If you have ever wanted to know how to make an app, I bet this sounds familiar:
You’re going about your day, per the usual, and BAM!
You think of this awesome app idea…
It’s simple, people would love it, and you can’t find it ANYWHERE in the app store.
You think to yourself, “why hasn’t anyone done this yet?” or even better, “this would be SO COOL if I had this on my phone.”
Or maybe even, “This could make a lot of money……”
That's how I am also.
Before I knew anything about how to make an app, it seemed like I had a great idea for a new app, three times a day.
…actually, it's about the same nowadays too. 🙂
But there is an important difference between then and now.
It’s the key piece that has helped me create hundreds of apps that have translated into millions of downloads. It’s what has lifted me from a life of IN-action to a confident life of excitement and success.
What is it?
The ability to NOT be overwhelmed.
This may seem like a small, even unimportant detail, but I can assure you it has enormous power.
Here’s what usually happens to people…
They have the Ah-Ha! moment and start thinking about how great their new app will be.
…only to run out of steam once they realize they have no idea how to do it!
This self-doubt translates into the belief that creating an app is some huge, distant project and can only be built by programmers and a big budget.
People often become overwhelmed.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Throughout my career, I’ve learned that the most important tool one can possess is the ability to break down complex ideas into simple, easy to understand pieces.
By doing this, you remove the power that a project may hold over you.
It’s allowed me to move up in corporate companies quickly, achieve goals rapidly, and keep my momentum.
I’m going to give you all the pieces you need to know and I will do everything I can to make sure you don’t get lost.
By the end of this, you will have the knowledge you need to move forward and get started with planning your app, your business and your new life!
Here is what will be covered. If you already know some of this stuff, feel free to use this table of contents to skip to the part of this guide that applies to you right now.
- 1 How To Make An App: The App Idea
- 2 How To Make An App: App Idea To Paper
- 2.1 What You Need For A Mockup Or Wireframe
- 2.2 The IF-THEN Mindset In App Design
- 2.3 Example Of IF-THEN Thinking In App Design
- 2.4 Leveraging App Wireframes For Continuous Improvement
- 2.5 A Common Pitfall That You May Face… And How To Easily Avoid It
- 2.6 Using Outside Help To Build An App – The Pros and Cons
- 2.7 Summary Of App Idea To Paper
- 3 How To Make An App: NDAs & Intellectual Property
- 4 Time To Stop & Examine Our Progress…
- 5 How To Make An App: Hiring A Developer
- 6 How To Make An App: Publishing Your App
- 7 How To Make An App: Marketing Your App
- 8 How To Make An App: Making Money With Apps
- 9 How To Make An App: Do This Next
How To Make An App: The App Idea
If the scenario I outlined at the beginning of this guide sounds familiar, you’re in the right spot. The most important part of creating amazing products is coming up with ideas, and apps are no exception.
Whether it be from seeing apps that are already in the store, thinking of a good solution to a problem you face, or simply thinking something would be cool.
Those are all great reasons to develop an app.
Being passionate about your app idea is going to carry you through the process. If you’re not passionate, you’re going to get burnt out.
Your app idea is going to be the foundation of your entire journey. Whether it is simple or complex, having a great idea that you are pumped about is vital to your success.
Using your computer or a pen and paper, jot down some app ideas that you might have. You don’t need to have all the answers right now. Fill out as much as you can now and you can always come back later.
Write in a few ideas that fall into each category – is there an app you’ve seen that you really like? Put that idea in the “Existing Apps” section. Do you love sports? Write an idea about your favorite team in the “Your Passions” section.
Have some fun with it!
Categorizing Your App Ideas
Categorization is a huge part of creating successful apps. As you know, the app store is split into categories so that people can easily browse, to find apps they like.
But from a business standpoint, choosing the right category can give you a huge advantage. Things like download volume, how much money they make, and competition, can vary greatly between categories.
So you need to start thinking about which category will be best for your app…
You can access different app categories by opening the App Store and selecting the dropdown shown above.
There are a lot of different types of apps you could make. Games, photography, medical, you name it. When you first come up with an idea, it’s important to clarify which category your idea is in.
“Oh, this would be a good WEATHER app.”
“I could turn this into a fun GAME people could play.”
“Imagine this as a MUSIC app?”
These are all examples of how to put an idea into a category. This is important because you’re going to have to put this app into the App Store at some point and it is VERY helpful to be thinking about what that will be early on.
A good example is if you decide to build an app related to dog training. Some people might automatically think “I should put this in the Reference category because that’s literally what this app will be.”
But as an app business owner, you may think twice and decide to put it in the Lifestyle category because there is more download volume and low competition.
It can make all the difference.
Moving From Ideas To Models
A lot of people think that once they have an idea they should sit down and spend the next 3 months planning building and figuring out every detail of how the app works, before they even start thinking about money.
But this isn’t just a passion, it’s a business.
I’ve found that by skipping straight to understanding my own motivations and goals for building the app and “what I want the app to do for me” helps keep me focused on the long-term play.
Creating apps starts with ideas, but we need models to make them a reality.
Remember – the priority here is to build a SUCCESSFUL app, defined by downloads, revenue, and any personal goals you may have. So, let’s talk about going from having an idea to taking action with a business model.
Identify The Goal
App ideas also need to have an end goal. I can’t tell you how many people never think this far ahead and end up spending thousands of dollars and months of their lives chasing their tail.
It’s painful to watch, because this can be remedied with a very simple exercise.
You can do it before you spend even $1.
Think of an app idea you’ve had at some point. It can be anything! If you don’t have one on the top of your head, use an app you recently saw someone using.
Now, write down the end goal you would want that app to have. Examples: make passive income, create a huge user base to see my content, sell it to a big company, make my life easier, etc
Write it down on your computer or a notepad.
Just like that – you’re ahead of the game. NICE!
Summary Of The App Idea
So let's sum up what you have accomplished so far…
- You have a great idea.
- You know why you want to turn this idea into an app.
Now you need to make your idea a reality. Here is your roadmap for getting it done…
- The Idea (DONE)
- App Idea To Paper
- NDAs & Intellectual Property
- Next Steps
Let’s break this down together…
How To Make An App: App Idea To Paper
If your mind is racing with the “How will I ever make this work?” or “Can I really learn how to make an app?” you can relax. We’re still early on and we’re going to explain everything further.
But it is important to realize that you’ve already taken moves to crystallize an idea. That’s big. Now we’re going to talk about what happens after you decide on an idea.
No one has access to your mind. As much as we sometimes wish we could just have our thoughts painted in front of us, we’re not quite there yet (maybe someone will make an app for that).
Because of that, you need to get as much of your idea into the real world as possible.
There are two reasons for this:
- By getting your idea on paper (or a computer), you can hand it to someone else who wants to understand what your idea looks like.
- (More importantly) It becomes real. It’s easy to walk around talking about how you have some awesome app idea, but when you start sketching it out, it actually becomes something you’re taking action on.
Not an artist? Good, neither am I. But I still managed to create an army of apps, which means you can too.
To design an app easily, it all starts with wireframes…
What You Need For A Mockup Or Wireframe
Before I start, I want to make sure you understand what this means. A mockup or wireframe is a drawing that shows how the app will work. It’s similar to a mind map, or a visual guideline to show someone the progression in an app.
It can be as simple as a napkin drawing or as complex as a Photoshop document. It can use rectangles and arrows to start (that’s usually what I do).
My favorite place to do this is on whiteboards, then take a picture.
Here are a few I’ve done in my career that illustrate what I’m talking about:
The IF-THEN Mindset In App Design
You don’t need to create some epic presentation with hundreds of screens, but you do need to think through this a bit. It’s going to pay off hugely, trust me.
While your idea is built on creativity, realize that app programming is NOT. It’s about starting points and end goals.
How someone codes may be unique, but they need to understand your vision. If they don’t have those parameters, you’re going to get a LOT of questions and probably a bad experience.
When you put together your wireframe, the best way to think about is in terms of if-then statements. This means “IF someone presses this button, THEN this happens” and represent it with an arrow that shows the direction.
Example Of IF-THEN Thinking In App Design
After opening an app, IF they press “Play” THEN they are brought to a screen that shows them how to play the game.
Start small and scale up.
Do not try to go through every possible bell and whistle, rather think about “what does this app need to do to make the core functions work?”
…and then add to it from there.
“What are IF-THEN statements?”
- A way to think about an action happening
- One leads to the other
- IF I started singing, THEN you’d put in ear plugs.
Below is a basic diagram that helps understand IF / THEN thinking. In the space provided, think of 3 separate events in your life and fill out 3 possible outcomes. An example might be “IF I don’t buy flowers” “THEN I’ll be sleeping on the couch.”
Leveraging App Wireframes For Continuous Improvement
One of the biggest benefits of creating wireframes is that you can share it with others easily. You WANT to get opinions from people and have them help you brainstorm new ways to articulate your ideas.
Here’s what I do (feel free to steal this):
- I create the wireframe on a whiteboard and I take a picture with my phone
- Then I send the picture to someone who doesn’t know what I’m doing, but understands apps and is interested in helping. Usually family or friends are the best for this.
- I tell them the basics of what I want the app to do. For example, I would say “This app is going to make music playlists for runners.” That’s it.
