Category: Outside the Box

“The Grow Your Mobile App Business Game”

If there was a game for mobile app developers, this is what it would look like.  Sort of.  Fortunately, we don’t need character customization, because the “character” is your mobile app development team. This could just be you, it could be a party, or an entire guild!

By MMORPG standards, we don’t really need any more than one class – that class is the Mobile App Developer, sort of like a wizard, but with a steam punk twist. Kinda. Odds are that you are a human. There may be some trolls to take issue with that.

So, grab whatever you want to wear, some rations, a beverage, and a keyboard, we’re going on an adventure!

Well, okay, okay, not really, but maybe we’ll come out of this seeing business and work a little bit differently.  Yes, it is a little silly, but sometimes that is what is needed to spice up your work.  Don’t take my word for word it, much the same has been covered by the Harvard Business Review.

Any game sort of needs points, or something to measure progress by…

  • The Facebook Quest – 1 point for every friend
  • The Twitter Quest – 1 point for every follower
  • Google Plus 1 – 1 point for every +1 you have on Google… and every other social network platform, except:
  • LinkedIn – 5 points for every connection
  • Publish or Perish – 25 points for every article you have published that is publicly available on the Internet
  • Being Talked About – 50 points for every blog or web site featuring a review or other promotion about your mobile app.
  • App Crafting – 1,000 points for each app you have published and available through at least one store.
  • Available in a Store Near You – 50 points per app for every mobile app store your apps are available through. (i.e. If you have 5 apps available on each of 5 stores, you have 25 x 50 = 1250 points!)

Obviously this could be fleshed out a lot more, associating points to levels, special abilities and things like that.

In your average level 1 quest, you’ll end up having to kill ten monsters or collect 10 tainted flowers.  Business is basically the same thing, where you might start just trying to get your first ten friends on Facebook.

In game culture and I know most developers are familiar with game culture, we talk about “the grind” – where playing a game is a lot like work or in this case, the other way around.   The more you do, the more you have to do.

With games, we have a sort of immediate reward.  Regardless how small it might be, in most games we can see each step, each little increment contributing to the overall goal… which is usually “reaching the end game”.  In real world terms, reaching the end game would be a lot like becoming a Fortune 500 company.

In the real world, the real points are usually measured in money and dollar signs.  For a small business though, every day is not a pay day.  With a small team perhaps with very limited operating capital, it can be hard to see how you can grow your business.   Sometimes it can be hard to see how your day to day doings contribute to your end of month and end of year results.

By defining all of the things that you can do, and weighting them according to the degree of impact they could have for your business – you’ll see that there’s always something that you could be doing now, that costs no more than the time you invest in it.   If you have ten minutes to spare, why not try to find a few more friends to like you on Facebook.  Have an extra hour or two?  Maybe write an article or blog post.

It all adds up.  In your MMO’s, your characters just didn’t suddenly reach level 90… they did it one goblin at a time.

The last article focused on what to do when your app is not performing up to your financial expectations. That extends equally and completely to your business – whether as a single developer, sole proprietor, owner of any-sized company. It’s something you never stop doing – building, developing your business, even if your business. The same applies to your career.  There’s one other thing that deserves 1% of your effort, 15 minutes a day just about every day – research of future business possibilities and opportunities.

This research requires knowing where your present business strengths and development plans for up to 5 years. You might be strong in Java, PHP, Android, Graphics and Video now while your development plans may aim to expand your capabilities to iOS and pick up 2-3 additional languages (i.e. Portuguese, Chinese, etc.)   Or you might be good at making games, but want to move toward producing services and utilities. You need to know your capabilities for your research to be effective – defining the Who, What, Where of your place in the market. The How, Why and When… comes separately in most cases.

There are several ways you can approach this kind of business research, but a methodical approach to each is prudent.   It is strongly recommended to keep a record or diary of your research and preferably in electronic format for ease of future searching and topical organization. Copy and paste notes from web sites as you come across them as this is all for your own use.

Methods:

Specific Location – Focus on one area, whether a city or district, state or country, possibly several countries sharing the same language. Basically, you want to keep your thumb on the pulse of its business, especially as it relates to what you do. This can extend to socially and to the government. You want to know who else does the same kind of work as you do, you want to be informed of upcoming projects. Location based research is frequently best tied with local social networking and attendance of business conferences. Concurrent with your research, you want people to learn who you are – which means participating in local business forums.

Specific Industry – While you may be a programmer or app developer, you may also have experience in a specific field – medicine, logistics, investment services, gaming, etc. With these, you are aiming to be well ahead of the bell-curve on how the systems work and the new systems and technologies your field is moving toward. Developing relationships on this level can lead to free beta testing, subcontracted training and consulting, and ultimately becoming a “go-to specialist”. One of the first programmers I worked with focused specifically on high-end health care communications software and for a time was one of four programmers in the United States able to tender bids on projects with the Center for Disease Control.

