We had a few questions about the most challenging aspects of app development and were lucky enough to catch up with Hillel Fuld for some advice.
App developers of 2016 must strengthen their entrepreneurial attitude in order to succeed in this highly competitive environment. And if you want to succeed, you should look straight to the masters for the best tips and advice.
Hillel Fuld (@hilzfuld), co-founder and chief marketing officer at ZCast, mentors heaps of startups across Israel, blogs for numerous sites, including TechCrunch, Mashable, VentureBeat and The Next Web, and has been included in Google’s Marketing Experts Program. He’s an incredible resource for knowledge and experience when it comes to app development and marketing strategies, and his practical advice can instantly be used and practiced by developers at any stage.
Tackling the biggest obstacles of app developers
With over 65,000 new app entries to the app stores each month, standing out in the crowd is no easy feat. Big companies have marketing departments that spend millions of dollars per year on things like app store search optimization and ratings, but when you’re indie, you don’t have access to those kinds of resources. So how can you, an independent developer with nearly no resources, possibly position your app, get the downloads and retain your users? We’ve turned to Hillel for some answers.
Q: Many indie developers are having a very hard time acquiring, retaining and monetizing users. In your opinion, what are the top mistakes developers make with their mobile apps?
Before we talk about apps, let’s talk about the process. Many developers I meet don’t know their direct competitors well enough, not only in terms of the actual product, but also in terms of their app’s value proposition and the pitch they use to promote it. Before starting development, developers have to know what they’re up against and they should definitely conduct market research, as well as a thorough competitive analysis. With that knowledge, they can then ask themselves crucial questions such as, “am I offering something better than what’s currently out there,” or ”am I doing something different?”
The second mistake is with “framing.” If you try to promote your app as a technical solution, most people won’t understand its value and won’t care. For example, if I’ve developed a photo-organizing app and I’m pitching the app to a blogger as “an algorithm that analyzes the metadata of photos,” I won’t get much hype going. On the other hand, if I say, “show me pics from your last trip to London,” the blogger will quickly be able to relate to the pain point I’m trying to solve. In general, I find that developers are great at building stuff, but they struggle to understand why the world needs their product and to demonstrate its value externally.
The third issue I see is that developers lack focus. It’s very common for developers and entrepreneurs to try to add as many features as possible to their app, which costs them development time, quality and resources. The worst part is when the end-user uses the app for the first time and has no idea what’s going on, what pain point it solves and what the actual value of it is. My advice is to focus your efforts, at least for the 1st version, on 1-2 amazing core features, as opposed to 17 mediocre features. Afterwards, you’ll be able to respond more effectively to the feedback you’re getting.
Q: What are some key differentiators you recognize in successful apps?
My rule of thumb for really successful apps and start-ups is the “home-run” rule. Meaning, if you do everything well, that’s nice, but it won’t make a difference. You need to figure out the one thing you are GREAT at and run with it. It can be anything from an incredible feature, the ultimate team, or a huge, untapped market, but in order to get the investors’ and users’ attention, you need that home-run.
Q: Do you recognize any innovative trends in user engagement and retention?
I know that there’s a lot of talk about engagement, but at the end of the day, you need to build a great product. I use the “nod your head” rule, which basically means that you need to get your audience (either blogger, investor or app user) nodding within 10 seconds. You need to get them onboard asap, to relate to the problem you’re solving and wanting to discover more. Specifically with apps, you can produce a delightful onboarding experience and that would be a great start, but, again, if you’re not supplying me with a great user experience and you’re not solving a problem for me, personally, all the engagement mechanisms in the world won’t work.
Q: Let us in on some of your secrets. What are your favorite resources for inspiration and innovative ideas?
I have sites that I get my information from, but what really inspires me is people. Innovative people who are really changing the world and are willing to put anything on the line. People, like Bob Rosenschein (answers.com), who already sold his website, but still enjoys bringing his knowledge and experience to early-stage startups. They keep pushing things forward.
So let’s sum up the main insights:
Before you jump right into the development process, do your homework and study the competition. Figure out what your competitive advantage is.
Frame, position and promote your app as a solution to a problem or a need, not as a collection of technical features.
Focus. Focus. Focus. Don’t go overboard and include dozens of mediocre features, but rather look for that home-run feature that will get users and investors fall in love with your product, instantly.
We would like to thank Hillel for dedicating time for the interview and sharing his knowledge with us and our readers.
Be sure to follow for our next industry leaders interviews!