- After a couple of days, I follow up and ask them if the wireframe makes sense in terms of what they think the app should do.
- Next, I ask them if they have any ideas for improving my wireframe based on other apps they have seen, or from a potential user's standpoint.
- I will take this feedback and brainstorming information, update my wireframe, then send to one more person.
- Repeat as often as I feel is necessary.
This is a cheap, effective way to hone in on great features for your new app.
A Common Pitfall That You May Face… And How To Easily Avoid It
Honestly, this is a very small piece of the puzzle, but I do want to point out one thing that will help you in the long run. It deals with managing your developer team.
The core principle here is that you don’t want to assume that your developer will fill in gaps in your wireframe for you.
At this point in the cycle, you’re going to feel confident but you’re also going to be ready to have someone else do some of the work.
That’s normal, but you need to be aware of that.
While we’re often tempted to take the general concept and hand it off to some developer with instructions to “make it happen” this is the part of the process where you need to pay careful attention to your dream and your vision and to put in the extra hours to build out the detail.
Unless you have special knowledge, you do NOT want to hand over control to the developer. This is nothing against programmers, it is a simple fact, they are not going to go out of their way to check every detail the way you would if it was your app.
What I mean by this is that you don’t want to say “Hey, here’s the basic idea, can you fill in the rest because you know more about apps than I do?”
Don’t worry – there’s an easy way to make sure this doesn’t happen to you. Here’s what I usually do:
- I send them the wireframe and ask them to send back questions.
- I ask them explicitly for three suggestions to make it better. This forced them to look at the project as if they owned it (in my shoes). Often I don’t use this feedback, but it is a good exercise to go through.
- Then I ask them for three potential problems that they see.
- Once I’ve gone through this, both the developers and I are in a much better position for success.
You DO know a lot about apps whether you know it or not.
What the developer knows a lot about is functionality and ways to make things happen, not necessarily what makes an app great. They can help with suggestions like: “We could try this transition instead.”
…but the core concept needs to come from you.
Remember that this is YOUR APP. If you’re not going to spend the extra time on it and break through any stagnation you might be feeling, how are you going to keep up the push when the rest of the project comes up?
You have to start off with a committed attitude and believe in your own work.
Using Outside Help To Build An App – The Pros and Cons
There are some third parties that will help out with this process. Typically they’re agencies, but sometimes might be smaller development studios.
They’ll sit you down and hear your vision/idea and take on most of the project from there (including wireframes). They fill in blanks and do all the work of taking your idea and turning it into a real mockup that’s beautifully designed.
The upside? You can sit back while they do the work and approve everything as it goes. This way, you don't need to know everything about how to make an app.
The downside? Very expensive. Hard to be involved. Little to no learning. Nearly impossible for them to get it exactly how you want it.
More importantly, it’s VERY good learning to be involved as much as possible at the beginning. You’ll learn so much about the entire process, about apps, about business, and about making your project a success.
By handing it over too early, it’s hard to be incentivized to push through any obstacles that come up.
…and what I would consider the biggest downside – it’s not YOURS.
This is your dream!!!
Don’t take the easy road – put in the effort and commit to learning how to make an app.
You’ll get so much more out of it.
That's why I've included my App Idea To Paper [Templates] PDF for you to get to work. Simply click the download link below and print them out.
Keep a bunch of them around for easy access while working on your next app idea…
Doing this yourself, even if it’s only once, is an important experience.
You can do it by following a plan, taking your time, and asking for help when you need it. I can promise you that this will pay off huge down the road.
Summary Of App Idea To Paper
At this point, you’ve taken your idea and…
- You set a goal for your app.
- You brought that idea into the real world.
Let's take a look at our roadmap again. The next step in the process is…
- The Idea (DONE)
- Idea to Paper (DONE)
- NDAs & Intellectual Property
- Next Steps
As you finalize this stage of the game, you may start to realize that other people will want to steal your idea. I get a lot of questions about NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) and want to give you a brief overview of what they are and how they are used.
How To Make An App: NDAs & Intellectual Property
Before we dive in, I want to make sure you understand exactly what an NDA and intellectual property are.
An NDA is a Non-Disclosure Agreement. It is defined as:
A legal contract between two or more parties that signifies a confidential relationship exists between the parties involved. The confidential relationship often will refer to information that is to be shared between the parties but should not be made available to the general public.
This means that the information you share with anyone cannot legally be used or shared without your permission.
Intellectual property is just that – it is a way of defining property that you created using your skills or intellect.
Many people ask me how they can protect their idea before they move onto hire someone to develop it. Here’s usually what I say to them:
NDAs and intellectual property can be very powerful when you need to add value to your company or defend against someone who is ripping you off. It’s a pillar of America.
That’s just how it is.
I have had my own experiences with this and can assure you that there are benefits for both sides of the coin.
In terms of NDAs, it can be pretty straightforward.
In terms of intellectual property, I would recommend you ask your attorney before going down that road. It is very difficult to create clear intellectual property claims in the mobile world, but not impossible.
Most often, the best way to mitigate these parts of your concern is to find people that you trust working with. Of course you can still go the extra mile and protect yourself with a document, but trusting the people you work with will make all the difference.
Summary of NDAs and Intellectual Property
On a personal note, I’ve seen enough in the app store to safely say that no one will rip off your idea. The reason? They still have to do all the work.
People who steal app ideas are typically lazy.
Lazy people create mediocre apps.
The simple fact that you are reading this means you’re not lazy and will outwork anyone who is. That alone will allow you to beat anyone who decides to pick off your idea.
- The Idea (DONE)
- Idea to Paper (DONE)
- NDAs & Intellectual Property (DONE)
- Next Steps
Time To Stop & Examine Our Progress…
WOW, great job so far! But no rest for the wicked.
- The most important skill to learn when you build your own app is how to break down big projects into small, easy tasks
- An app idea is only powerful if it has a clear goal BEFORE it’s built
- Putting your app on paper allows you to get started, regardless of your technical skills
- Thinking like a programmer (if->then) will help you make a top level wireframe
- Spending time on the app wireframe will be worth it!
- NDAs are a best practice, but vary from situation-to-situation
If your mind is racing and you would like even more help creating an app, I highly recommend my App Formula course. Click this button to get started…
Now that you understand the initial steps of how to make an app, let's dive into the details. In the next steps, we will cover:
- Hiring a developer
- Publishing your app
- Marketing your app
- What to do next
Ready? Of course you are…
How To Make An App: Hiring A Developer
Many people get stuck in the app businessI because they don't know how to develop an app themselves.
But not you.
That's why you are going to hire a developer.
Hiring a developer is unique because it is the only part of building an app that deals with people. Everything else is research or putting pieces together.
This is about working WITH someone.
For many, this can be difficult. Internet and mobile marketing can be attractive because we don’t have to do that one thing so many businesses deal with…people.
I’ll talk about all the pieces that go into a successful hire, as well as important issues like building trust, cutting costs and keeping a timeline.
It DOES NOT matter if you have zero technical experience. Most people don’t!
And that’s exactly why I wrote this post. I want to show you everything you need to keep in mind so that you can walk into the process prepared and confident.
Does that sound good?
Great, let's do this…
Picking The Right Developer
The Human Factor
I don’t want to gloss over this because it’s really important.
It was also one of the biggest hurdles I had when I first got into the app business and outsourcing work. It continues to be something that many people struggle with…so I want to address it.
When you think about hiring someone, I bet your default setting is to assume they’re going to do an OK job. Lets say you need your lawn mowed or your house cleaned. It’s pretty straightforward, so you search on Google or ask a neighbor, and the task is easy to explain.
You are going to look at reviews and get referrals, but at the end of the day, you aren't going to spend a ton of time on it.
If that person or company doesn't get the job done, you just move on to another one.
Your app project has something that a lawn mowing project doesn’t have, however…your creative vision. You’re not asking the mower to create a masterpiece in your front yard, you’re asking for a straightforward, predictable job.
“When you begin to layer in your creative side, it gets complicated. It also makes people more emotionally invested.”
A good example is a wedding. My hat goes off to anyone who can plan a wedding, but more importantly, who can deal with the bride and groom.
But why are weddings so intense?
Because people want it to be perfect.
This is what we all think we want, but as you and I both know, perfection doesn't exist. So why not enjoy the process, save your sanity and still get great results.
The reason I am telling you this is because I want you to approach the development process as if you’re getting your lawn mowed, NOT as if you are planning your wedding.
I can promise you that there WILL be hiccups along the way, but if you leave your emotion at the door, you can still be successful.
What I will show you here is an overview of everything you need to keep in mind when getting ready to hire a developer. If you’re already itching for the step-by-step video how-to guide which comes with templates and cut/paste scripts, you can find it here:
By the end of this you’ll be ready to start your search to find:
- A developer or team you trust
- A developer or team that produces great work
- A developer or team that is cost effective
- A developer or team that will be great to work with
Let’s take a look at what this process looks like, start to finish.
The above screenshot is from upwork.com, the site I visit when looking for developers.
Before we get going, I want you to write down the #1 attribute that you want in your developer. It can price, trust, skill, anything.
Now that you’ve got an idea of the developer landscape, lets get started figuring out how to narrow it down and choose the right one for you.
- Go to Upwork.com
- Search “app developer”
- Take a look at the first page search results
- What’s the most expensive hourly rate?
