Life Lessons By Way Of App Marketing

My primary life study has been about love. Second comes economics, so here, in the form of a few rules, is a little amalgam of the two fields: the economics of love.”Ben Stein, Economist

I just spent the last month facing as many fears as I possibly could.

I woke up a few weeks ago, bought a ticket to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and shut my computer. Do I speak Spanish? Barely. Do I know anyone down there? Nope.


But, I do wake up some days in the grip of fear…and that's unacceptable to me. I define fear as a sort of lurking resistance. We all feel it from time to time – not wanting to leave your apt, feeling apprehension to do something, whatever. It is the arch nemesis of change. It's that looming cloud that pulls us back to the safe zone where everything is predictable. It can be comforting. It's sneaky.

I refuse to live my life at any level less than 9000 RPM, peak performance, whatever you want to call it. I had a deep and un-ignorable thirst to break myself from the iron clench of all the things that contribute to this fear – convenience, technology, ease, security.

In many ways, these all represent the highest apex of our evolution. For so many reasons, they have given us everything we ever hoped for.  To me, they have become a burden, slowly eating at me until I am nothing more than a profile picture and a clever tweet, unable to grow my own food, get in a fist fight, or turn off my iPhone.

Fuck that.

As I prepare to return to my home in the United States, I would be remiss to not share a piece of what I have learned on this life changing journey. What better way to do that than to fuse the two loves of my current life – personal growth and the app business.

So, here are some thoughts.

1. There's a reason why there are fundamentals. When you add your ad network interstitials to your app, there's a reason why the ad networks tell you where to put them. They work.

Maybe you'll break through and get a 5% increase or maybe you'll think of something wildly creative that can alter the ecosystem slightly, but chances are your best bet is to rely on the research of hundreds of billions of impressions. There's a big difference between trying to hack the market and trying to beat the market – spend more time trying to beat it.

With apps, you can spend a lot of time trying to re-invent the wheel or you can listen to the people that already have invented wheels that work mighty fine. Of course there is something to be said for being creative, but just be aware of it.

In life, I have found the same thing to be true which I will touch upon. Life is short – don't spend all your time trying to find answers that clichés can answer in five minutes. Listen to the wisdom that's out there already, then add to it. Be kind to people. Give back. Be healthy. Be happy. Spend 15 minutes talking to someone who's older than you and hear what THEY'VE learned.  You'll save yourself years of angst.

2. Focus on install rates for high eCPM. Your earnings quotient (eCPM) is a factor of impressions, clicks, and installs. There are different ways to maximize each of these and different strategies from different networks.

Looking back at a year's worth of data, my best revenue drivers were the apps that had great install rates. They didn't get the most downloads, but they served up the best ads for the right people.

Apps can be lucrative by focusing on the traffic and driving more all the time (flipping apps works on this). But it also shifts the focus away from the apps and towards the portfolio. All apps gets a little love, none get a lot. He who is friends with everyone is friends with no one.

If you want something, in this case I will use the example of finding a significant other, it's better to focus on winning over one person than it is to get in front of a thousand to “see if there is something there.”

Of course, this is assuming you're in it for the long haul, but the general idea will still hold true – you'll get the biggest return when you make an effort to provide value with the right person even if the pool is smaller.

3. There is no correlation between how much money you invest in your app and it's success.   The most popular post on my site is one about how much it costs to develop an app. A lot of people contact me and ask about how much they should be spending, wondering if it's worth it to spend more, spend less, etc.

Over the last two years I've had the privilege to talk to hundreds of app entrepreneurs and hear their stories. There is absolutely no data to lead me to believe that any of them would have made more money if they had spent more. They weren't looking for investments and they didn't start with much money or free time. The #1 characteristic that all these people have in common? They wanted to win.

I just spent over 3 weeks surrounded by people happier than I've ever seen. I was asked about my job a total of four times in that period, all of which were from Americans. That's not a bad thing, it's just different.

Most of the time I talked to people about travel, language, family, love, and happiness. I met really rich people and I met really poor people. The ones that were consistently giving off great vibes were the ones that wanted more out of their life. They didn't spend the most and they didn't have the most – they just wanted to be happy. A lot.

