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Why Starting Small Can Lead to a Better App

January 3, 2014
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/230483

The biggest question mobile app developers usually ask themselves is, 'how do I reach out to my customers?' Or, 'do my customers even want the app that I'm building?'

Building an app that brings traction and generates wealth requires that you fret over both these issues and obsess with finding creative routes to validate and market. Of course, the easiest way to acquire customers is to spend money on digital, print or television ads, but advertising does not validate the concept of your app or generate wealth.

Wealth is generated by customers who think about your product as the generic for that segment, such as Facebook for social networking or Google for search.

This exercise will establish two of the most important aspects that will determine the success of your mobile app -- how to reach out to your customers and whether they want your app.

Narrow down your market. Paul Graham recently wrote, "Sometimes the trick is to focus on a deliberately narrow market. It's like keeping a fire contained at first to get it really hot before adding more logs."

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When building an app, don't go tapping the entire customer base. The cost would be extremely high and your competitors will take advantage of your mistakes with the first instance of your product.

Instead, start small and build an app for a very narrow audience. Most often, you don't know whether your app will fly or die and the best validation is when the customers use it.

Facebook was built on the same principle. Mark Zuckerberg started building the platform only for Harvard students. Once people realized this product was fantastic, Zuckerberg had perfected it and started to sell it at other colleges.

When you build for a small number of users, you get the opportunity to make your mistakes with only that select audience. You get the chance to enhance your mobile app to cater to your customers' demands by observing their behavior through analytics and putting those lessons into product enhancement. This will help you to craft a better mobile app.

Related: The Secrets of the World's Most Successful Mobile Apps

Acquire customers personally. When you're building an app for a narrow audience to gain insights on product strategy, would you rather lazily spend precious dollars on Facebook or Google ads or make every penny count by personally acquiring your customers and getting first-hand feedback?

There are customers who will buy into your app at an early stage, typically from your close or extended network and social media followers, who will be taken such great care of through service and value that they in turn become your brand evangelists. These customers often know more people in their own domain and help get you word-of-mouth traction, which is the best kind of traction. You can grow that number gradually week after week by focusing on smaller increments and harnessing the power of compounded growth.

Graham also wrote, "If you have 100 users, you need to get 10 more next week to grow 10 percent a week. And while 110 may not seem much better than 100, if you keep growing at 10 percent a week you'll be surprised how big the numbers get. After a year you'll have 14,000 users, and after two years you'll have 2 million."

When you're reaching out for press coverage, tap into your local city publications and bloggers. Once you get coverage, expand your geographies to state, national and international levels based on your product footprint.

There is no reason why your app cannot gain traction and really make the compounded growth work in your favor if you do these two things right. After all, business is all about innovation and marketing.

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