revenue income will be built around it? Or is it one of those where people will pay only when they use it, as happens with Apps like the Uber Taxi App? So many questions, whose answers will determine the direction which is likely to give the best results.
B2B vs B2C
If your App is for a company to use, the way you try and commercialise it will be markedly different from say if it’s for an individual to use. To give an example if you have devised an App that looks at a manufacturing process and monitors certain metrics along specific points in that manufacturing process, say with aim of maximising resource usage and minimising wastage (or otherwise making cost savings), then the way you try to prove to the ideal customer to adopt your App will be different from how you would convince an individual that they need a particular App on their phone. Even how and where you find the two types of customers will likely be different.
Paid vs Free
Similar considerations are at play when you think about how you intend to make money off your App. What is the business model and why? Is there a different way of achieving the same result? Are there free versions of the same thing that you’re trying to do currently available on the market? Why would people use your App? How do other players in your sector make money? Answers to these types of questions should inform your strategy and reveal which revenue model is best suited to the App.
What’s the short-term and Long-term game?
This too matters because depending on what you want to do with the App once you’ve addressed all the other questions, and have hit your numbers, it’s value can be enhanced by taking certain actions along it’s lifecycle.
For example if it’s an App for use by individuals, and you intend to spin it off and sell that spin-off, then there are certain performance metrics that will be attractive to some buyers, and which can put you in a favourable position to affix a higher price tag than if you didn’t meet those performance metrics. This too depends on the industry, as not all potential buyers will be after the same thing.
Trial & Error
We are bombarded with lots of information each and every day, and our phones – which carry volumes and volumes of data, can keep us “captive” from the real world, if we let them. So try and convince an overworked, impatient, information overladen prospect that they need this other new thing that does one thing or another, and you’ll realise just how short people’s attention spans can be these days.
However if the App is very good, and addresses a problem that’s a real pain-point for some people (or for some companies), and if it’s properly marketed to the right audience, and appropriately priced, and if the timing is right, then you’ll probably achieve the uptake you want.
However, it must be pointed out that the idea doesn’t have to have a large target market per se for it to achieve commercial success. Your App could be designed for a traditional trade like Hat Block Makers, of whom they aren’t many in the UK, and the whole market could number less than a hundred (instead of millions) but you can still achieve admirable adoption levels that you set out to achieve, and which some sectors can only dream of.
What I’m trying to get to is that unless there is a clearly defined customer base that has a need for the product, which may or may not use a similar product(s), but which is underserved by incumbents in your target sector, there may be some trial and error involved in the quest to find the sweet spot in the marketing of your App.