Not having money to start with is a bad reason to think you can't get everything and all the riches you want in your life. You can be just as happy with small victories as you can with big ones. In fact, some of the greatest achievements of my life happened when I had no money. Learning to add Revmob to my code? I threw a huge party (not kidding).

Having a big upside is all relative – the amount you spend is much less important than how much you think you can make back.

4. Long term high ROI occurs in great games. There's a powerful launch cycle on the app store (Apple in particular) that helps with eCPM and is one of the founding principles of all flipping. When a new product is introduced to the market, the natural inertia of that product attracts new users who are excited about checking it out.

They loved the screenshots and the fun description! When they atlasdownload the app, they may click on your free game ad and you make money. You'll only get one, maybe two shots at this on a medium to poor quality app.

To consistently drive value to users over the long term (as measured by eCPM) you have to have an app that provides value over the long term. Did you check all the bugs? Do you actively update your game to listen to feedback?

Does your gameplay make sense? Users can smell this a mile away and will dump your game after one use if you don't change it.

You can attract a lot in the first few weeks of something new – the energy is high, it's all smiles, every night's a party. But after a while, reality sets in and the real tests start. Ever tried to quit a habit?

The first week is OK, then it sucks until about 3 weeks later. Same with meeting someone new. To consistently drive value from life over the long term, you need to be a high value individual. You need to have discipline and spend time to really invest in yourself if you want to make a lasting change.

Pour energy into the parts of your life that you want to change for the long term. It's not easy, but that's why not everyone lives the life they want. Remember that you need to work on yourself just as much as you work on your business. Often, when we step back, we realize that the success we want for our apps is actually to fill in a hole we feel in our current lives.

Long term returns come from strategic investment.

5. Freemium is the best way to make money. In pretty much all cases, especially games, free to play is considered the golden standard. Flood your game with users, then monetize them through awesome game play. This is a deviation from the older Paid model.

Why does this work? Because you are giving away something before asking for anything in return. You are making the first step and offering value for free in hopes that it is good enough to get value back from someone. Granted, this also gets you a much higher download volume, but the psychology is the same.

This is a lesson that's been around for centuries – you must give before you get. If you think that you are so awesome that people should flock to YOU and automatically think you are amazing before you give them anything, you're in for a rough journey. The most successful and happiest people know that they must swallow their pride and output free energy before anyone comes back with reciprocal energy.

Anyone who's done this knows that the returns on giving first are ten fold anything you would get without doing so, both financially and emotionally. It's nature's way of balancing. Give and take…but you must give much more at the beginning.

6. Focusing on your daily metrics will drive you insane. I don't think I need to convince anyone of this. I talked to a few of the ad networks about their website metrics – on average, each developer visits their sites 6 times a day. eCPM is out of whack? Shit storm on Facebook. Revenue is higher than yesterday? Massive euphoria.

frustratedThe morning coffee buzz is replaced by that dopamine flood driven by logging into your Chartboost account. It makes or breaks your entire day. All the work you've put in, all the progress you've made in your app journey means shit. Your daily rev is down 30% and life sucks.

If I measured my self worth with everything that happened each day, I think I would go insane. In fact, I DO go insane sometimes. Fuck is this the right shirt to wear? I'm not being healthy! Ugh I sounded like such an idiot speaking Spanish in that café. Sometimes it sends me into a tailspin.

But that's why I'm down here – to break that daily cycle. All the mundane, daily crap that everyone has to deal with means nothing in grand scheme of things.

My brother and his friends came down here and we ran a marathon through the city. At mile 10, I thought my legs were going to collapse. I also had this power moment of realization that I am living one of the biggest dreams of my life.

In the middle of a busy street I yelled out “YEAH!!!” which prompted someone else to yell out “Yeah!” which led to the crowd laughing and clapping.

If you wake up every day and need a big revenue day to make you feel great for the next 6 hours, realize that you're feeding a bad addiction. Try waking up writing down everything awesome you accomplished the day before. Focus on your goals and take five minutes to be grateful for how far you've come. Shit – be grateful that you get another day to give it a shot.

Days will have highs and lows because we get so many of them. Can't say the same about life.

7. Follow a plan to get expected results, roll the dice to get unexpected results. With apps, there are a lot of people that have made a lot of money. Chad, Trey, Quoc, and others have all crushed it with apps.

