Deciding to build an app business is exciting and terrifying all-at-once. Whether it’s your first time venturing into entrepreneurship or you’re an experienced business creator, it’s never easy taking that jump and diving all in to develop an idea.
You know it’s going to take time. You know it’s going to take money. You know it’s going to require sacrifice. You know it’s going to be taxing.
But you also know it’s going to be exhilarating, will generate an immense sense of pride, and will (hopefully) bring some money to boot.
Will it be worth it?
Well… that depends.
You will always learn, whether from successes or failures, but it’s never a sure bet that your idea will become a success.
What if there was a formula you could follow to build your app business?
To build a prototype that investors will love? No problem.
To create an app that is addictive, viral, and monetizable? Yuppp!
To construct an app business that is sustainable and built for growth? Absolutely.
Despite what you may think, there are play-by-play guides and formulas you can implement for reaching these goals.
Repeatable and scalable formulas. They aren’t complicated, but they are hard to find.
My name is Patrice Archer, and I’m the founder of Appy Ventures.
At Appy Ventures, we’ve taken over 60 apps from just an idea all the way to market with almost all of them making a profit and some of them being valued in the millions of dollars.
We’ve distilled and refined this process for almost a decade, and we’ve taken the most effective strategies and worst mistakes entrepreneurs make and adopted them into a proven process for app business success.
For example, we worked with a company now known as Smart Plant.
They were at a similar stage to you 2 years ago, and during the interim, they’ve won multiple app awards, merged with a Californian company, and are now valued at over £3.0m. Expanding into mobile was a perfect addition to their mission of empowering home gardeners, and they turned to us to help them realize their idea.
This lifestyle brand brought smart gardening into the digital era with their PlantSnapp mobile app idea.
The best part?
It was done by following the exact stages we’re about to outline for you.
Let’s jump in.
The first step you need to take is to make sure the idea you have is even worth pursuing.
It seems obvious, but some entrepreneurs get so attached to an idea they fail to make the iterations possible to build a viable app business.
If you’re going to be giving up financial security, a serious number of hours, and sacrificing time with your family and/or friends, your idea better be sound, yeah?
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
Take this process slow. Really spend time answering these questions to the best of your abilities.
After that, you’ll want to tackle a more thorough exercise.
Introducing the Lean Canvas:
By outlining the problems your business will be solving and how, identifying customer demographics, costs, and more, this worksheet will lay the groundwork for your entire app business from ideation to pitching to investors.
This worksheet makes you think deeply and really focus on one, the value you’ll be bringing to your customers, and two, how you’re going to get it to them.
Do not rush this!
Everything you build is based on these concepts, and you want to make sure you think this through.
Be flexible, too!
You may think of new customer segments that would require different angles or features. Write these down and narrow or expand your idea as needed to best fit the market.
You should also build user personas and an elevator pitch in this stage as well.
The idea is to make your concept rock solid before you spend any capital / waste too much time.
After you solidify your idea, the next step is to think about how users will interact with your app. Ironing this out will save you immense time and money when it comes to the actual design of your prototype and app.
Start by writing out a list of every type of action a user needs to be able to take in your app in order to have a good experience.
Yep. Every single one.
You can start this list out of respect for your most important app business objectives.
Purchasing a subscription
Creating an account (user onboarding)
Posting a piece of content
Share your app with friends
Key functionality / major feature use
Go as far down the rabbit hole as possible as you can here, and then begin outlining the actual user flow from a step-by-step perspective.
Adwords lead purchasing a subscription:
Clicks on a PPC Ad
Heads to a landing page
Gets a download link sent to their phone
Inputs name & email
Adds CC information
Begins free trial
Split this stage up into multiple sessions & continually come back to see if you’ve left anything out.
Once you have your user flows identified, it’s time to start thinking about actually designing your idea.
The big things to remember here are that:
You’re creating an MVP. Your design does not have to be perfect yet.
People often get stuck here. Don’t fall into design paralysis!
The design process typically begins with getting a logo.
If you’re not a designer (most of us aren’t), here are some resources you can use:
Don’t over complicate this process. Collect references, choose a designer or program, build a logo, and move on.
After you get the logo, it’s time to move onto official wireframes.
The key design components to focus on are:
What are your 2 main colors?
Which color will you use for your main call-to-action buttons?
What font will you use?
Keep it simple and use one of the main ones (reduces coding issues).What style of icons and / or images do you want to use?
Try to keep them consistent in terms of look / feel / colors (and make sure you either buy the images or double check that they are free for commercial use).