- What’s the cheapest?
What You’re Really Looking For In A Developer
First off, I want to be clear about what we’re talking about here.
A developer is not quite the same thing as a programmer.
With apps, the term “developer” is more popular because a developer can do more than just write code. Programmers are usually people who just write code and do nothing else.
When you are searching for your developer, you are trying to find someone who can do the following:
- Read and write code. Code is the language that apps are written in, similar to bricks are used to build a house. We’ll talk about this more later.
- Take your idea/wireframe/concept and make a working model.
- Add design (this is not always the case)
- Install any software you may require. Examples include Facebook, Twitter, or advertising so that people can share your app.
- Bug testing
- Ongoing maintenance
- Everything else in between
So when you’re taking your first steps, keep all that in mind. Of course the developer doesn't have to be all of these things.
But consider your budget, what you need help with right now and how the developer might fit into your long-term goals.
Write down the top 3 skills you feel you’re missing that are standing between you and creating your app.
This is the best place to start, when looking for a developer.
The App Developer Talent Pool – Where They’re Swimming
The most common question I get about hiring a developer is where to find one. Everything else comes after.
People will email me and say:
“HEY CARTER!!!!!! I reaaaaaally want to build an app!!! But I need a developer!!!! Where do I find one?!?!?!?!”
First, I tell them to stop drinking coffee.
Then I give them the following list and tell them to run with it. For you, I’m going to expand on this a bit so that you see what’s going on a bit more.
1. Outsourcing Websites
Without question, this is where 90% of the action happens for hiring developers. The quality and number of people to choose from has skyrocketed in recent years.
Back in the day, these were just getting started and weren’t the most viable options, but now it’s a home run.
Here is the best one:
Upwork.com A great resource for anyone who’s looking to get started. You create a free account and put up a job posting, people apply, and you select your new developer.
This can be done via recommendations you hear from friends/coworkers/family OR it can be references that someone you trust, gives you.
This does not mean that you should blindly take a reference and trust it completely. By saying “Oh, well Jenny told me this is a good company” you are opening yourself up to a big risk. Developers that work for some people don’t always work for others.
Think about references as a lead generation tool, not a solution.
Honestly, this isn’t a bad way to do it. It’s easy to see 100’s of firms listed in the organic results and paid search areas, but it’s because they’re producing solid stuff.
Typically these firms will be more expensive, but they’ll have sales teams and full project managers you can talk to.
4. Meetups And Forums
Our Bluecloud Select Facebook group has over 1,000 experienced developers. If they can't help you, they will know someone who can.
There are dozens of other quality forums. Check Facebook, IphoneDevSDK.com, even Meetup.com.
What Will Not Work
What WILL NOT work is to go to someone who has made a lot of apps and ask them if you can use their team or if they can introduce you to someone who’s high quality.
This is different than getting a reference because it could actually impact their business. If their team gets too busy with your work, it will slow them down.
So don't ask that question.
I would be remiss if I did not point out one of life’s great clichés – you get what you pay for. This is not always the case, especially when you’re hiring developers to do basic, templated work, but typically better talent costs more money. Simple as that.
In a global economy an expensive developer in the Philippines or India still makes less than a bartender in the US so while it’s important not to be “cheap” you can still get great value today by leveraging the global marketplace and find a high quality programmer at a price that still allows you to develop a great app regardless of your situation.
No matter which path you decide to take, you should definitely take your time and find the firm that works best for you. You’ll know when you find them and then you just have to go for it. Be honest about who you are and what you’re looking for and they will respect that. No one is going to take advantage of you, especially in a market as competitive and global as this one.
Choosing Your Developer
When choosing a developer, it’s important to keep in mind all the different factors that will affect your decision.
- What’s your budget?
- What’s your knowledge level?
- What’s your timeline?
These all play a part in how you should move forward.
Most developers will be hired in two categories:
- In teams (development companies)
Once you’ve logged into Upwork and have some job listings live, you’ll start to see some proposals roll in.
Our App Formula talks about this entire process in detail – using scripts, techniques and hiring processes.
Let’s talk about pros and cons of who to hire. I use a table to write down the pros and cons of each developer.
Create your own table like this…
A firm will be more attractive to most, but the cost is an issue. So let's explore your options for a minute…
Individuals vs. Companies
- Personal and Collaborative – If it’s the right fit they may act more like a partner than a hired gun.
- Specific Skill Sets – Every developer has their own strengths. If you get one that matches exactly what you’re doing, you’re going to get an awesome product.
- Cheaper – For better or for worse, you’re not paying for project management and overhead.
App Development Companies
- Highly deliverable and time-oriented – Companies thrive on project plans and timelines. You’ll have reports sent to you all the time telling you where things stand. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s always going to be done on time, but at least you’ll know where it stands 🙂
- Project management – You’ll have one person who can take the lead on everything. You’ll never have to speak to a programmer about what you want and will always have someone to talk to.
- Risk Diversification – This means that if something comes up with any of the developers, there’s a back up plan. Your project is not going to suffer. I know a lot of people whose lead developer got sick or had a baby and the project paused for weeks. I worked on a website project where the project manager wound up getting really sick. Because it was the project manager the whole project fell about 1 month behind schedule because she was a keystone.
- Testing/QA – In my experience, the more people working on the app, the better. This helps get the bugs out and get multiple perspectives on the project. You can be rest assured that 10 people cleaning up an app are going to comb through things better than one person.
- Expensive – They need to pay for all that overhead somehow.
Not only is the individual versus firm decision a big one, so is the location of your developer. Outsourcing is often associated with India or the Philippines, but nowadays it can be any country, USA included.
It’s important to know some of the pros and cons when deciding where to hire a developer.
(this is mostly for USA, but can be applied to most countries)
- Language – Speaking the same language is amazing. It can actually be very detrimental to a project if you are not speaking the same language. Not only is it annoying (sorry) but details get lost in translation. Nuances that you are used to expressing in your native language may be perceived as something completely different.
- Talent – I don’t mean this in the sense that the talent is better by any means, but I do find that the domestic firms’ products are more technically sound and robust. Consistency may be the best word for this.
- Accountability – Working with a firm that’s in the States allows you to rest easy that you are protected by the governing body of the USA, along with the mighty power of online reviews. If something goes awry, you can go visit the firm and play on the same level as them in terms of legal action (RARELY necessary). Because this is unspoken, the quality is much higher and is basically baked into the price.
- Good for the Country – Yeah, I’ll say it. It’s awesome to be able to re-invest money back into the USA, if you can. I’m definitely a proponent of outsourcing overseas, but I think there is a lot to be said for developing something in your own backyard.
- Cheap – Wow, is it cheap. The reasons for this are many, but the biggest being is that the labor supply is enormous. This point is not necessary a plus, but it’s a fact. Another reason is true is because a lot of offshore firms will not do all the bells and whistles of a domestic firm in terms of proposals and timelines. They’ll say “What do you want, we will do that for X dollars.” It’s not warm and fuzzy, often doesn’t look great out of the gate, but you can save some serious coin.
- Fast – I had a company build me a copy of a complicated content display app just to see how the process worked. I figured this would be a 4-5 month job. Wrong – I got the full Xcode project, entirely populated with dummy content, in 5 weeks (including a 6-day national holiday). If you’ve got a simple, clear idea of what you need done, this can be a lifesaver.
- Very little BS – Believe it or not, the professionalism I have seen with overseas firms is far and away better than most domestic firms. These guys are HUNGRY for business and will be knocking down your door once the project begins to get feedback and move onto next steps. You’ll never have them tell you “Oh, well we’ve got to whiteboard this for a while” or any of that.
They get things done.
Final Thoughts for Hiring A Developer
It’s All About The Benjamins – Gettin’ Paid
Making sure you understand how the payment process works will save you a lot of headache and will also make you look like you know what you’re doing.
Most development firms work in phases, or milestones, which represent points where deliverables are completed and payment is sent.
A typical app development project would be broken out like this:
- 25% – Initial Deposit/Kickoff
- 25% – Approval of Graphics/Wireframes/Lite Prototype (assuming they are designing it)
- 25% – Approval of Beta Version (on iPhone simulator or iPhone device if you can get to the firm’s office)
- 25% – Approval and release into Apple Store
This can all change depending on the type of app, size of the project, and use of outside graphics. Usually this is a pretty easy negotiation and the developer will be happy to make arrangements however you’d like.
Upwork is great because they will escrow the money for you based on these milestones.
A Final Word About Trust
I’m a huge believer in trust when it comes to business. I think it is really crappy that so many people, especially in this business, abuse trust.
But it’s also important to realize that you can do a lot to build trust as well.
What I mean is that you can create great relationships and amazing developers much more than you can find “the perfect developer.”
The reason I am bringing this up is because a lot of you may run into issues with developers who aren’t responsive or doing poor work. You may even have an experience where you aren’t sure what to do next.
If this happens, realize that this is an ongoing process and that you CAN remedy the situation.
In my App Formula, I breakdown hiring developers. I go step by step to show you exactly how I create huge trust with developers and how you can too.
It will save you time, money, and most importantly, peace of mind.
Are You Ready To Build Your Business?
Yes! Let’s do this.
This guide will hopefully have given you a solid understanding of the principles involved in hiring a developer.