They all lay out blueprints that show you different ways to reach your goals. I try to do that with app flipping and re-skinning in the hopes that I can help all of you get to you to where you want to go.

There's a certain amount of creativity involved, but for the most part these plans will help you make good money making assets that will
oppconsistently make you money back. Following a plan is the #1 way to get an expected result.

Similarly, not following a plan is the #1 way to strike it big. It's also the #1 way to completely eat shit. The only difference is if you believe in what you're doing.

I can't recommend one or the other because we're all in different situations, but I can say that I would not be where I am today if I hadn't rolled the dice. I put up a bunch of apps with celebrities and rode a fine line of trademarks and copyrights and it paid off big.

I quit my life managing monster attorney web strategies to build fucking skee-ball games! It worked out.

Being a “risk taker” is relative. Some people think sky-diving is risky. Others think driving down the street is risky. What's the difference? How deeply you believe that it will work out the way you want it to.

Some people think I take big risks but I don't see it like that. When I close my eyes, I see the world I want and the life I want. I think it's risky to be safe. Waking up in 50 years and wondering what my life could have been is a risk I am not willing to take.

Making shit happen is step one. Hustling is step two. The rest is up to you. The most powerful and exciting moments of my life happened when I said “Yes” to situations that I felt uneasy about, then went so hard that I refused to allow failure be an option.

Being in Argentina has taken my level of faith to epic proportions and has taken me to places I never thought possible, spiritually. I was forced to make every situation positive. Every day required my being positive to do things as simple as go to the grocery store or order coffee.

Total focus for the simplest of tasks. There isn't time to think about the negative possibilities because I feel like I'm in survival mode all the time. You don't entertain failure when your biology thinks your surviving. You HAVE to make it work.

After this trip, there is very little doubt that, no matter what, everything will work out in life. It just will.

It's not about taking out a mortgage on your house and “going for it!” That's just dumb. It's about saying yes to life. It's about waking up in the morning and focusing on the one reason why it can all work out instead of the 500 why it might not. It's about re-defining what you think is risky, stepping back and asking yourself what's important in your life.

The foundation of all faith, in my opinion, is the acknowledgment of possibility. If there is something that you want and you can say “yes it is possible” (even if you don't know how), then you're on your way. Accepting the fact that there is a path opens you up to knowing that you can realistically fulfill your dreams.

Rolling the dice gives yourself the opportunity to win big.

Apps are an amazing opportunity for all of us. Every day I wake up grateful for everything I have and
everything I am able to share you guys. I wouldn't have it any other way.

If I can leave one thing to this world, especially the app world, I want to be a reminder that any one of you can be successful. I am just another guy who wanted to make it, that's it. All I'm here for is to provide tools and energy to help you do the same.

Remember that the science of it all will pale in comparison to the success that comes from believing you can crush it. It WILL work out for you. Who knows, maybe you won't be making millions of dollars…

….maybe you'll just start to feel like you do.

Build great apps. Build great lives.


Rock and fucking roll,



  • Kevin May 3, 2013

    dude, that is an epic post! Book Marked 😛

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas May 3, 2013

    Thanks dude. Much appreciate your words, as always.

  • Al May 3, 2013

    Awesome post Carter. Just got me pumped up again! Keep it coming please.

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas May 3, 2013

    Hell yeah Al. Rock and roll! Always.

  • Erwin May 3, 2013

    Thank you for writing this post, dude. It’s an awesome reminder that i’m on the right.

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas May 3, 2013

    It’s my pleasure man. Thanks for reading.

  • Benny May 3, 2013

    Wow Carter that was a great post. Saved as well as it definitely needs to be re-read.

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas May 3, 2013

    Thanks Benny! Glad you liked it.

  • tasnim ahmed May 3, 2013

    Exellent post.Informative as always

  • Nathan May 3, 2013

    Hi Carter,

    Great life changing post. Thanks for sharing with the world.


  • Joe Monaghan May 3, 2013

    This is what we need every day, fuck the coffee, give me a read like this every morning and I could take on the world!!!
    I’m going to have one massive credit card bill but I’m sure things will work out for me. I’m not looking to become rich, just want to prove I can do it… Cos I know I can!!!

