#AFtalks: Getting Ready for iOS11 With Savvy Apps’ Ken Yarmosh

AFtalks is a series of chats conducted on Twitter where we discuss building and selling apps. We’ve got a different topic/expert every week, and everyone is welcome to join the conversation.

Welcome to this week’s #AFtalks recap!

This week we talked about what iOS 11 means for app developers. To make sure our developer community is prepped for the upcoming improvements to the platform and the App Store, we dove into the various aspects that could affect developers and their apps.

Our guest this week was Ken Yarmosh, founder and CEO of Savvy Apps. We asked Ken to share his insights on this topic with the questions below. Included are his answers, as well as some of our favorite insights from the community:

Q1: How do you think the new App Store redesign will help with discovery?

A: I really like that Apple’s focusing on the “stagnation” issue with the new “Today” tab. Hopefully it gives exposure to many more apps. I’m also happy to see that “Games” is getting its own tab. It should improve discoverability, since games dominate the charts. Finally, the product pages will help. From the layout, to subtitles, more previews, etc. Discoverability is important at the app level, too.

Q2: How would you approach iOS11 – fixes then features, or everything at once?

A: It depends on if it’s a new or existing app. New apps can more easily focus on new features. Existing apps need to work on day one. For existing apps, once everything looks good, I’d find a new iOS 11 feature to include. Apple loves this approach. Users appreciate it.

Q3: In the new App Store ratings will no longer be reset with every version update – how do you think that’ll change the update frequency of apps?

A: Obviously this change could influence developers to push more updates. I imagine Apple discussed that internally. My hope though is that developers don’t use that policy change to impact their roadmap strategy. Instead, simply use it as a nice marketing tool.

Q4: Which new APIs in iOS11 are you most excited about, and why?

A: Core ML because its Apple’s take on machine learning, which is currently device-focused. I’m curious to see what can be done and its limits. To that end, we recently looked into Core ML to see if it could do “hot dog detection”.

Q5: ARKit has been making news since its reveal. Would you recommend that developers “jump” on it, or do you think it’s a fad?

A: I never see new technology as a fad but that doesn’t mean to “jump on it” either. It really depends on if it can benefit users & the market.

Q6: What tips can you give developers with an existing app to help them take advantage of the additions/changes?

A: We are still digging into iOS 11 but I did a rundown of what was of particular interest at in our blog. This list should help developers identify some of the bigger iOS 11 updates and assess what makes sense for their app(s).


Check out the rest of the insights we heard today on the #AFtalks hashtag!

A huge thanks to Ken Yarmosh and to all those that were part of today’s discussion! Join us for our weekly Twitter chat every Tuesday at 1pm ET (and bring your friends!). See you all next week where #AFtalks about App Design.

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#AFtalks: App Marketing With Readdle’s Denys Zhadanov

A Twitter chat about app marketing with Deny Zhadanov of Readdle

AFtalks is a series of chats conducted on Twitter where we discuss building and selling apps. We’ve got a different topic/expert every week, and everyone is welcome to join the conversation.

Welcome to our #AFtalks recap!

This week we talked about App Marketing! The success of your app isn’t just about the design and launching it in the stores. Having a strong marketing strategy can make or break your app. We took a deeper look behind app marketing to give you insights into what you should be paying attention to when thinking future logistics of your app.

Our guest this week was Denys Zhadanov, VP of Marketing at Readdle. We asked him to share his insights on this topic with the questions below. Included are his answers, as well as some of our favorite insights from the community:

Q1: What is your most important channel for marketing your app?

A: The marketing channels for apps evolve and change over time. Currently I see email being the biggest channel for us, mostly because we have amassed a lot of email subscribers (in millions).

Q2: How has marketing for your app changed since your launch?

A: Back in 2008, when we launched our first app (ReaddleDocs, now called Documents), we saw that press coverage gave amazing results. Over time, I’ve been adding more and more channels, including email, Apple’s featuring on the App Store, in-app communication and brand building. What has always been great for us – super responsive customer support. This is where Readdle excels. Last year alone our customer support team has answered over 130K emails from our users.

Q3: Do you engage with forums (i.e reddit, quora, etc) as part of your marketing strategy?

A: Of course. Not only that, but App Store too, since Apple has allowed us to reply to customer reviews. If handled properly, average app rating can go up 1.5 stars.
Ratings on the App Store are super important and can affect app sales and revenues up to 50% (in our case with paid apps).

Q4: How do you keep up with the changing trends to keep your app successful?

