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10 Reasons Not to Build a Mobile App

10 Reasons Not to Build a Mobile App

The mobile-app world is exploding at the seams, with estimates as high as 10,000 apps appearing in app stores every day. With all this momentum, it’s easy for a company to get caught up in the hype and think that a mobile app is their short cut to an initial public offering (IPO).

Before you get carried away with visions of your millionth download and handing out autographed copies of your best seller to throngs of admiring fans, you might consider the following reasons not to build an app. At least not yet.

Related: A Beginner's Guide to Starting and Marketing an App

10. You don’t have any customers.

Yes, there are a handful of venture capital (VC)-funded companies that start on a napkin and spend millions before they acquire their first customer. If you have that opportunity, go for it. But for the other 99.9 percent of entrepreneurs, it’s extremely difficult to build a customer base with only a mobile app. You need to move your existing audience to the app -- not the other way around.  

9. You don’t know your target market.

Many apps fail because they don’t understand their target customer and spend too much time and money chasing after the wrong ones. Chat apps focus on youths, because that’s how they communicate with each other. If you want to create one for seniors, you’ve got a tough road to hoe. Knowing your target audience will inform virtually every aspect of your final product.

8. You don’t have a viral strategy for your app.

Unless you’ve got a big budget to drive traffic to your app, you’ll need a plan to build awareness. Social media is the best currency, both because it’s cost effective and often free and can be positioned as educational -- of course, that gets hard if your app is a game. But social sharing like Facebook sign-up isn’t a growth strategy. A better example is Dropbox, offering extra free storage for new customer referrals. Likewise, you’ll need a plan to attract users.

7. You don’t have any money for marketing.

The any is emphasized because it doesn’t need to be a lot. You can do a ton with $5,000 if it’s well spent. Facebook offers ability to highly target users, and there are many sites that let you test messaging and user interface (UI). But to do any of this, you need at least some resources to work with.

6. You’ve never built an app or software before.

Building a piece of software is very different from other projects you may have managed. There are lots of decisions involved, often beyond your existing knowledge and many subjective choices around language, design and information. Also, consider the many options of how to do things with no clear or obvious answer. In short -- building an app offers tons of ways to make mistakes.

Related: The 5 Hidden Costs of Building a Mobile App

5. You’ve never heard the term 'customer journey' before.

Success in business is largely a function of tailoring your service, product or offering to meet the needs of the customer. However, those needs will change over time, and you need to develop a roadmap to evolve or enhance your customer's experience. Winning in the mobile app game requires extensive planning to take a customer from his or her first transaction to he or she becoming a repeat user.

4. It will allow you to quit your day job.

Building apps is no different from any entrepreneurial endeavor. Unless you’ve got someone bank-rolling you, it’s virtually impossible to do it fulltime. Don’t get ahead of yourself and plan that “kiss my ass” speech for your boss just yet. While that day may come, you’ve got rent to pay until your app is sustainable, so keep that in mind from the get-go. 

3. You’re smart, and it doesn’t seem that hard.

This is a bit of a contradiction, because if you’re really smart, then you appreciate that most things are hard. Yes, while it may be technically simple to create tic-tac-toe, building anything that’s going to generate consistent revenue is very hard, especially given there are well over three million apps currently available.

2. You’ve got a great idea.

There’s a famous wartime saying -- "No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” The same can be true of ideas. What looks good on a power point slide doesn't always translate in the real world. If you’ve got an idea, be prepared to invest a year or more of your life bringing it to fruition.

1. None of the previous answers were persuasive.

Good. The goal wasn’t to dissuade you. Rather, it was to force you to think about a few of the many key assumptions, decisions and realities you’ll need to overcome on your road to success.

Still feel confident and passionate about app development after reading this? If so, go for it! 

Related: 2015 Will Likely Be Known as the Year of Mobile Commerce (Infographic)