    Keep the faith….


  • Tristan May 3, 2013

    Great great post…

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas May 3, 2013


  • Sarah May 3, 2013

    Wow. Just what I needed, right now. Thanks!

  • Ben May 3, 2013

    Rock and Fucking Roll!!!!!! I love it Carter! Thanks again for everything that you do to help us out!

  • Brian Campbell May 3, 2013

    Dude, I’ve written, edited and then supervised some of the biggest writers in this country at one time or another when I worked for the Tribune Co. and the Times. You got some serious writing talent. But I’m most impressed about how you get information across in a way that’s easy to understand and comprehend. Major kudos, my man. Oh, and I don’t ever think I’ve used the word dude in print till now, lol.

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas May 3, 2013

    Thanks a lot Brian (and others). I really appreciate it. It is a dream of mine to be able to contribute to a big publication like the ones you mentioned. Maybe after apps!

    Thanks for reading and contributing.

  • Johann May 3, 2013

    Nice post man.

  • Kevin May 3, 2013

    Awesome post Carter. It’s very inspirational and gives me a lot to think about!

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Cindy May 3, 2013

    “I had a deep and un-ignorable thirst to break myself from the iron clench of all the things that contribute to this fear – convenience, technology, ease, security.

    In many ways, these all represent the highest apex of our evolution. For so many reasons, they have given us everything we ever hoped for. To me, they have become a burden, slowly eating at me until I am nothing more than a profile picture and a clever tweet, unable to grow my own food, get in a fist fight, or turn off my iPhone.”

    SO TRUE….the safety and security deadens us. My most vivid life experiences were in the midst of fear…50 foot waves in the Antarctic Ocean; stake bed trucks rumbling through the streets of Bolivia with machine-gun-wielding men; etc. It seems it is the adrenaline we need to feel “alive”, although I do not indulge in extreme sports. How can we feel alive without feeling threatened or in danger?

  • Srivatsan Gopalakrishnan May 3, 2013

    Awesome post!! I was just beginning to slack off after my my first app. This is exactly what I need right now!! Thanks a ton

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas May 3, 2013

    @cindy – go sit at a bar by yourself. Don’t bring your phone or anything to distract you – just sit there and drink your drink or eat some food. Wear clothes that you don’t feel confident in, and pay in cash. Fear doesn’t have to be adrenaline, it’s also severe apprehension built on the impending specter of shame or embarrassment.

  • hitendra pratap May 3, 2013

    It should become mandatory for you to write similar posts once a month. It’s full of positive energy and I love it! You doing Great work Carter!

  • Cindy May 3, 2013

    Carter, I get what you are saying about apprehension and embarrassment. I pitched a business idea at a start-up weekend in January. I am terrible at speaking in front of people–I am an introverted analytical type. I have an idea that has been with me for over 10 years and I have been afraid to go out and do it. So this is the year I am going out and presenting my app/website idea which is soooo different from the technology/research work I have done in the past. I feel like I am making a fool of myself constantly, but I am trying to keep moving forward. This is definitely dealing with fear; the adventures are more related to thrill-seeking. I seem to seek external energy as input. Even the energy of entrepreneurs at a start-up weekend is an adrenaline rush! That is easy. Just be there and take it in. Stepping out and being uncomfortable in your own shoes is related to internal growth and connecting (or not) to others. That is truly scary! Perhaps that is what you are really getting at: just being with yourself, unprotected, wary…..starting from there and moving forward.

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas May 3, 2013

    Wise words, Cindy. Thanks for sharing. Here’s my sending you some positive energy to help with your journey! Good luck!


  • YT May 3, 2013

    Awesome post. I’m gradually starting to believe your willingness and desire to really help others. There is just too much scamming on the internet that it’s extremely hard to believe anybody who is claiming they have higher goals. Usually those higher goals, like helping others, is just a means to make a sell.

  • YT May 3, 2013

    Forgot this one.

    Rock and fucking roll!

  • Shaun May 3, 2013

    Very insightful. Well written. You may have another calling.
    I passed through Argentina about 5 years ago on my way to Uruguay.
    My high-school spanish allowed me to muddle through the Portuguese.
    Hot looking women down there… Phew!
    Lot’s to see too.
    I’m sure you had lots of fun.