A: Always focus on the product. Reevaluate how people use it, why do they use it, listen to their feedback and think of the ways to improve things. Keep innovating, add new technologies and expand use cases. I’d say these are the main things, if you do it right – marketing all these innovations will be a walk in the park. I mean, who wouldn’t want to try, or to review a new app that uses AR Kit, or blockchain, or AI?

As for marketing trends it is always important to see where your efforts can bring maximum value. Define goals, what you measure, and how you measure things. Act on the focal points where you can make the most impact within given time, doing two-week sprints and iterations.

Q5: Do you have any tips for first-time developers on getting press to cover your app?

A: To get press you should think like press. They need screaming headers, interesting stories and insights, in order to get clicks and attention from their readers. Give them what they need. iOS 11 might be a good entry point – make something cool with AR Kit, or add drag-and-drop support for your iPad app, or make the kick-ass WatchOS 4 support. The odds of being covered grow exponentially if you support the latest technologies, and come with interesting use cases.

PR is called that for a reason. It is a long lasting relations that you have to build with press. Follow reporters, comment on their stories, give them insights and opinions, stand out from hundreds of other founders. Establish initial contact, meet in person during conferences, keep them up to date- and when the time comes – you can ask to cover your new product.

Q6: What do you wish you knew about marketing before your first app?

A: I wish I knew more about storytelling, pitching and building relations. It took me two years to master these skills. I wish I had read the “Pitch Perfect” book in 2008 :)


Check out the rest of the insights we heard today on the #AFtalks hashtag!

A huge thanks to Denys Zhadanov and to all those that were part of today’s discussion! Join us for our weekly Twitter chat every Tuesday at 1pm ET (and bring your friends!). See you all next week where #AFtalks about Prepping for iOS11.

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#AFtalks: The Business Side of Apps With Charles Perry & Joe Cieplinski

AFtalks is a series of chats conducted on Twitter where we discuss building and selling apps. We’ve got a different topic/expert every week, and everyone is welcome to join the conversation.

Welcome to our #AFtalks recap!

This week we talked about the business side of apps, where we aimed to share tips and insights behind the strategy phase when developing apps.

Our guests this week were Charles Perry, owner of Metakite, and Joe Cieplinski, developer for Bombing Brain Interactive, Teleprompt & Setlists! We asked them to share their insights on this topic with the questions below. Included are their answers, as well as some of our favorite insights from the community:

Q1: What does your app do, and how did you come up with the idea? and Q2: Did you do any market research before starting to develop?

Charles: I’m going to combine these questions, because they are sort of intertwined. I have two apps in the App Store right now. Benjamin is a task manager based on Franklin Covey system of productivity, and MetaTax is a reference for independent tax preparers.

Benjamin came about because I used to have a different task manager based on a different productivity system in the App Store, and I viewed Benjamin as a broadening of that strategy. I mean, an app for one productivity system did well, so why not try another one, right? I knew that there were a lot of corporate professionals that used this productivity system, but in hindsight, I didn’t do as much research as I should have, and I sort of got lucky. But the time when Benjamin launched was a simpler time in the App Store, when there was less competition and it was easier to get attention. So it worked out.

With MetaTax, I went through a more deliberate design process. From doing research and talking to people in the field, I knew that I wanted to sell to independent accountants. The question then, was what to build for them. After doing more research, I decided on this reference product because there were already some similar products (proving that there was a market for solutions like the one I was considering), and the established competition wasn’t too big. At the end of the market that I was trying to reach, I wouldn’t be going up against big companies like Intuit or Thompson Reuters. Instead, I would be going up against other small businesses, which meant that I wouldn’t be too outgunned when it came to marketing dollars or engineering effort.

Joe: I have several different apps, and they all sort of have their own origin stories. With apps like Teleprompt+ and Setlists, the app idea came from brainstorming about new hardware that was released from Apple (in both cases the iPad). What would this device do for people that a laptop or phone couldn’t? Once you approach an app idea from the problem-to-be-solved angle, you have a better shot at success, I think, than simply asking yourself what you want to build for yourself. I happen to use Setlists all the time myself, but our most successful app, Teleprompt+, I rarely need to use in my own day-to-day work.

As far as market research goes, we didn’t do enough of that on Teleprompt+, but we got lucky in that many video professionals agreed with us that iPad was well suited to the task. We also rushed to be able to launch on day one with that app, so it was more about shipping a minimum viable product at that point than anything else. We were one of the first 500 apps on the iPad store. Once we did get the product shipped, and we started accumulating customers, then it became very important to us to listen to those customers whenever they told us what they needed. So that became our primary market research—tracking and prioritizing our customer’s wish lists. None of us was in the video business, so we didn’t assume we had all the answers when it came to solving our customers’ problems. The more we made customers happy, the more they became our evangelists.