Creating a Pinterest board with your favorite apps & websites is a good route to go, but avoid putting tons of examples in. If you do, you may confuse your designer.
The best course of action to get your app done efficiently is to find a designer, give them your wireframes, and provide two colors & fonts along with the aforementioned Pinterest board.
Start by paying them for 1-2 screens and lock down the design on those before requesting the rest of the screens.
At this point you’ll have a color theme, journeys outlined, and a designer who can continue building screens for you, and it will be time to turn this into an official prototype that you can use to pitch to investors.
This is simply to put together a well-designed version of your app that you can use to pitch to investors. There aren’t any bones behind it. This is the best way to get your idea ready-to-pitch before wasting any money! Depending on your investors, your idea could change dramatically, and the last thing you want to do is waste money on expensive developers.
Here’s how to develop a quick prototype:
You’ve got a workable, pitchable prototype
Many entrepreneurs who end up failing in the app world forget to ask the most basic & important questions of all when building a business:
It’s not just about having a great idea that can “change the world” or a brilliant product. At the end of the day, if you can’t convince people that your service or product is worth a certain price, you will fail.
When you start thinking about this question, it gets increasingly more nuanced: “What’s an appropriate price? How can I convince people that it’s worth that price? How do I spark interest? How will the product spread to new customers?”
This process of figuring out how you acquire interest from someone and turn them into a paying customer is known as customer acquisition.
There are many routes you can take when determining how to get interest, and it’s your goal in this stage to determine the most cost-effective routes for doing so and determining if profit potential exists there.
Here’s the equation we always go back to when evaluating an app business idea:
If the cost of acquiring a customer is less than the profit generated from that same customer, then it’s a worthwhile business.
In other words, if you can keep your return on spend ratio above 1, then there’s potential for growth.
Depending on your business, you may find social media advertising is the best route, or perhaps it’s a B2B app and you need a team of sales professionals knocking on doors. Use the knowledge you have about the industry to make conjectures, outline all possible routes, estimate the cost per custom acquisition for each route, and go from there.
There’s no way you’ll know for sure without hard data, however, which is why you can also begin to test your idea on small audiences. For example, say you’ve identified your core audience, but you’re not sure what marketing style will speak best to them. Should you be cavalier & casual? Or should you appear more zipped up & professional? Test, test, test! Build two landing pages offering more information on your app, one with one style & another with other, and see which converts at a higher rate.
You can run all kinds of experiments like this to educate your app business build. Instead of guessing, let your future customers tell you what they want.
The more data you can gather on what marketing message & routes best speak to your customers, the better, and you can do this as you build your other assets.
After you have your business outlined, a prototype in hand, and real data from potential customers, it’s time to start thinking about financing.
The biggest assets to build in this stage are:
Remember that perfection is the enemy!
You’ll find resource after resource explaining the perfect formal business plan and pitch deck. Just find a format that resonates with you and fits into your industry/concept and start building.
Take a look at this link of 30 pitch decks from famous companies. You’ll notice that some of these are just ugly and/or confusing, but they ended up building some of the biggest companies of our time.
Once you knock those out, you just need to find someone to pitch it to.
How do you find investors to pitch your idea to?
The best piece of advice I can over budding entrepreneurs to talk to TONS of people and initiate, initiate, initiate. ALWAYS ask, “who are 2 people you can think of I should talk about this idea?” You’ll be surprised at how many people know people that work in the industry you’re targeting or are looking to invest in good ideas.
Finding and pitching to investors can realistically take 1-6 months.
Don’t fret if it is taking time! You’ll be surprised at how you find the connections you have at the end. And don’t rule out people if they aren’t looking to invest. Who knows what kind of useful advice they could have or people they could know. Take any and all meetings and learn as much as you can.
If your idea has legs (which it should if you’ve evaluated it effectively!), then you’ll have all you need to pitch to investors at any time. All you’ll need to do is open of your prototype on your phone or computer and pitch away. And every pitch you do you’ll find yourself refining the language and discovering the common questions/objections people have.
It’s easy for these stages to feel daunting or nebulous. It’s important to note that this isn’t everything in each stage — outlining each stage and providing a bit of direction on each was our intention — not detailing the entirety of the process.
Having a birds-eye view is so important when beginning this process, though, which is why being aware of these stages and building an action plan to completing them should be your first step.
No one knows what to expect when building an app business. While some steps are predictable, it’s always a unique experience, which is what makes it so exciting.
So contact us to discuss how to turn your app idea into a reality.
CEO/Founder of Appy Ventures