  • Jeff Williams May 3, 2013

    You have uncovered your true talent. This is just simply quality my friend. Good for you! I have learned something worth learning today.

  • Chuck Rayman May 4, 2013


    Great post! Well written.

    Thanks for sharing your experience and wisdom with us.

  • Sean May 4, 2013

    Hell-Fucking-Yeah Carter..

    Admittedly, I’ve been (trying) to be a little skeptical about you and this entire website, thinking that it all may just be smoke and mirrors. It’s pretty fucking astounding with what you’ve done flipping apps and creating the life you want to live for yourself; I can only hope (and work my ass off) to do the same. After a post like this I think I can finally relax and acknowledge the fact that you’re just a good guy trying to help out people.. I know that you’re already successful (at least financially it would seem) but hopefully with quality people – and posts, you, me and everyone else who read the article and these comments can make the community thrive.

    Much Respect,

  • Steve Taylor May 4, 2013

    Carter Thomas – Appreneur – Life Coach

    Thank you!

  • Jane May 4, 2013

    The slight edge continues to knaw at me throughout the day. If I make this decision or turn this corner then this may possibly happen but if I don’t then everything will revert to what it always was. My choice. When I tell myself that I believe and am ready to fight for that thing called health, wealth and the pursuit of happiness, I have noticed a subtle change in myself and it drives me forward but fear crops up and forcibly drags me down and then I think of the slight edge and think what the hell can happen , what are you really afraid of…so I am going for it. And it is scary but exhilarating as well. Carter this post is an inspiration. Thank you for exposing your soul and through the frequencies reaching out to all of us on this journey.

  • Huan May 4, 2013

    Well said. And inspiring.

  • Chris Burns May 4, 2013

    Very inspiring Carter! I’m having a few similar experiences myself right now since im living in Germany and don’t speak the language 🙂

    Thanks for writing that post mate!

  • Caesar May 4, 2013

    Damn! This is good talking! Awesome post! 😉

  • Ted May 5, 2013

    Hi Carter – I have been following your journey in the past year through your blog and the many interviews and podcasts that you have done. I’ve admired your focus to the end goal in your app business. It is such a different approach than some. This last post really points out the difference between you and the thousands of others that just go through the motions. As a person that has had one successful business (retail) and now focusing on the App World business, I am truly intrigued and engaged in your approach and I want more! Please keep your insights coming. I hope that one of these days we could connect as I would be grateful to spend a few moments with you and your thoughts. Thanks Again.

  • Mar May 6, 2013

    Thank you, sincerely.
    It’s the kind of post I needed. I agree with all that. And I really love the appealing and sincere tone of your words. If some day I get to success in all this App Business, it will be mostly thanks to you.
    By the way, I have also sound like an idiot speaking English more than once (I’m Spanish), so don’t worry. I woudn’t be here if that had mattered much to me!

  • Brett Wash May 6, 2013

    Really great post. My favourite so far to be honest Carter. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

  • Hiten May 6, 2013

    Truly inspiring post, thank you for sharing your knowledge!

  • Michael May 6, 2013

    Excellent post. Especially liked the “yes, it’s possible” bit. To paraphrase Robbins, extraordinary mindset yields extraordinary results.

  • Dane May 8, 2013

    Great post Carter. And you’re right with every bit of it… making money with apps is great and all but if we’re not happy outside of that then no matter how much our apps kill it, we’ll still never live the way we dreamed we could of.

    Keep these puppies coming!

  • Bryan May 8, 2013

    Definitely have to agree with the others that have said this is an awesome post! Thank you, Carter! You are truly providing tremendous value!

    Quick question about one of your points. You wrote that, “When you add your ad network interstitials to your app, there’s a reason why the ad networks tell you where to put them. They work.” For Revmob and Chartboost, where exactly should the interstitials pop up in my app? Unless I didn’t look carefully, I did not see information about this “best practice” on either website. I notice that in your apps, interstitials come up pretty much as soon as the user opens your app.

  • Lat May 8, 2013

    Wow. Carter!! What you say…it’s true! The highs and lows that seems to be part of our day…the checking of ecpm’s and daily revenues and getting sometimes lost in the detail of it all. Fact is, I love being an appreneur though I am still new at it. I truly do.