Q3: How did your research affect the app’s development?

Charles: I’m going to restrict this answer just to MetaTax, because (as I said before) I didn’t do as much research for Benjamin as I should have. With MetaTax, my research did play a big part in the final product. As part of my research, I purchased all the competing products that I would be going up against. I looked at similarities and differences, what they did well, and what I could do better. I used that research to help me prioritize reference topics, select price points, and get ideas for marketing.

Joe: Once you have actionable data from customers or potential customers, you still have to take the important step of ranking ideas and figuring out which ones are simply not feasible, or would only benefit a small number of customers. In the early days, we would, I think, do features that maybe weren’t advisable, simply because one or two people were requesting them. But the hardware sometimes made the feature limited or unreliable. Taking things away after the fact is a lot harder than adding them, so you need to tread carefully about which bits of information on your users you turn into action, and which ones you politely decline. Everything you add to a product costs time, and thus money. And not just once. Maintenance also costs time and money. So don’t take every bit of information from every person you ask and immediately assume that it’s a good idea to act on it. Learn how to say no.

Q4: Do you actively promote your app, if so how?

Charles: Promotion for Benjamin is mostly limited to App Store Optimization techniques. Benjamin has been in the App Store a long time and does well in search results. I have considered Facebook ads for Benjamin, but its price point won’t support the cost of ads.

I do periodically run Facebook ad campaigns for MetaTax. It has a higher price point, and I can more narrowly focus who ads are delivered to using Facebook’s “custom audience” feature, so I can get more bang for my buck. In addition to paid promotion, I also have been somewhat successful in getting stories about MetaTax in accounting industry websites.

Joe: I talk to musicians as often as I can about our app Setlists, and I talk to people when I’m out networking about all of my apps very often. If you aren’t willing to promote what you do on a regular basis, you shouldn’t be in business. We have tried limited Facebook ad runs for Setlists, but we probably didn’t give them enough of a chance to succeed. For many of my personal smaller apps, I’ve been running Apple’s search ads with some success. I think if you have an app that costs more than 99-cents, or that has subscription revenue, and you play with your keywords enough, you can definitely see some good results with search ads.

Q5: Which metrics do you rely on to gauge the health of your app(s)?

Charles: I gauge my apps’ health by the only metric that counts: Revenue! Seriously, though, I do look at other metrics as well like downloads, and the percent of revenue that is recurring instead of one-off purchases.

Joe: Revenue is certainly a good way to know how you are doing. I also look at customer reactions quite carefully. How many support requests are we getting? Is the tone of those requests friendly, or do most people seem to be frustrated? How are the reviews? Reviews can be tough, because by and large complainers are more likely to speak up than happy customers. But with Apple’s new review request prompt, I’ve already seen a marked improvement in star rating, and more ratings popping up than ever before.

Apple has started providing more metrics for our apps, but I haven’t found a really good way to act upon that data yet. I see it; I take notes. But I haven’t done much beyond that.

Q6: What advice would you give a first-time developer about marketing/promotion?

Charles: Don’t plan to use paid marketing and promotion channels unless the average lifetime value of your customer can support the cost of paid customer acquisition. If the average lifetime value of a customer is low — under $10 or so — you’ll need to focus more on free promotion like earned media.

Joe: Yes. Start with revenue per customer. Get that number nice and healthy before you even start coding. As an indie, you are never going to reach millions of customers. So have a plan to survive on hundreds. Anyone can reach hundreds of people without spending a boatload of money. So think of your promotional budget as a percentage of what customers are paying you. The more money you make per customer, the more money you’ll have to spend on new customers.

Q7: What were some of your earliest obstacles you encountered that you hadn’t expected?

Charles: The biggest obstacle for any app, I think, is getting attention. There’s only so much attention to go around, and there are millions of apps competing for it. Luckily, I’ve always gone for niche markets where it is easier to get the attention you need to thrive. I’d recommend that strategy to anyone.

Joe: Even in a niche, like gigging musicians in the case of Setlists, it can sometimes be hard to know where to go to reach new customers. In the early days, many of us thought that the App Store would do our promotion for us. I certainly thought that musicians would simply be searching for our app, so all we had to do was make our app better than the competition. But it’s just plain silly to put an app on the store at this point and expect anyone to find it. Customers often don’t know they need a solution until you hit them over the head with it. People have given up on searching the App Store all the time. They just fall back on their old methods of getting things done. So you have to try to figure out where those customers are and how you can reach them. And if you can’t figure out where to reach them, don’t build the app. The best app in the world is useless if no one knows it exists.