If, like most people, you feel as though this is still a little bit daunting. Don’t let it slow you down!
Your app business and your new life are waiting for you on the other side of this hurdle.
- If you want a step-by-step how-to system on exactly how to hire the right developer for you, I urge you to check out my advanced formula that dives into depth about hiring developers. I spent hundreds of hours compiling everything I’ve done to make your hiring a success, including: Identifying the most popular jobs and how to capitalize on it
- A clear preparation layout to use before spending a dollar
- Where to start (exact steps)
- A full job description template you can copy and paste (I use this to hire companies that have made over $500,000)
- How to filter applications
- How to select your final candidate
And everything else you can imagine. If you’re interested, check it out here.
How To Make An App: Publishing Your App
The Invisible Wall
I remember when I first looked at an app on the app stores. Beautifully displayed on Apple’s iTunes or Google’s Play marketplaces, complete with an icon, screenshots and descriptions.
“WOW!” I thought.
“What a different world that is. It must be crazy to try and get everything in there!”
“There's no way that I can get into iOS app development (or Android either).”
How young I was 🙂
It’s easy to have this same reaction – you see hundreds, even thousands of apps in the app store that all look like they were magically drafted by expert app developers.
When we see things like that, it can feel like it’s US versus THEM. There is an internal voice that subconsciously is telling us “No way could I do that. I don’t know anything about anything!”
That’s what I call the invisible wall. It’s a barrier that we create in our own heads that convinces us that we can’t get into the private party. That we’re NOT ALLOWED IN.
This happens not only in business, but in life. One of the biggest triggers for this wall to go up inside of us is when there are too many pieces to wrap our heads around. When the task is big, like turning your idea into a live app, it’s more about breaking down the pieces.
When the task is complicated, it’s more about UNDERSTANDING the parts so that you can put them all together.
That’s an important difference – publishing your app is less about breaking things down into pieces that you still need to figure out and more about understanding the full picture so that you can get it all done.
In other words, this stuff is not very complicated, there are just a lot of parts to learn.
Without further ado, I want to show you what that picture looks like.
Understanding The App Stores
When dealing with apps, it can be confusing to understand where exactly your sandbox is. You’ll hear buzzwords like “native” and “HTML5” or “mobile web” – don’t worry.
That’s just jargon that internet folks use who aren’t in the same game we are.
Most likely, you’ll focus on the Apple App Store because it is well established and the users tend to spend the most money. It’s also the most popular, so for the examples we use, we’ll talk about Apple’s interface.
Note – almost 90% of each store’s publishing setup crosses over, so everything you learn for Apple will be applicable in the others too.
Apple App Store – Getting Setup
The App Store itself is where you find new apps to download. Typically you’ll use iTunes or the App Store app on your phone/tablet to browse through them.
But we’re going to be spending most of our time one step inside the App Store itself.
We’re going to be working in what’s call the Developer Portal and iTunes Connect. These are the places where you will upload all your information and manage everything that is eventually published to the app store.
A good analogy is Facebook. You log into Facebook to see news, pictures, and content, but if you want to change your profile, you have to go into the Edit Profile section. It’s kind of the “back-end” of Facebook.
Think of iTunes Connect as your Mission Control.
Registering As A Developer
Apple App Developer
The first move you’ll have to make is to become a registered Apple Developer. Don’t worry – there’s no test on how to code 🙂
Instead, you have to fill out some information about yourself or your business, pay the $99/yearly fee, and you will be approved.
You’ll have to decide if you want to be an individual developer (using your social security number in the United States) or if you want to do this as a business.
There are pros and cons to each, which we talk about in our app formula course, but for these purposes, you just need to know that you’ll be picking one of them.
Once you have paid your developer fee, you’ll be asked to fill out information in your iTunes Connect to complete your profile. The most important information you’ll need to fill out is:
- Contact Information – Here you’ll need to provide basic information like your address, names of company members, and phone numbers. Pretty straightforward.
- Bank Information – Here you will need to provide the banking information for your accounts. This is where they will deposit your (hopefully huge) monthly revenues.
- Tax Information – You will supply with your relevant tax forms and IDs.
Go to Apple’s developer page (http://www.developer.apple.com/programs) and read through their services.
This will give you a good understanding of what Apple has to offer.
After that, you’re pretty much set up! Not too hard. It’s mostly bookkeeping for the early stages to make sure everything is in order.
You’re finally getting close to uploading your first app! Now we can talk about the other pieces.
NOTE: The Google Play and Amazon stores have a very similar setup with the same information required. You’ll be able to easily go through their process if you were able to complete the Apple process.
They will each have their own developer fees which change from year to year. Please check with each service to determine their fees.
Creating An App Entry
I love it.
What you’re going to learn about next is all the parts involved to get an app live in the store. Yes, there are a lot of them and yes, we are going to keep it very easy to understand.
The important part of this is to introduce you to these terms. That way when you are ready to take action, you know everything that needs to happen and you’re not startled to learn about new parts of it (“uhhh….what’s GameCenter??”).
The best way for me to do this is to go through everything and explain what it is and how it related to your end goal of uploading the app.
Pre-App Entry – Developer Riff Raff (I mean Certificates and Provisioning Profiles)
Before I walk you through this, I want to let you know that there is a technical piece to the app upload process. Chances are, your developer can take care of this and you’ll never have to worry about it.
If you want to learn about it, absolutely go for it! But this is better suited for people who have a technical know how or love a good project.
I can assure you you’ll have moments of frustration 🙂
Let me give you the Cliff’s Notes version of this so that we can move on to the fun stuff.
Apple wants to make sure the person who is uploading the app has permission to do so. By signing up as a developer, they give you a permission slip so that you can upload to their store.
Apple will verify that you’re good to go, and you’ll be able to upload with no problem.
The Anatomy of an iTunes Connect App Entry
So you’re ready to rock.
Let’s just stop for a second and realize how far you’ve come. So far you have taken an idea and built a great model around it, made it a reality, hired a developer, and now you’re actually getting close TO UPLOADING.
This puts you ahead of 98% of people that visit Bluecloud – most people will never take action.
Just wanted to give you a high five for that.
When you get to this point, you’re going to go through a few screens that will have different content requirements.
It’s not complicated, but there are a lot of parts. I’m going to show you what they all are.
It’s also important to realize that you’ll eventually have all of this outsourced, but I am a huge believer in understanding the fundamentals. If you know the way this works, you’ll be able to manage better, hire better talent, and fix problems.
Let’s dive in…
First Screen – App Information
There are a few fields you need to fill out.
- Default Language – This is the base language you’re going to submit your app under. English is the most common, so it automatically goes to English first.
- App Name – This is what you will call your app! It can’t be longer than 255 characters, but that’s probably a good thing for everyone’s sake.
- SKU number – This is for your organizational records. You can put any number you like, it just needs to be unique.Example: I usually do something like 394983. or 90293. Or 8239. You get the picture.
- Bundle ID – This is part of the technical backend stuff I mentioned earlier. Your developer should have set this up for you. Or, if you set it up yourself, great.The Bundle ID is a way to identify the app in the app store. The app title that you put above is like your title to the world, the Bundle ID is like your title for Apple’s servers.You’ll see the bundle ID in a dropdown. Select it.
Then hit Continue.
Second Screen – Availability and Pricing
Here, you’ll be asked to choose information about the app launch.
- Availability Date – This is the date that you want the app to go live in the app store.
- Price Tier – This is where you choose how much your app will cost. You can choose free, Tier 1 ($0.99), Tier 2 ($1.99) and so on.
- Discount for Educational Institutions – That will be defaulted as checked. You can leave it checked. It just means that if you get a bulk buy from a school district, they get a discount (but you’ll get a TON of sales, so it’s good).
- Custom B2B App – Same as above, it will default as unchecked. Leave it that way. This is only for large business to business customers.
- Specific Territories – This is if you only want to sell in certain countries. It defaults to all countries.
Third Screen – The Good Stuff
Now we’re getting into the real meat of the app store entry. On this screen you’re going to add virtually everything else you need.
Let’s walk through it.
- Version Number – This is for you to keep track of which version this is for your app. When you launch your initial app, it may be version 1.0. If you do an update in 2 months, you would change to that something like 1.1 or 1.01.
- Copyright – This is where you put your copyright information. This can either be your own name, your company name, or some other legal entity.
- Primary Category – This is where you select the category you want your app to go into. Photography, Health & Fitness, Navigation, Games, etc.One thing to note is that if you choose Games you will have the option to select two sub-categories.
- Secondary Category (Optional) – Select a second category that you want to classify your app with.For example: If you make a funny photo booth app, the primary category might be photography, but the secondary category would be Entertainment.
Scroll down the page a bit further and you find….
This is all self explanatory. When you’re uploading your app, be sure to be honest about the ratings. Simply select the button that accurately reflects the app that you have.
If you have any questions, you can click the App Rating Detail link in this section which will help describe all the different categories.
- Made for Kids – Unless you’re making apps that are exclusively for kids, you don’t need to check this box. Apple added this because some apps were targeting children in a way that was not appropriate.
This is going to be a big part of your app store entry and publishing efforts, specifically the Description and Keywords. This will affect how your app is found in the app store and how many people download your app.
- Description – This is the text you will see on an iTunes page for an app. You use this to write about what your app does and convince the person looking at your page why they should download the app.You can add up to 4000 characters, which should be ample.