Specialized Technology – Your focus is specializing in one type of technology, or perhaps a few. This could be video, security, payment systems, government communication and reporting systems, facial recognition, GPS, or anything else. What you are likely to be specifically looking for are opportunities to “merge technologies” – convergence related projects of which I see many coming to the fore in the near future with recent developments in voice and video technology for starters, combined with facial recognition, GPS, security and privacy. Look at who is doing what and where technologies can intersect. Can you tie the knot for them? To some extent this ties in with

Academic and Philosophical Solutions – The philosophy of computer science is another route of research and the object of much fascinating discussion in philosophical organizations and think tanks. This is frequently more in the realm of the abstract and boundless theory, ranging from personal privacy and copyright issues to human augmentation (even with Google Glass – banned in some stores) and computer driven vehicles. Tying in with the academic side lends to getting involved with projects backed by grants, as just one fringe benefit.

All of these methods can, do and to varying degrees should overlap. It depends entirely upon the focus of your career and business, especially the direction you want to take it.

Research is boring. It is not something from which you can expect immediate results. It is worth consistent, prolonged effort for the long-term. Many will find 15 minutes a day focused on 1-2 news items or leads sufficient. If you are at a total stand-still, it is something worth investing a full 8-12 hours a day into. The point is that a little bit of effort today will help guarantee that you always have something to do tomorrow.

This provides four different angles to work from, so you might choose the angle you like most.

Fifteen minutes a day, just Monday – Friday, equates to 65 hours over the course of a year. That’s exponentially better than 65 hours concentrated in 1-2 weeks, as the world is in constant motion.

Other aspects of what has been covered in this blog also apply. It is not always a matter of needing to be able to do everything yourself, so long as you know someone else who can.

We might define ourselves by our career field… I am a programmer or an app developer. That’s not all we do, nor is that the limit of our business potential any more than being a “coffee drinker” means the only thing you ever do is drink coffee.


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The world is changing daily, sometimes by a little, sometimes by a lot. As technology moves forward, the rate of change is accelerating. The rate of change is staggering, the implications equally so, and frequently enough it feels like we… humans, can’t keep pace.   It is useful, however, to look around, to philosophize and speculate a bit. That’s my agenda for today, but with a focus on language.

While a permanent resident of Ukraine, I barely know the most basics for conversing in Russian or Ukrainian. Ukraine has plenty of people fully fluent in Ukrainian and Russian. So, I focus on English. My wife speaks English, Ukrainian and Russian, as do most of my friends. In the United States, the same issues apply to several regions with regards to English and Spanish.

Heated debates have focused on official national languages.  Today, I came across some of the new tools under development by Skype and Microsoft – real time speech translation. That’s practically like something out of Star Trek. Early on, we can expect flaws, but projected a few years forward and it will be put to increasingly common, eventually mainstream use.

The implications if this were to work? A rapidly diminishing need for translators and interpreters – an entire “job field” effectively rendered obsolete by software. At the same time that speech recognition and translation is forging ahead, as text already has – text translations will only continue to get better, too.

That takes us back to the Internet.org initiative. That concerns Mark Zuckerberg’s vision on how the Internet can be made more accessible to another 5 Billion people – most of whom are not fluent or even minimally capable of conversing in English or German or Chinese. In a few years, we simply won’t need to be.

Mobile devices will take on the role of translator. This postulates a world where everyone despite speaking different languages can communicate with one another on a progressively easier and better basis. Technology will have the capacity of superseding policies.

I am skeptical of translation technology knowing well that a lot can be lost in the translation. We can commonly find definite and indefinite articles being dropped; inconsistency of past, present and future tenses; or simply the wrong prepositions. It’s too early (still) to expect perfection – especially when the people graduating aren’t all getting straight A’s.

But I also imagine, like Victor Shaburov is doing with Looksery, that as these new technologies are perfected, they will enable more applications and innovations. If we can visually transform our appearance on video, so also will we be able to change our voice…

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From the outside looking in, the whole mobile app business can be confusing and leaves a lot of non-mobile oriented businesses out of the loop.  Here, we will focus on bringing small business owners and other decision makers up to speed on the possibilities mobile apps offer for growing your business.   For the most part, it is relevant for the full spectrum of small business, from restaurants to legal services.