Check out the rest of the insights we heard today on the #AFtalks hashtag

A huge thanks to Charles & Joe, and to all those that were part of today’s discussion! Join us for our weekly Twitter chat every Tuesday at 1pm ET (and bring your friends!). See you all on July 11th where #AFtalks about App Marketing.

Resources:

#AFtalks: Choosing the Right App Monetization Strategy With Curtis Herbert

AFtalks is a series of chats conducted on Twitter where we discuss building and selling apps. We’ve got a different topic/expert every week, and everyone is welcome to join the conversation.

Welcome to our #AFtalks recap!

This week we talked app monetization with Curtis Herbert. From the differences between monetization models to how some models affect the app’s. When it comes to monetization, one size doesn’t fit all.

Curtis is the creator of Slopes for iOS, and an avid Apple enthusiast. We asked him to share his insights on this topic with the questions below. Included are his answers, as well as some of our favorite insights from the community:

Q1: What is your current monetization strategy and why?

A: Monetization has been something I’ve had to experiment a lot with over the course of shipping Slopes and I think I’m finally happy with the current strategy. I’m on my third iteration, since shipping my 1.0 in Sept 2013, of how I charge for Slopes at this point. My current approach looks like this: Slopes is a free download and you get access to high-level data about your day skiing or snowboarding for free. Things like your top speed, distance, time spent on lifts vs in the lodge vs going downhill, etc. All the sweet stuff, like great-looking maps and detailed stats + a 3D replay for each run you took, require some form of Slopes Pass. These passes are sold as either a yearly subscription (think a season pass at a resort), or a consumable unlock for one-day or one-week (akin to the day-passes you buy when going to a resort).

Follow-up: At what stage of the development did you start thinking about monetization?
To be honest I didn’t really start thinking hard about monetization until my big 2.0 in winter of 2015. But with that 2.0, monetization was my main focus. I rebuilt so much of Slopes around my new strategy.

Q2: How did you approach researching monetization strategies for your user base?

A: Since Slopes is a companion to an existing hobby, skiing and snowboarding, most of my research centered around how people were already spending money in the niche. My first iteration, being a paid up front app, was very akin to how people pay for gear. But unfortunately people in general don’t like the paid upgrade model, so convincing them to pay for a 2.0 or 3.0 isn’t as easy as tempting them on some awesome new snowboard.

When I was planning my 2.0, I realized season passes at resorts are basically subscriptions, and that got me to start down the path I’m on today. My focus was to find ways for recurring revenue, and the Slopes Pass model started to make sense to me. You pay for access at a resort, based on how much you go, so why not approach the app like that? You aren’t buying the app, you’re buying access to the services it provides.

Q3: How has your current strategy changed since the app was launched (if it has)?

A: Before that big 2.0 re-work, I just charged up front for Slopes — I didn’t give monetization much thought at the time as I was so focused on building the features I wanted to see. In some ways being paid up front helped because it kept Slopes’s audience small as I built up a really compelling set of features. I honestly don’t think I could have launched with an IAP in my original 1.0.

But even my 2.0 wasn’t quite right, I hadn’t envisioned the one-day and one-week passes at the time. I was just focused on subscriptions with 2.0. But pretty quickly I realized I was missing out on a whole class of my niche: those that can only go on one big ski trip a year. There was no way they’d pay $20/yr for Slopes. So in 2.3 I added one day and one week consumables, to live along side my yearly subscription.

I’m really glad I took the time to re-think things that third time because those consumable passes now account for 50% of my revenue.

Q4: Have you ever experimented with your current monetization model?

A: Since arriving on the consumable/subscription hybrid in 2016 I haven’t tweaked the formula much. Instead what I have been experimenting on (although not as much as I’d like) is pricing in different regions. Turns out the cost of skiing in America is a lot higher than in other parts of the world, so when I moved from a paid up front app to my more expensive subscription option I lost paying users in countries located in Europe and other regions. Fortunately Apple has made this easy to play with, at least with subscriptions (not consumable IAPs), so I started playing with that a little this last winter. I think I need to do a lot more to find the prices that work for Slopes in other parts of the world.

Follow-up: Has that caused any issues with users?
So far none have complained when I experiment! And the bigger move from paid up front to IAP was pretty painless, too, but I attribute that to the fact I grandfathered 1.0 users a lot of stuff to make sure I take care of them. They were my early customers and I felt it was only right to make sure the app they paid up front for kept working as expected, even if some of the features they enjoyed now cost more money for new users. I used to be super paranoid about playing with my pricing (I dreaded the day when as a paid up front app I went from $3.99 -> $7.99. Spoilers: no one noticed, and revenue went up) but now I’ve learned as long as you aren’t doing things to break the trust of users, they largely don’t notice.