- Keywords – Keywords are used by Apple’s search engine to determine what searches your app will show up for.There are many different strategies for this, much of which is documented in our ASO (App Store Optimization) section of my App Formula course, but you just need to know that yourequire have 100 characters to put in the best keywords you can.You’ll do some research and then add keywords to this field based on how well they reflect your app and also how well they will help your download volume. For example: for my app, I may add: run,dog,best,game,top,fun,win,free…and others.
Don’t be alarmed. Apple is not going to come knocking on your door with this information. In fact, it usually makes your life easier because they can get in touch with you if they have a question about your app during review.
There have been times when Apple has called me to ask where the “Remove Ads” button was. I told them and they immediately approved the app. If they hadn’t had my info, they would have rejected it over something so small and I would have had to do the whole process over.
So it’s a good thing to include.
- First Name – Enter your first name.
- Last Name – Enter your last name.
- Email Address – Enter an email address they can contact you at.
- Phone Number – Enter a phone number they can contact you at.
- Review Notes – This is a place that you can add a specific note for the reviewer. Sometimes there are parts of the app that require a bit of explanation. Example: My friend once submitted an app that was a pitch deck for his startup to raise venture capital. Of course, if the reviewer just saw this, they might reject it because it was so simple. But because he put in a note here explaining why it was being submitted, they approved it.
- Demo Account Information – Sometimes you might build an app that requires a login to use. This happened to me when I built some apps that used Instagram’s login. Here’s where you provide that information for the reviewer to use.
App Store Contact Information
Apple requires this information only for their Korean app store. It won’t appear anywhere else, but they still need you to submit it.
- Trade Rep First Name – The first name of your contact (probably you).
- Trade Rep Last Name – The last name of your contact (probably you)
- Address Line 1 + 2 – Your address (or your business address).
- City – What city you are located in.
- State – What state you are located in.
- Postal Code – What your postal code is.
- Country – What country you are located in.
- Email – Enter an email you want to use for support.
- Phone Number – Enter a phone number you want to use for support.
- EULA – This is short of End User License Agreement. Apple issues a standard version of their EULA for every app download.
If you have a unique situation that requires your own license agreement, you can upload it here. Chances are you’ll never have to do this.
Almost there! The final piece to upload is probably the piece that you remember most from your dealings in the app store – the icon and screenshots.
These are the graphics that will represent your app in the app store. As you get used to creating apps, you’ll learn more about this process and how to hire people to help out with the graphics and uploading of these files.
Let’s run through them.
- Large App Icon – This is the big icon you see in the app store listing page. You’re going to upload an icon that is sized at 1024 pixels by 1024 pixels (square). This is how designers measure size in design programs. If you have no idea what that means, no worries! Your developer or designer can give you the exact file, sized accordingly that you can simply upload here. We've used App Icon Template for years to help design an app icon and export it. Apple will also automatically re-size this image to the appropriate sizes throughout the app store for you. You just need to upload one size.
- 3.5-Inch Retina Display Screenshots – This refers to a specific size of screenshots. Screenshots are the part of the app store entry where you can see what’s actually going on in the app itself. You can upload up to 5 screenshots. They do NOT have to be actually screenshots from your phone. You (or a designer) can create much nicer looking ones in a design program then upload.3.5 inches is for the iPhone 4, 4 inches is for the iPhone 5, and so on…
- iPad Screenshots – Same as above, but sized to accommodate the iPad device sizes.
- Routing Coverage File – You’ll never need to use this. It’s a file you can upload that tells the app where it can and cannot be used geographically.
CLICK SAVE!!! Your first app entry is on it’s way!
Once you have all this information loaded, your developer will be able to upload the app files to Apple and you’ll be on your way!
If you're still lost, here's my 4-step system to break it down even more.
GameCenter and In-App Purchases
You’ve created your app entry which is huge. That’s going to take care of a majority of your work.
But often you’re going to want to add in-app purchases to your app. This is when people can buy things INSIDE of an app and is one of the methods free apps use to make money.
If you have a game, you also may want to add GameCenter to your app. This is a social network created by Apple that allows users to compete against each other. It has lots of functions, most notably a Leaderboard (top scores) and Achievements (Collect 50 stars and you unlock the Star badge).
I want to briefly show you where these are located in iTunes Connect so that you have the most knowledge possible before trying this yourself.
Remember, knowledge is power!
In-App Purchases in iTunes Connect
Again, don’t let this sound daunting – chances are you’re going to hire someone to do this for you (developer). But, you’re going to be WAY more prepared if you at least have some basic understanding of this.
Plus, in my experience, you’ll save a lot of money if you know what they’re being hired for. You can check their work and tell them more explicitly what needs to happen.
See if it adds up.
This is what your app page will look like once everything has been set up from your app entry. Notice in the upper right – there are a series of blue buttons.
Click the one that says: Manage In-App Purchases.
Note: if you have not set up any yet, it may say “Setup In-App Purchases.”
That will take you to a page like this.
You’ll notice that we have a lot of in-app purchases for this app. These are all different things that people can buy while they are playing the app.
If you click the Create New in the upper left corner, you’re taken to a page like this.
From here, you’re going to want to talk to a developer about setting up the rest of the process. It’s straight forward, but involves assigning an ID to each in-app purchase which they will then put in the code.
The most important part is knowing that this is where in-app purchases live in iTunes Connect and where to go if you need to check it.
NOTE: You do not necessarily need to add in-app purchases. It completely depends on your app and strategy.
GameCenter in iTunes Connect
On the screen that shows you the final app, see the blue buttons in the upper right corner where it says Manage Game Center?
When you click that, you’re taken to a console that looks like this.
This is where you’ll setup your Leaderboard and Achievements. Again, you’ll probably want your developer to handle this, but it’s important to know where this is.
Also realize that GameCenter is only relevant for games. Even with games, not all of them use it. This is more of an “add-on” that people like to put in their games.
Finishing Your App And Uploading To The Store
Crazy enough, at this point, you’re actually very close to uploading your app to the app store!
You’ll want to have your developer double check all the technical pieces, test any integrations and in-app purchases to make sure they work, and optimize any of the information you added to your app store entry (description, keywords, icon, etc).
Once you’ve gotten sign off, it’s time to let it rip!
Optimizing Your Publishing – It Makes All The Difference
NICE. You see what I mean about lots of moving parts?
None of them are overly complicated, there’s just a lot going on. The most important thing you can do is to learn about what the big picture looks like (which you just did!) so that you can begin to break it down into separate tasks.
But you also need to start thinking about how to apply a STRATEGY to these parts. Simply filling in the blanks will get you IN the store, but it’s going to be hard to get to the TOP of the store.
In the App Formula, that’s what I’ll teach you. I break down every single part of the publishing process in terms of how exactly you should be populating your iTunes Connect account to maximize your impact. We’ll cover topics like:
- Individual vs Company setup – the Truth behind setting up your accounts
- How to structure your companies to scale and sell from the start
- Choosing the RIGHT categories for hidden download volume
- Localization (translation) and how you can outsource yourself into 3x downloads
- The #1 most powerful tool in marketing (and why most people forget about it)
- The art of creating viral “feeding frenzies” that result in server crashing traffic
- The power of a brand, a website, and how to get setup easily
- The truth about ad networks….and why most people never scale
And so, so much more.
How To Make An App: Marketing Your App
Next I'm going to teach you a combination of different techniques you can use in and out of the app store to drive lots of traffic to your app. You’ll learn about everything from social media to changing the title of your app.
By the end of this you’ll be ready to build a plan of attack, to dominate the app store!!
As you can tell, I am a marketer at heart.
I love this stuff.
The ability to reach and help so many people is what I think marketing is all about. I have been fortunate enough to get millions of downloads (and millions of website readers) using the different strategies below.
I’ll be honest, it’s not easy to always get downloads, especially if you’re new at this. You may look at the app store and say “Wow, there are so many apps. How can I compete?” That’s OK – in fact, that’s exactly how I started out and why I started this blog.
But the one thing that you CANNOT do is think getting downloads in the app store is impossible. Even if you launch an app and it doesn’t do as well as you hoped, you cannot let failure enter your mind.
The best way to do that is to arm yourself with information and a plan.
That’s exactly what we’re going to do today.
App Marketing – Doing It Right
What Exactly Is App Marketing?
This is important.
Marketing is a HUGE industry. When you say marketing…
Some people think of their Sunday coupon books, some people think of press releases. Others think of buying traffic on an ad network. Some think of sleazy scam artists.
It’s a little of everything, but at the end of the day, it’s the process by which you reach a larger market. In other words, it’s how you get more people to see your product.
When we talk about marketing apps, we’re talking about increasing exposure. In the app world, that is measured by downloads to phones, tablets, and devices.
App marketing is an evolving piece of the industry. What I’m going to talk about here is not the be-all-end-all but does account for most of the majors.
PRO TIP: Stay up to date with the latest mobile marketing news by following some of the best blogs on the web. A few I follow are:
- Venture Beat (www.venturebeat.com)
- TechCrunch (www.techcrunch.com)
- Bluecloud (www.bluecloudsolutions.com) ← Great one 🙂
I also find some awesome information on Twitter about apps. Follow me (@carterthomas) and you’ll be able to see everything I’m reading so that you don’t have to do any of the work.