    I have absolute faith it will all work out.

    Thanks for the reminder, man!! Fantastic!!

  • Samson May 8, 2013

    Hey Carter,

    I like the way you think, there aren’t many people who think like that these days…

    Carter, I am pretty new to apps development and new to programming as well… I am looking forward to start developing in Android, actually got the idea for working on Android from one of your posts… what I am seeking is some help with regards to Android apps monetization as what I have learned is Revmob doesn’t monetize for Android..

    So may be if you can direct me to any of your posts that speaks on Android apps monetization or if you could please post something on the blog…

  • Dominique Coughlan May 8, 2013

    Thanks Carter!! Your posts are so important in my quest to develop my own app business. If there is one line that I can take away from this and start to apply it is: ‘it’s about waking up in the morning and focusing on the one reason why it can all work out instead of the 500 why it might not’.

  • Nidal May 9, 2013

    We are an arabic mobile development company and have millions of ad impressions , would like to contact you for consultation how to mon our apps or if we can sell them.


  • Shawn May 13, 2013

    Thanks Carter for the inspiration and motivation! You remind me of a friend by the name of Allen Wong! Both of you look at life the same way. Very humble, knowledgable and inspirational.

  • Glen May 18, 2013

    I’m frigging addicted to this site… My first app is currently under development and you have no idea how much this site has helped me Carter 🙂

  • Rhys May 18, 2013

    Hey Carter
    I know you said that you give your apps 30 days for a ROI, but I’m finding it hard for my own apps to do so. For the most part, they take 30+ and most don’t even make back my investment.

    I’ve really tried a lot such as following the trends such as zombies, Candy Crush, ninjas and cars and even use but out of those, only the ninja and car theme apps have given me a good ROI.

    I don’t know what else I can do because I really believe in the opportunities in the App Store and I know I can make! But, at the same time, I am running out of money!

    Also, I was wondering if I used one keyword multiple times, I would rank higher in the App Store? For example, I have the word “candy” in my title. Should I repeat it again in the keywords and would it give me a higher ranking for “candy”?

    Thanks man if you can answer these questions. I know it’s a lot but I would really appreciate it, man! 😀

  • Wes May 24, 2013

    Thanks for the good content and enjoyable read. However, it would be better without the foul language.

  • Sonny June 10, 2013

    You took me there with you on the marathon journey man, great story and great article!

  • Robyn Foyster July 12, 2013

    Great article, thank-you.
    Keep rolling the dice.

  • Cameron November 2, 2013

    Very interesting. I was just about to give up. My game app, Ghost Slayer, was added as a Freemium app. I think it is very well put together, but it only had 6 downloads the first day. Then the 2nd day only 6 more.

    Freemium is not Free with Apple. I put a Free app in the app store and it was downloaded like crazy. But when I put a free app in the app store that has in-app purchases, the app doesn’t get quite noticed. Is Apple holding me back? Do they want me to only put FREE apps in the app store and make no money. Or is it due to competition.

    Well regardless, I am going try and try until I get some money out of this.

  • Aaron Bronow August 14, 2014

    Rock and fucking roll, man. Thanks for the inspiring words.

  • Greg Dawson August 14, 2014

    EPIC words man. Believe and you can achieve … spent some time in Argentina traveling around a few years back as part of my “get out of corporate life and be my own boss” transition and haven’t looked back. Something magical about that place.

    There’s been a lot of ups and downs, but as soon as I found a business with Apps … it’s pretty much all been ups (except for those mincing low eCPM days!). Really want to harp on the quality over quantity as far as keeping people engaged in your games for better returns. Shit games = shit money … as soon as you can, start investing in quality source code, artists, developers, etc.

    Thanks again for the post, Carter.

    P.S. I’ve been crushing it (in my mind) with those maker apps. Thanks for doing what you do brotha!

  • Nancy February 16, 2015

    Go wide, or go deep. But go all in.

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas February 16, 2015

    @Nancy – so, so true. No matter what you choose, you gotta go big time to make big things happen.

  • Javier October 2, 2017

    That was awesome!
    Thanks for sharing, mind and spirit lifted

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