Q5: How has your current monetization strategy effected the design of your app?

A: Where I used to focus so much on the design of features (I still do), I find myself spending almost as much time focusing on things like finding the right opportunities to educate and up-sell users the premium Slopes Pass features. I spend a lot more time thinking through what the context of the user likely is on any given screen and look for the right opportunities to prove the value Slopes can provide them. I also spend a lot of time trying to balance what I give away for free, and what I charge for. That’s the downside to being a freemium app: that formula is tough. I need to make sales, but I also need to make sure my free mode has enough to keep people around (and try to convert them in the future).

Q6: What’s the one thing you wish you knew about monetizing before you started this app?

A: I wish I knew how much experimentation it would take to find what worked best for my business, so I could have started much earlier! I wasted two years as a paid up front app, afraid to mess with the model, and that really held me back in many ways.


Check out the rest of the insights we heard today on the #AFtalks hashtag

A huge thanks to Curtis and to all those that were part of today’s discussion! Join us for our weekly Twitter chat every Tuesday at 1pm ET (and bring your friends!). See you all next week where #AFtalks about the business side of apps.

Resources:

#AFtalks: Plan, Develop, Ship–Advice for App Makers

AFtalks is a new series of chats conducted on Twitter where we discuss the business side of building and selling apps. We’ve got a different topic/expert every week, and everyone is welcome to join the conversation.

Welcome to our #AFtalks recap!

This week’s discussion revolved around the process of making an app–from planning an app to the actual development stage, to launching and keeping it successful. We hope that first-time developers get useful insight as they take on their new projects, and that seasoned developers can share their experiences and maybe even learn new tricks on how to improve their process.

To kick off our very first twitter chat, we invited our CEO + Co-Founder, Ariel Michaeli, to share his insights on this topic with the questions below. Included are his answers, as well as some of our favorite insights from the community:

Q1: What kind of problem were you trying to solve with your app?

A: We wanted our app to simplify analytics so that our users can get a high level overview quickly but also dig in deeper. Once we started designing we realized this is much harder to accomplish if we just “port” the way the site works.

Here’s an example of thinking outside-the-box to solve a problem with an app:

Q2: Did you go native, or cross platform?

A: Native all the way! If you’ve seen/used the app you know it’s very interactive and full of animations. All of that required native code, and a few components built from scratch (like charts). However… that was two years ago, and for a very specific reason. Non-native is much more popular today. One good example of this is Unity, which is now being used to build 45% Android games.

Q3: What advice would you give to a first time app developer when making design decisions on their app?

A: Don’t be afraid to throw out your entire design, even if you invested a lot of time into it. Little known fact, we designed and built a whole app, then didn’t like it and threw it away before shipping. It cost us quite a while, but ultimately resulted in an app that’s much easier to use.

Q4: What tips can you share for having a stress-free app submission process to the stores?

A: Read and follow the guidelines! When we first submitted the app we got a metadata rejection immediately for having a link somewhere we shouldn’t. A silly reason for a launch delay. Also, plan extra time to go through review, so there won’t be a rush to launch on time.

Q5: Your app is approved! What would you do next?

A: We celebrated for a bit, then turned over to marketing and promotion. We got a good amount of traction early on from journalists, ProductHunt and from our member mailing list, and it was important to concentrate all at once. Then it was all about the numbers. We focused on downloads, active users, session length, and how they all work together.

Q6: What is your go-to marketing channel for promoting your app?

A:We’ve had a lot of success with our mailing list and Twitter ads. I’ve heard very different answers though from others. IMO the key is to map out all the channels you can use and pick the ones where the audience is most receptive. For example, a post in the right sub reddit might have a higher return than a paid Facebook ad.

Q7: What are the most important metrics you pay attention to in order to keep your app successful?

A: We look at a combination of things, starting with downloads and usage, and compare them to internal metrics like first-time logins, and how users engage with the app. Our latest update added real-time notifications, so tracking active users has been our focus. Recently 7-day retention is another important metric for developers, but depends a lot on your app. We spend a lot of time looking at the relationship between metrics and conversion rates over time.


Check out the rest of the insights we heard today on the #AFtalks hashtag

A huge thanks to our guest and to all those that were part of today’s discussion! Join us for our weekly Twitter chat every Tuesday at 1pm ET (and bring your friends!). See you all next week where #AFtalks about Monetization Strategies.

Resources:

Image sources: Canva