This is an evolving industry and requires your attention. Imagine if you just read about website marketing in 2005 then never followed blogs until 2011?
A lot changes.
In the meantime, I’m going to walk you through everything you need to know to get started and build an awesome foundation for getting downloads.
A Quick Note About Marketing “Wormholes”
Albert Einstein wrote a lot about wormholes. These are theoretical paths between dimensions in the universe that allow for something to bypass the laws of the universe, including the speed of light.
In English, that means that you can “back door” the rules that everyone else follows. It’s the secret back entrance to the big game while everyone else waits in line.
The app market is really hot. It’s going to be for a long time and with that comes a lot of people looking to make money fast.
But it also attracts a lot of people looking for shortcuts. They ask me for ways to hack the app store… “magic” keywords, using software to get fake downloads and reviews, and lots of other stuff.
I am here to tell you right now that if you are interested in that sort of thing, there are PLENTY of blogs and forums that you can snoop around.
But this is not one of them.
In the early, EARLY stages of the app store, there were some tricks you could do, yeah. The algorithm was weak and people could manipulate it. That’s part of the game, right?
But that’s not real life and it’s a waste of time to think about how you can find the gaps in the market. Marketing is about creating great products, getting them in front of the right people, in the right way.
You will find tried and true, evergreen strategies here, not one time, sketchy home-runs.
Now, on with the countdown.
Best Practices of App Marketing Strategy
It’s important that you get some best practices under your belt before we talk about specific actions you can take. This will help you lay the groundwork for a winning strategy.
It’s also going to get you thinking like a marketer so that you start to solve problems in your own way. There are literally HUNDREDS of ways to market an app, that people are coming up with every day.
My goal is to show you techniques that work but also to show you WHY they work.
Here is a list of 3 best practices to keep in mind when you’re getting ready to launch your app.
1. Demographic Targeting Is Gold When Marketing An App
This refers to putting your app in front of the people that want it. Demographics are things like “Men” or “Aged 30-50” or “Like watching pageant shows.”
Let’s say you made a bird watching app.
You’re going to have a much more successful marketing campaign if you’re putting that in front of bird watchers as opposed to baseball fans.
But a lot of people forget about this. They think that numbers are numbers and that volume trumps everything. Remember that your marketing is directly tied to how well it’s targeted to the people downloading your app.
Imagine someone who’s interested in pottery was reading this post?
Probably not a good match 🙂
2. Quality Wins In The Long Term
When you’re tempted by someone who’s got a deal that’s too good to be true, it probably is. Usually this refers to someone who’s offering you 20 source codes for $5 and they’ll re-skin them for $10.
…or someone who promises thousands of app downloads overnight…for $100.
You get the idea.
In the app business, you definitely want to pay attention to your costs, but that doesn’t mean you can produce garbage. There is simply no room for that in this marketplace.
Of all the apps I have, the ones that were consistently the best performers over the long term were the best products in the right categories. It’s not rocket science, it’s good business.
3. You Are Marketing To Real People
As you get into the app business you will be faced with lots of different moving parts. Icons, screenshots, and keywords are just a few factors that will lead to increases in downloads.
You’ll measure these efforts with numbers. While that is a great way to show results in your business, it’s also easy to forget what those numbers represent…people.
Often I see people who can’t increase those numbers despite their best efforts to follow the best plan. One of the big reasons is they forget that real people are the ones downloading the apps.
Don’t forget the human element in mobile app marketing. A clever joke or small detail might not be in the blueprint of success, but it’s a great way to build a connection.
Keeping these best practices in mind is a great way to get started with your mobile app marketing strategy.
In fact, here’s an exercise to do:
Write down the three best practices above. Put it in a safe place near your work station. As you get closer to launching and marketing your app, hang that paper in a place where you will read it every day.
This will subconsciously help you remember what’s important in your marketing and give you a big advantage as you make decisions.
1. Demographic Targeting Is Gold
This refers to putting your app in front of the people that want it.
2. Quality Wins On The Long Term
The best performers over the long term were the best products in the right categories. It’s not rocket science, it’s good business.
3. Marketing To Real People
Don’t forget the human element in marketing. A clever joke or small detail might not be in the blueprint of success, but it’s a great way to build a connection.
What App Marketing Looks Like
Now we’re getting to the good stuff.
We’re going to walk through the most relevant and powerful forms of app marketing. By the end of this section you’ll have a great sense of what people are doing to get huge download volume on their apps.
By now you’ve learned that there aren’t any real “tricks” out there to get big download volume. You’ve also learned that there are fundamental principles that you can apply to app marketing that will directly lead to your best chances of success.
It’s important to talk about specifics, so I wanted to create a list for you that showed you 11 different areas of app marketing. These account for virtually everything you can ever imagine (and then some) and touch on every part of the app marketing world.
Remember, this is about getting eyeballs on your app page and then turning those eyeballs into downloads. This is actually a HUGE topic, which I get into great depth in our premium App Formula course. If you want to check it out, click here:
Let’s talk about the different ways you can market your app.
1. The App itself
This may seem obvious, but your app is going to be your best marketing tool. It’s the best asset you have. I don’t care if you have the biggest budget and greatest marketing strategy behind you, if your app is terrible, it’s not going to do well.
When talking about the app, we’re talking about design, development and functionality. Taking it a step further, we’re talking about how users interact with the app and how it makes them feel.
At the other end of the spectrum, sometimes I will meet developers who have built beautiful and well coded apps and think that the app is all the matters in app marketing.
These apps typically go deep into the app store and die a slow, painful death full of 5 star reviews and lost opportunities. It had a lot of potential, but was never given the light of day with proper marketing.
When you’re building your app (or re-skinning your source code), remember that you’re not only building it for the end user experience, you’re building a marketing machine as well. It’s an important, but often overlooked detail.
Putting energy into the app is one of the best, if not the best ways to market your app because it will market itself in a lot of ways.
2. App Store Optimization (ASO)
You’re going to hear a lot about “ASO” in the app world as you get deeper into it, and for good reason. ASO stands for App Store Optimization, the same way SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization for websites.
ASO is the process of finding the right opportunities (keywords, icons, etc) and Publishing is the process of putting those findings to work in the app store.
With ASO and Publishing, you are utilizing the power of the app store for your marketing. With millions of searches and downloads each day, there are lots of opportunities to get a piece for your own app. This can be lower cost and higher return than many others, but can also be a harder science to measure than others that have analytics platforms.
A quick example would be if you have an app that keeps track of how many glasses of water you drink each day.
By using these tools, you can drastically improve your ability to gather downloads just by following the best practices of the app store.
3. Social Media
Social media is a big one. It can provide MASSIVE momentum and it can also be hard to understand. A lot of it depends on if the general public decides your app is “sharable.”
It is also becoming a much more viable option in app marketing than it was when the app store initially launched. Different networks of social media include:
Users will post your app or content within your app directly onto these social networks. You can build this into your app to make it easy for them or they can just figure out how to share it themselves!
One of the greatest examples of social media being used for app marketing was done unintentionally with the app Flappy Birds. This app went so viral on Twitter that it drove a #1 ranks the likes the app stores had never seen.
Similarly, famous game Candy Crush Saga strategically used Facebook to share scores and “gift” points to other people in order to encourage play.
Two completely different plans of attack that resulted in huge success.
Social media will continue to become a powerful and more measurable form of app marketing as the app store grows.
4. App Websites and Building Brands
When you have a larger app or a suite of apps, it’s a good idea to have a web presence that you can direct people to. This can be anyone from bloggers to reporters all the way to potential customers.
You’ll see this sort of thing with big apps and gaming studios. I actually worked with Kiwi (www.kiwiup.com) and saw them build their entire website/brand as their company grew. It made a huge difference when they wanted to gain credibility and even investors.
Now, of course you’re probably not looking to raise $8M right now (maybe?) but it’s important to think about what you want your company to look like down the road. You’re not only marketing your apps, you’re marketing your company.
In terms of building websites to drive actual downloads, you may have more of a mixed experience. I go into detail about my own case studies in my App Formula, but I’ll suffice it to say that it’s not the best bang for your buck.
There are other interesting ways to grow websites for your app. One example is what Supercell did for their huge game Clash of Clans by creating a forum where people could discuss the game. It adds huge marketing value to the game itself. Check it out here: (http://forum.supercell.net/forum.php)
Promotions are an interesting way to market your app and vary in size and cost. A promotion is when a large service or app drives a TON of traffic to “promote” your app for a specific amount of time.
For example, one of the most popular promotion services in the app world are the Free App services, where they will showcase your app for a day if you make it free. They then send that promotion to all their users and hopefully, you get lots of new downloads.
This technique is used in almost every market – books, TV, music, even cars! It’s a way to create short lived, high demand for your product.
Promotions can be very effective if you have an event or time sensitive plan that you want to capitalize on. They can also be a great way to get tons of downloads in a relatively short amount of time.
Pricing can range from $50 all the way up to $500,000 in some cases. Of course everything depends, but there are many different ways you can go with this marketing strategy.
This is not a long term solution, but can be a great way to build your user base.
6. Mobile Advertising Networks
Advertising networks are, without question, the biggest source of traffic and downloads when talking about app marketing. Ad networks are referred to “exchanges” because it’s where people trade money for installs of their app.
