A while back I heard something about this guy. I think a lot of us did – he was young, smart, and somehow came out of nowhere to drop the HAMMER on the Apple store. Not only that, he managed to sell off that company to a huge publicly traded venture and see how the big dogs play. Some serious work accomplished for a guy who only started a few years ago.
What I like about Quoc is that he's straight up. His advice on marketing is straightforward and easy to understand. He provides useful tools and insights that I never used or heard of before joining his program. It was one of the first courses I read and actually paid for. Fast forward a couple years and I've had the pleasure to chat with Quoc offline a bit about his success. I asked if I could share his thoughts with the world and he agreed.
So – check it out below.
Dude! Thanks for taking the time and it's a real pleasure to have you on here to share with everyone. What's your story?
I started making apps in 2009 when I decided to quit his full time job and start 3 different app companies. My biggest success was Free the Apps which ended up being acquired by a public company in 2011. Free from the 9-5 and living the passive income life, I spent most of 2011 in Southeast Asia volunteering for non-profits and participating in medical missions (more info here – http://www.freetheapps.com/2011/05/the-passive-income-life/). I am now back in the states still working on apps and getting ready to launch a new app company with his first game launch for 2013!
Awesome. You crushed it – big time with marketing. A lot of that success was in 2009-2011 (right?). What's the biggest difference between then and now?
I started out in 2009 with 3 different app companies and I was fortunate enough that all 3 were able to start making a profit after a few months. One of the things that we always focused on with our apps was to make the app look great and work well. It was important that whether it's a game or a utility app that it should be simple to use and look polished. That strategy worked well for us. The biggest difference that I see now is that compared to 2009 the app store has gotten ridiculously huge. So even if you create the best looking most useful app you might still have a hard time getting downloads. How to market and get your app noticed is more important than just getting it built nowadays. Back then if you had a good solid app you could get it up in the charts a lot easier.
What's the biggest misconception when it comes to marketing an app?
Thinking that since your unique app idea doesn't exist on the marketplace that people will download your app. There's always that killer idea that no one has ever done that will change the way we use our phones, but those are rare. Sometimes if your app idea or at least something similar doesn't exist then chances are people don't really need it or aren't looking for it. I find a better strategy is to follow the trends and see what works well and make it your own and make it better.
What kind of apps are you making now?
I'm still focusing on apps for Medical students and professionals with hipposoftllc.com. I'm also working on my first big multiplayer game which is exciting but a bit scary. I've always thought that games were risky and they're either going to make it big or flop but now is a better time than ever to take that risk. Did you just see that SuperCell is making $2.4 million a day from their 2 games Hay Day and Clash of Clans? That's crazy! I just want a sliver of that pie and I'll be happy.
If you could invest in a business that had to do with apps, what would it be? In other words, what's the hottest part of the mobile “world” – publishing, analytics, user acquisition, etc?
I think user acquisition / marketing. As fast as the app market has been growing and as crazy as it is I feel like it's still pretty new and people are still trying to figure out the best way to market these things. There are a lot of companies out there claiming to market your app for a ton of money but how many of them actually work? There are only so many press releases you can put out for your app before you realize that they're not increasing your downloads at all. I think the trend back then was to become an app developer and make money. There are tons of app developers out there now that can make a great app but know nothing about marketing so I think the hottest part of the mobile world would be marketing now and figuring out how to get someone to download your app and keep using it.
Do you go cross-platform? How has that gone?
I've only dabbled with porting some of my apps to Android. For some reason the same apps on Android makes significantly lower money that their iOS counterparts. I can't really explain it but that's just my personal observation. I do have to admit that I'm an Android user though. I had an iPhone 4s for a couple of months when it first came out but I had to switch back to Android. I'm just much more comfortable with Android and I like it better.
What's the biggest difference for someone who's just starting out vs someone who's got a big budget when it comes to marketing?
It's always harder for anyone to do anything vs someone that has a big budget. Someone with a big budget and buy ads for their apps on big networks like admob and chartboost. Someone with a smaller budget won't be able to afford those kind of campaigns, so their best bet might be to contact individual developers and ask to be featured on their apps. At Free the Apps, we used get those advertising inquiries all the time. We used to sell out space on our more apps pages to other developers for a pretty good deal too.
Where's the market going?
I just saw an article yesterday that said something like iPhone sales in India will be bringing in $1 Billion in revenue this year. With the US app market getting so saturated I think it wouldn't be a bad idea to start looking into emerging markets like India and China. Might not be a bad idea to invest a little development time and hiring a translator to have your apps translated for those markets as well. Depending on your app it's probably not a huge amount of translation that needs to be done. Probably just a few menus and buttons, but it could definitely pay off in the long run.
What are your 3 best tips for someone who's trying to market a game in a category that they might think is “too crowded”?
1. Higher a good graphic designer/artist. The graphics will only cost a fraction of the development costs but will be the first things users see before downloading the app. With all of the games that are out there now if I see an app that doesn't look pretty or professionally done then I'm not going to bother with it.
2. Is your game something that you would play and enjoy playing? Daily? weekly? A lot of people come up to me with ideas for apps and I always ask them “Do you see yourself playing this game?” You would be surprised at how many times people say, “No…but it's a good idea and I'm sure someone will like it”.
3. Social/Facebook integration and ads. What better way to get more people to download your game than to have people invite and play with their facebook friends. Candy crush is a great example. It let's you compete with friends for the highest scores on each level, and in order to go to the next stage of levels you need to ask 3 friends for help. If anything at least you can use your game's facebook integration to invite all of your friends to play it when it first releases.
If you want to check out more from Quoc, I highly recommend checking out what he has to say over at his newly polished 2013 course for app marketers: