Making a product is not even half of the path to success

Jan 24, 2020

As you may already know, I have launched, with a Friend, an Android application to customize phone wallpapers randomly. The development of the app itself only took us 2 months and was quite fun. The release was really exciting and the first feedback from real users was encouraging. However, things didn't go as planned...

Referral program failure

Our first idea to grow our user base was to introduce a referral program. The idea was simple: each user could generate a referral link and share it among their friends. If 6 users install the app with his link, he will receive the paid version for free (lifetime). The offer was limited to the first 100 users. But guess what?

Nobody has ever used the feature

Yes, it hurts. We have delayed the initial release for 1 week just to implement this feature. A lot of people has generated the referral link, but nobody has actually shared it.

When we have designed this feature, we wanted it to be clear and simple, the feature was explained in the Facebook page, the website and directly on first app setup. Maybe it was not enough after all, maybe we could have implemented a notification that will show up from time to time to explain the concept to the user, who knows?

After two long months, we have decided to completely remove the feature as it was now dead code.

What we've learn

After speaking with a professional marketing guy, we've found that the 6 users threshold was way too big. Users are lazy, they want to provide the minimal amount of time focusing. They will never spend the amount of time required to make 6 people install the app if it's only to unlock something that cost 2.50€.

Marketing is hard, and not an option

Our first idea was to release the application and then move on new things. We wanted to build as many as "little" applications as possible and let them stay online a bit, to see what's working, and then focus on these applications and let the other dies.

On paper this idea seems great, but here's what we've learn: if you don't spend time for marketing, you'll never liftoff. (There's exceptions of course, but this is the general rule).

That's how we end up trying to learn marketing

Marketing is really a job. It's hard, there's a lot of things to learn, and doing it by yourself hurts. But it's also very interesting.

We've spend the next month learning marketing, creating a landing page to collect users via organic search, making a facebook page to create a community around the application, playing with Google AdSense & Facebook Ads, ... We have tried a lot of marketing options to increase our user base. Here's what we noticed:

  • Facebook Ads work well, you have a lot of options to select target audience, and generally the user will interact a lot with your publications (like, comment, share) if they are a bit appealing. However very few users will actually like your facebook page after seeing your ads, and fewer will download your application. If think the Ads are a great way to create a community around a page, but not to bring user to download an app.
  • The landing page is a good idea because it may bring users from organic search. But the page has to be very appealing to make user download your app. The conversion rate is otherwise pretty low.
  • Google Ads is a really powerful way to advertise your application. For example if you target Android you'll be able to display Ads directly in the Play Store, which may have increased conversion rate. You can choose the daily budget you are willing to spend.
  • Creating a community is a good way to bring more users, it can be done by making a Facebook Page, sharing app content, news, encourage users to leave a comment, a like, ... But it's time colonizer.

The conversion walls

Walls exist between the user and your application, the more marketing medias you'll add, the more walls there will be. Let's take an example:

Let's say you've made a landing page for your application, with a link to the Play Store, and you are advertizing the landing page on Facebook. Here you have 3 conversion walls. Few users will finally reach your application because you'll lose users between each medias, from the users that will click on your facebook ads, the users that will actually go to the landing page, the users that will go to the Play Store and finally the users that will actually download your app.

Here's how we have optimize this situation:

Reduce the number of walls

Why advertize your landing page on Facebook? It may give you more analytics, but has you see you'll lose potential users, so advertise directly the Play Store link on Facebook! Keep the website only to earn users via organic search.

Improve the walls conversion rate

The last things you can do, is to improve the conversion rate of your media. The idea here is to get analytics from users behavior, and try new things to improve the conversion rate. Here's an example:

Add Google Analytics to your website, as well as GTM, and start tracking user activity on your website. Then using GTM, perform A/B testing. For example, maybe by changing the button color, the website layout, a title, ... you maybe increase conversion rate by a lot. But for this technique to work, you'll need to analyse user behavior and conversion rate to make sure what you are doing actually works. It's really important to have a lot of insights from your users.

Even if I have taken the landing page as example, you can apply this to everything, Facebook Ads, Google Ads, Play Store, and even your application ! By using Google Firebase you'll be able to gather analytics from your users and improve their experience, in order to keep them, and convert them to paid users.

Conclusion

This is the end of our brief journey through application marketing. I have learn a lot of things by experimenting, and now I'm trying to apply what I've learn to make my products successful.

I have recently buy the famous book Hooked: How to build habit-forming products. It's a really great book for those who want to build better products, increase user conversion and retention without having to rely on heavy marketing. I may write a review once I've finished it if you are interested.

Let me know if you have any comments or suggestions, this subject is pretty new to me, and I know that I have a lot of things to learn!

Happy hacking !

Aloïs Micard

You can contact me on: alois@micard.lu. PGP fingerprint: F733 E871 0859 FCD2