For example, I go to an ad network like Facebook and I say “I am willing to pay $2 for every download I can get.” Facebook’s algorithm will match my $2 and other criteria with another app developer who will advertise my app in theirs.
When someone clicks on the advertisement and installs the game, that is recorded as a “Paid install” and I pay the $2. Facebook takes their cut, and the other developer receives the rest. This is the foundation of virtually all advertising in the app (and other) market.
A few different ad networks out there are:
Some ad networks only focus on games, others are more universal. You’ll have the ability to buy traffic in lots of different ways – installs, clicks, or impressions to name a few.
When it comes to app marketing, ad networks are a way to control exactly how big you want to get. As you may have noticed with every other marketing strategy, there’s an unknown. You really aren’t sure what you’re going to get for your time or money.
With ad networks, it’s different. On the one hand that’s great because you can control costs and predict what you’ll get for your money. On the other hand it’s tough because there’s no chance of getting a fluke or a big spike the way you might with social media, for example.
Ad networks are a great solution when you know your app’s revenue metrics and want to scale in a measured way. It can also be a great way to send targeted users to test your app.
If you’re looking to use ad networks for your marketing strategy, you’re in great shape!
Pricing strategy is often overlooked as a marketing technique in the app store. This is a tried and true method – remember those “Weekend Blowout Sales!” you saw in the coupons?
Yeah, I fell for them too. Oops.
What pricing strategy means is how you price your app and the goods within your app. Do you charge $4.99 or $0.99? Do you make it free?
Do you change your price at all? These can all make a big difference.
When you think about it, this makes total sense. Like most economic principles, the more you charge, the fewer number of people will buy it, but you make more per person.
A magic phenomenon happens when you make your app free – you can usually expect anywhere from 50x-100x increase in download volume. Of course, you have to find new ways to make money with this newfound influx of users 🙂
You can see where this is going as a marketing strategy. You balance the number of users you want versus your monetization strategy. Most apps decide to go free right out of the gate, while some still stick to the paid model (fewer, but higher quality, paying users).
Localization is a fancy term for translation. In the app world, it refers to creating a “version” of the app and app marketing information in the native language to a country.
So someone who downloads a localized app in France will see French, someone in Japan sees Japanese etc. When you don’t localize, people in all these countries just see the original copy you put in your iTunes Connect entry (English). At this point, most people are used to it, but that doesn’t mean they like it.
Apple, Google, Amazon and others all give you the option to input translated versions of your app that will display in their relative countries. Titles, descriptions, keywords, screenshots, even the app itself (though the app is a bit more complicated).
This allows you to communicate to each audience in their native language.
It actually makes a lot of sense. When people can understand what your app is all about, they’re more likely to download it assuming it’s what they want.
You also get more qualified downloads because people are making an informed decision about this download.
This can be an easy win in terms of app marketing, especially since it’s a skill you can train an assistant to do while you sleep. No seriously, that’s what I do.
I have people translate my apps into 10 languages and input it all into iTunes. It’s not expensive and can have a big impact.
9. Video Marketing
Video marketing is a unique piece of the puzzle because it can have so many different effects and uses. The core of video marketing is to create a “trailer” or “promo” video that highlights your app. You can create these videos and upload to sites like YouTube or Vimeo so that people can see your app in action.
These videos can have a few different benefits. For one, they can attract external traffic on those video networks as well as social media networks if they are shared. You can get a fair amount of additional downloads if the right people see what you made.
The second impact they can have on your app marketing is the amount of people that decide to download your app from the actual app page. Apple, Google, and Amazon all allow for videos to be placed on the page that has your app screenshots. If you have a great video, this can really help with conversion because users see quality and usage before downloading. It can push them over the edge if they are deciding.
The third impact is less measurable and deals with each store’s algorithm. When you have a really good video that pulls in users to download, your app will be seen as “very attractive” to the app store data scientists and they’re increase your visibility. If people love your app, of course they want more people to see it!
Videos can vary in price and quality. Whether you decide to have a professional do it or if you simply want to have a screenshot, the impact you have will change.
Only one way to find out – just do it!
10. Real Life
This is one of the most overlooked and undervalued forms of app marketing – sharing it with people you meet. Telling people.
Being excited about it!!!
There is no marketing technique more powerful than passion and you are the only person who will be the MOST passionate about your app. It’s easy to think that your app is too small or not interesting and that you just want to upload and not tell anyone.
But you have to be proud of your work! If you’re going to put in your energy, time, and money, it’s 100% worth it to share it with the world and your inner circle. If someone likes it, they’ll tell other people. That’s how people are – they love to share things they enjoy. Someone figured that out with a little website called Facebook, too.
Of course you don’t want to be too salesy and push it down people’s throats, but you definitely want to be excited. Think about if your friend came to you and say “Hey, here’s this project I’ve been working on and I’m really excited about it. I think you’ll really dig it – here’s the link and I’d love your feedback and a review if you have time!”
You’d probably say “Heck yeah!” and take 5 mins to check it out.
My blog never would have gotten anywhere if I hadn’t taken a leap of faith and shared it with my friends. The same is true with your app business.
Let the world in and they will help you out.
Final Thoughts on App Marketing
App marketing is one of the best parts of building an app business. It has zero limits and can be the factor that skyrockets your success more than anything else.
But it IS a competitive world and should be respected. There’s a fine line between having big goals and being delusional – it all comes down to following a plan and being smart. By arming yourself with tools and being strategic, you’re going to put yourself in the best possible position to rise high in the charts and get the downloads you’re looking for.
If you are excited about this part of the process, I urge you to check out the Bluecloud App Formula by clicking the yellow button below. In it, I will cover step-by-step tutorials to help you get started, talking about issue like:
- Video courses on how to find and pick huge volume keywords
- How to localize your app in an automated way
- Pricing strategies used by top grossing apps to rake in millions of dollars
- Buying traffic – getting started and critical mistakes beginners make (and how to avoid them)
- How to create viral social media campaigns that can drive your app to the top 10 (with a case study I did with a friend to get to #7 overall)
And a LOT more. As I said, marketing is one of my favorites parts of the app game and I won’t hold anything back.
If you’re interested, click here.
How To Make An App: Making Money With Apps
Now I'm going to outline all the different ways you can make money with the apps you build. Some you may have heard of, others may be new.
This will simply show you the full spectrum of app monetization and the options you have once you’re ready to step into the arena.
The goal of everything we produce at Bluecloud is to give you actionable and valuable information about the topics you’re interested in. You’ll be able to identify monetization techniques in REAL apps and start brainstorming about how you can use these in your own apps to make passive income as you drink Mai Tais in Hawaii.
Learning how apps make money is one of the most exciting, not just because it’s the completion of the circle in business, but because it is one of the most creative outlets you’ll have. You may think that apps are all alike and to make money you need to flood users with advertisements.
In fact, you have a whole range of options that can be catered to your audience.
It’s a lot of fun when this starts to work.
I’m going to go through all the different types and all the different pathways that you can use to make money within your app. It doesn’t matter what category it’s in, how big of an app, how small of an app. These apply to all of them.
What we will talk about today is the tools you have to make money. I’ll explain them so that you know what’s going on.
If you’re interested in learning HOW to implement all of these in a targeted, effective, and strategic way, check out my app course that dives into app monetization head-on by clicking here.
This is going to be a lot of fun. By the end, you’ll be saying to yourself “Wow! I never knew I had so many options to make money with apps.” That’s a good place to be…and you’ll also realize why this industry has virtually limitless opportunity.
Ready to talk about making money?
Kinds Of Money
I know that sounds weird, but it’s important to clarify different “kinds” of money that you can make with apps. Now, I don’t mean that you’re going to get an envelope full of Japanese Yen when you start selling your Utility app, I mean that different companies have different policies.
The App Stores – Apple, Google, Amazon
When you sell your app for $0.99 in the app store, that’s exactly how much the customer is charged. But, because you’re using their technology and app stores, Apple, Google, and Amazon will all take 30% of that right off the top. That’s their commission. Like the mafia. I mean a publisher.
This pertains to everything that goes through their channels. Paid apps, in-app purchases, their ad networks, subscriptions, etc.
That’s just how it is, not much you can do about it.
There is also a delayed payout with these guys. Typically it is 30 days. This means that if you make $500 in January, it will be deposited in your account March 1.
Similar to the app stores, ad networks will take a cut of the ad spend as well. The difference, however, is that you never really know how much it is or what they take out. Usually it’s 30%, sometimes up to 50%, sometimes as low as 10%.
These guys really figured out that they don’t need to be overly transparent with this information.
That being said, you shouldn’t stress about this too much. You’ll just see the revenue that you earn and a few other metrics.
Ad networks also have a delayed payout, but it can vary. Some will do weekly (7 day lag) and some will take as much as 60 days. Be sure to prepare for that delay and confirm with each network before going too far down.
Currencies and Global Markets
Finally, one question that I get a lot is about money that is earned in foreign countries.
For example, if you are a USA based company, but your app is getting 1M downloads in Germany, those transactions will be in Euros, not US dollars.
Luckily, the app stores and ad networks do this conversion for you in real time. They look at the current ForEx (foreign exchange) rates and convert everything right before they wire it over.
