Taking Your Apps to Market

I’ve written a lot of apps (and have used a lot of apps) so one thing I’m always on the lookout for is what is working when it comes to top apps – getting users, feedback, and ultimately monetizing your apps.  The market is always changing and the trends are different in different app categories, and the key seems to be able to adapt quickly.

Pricing and Making Money

Games are completely different than productivity apps, which are entirely different than entertainment apps, just to name a few broad categories.  In gaming, an upfront purchase is certainly the tried and true method, but as the market has saturated with $0.99 games, the most successful models have shifted to in-app purchases (IAPs) that extend the value of a free game.   These IAPs can be either for additional game content or levels, or for in-game items that enhance the value of playing the game.

There are exceptions.  Dan Russell-Pinson, the developer of the hugely popular Stack the States game available on iOS (often in the top 100 of top grossing apps) and Windows Phone, has discussed the monetization of kids games extensively in the Charlotte Game Meetup group.   (If you’re reasonably to the Charlotte, NC area, you really should make it out to this meetup!  Some app devs are amateurs, some are seasoned professionals!)  The challenge with educational and children’s games, according to Dan, is that most institutions (and, in many cases, parental controls) prevent in-app purchases, so to be successful, the purchasing has to be simple/upfront. 

Other games have more freedom.  John O’Neill, founder and chief wizard at Sparkplug Games, has discussed this at length at a number of the Raleigh-area meetups.  Effectively testing your app and gathering initial feedback by micro-launching an app can be a useful way to test a small market segment before going worldwide.

When it comes to pricing, however, starting at a high price point (within reason, of course, which is dictated by the current market) is usually the best approach.  Many apps are put on sale at regular intervals, and if you stick with the lowest possible price point you lock yourself out of promotion opportunities.  Besides, you can always lower the price of an app.  Raising it – while technically possible – is seldom helpful.


Placing ads in apps is a great way to bring in revenue, as Kevin Ashley discusses in this post.  The key to make advertising successful, though, is that you need lots of users using your app for long periods of time.  If users are in and out of your app, the amount of revenue your app will bring in will be disappointing.

For Windows apps, check out the Microsoft pubCenter.  An SDK is available that makes it easy to plug into Windows 8 and Phone applications. 


While it’s a good idea to consider how you can make money with your apps, it shouldn’t be the main focus.  The primary focus should be on creating a compelling application – and if that’s successful, the money will follow.

At our events we often rush the publishing process — but in reality, this is something we should spend some time focusing on.  When publishing an app, you’re presented with the following portal:


By the time you get all the way down to description, all you want to do is hit publish and be done with it.  To further complicate the scenario, the Description section isn’t enabled until packages are uploaded (and, that’s not enabled until the previous steps are complete).  First suggestion: upload a package file that you are using for testing in order to enable the description section.  You won’t submit this for certification as you can simply upload the finished package when ready, but you want to start filling out the description section early:


Now that you’ve got the description field enabled, start filling it out.  Revise it.  Think about it.  Create compelling screenshots.  Create the promotional images.  Think about the keywords.  Have this section done ahead of time so when you are ready to submit your app for certification, this isn’t an afterthought.  The reason why this is critical is because this is the first interaction – the curb appeal – of your app.  This is your one chance to convince them to install your app.

Get the Word Out

You got the email:


Now it’s time to get the word out.  Include a link to the app in your email signature.  Include it in your blog.  Send an email to your developer friends, local user group, or app dev club and ask, politely, for some peer reviews.  Post in the developer forums that you just completed the app.  Be proud of your work. 

Why is this important?   You want to hit the ground running.  A few days after launching Brew Finder, I was seeing pretty good traction:


Looking at the downloads, I noticed a spike shortly after launch:


When I opened the Food & Dining category on the store, I saw the reason for the nice uptick:


This was great to see!  The app is on its way – but a big part in making this happen is to get the word out early.  Drive as much usage to your app in as short a period of time as you can.  The other thing we want to do is encourage ratings.  One way to do this is to add a ‘nag’ screen in the app.  For example:


The above box shows up once every few launches and allows the user to permanently dismiss the box.  When I look at the number of ratings I’ve received (15 ratings, as you can see in the screenshot higher on the page), I’m getting a 1:30 rating to download ratio.   If I look at the apps where I did not ask for ratings:




That’s 1:192, 1:131, and 1:180 ratings to downloads.  There is no question that asking users – politely – to rate your app will drive your ratings to download ratio.  You can also add whatever logic you’d like into your rating reminder dialog.  For example, only ask after so many minutes of usage or after a certain number of app launches.

So what about making money on the app?  I ruled out charging for the app,  While visiting my dad and describing the app, he looked up a similar app on his phone that charged a measly $0.99, and he didn’t buy it.  I realized that this is a typical reaction – an up front purchase will turn away many users.  In-app advertising is also a possibility, but, because of the specific nature of the app (breweries, beer, etc.), using an ad platform is likely to be detrimental to the app – it will bring in a little revenue, but potentially discourage use.  The ultimate goal is to create a great app, encourage use, and find a way (perhaps through a partnership with breweries) to drive value and revenue. 

Is this information useful?  If so, let us know (comments, contact me, etc.).  We’re getting a lot of feedback lately that marketing, monetization, and similar topics are really helpful.   Good luck on your app, and if you publish an app, post a link in the comments and I’ll check it out!

Reprinted with permission.

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