Where nearly every product or service you offer has a price tag, a majority of mobile apps do not.  Most mobile apps are available for free and make money through in-app purchases and/or advertising.   The special point to observe is that almost every dollar generated by a mobile app from any revenue source accrues first to breaking even on development costs, and thereafter to its profitability.   Many retailers purchase products at 40 -80% of their sale price, may incur shipping & handling charges, alongside other overhead expenses.  You have a higher threshold to meet before your sales begins applying to your bottom line.

The second point to be aware of is that many independent developers are not breaking even on their development costs, but also a majority of developers are not very active in marketing their products.   These points often go hand in hand.

Mobile advertising reaches more people dollar for dollar than virtually any other advertising method.   Where your business may not be suited to having an app of its own, you might think, Why bother?   This involves consideration of how your business reaches and attracts new customers – the effectiveness of your current marketing and advertising activities.   This likely involves determining your target audience and selecting advertising venues capable of reaching it.

This is where the primary question comes in for you and your business,

Are there any apps or app developers out there trying to reach the same audience as you are?”  Would you be willing to explore doing business with them?

This could take any number of forms.  It could apply to helping finance or sponsoring an app or paying to run a coupon promotion through an app.   The less your business requires customers to be local to you (i.e. an online store, subscription service, etc.) the better this can work for you.  For more geo-centric business models, you may have to look at developers engaged in community-centric products.  There are plenty of those out there.

Another component of this model involves expanding it to include several businesses related to the nature of a given app.  In example, a strategy game might be useful in promoting a hobby store, a paint gun park, a similarly oriented book, ebook or movie, or even a web site.   Suddenly, you can find your business developing networking relationships and promotional opportunities with multiple non-competing businesses.

The cost of advertising is the same regardless how many companies or products end up getting promoted by it.  Within the mobile advertising market, it is most likely to be a mobile app that is the primary beneficiary of the advertisement.  Once an app is downloaded and installed, each party participating with in-app promotions is reaching a customer in their target market.   This also adds value to the app and increases the potential for it to be used more.

Take some time and talk to some local mobile app developers.

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This blog mainly engages to help mobile developers better promote their mobile apps.  It is time to spend some time on the other side of the screen as a gamer – and how you can get more out of your game time.   With many social games though, developers benefit by having you as an active player.  The more people who play game the more likely more people are to play it.

Free to Play – Playing games you like for free is win-win.  But we all know that all free to play games are not always really free to play for long.   It usually comes down to an extended grind for each major milestone, spending some money to get it faster, or perhaps watching some advertisements to get some in-game points or currency.   Many games also offer different ways of getting some “paid currency” as rewards for special achievements or signing in each day.   Occasionally, game developers might also offer specials in their game forums or perhaps on Facebook.

If you really like a game, learn how its economy works – the things that are easy and hard to get.   Save your coin (real and virtual) to get the things that are hardest to get.   In adventure games, there’s always the temptation to spend your hard-earned gold or game points on consumables, that you will likely get “anyway” with a little patience.  Save enough and you may be able to buy “expansion packs” or “rare mounts” for free.

If you get a daily reward for logging in – make sure to log in daily.

Tutorials – From having played many, many different games and watching the help and general chat channels, it becomes obvious that many people do not complete the game tutorials.  Completing them can give you some pretty nice things starting out, but also teaches you how to get most out of the game.   It’s also pretty hard to enjoy a game if you don’t know the basics of how it works.

Challenges -  There’s the old MMO saying that, “It takes gear to get gear.”  It depends upon the game, but in most cases, you don’t really need to worry about gear until you get close to the “end game.”   Perhaps not applicable to most mobile games, there are players of some MMO’s who have taken on challenges for example, to reach Level 70 “naked” or without killing any mobs or even self-nerfing a character to play in a fundamentally different way than the character class was designed.  Others take an even more difficult challenge – “permadeath” where if you die even once, for virtually any reason, you re-roll.

Blogging – Gaming and blogging about gaming practically go hand in hand.  If you don’t know how or cannot afford to set up a WordPress site of your own, try connecting with other bloggers to have them create a section for you.   This can open up many possibilities for you – to review games, get in on early beta tests, maybe a chance to get some free in-game currency or other perks.  If you do this, make sure to promote the fact – get listed as a company/game fan site, link share programs, and gradually pick up professional web developer, marketing and other skills that can help your career.

Bi-lingual?  This gets more into the entrepreneurial gaming spirit.  There are lots of games out there and not all of them are available in your language.   If you have professional fluency in two (or more languages), you might offer your services to game companies to see if you can help localize their app.  That’s a resume builder and could generate some extra money or an equally valuable long-term arrangement with prospective developers – probably solo developers or small teams with limited resources of their own.

There are so many games out there that an article like this cannot possibly cover every type.   A little creativity can go a long ways.

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