So, you’ll always be getting US dollars.
Options You Have To Make Money
App Monetization is a tricky concept because there are lots of different nuances within App Monetization. There’s no clear path the way there are in other businesses – there are lots of different ways to use models.
Now, some work better than others in certain situations, but for now and for this discussion, we are just going to talk about everything that you could use. App monetization is very, very important to think about before you start your launch because you can actually design an app and include app monetization from the beginning.
As you read through this list, think about which ones may apply to you.
It’s really important to think about this and to come up with a strategy well before you get too deep into your project so that when you decide that you want to turn this switch on, you are primed and ready and you will not leave any money on the table. A lot of the best monetization techniques you’ll see are conceptualized well before the app is developed.
If you ever want to get much more detail and learn exactly how to do this and how effective certain things are or certain techniques are in certain apps, I urge you to check out my live webinar on App Monetization.
Without further ado, let’s chat about that cash money.
The Paid Model
This is probably the most popular and the most straightforward. The one everyone knows…right?
It’s the 99 cent app.
You can pay 99 cents.
You get a great app.
It’s been around forever. That’s what a lot of people have been doing.
…and it’s still around today.
This model went quiet for a bit, but now it’s coming back. Often people are willing to pay $1 for quality instead of downloading a free app and dealing with ads.
Not always, but that’s why this model is making a comeback.
Example of the Paid Model: Kingdom Coins Pro – Dozer of Coins Arcade Game
Paid Plus In-App Purchases
In-app purchases are when you can go inside of an app and spend money on things within an app. This model means that you pay upfront as well.
Let’s say the app is 99 cents or $1.99 and then once you own the app, you can do things like unlock levels or buy new characters or purchase more coins – for an additional fee.
This is less common because you will have a pretty small user base, but not unheard of. If your app is highly qualified and has little competition, you can do very well using this. Example of Paid Model: Instamood
Free App With Advertising In It
If you’ve read The Bluecloud blog, you know that this is what a lot of my apps have done. You’ll probably also notice that there’s a lot of other apps out there that do this exact same thing.
The reason is because you can make tons of money doing this. It’s less of a lifetime model, but it’s much more powerful at making money quicker.
What this means is that users won’t pay for the app. They’ll come into the app and they’ll be presented with targeted ads. If they click on those ads, and they go to the store page and they install that app that’s being advertised, the advertiser will pay back myself.
The downside being that you annoy users a lot and your app may quickly “burn out.” Example of a Free app with advertising: Yatzy Ultimate HD Adventures Free (Popup interstitials) & Take Selfies Free – With Front Flash In Low-Light or Timer Selfie (banner)
Paid with Advertising
This is an option which means that users pay 99 cents and then come in and still see advertisements.
This is not a very good option because typically users are not expecting ads – if they pay once, they assume that advertising is not going to be a part of that experience.
If you do this, be prepared to see very bad metrics on your app and it’s not very recommended. But it is an option.
What this means is that you can get people to pay a monthly rate or a quarterly or yearly subscription that will be charged to their credit card automatically.
Now this is similar to what a magazine would do…or any sort of monthly model.
You might see this in a lot of magazine or newsstand apps, but you also might see this in things like music apps where you pay for a subscription to be a member.
This can be very powerful because these monthly subscriptions keep billing over and over until the user doesn’t want to use your app anymore. So as long as they have an account with your app, they pay that monthly subscription.
One of the best examples of a Subscription app is Kylie Jenner. During it's release, we estimated the app was bringing in $200,000-$300,000/day. Like all subscription businesses, that’s just going to snowball. Click here to learn more.
Free For A Limited Time
This is a monetization strategy and not solely a marketing strategy because when you make the app free for a limited time, it sends tons of users into your app so that you can create a big user base and then monetize them in a very targeted way.
Then can make it paid again. So, if you have a way to monetize users within your app and you just need to get more apps in there but you don’t want to make it free forever, you can just do a targeted free campaign, which can really help your lifetime value in things like that.
This is a bit more on the “advanced” side because you need to have data and metrics to justify the move, but it can be done in a very powerful way.
Apps like Angry Birds have done this to get huge ranking spikes and move way up the charts.
Example of Free For a Limited Time: Jewel Architect Blaster Free – Diamond Brain Frenzy
Once you start building multiple apps or once you start making partnerships within the app world, one thing you can do is cross-promote each others games – or apps, I should say.
For example, let’s say you have six photography apps. Instead of trying to make money with six individual apps and a few are struggling to make it up the charts and others are doing really well, you can start to push traffic between those apps, which will send one app that might have more traffic but lower monetization over to apps with lower traffic and higher monetization.
Then you can really start to make your money that way.
Note: cross-promotion is a tricky science. It’s very powerful when done correctly, but you want to do your research and know the data before you get too deep.
Example of Cross-Promotion: 5 Minute Daily Workouts Free
This is a model that has not been used very much, but it’s beginning to gain some traction.
Sponsorships are when companies will come in (or brands or anyone in particular will come in) and they will pay you to brand your app for them.
For example, I once built a bartending app where you would make your own cocktails.
Bacardi paid me a quarterly sum to make half of those liquors their brand. I would use their bottles and images.This model is very feasible and it can be very powerful if you have a very targeted app that you can pitch to a sponsorship.
Example of a Sponsorships App: http://www.barskillz.com/
Analytics often do not get put into monetization strategies because you don’t necessarily make money off of this directly. What analytics will do is it will show you all the data within your app. Click here to learn about 9 analytics tools every developer should know about.
Most importantly, It will show you what’s working and what’s not. With analytics, this gives you the flexibility to make changes that can drive much more money and big increases in your effectiveness.
Example of an Analytics App: Kingdom Candy HD Slots – Slot Machine by Racing Free Top Games
A Word On Combinations
Before we wrap up, I wanted to make sure that I clarify one point. App monetization is rarely an either/or decision. No matter which of the above monetization choices you make, realize that you’ll be blending a few of these at one point or another.
In a lot of my apps, I usually have a combination of in-app purchases and advertisements depending on the app. As your apps become more advanced, you can become very strategic about how you do this.
For example, in a large slot machine game, I may code in some logic that says “only show ads to people who have not purchased coins 7 days after downloading the app” because I know they probably never will.
This is done to increase retention and eventually make my app more successful.
Wrapping It Up
The Rubber Hitting The Road – Money Matters
That’s the overview of making money with apps. Like I said, this is not a one-size-fits-all model. The goal of this is to show you all different types of tools you can use when building your apps to make money.
Exercise: In the space below where you’re reading right now, I want you to write down what kind of monetization these apps are using. Are they paid? Are they free with in-app purchases? Do they have ads in them? And as you look through your apps that are on your phone already, start to extrapolate what those monetization pathways look like.
My last point is to reiterate that this is when the app game gets REAL. When you see that first deposit come in, all your hard work FINALLY feels like it’s paying off.
When I received my first deposit, it was one of the proudest moments of my life.
Granted, the $62 was about $10,000 less than I was expecting, but it was still amazing 🙂 It made me realize that all these processes and perseverance actually DO result in something that will change my life.
That month, I was able to pay my bills with just a little less stress.
I’m telling you this because I want you to get excited for this part of the app experience. It’s when you can start comparing apples to apples.
Once you learn how to make a mobile app, the money you can make from apps is the same as the money you can make from your other job.
It’s an incredible feeling.
Wrapping Up The Money Train
App monetization is a very powerful part of the process because it’s the final nail in the coffin. You’ve built your app. You’ve hired a developer. You’ve optimized it. You’ve marketed it.
If it’s not correctly monetized, you’re not going to make any money.
One of the consistent themes that I always talk about is that you need to be in the app business, not in the app. Monetization is what’s going to make that switch happen.
It’s the final piece, but it’s one of the most important pieces because it makes it all worthwhile. It’s the thing that funds your bank account and that allows you to continue to do this.
How To Make An App: Do This Next
Making it this far is a huge accomplishment. This post was not easy to write, it is jam packed with information – I also know it took a lot of time and energy to read.
But this puts you in the top 1%. It will help you go way beyond the cookie cutter products out there, like Appmakr, and allow you to realize the full expression of your creative vision.
Nothing personal against those products, they fill a need. But don't you want to have something that you love, compared to something that you settle for?
That is the beauty of learning how to make an app.
By reading this and researching how to make an app and setup a business CORRECTLY, you've shown that you have what it takes to make it in this business.
Because YOU will not stop until you succeed.
So here's what to do next:
- Bookmark this post and revisit any sections you need more clarification on
- Click here to download our FREE 21 Step Checklist and get a breakdown of all the steps we've listed in this post
- Register for my free LIVE training workshop and learn my 4 step system I used to build my million dollar app business
Lastly, developing an app is an ongoing process, you need to be continually learning and evolving your projects.
Yes, it can feel overwhelming.
That's why I've created my App Formula. You've seen me mention the App Formula several times in this post. That's because it breaks everything down into simple steps and teaches you how to execute all of these processes, select the right projects, hire the best team, and setup your business for the long haul.
It comes with everything you need and is truly the best resource out there if you want to make it in the app business.
Click the button below to learn more about the step-by-step system that I use and get started today:
That's how you make an app!
Thanks again for taking the time to read through this post. It’s always great to share with you and help you take steps towards the life you want.