What to do when your apps aren’t making money?

Or… enough money.  Let’s take an honest look. You have the advantage of seeing your statistics, so you will need to use them to help you define why. The reason why is probably easier to define than we might like to think, if we are being honest. The vast majority of the reasons for not making money on your work relates to one of the three following root causes:

1.  It doesn’t compete with other similar apps

  • Poor graphics
  • Poor interface
  • Poor game design
  • Poor game dynamics
  • Poor payment interface
  • Too large for many to download

2.  You are not marketing your app “enough”

  • Not on every store that you could be
  • Little or no advertising
  • No web site
  • No social networking
  • No media engagement
  • No newsletter
  • No business relationships

3.  Your app has too narrow of a market

  • It is designed specifically for people who make quilts while skydiving… or scuba diving It is too localized – serving a specific town of say 5,000 people.
  • It is too complicated
  • Limited payment options

If we are honest with ourselves, we  have a very good idea why our app is not performing to expectations. At the very least, we can narrow the root cause down to the most likely root cause candidates.

I would clarify that this effort is not necessarily to define “exactly why” we are not competing with the #1 best app ever. Going into that involves much of the same kind of analysis, only exponentially more detailed and probably with a nice budget to start with.

For the average developer looking to make a livelihood from their app development, you know what you do best. You know what the people on your team do best. And odds are pretty good you know where the gaps are on both sides of your marketing and development operations.

There are two things that you need to do:

One – study and make time for what you do not already know OR find someone who already knows it, for the purpose of assessing…

Two – bringing on someone willing and able to do it OR at least enthusiastically willing to commit to doing it.

You probably already know someone or can network to find someone who can help you evaluate prospective candidates. You don’t necessarily need to hire them outright, provided you can broker a commission of your future sales based upon their work. If your graphics are “okay” – extra effort by someone who can make them “great” will show in every screenshot of your product. If you aren’t spending time marketing your app, find someone who will.

Once the root cause is defined, the means of addressing it is usually fairly straight-forward.   I will likely expand upon this with Ishikawa (fishbone) diagrams in the near future.

The Big Secret that is Not A Big Secret.

This resides outside of the three common root causes as it is probably the Single Greatest Root Cause of Business Failure – Not engaging to Develop your Business.

Often times we are focused on one project at the exclusion of virtually everything else. When one app – and your vision of it, consumes the entirety of what your business or team is doing, you will take a hit. You might do well this quarter, but what you are doing now won’t matter a year from now.

It is necessary to see your app in a true business context.

  • Is it a one-off project or will it serve as the basis for future projects? How many?
  • Are you and your apps specific to mobile?
  • How much of what you do can be allocated to brick-n-mortar or internet-based activity? In example, if you develop travel based apps, do you work with local travel based companies?
  • What cross-promotion opportunities are readily available?
  • Can you offer specialized services to your app customers?

Just because your business may focus on mobile apps does not mean its revenue must come exclusively from mobile apps.   Take a look at your local coffee shop – does it only sell coffee?  Odds are it probably sells some pastries, probably some sandwiches, too.  Find the areas of compatibility and products with a sympathetic relationship to what you do and add them to what you.

Wednesday, we will take a look at one more thing you should spend 1% of your day doing every day – 1% being 15 minutes.


Project Manager at the Opera Mobile Store providing Sales-Marketing support. Content development and research.

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