10 Secrets About “App Empires” And Why It Matters To Digital Marketers

Just about every day, someone tells me about their amazing app idea.  It’s always something that will blow up into something huge, getting millions of users, and obviously, earning millions of dollars.  All with just word-of-mouth marketing.

If you think about it, it makes sense.  I mean, apps are MASSIVE right now with no signs of slowing down.  There are billions of dollars being made in the app store every year, so obviously people are trying their hardest to find an app idea to stake their claim in this modern-day gold rush.

I’m a positive person, so I don’t tell them what lies in front of them, how they need to start or really do anything except smile and tell them excitedly to “SWEET!  GET IT DONE!”

But believe me — it is hard not to tell them the truth about building apps right then and there.

Funny enough, I used to tell people the truth up front, but I stopped.  I had to…

People got mad at me!

They looked at me like I was crazy, rolling their eyes saying I was wrong. 

(Seriously, like I don’t do this stuff EVERY DAMN DAY!)

I get it though…. It is SO EASY to have the big app idea – tell everyone about it, get all excited, join a Facebook group for startup CEO’s and sit on that idea like it is money in the bank earning interest for you.

If only it were that simple….

Now, I’m not saying “It’s too hard, don’t do it.”  Nor am I saying “It’s so easy!  You can do it 100% by yourself in like 2 hours.”

My stance is a bit more like:  “It takes work, but anyone can do it.  You just need someone to show you how.

And do you know who has the best chance of success?

I always believe that digital marketers, and especially affiliate marketers, are the likely group to absolutely kick ass in the app game.

But before you begin your journey to making it big in the app game, there are some “industry secrets” that you should know.

1. There Are No Such Things As “Overnight Successes”

So this is partially true.  Yes, I’m sure you can find an example of something that literally became the biggest thing ever in just one day, but usually even things deemed “overnight successes” take a bit of time to start.

This is actually a hidden benefit in the app game!

Running a business as big as Facebook or Snapchat does’t just happen when you click “launch” on your app. 

  • Your tech has to be solid – able to withstand millions of users 24/7/365.
  • Your legal has to be in place – more people = more risk exposure.
  • Customer support needs to be ironed out or you will be scrambling to keep people happy.
  • Can we give a quick shout-out to our friend cash on hand???  You will likely need to have a couple of bucks in the bank to keep it all running smoothly.

In reality, when things grow over time – it gives you a chance to spot and fix problems in your tech / process / everything before it gets too many eyes on it.  This is much easier and gives you a much better chance at keeping your success when you get it.

2. Most Apps Are Not As Big As Facebook

And I can’t overstate this enough:  THAT IS A GOOD THING!

Most successful apps aren’t making millions or billions.  But that doesn’t mean they aren’t making some serious bank.

$100k+ is awesome.

And I probably don’t have to convince you that an app doing around $100k (examples here) / year is going to be a lot easier to run than a company as big as Facebook.

3. Most Empires Contain Multiple Apps

The reasoning for this is simple:  If you can make an app that makes $10k / $50k / $100k / year that takes minimal time to run and maintain, you have what is called a lifestyle business.

That golden goose talked about by Tim Ferris in The Four-Hour Work Week.

And when you have one of these lifestyle app businesses, you realize you can probably do it again and again with other ideas. 

This is how everyday people make it big with apps.  A small company of 1-4 people, doing things their own way, working from the beach, etc., etc. making $100k / year with 6 different apps.

Those that want to go for the billion dollar apps and live on the front pages can still do that.

Even Google and Facebook have a ton of apps to their names – all funneling revenue to the mothership.

4. Multiple Streams Of Income Are Good

This might sound like a given, right? 

You’d be surprised about how many companies ignore this for way too long….

When I am talking about multiple streams of income, I mean that in two ways:

  1. The first is simple:  Multiple apps = good.  We just talked about that one…
  2. This is the one that gets me when people skip it:  Your app can make money in many ways!

Do you want to charge 99 cents to download your app?  Or make the app subscription based for $9.99 / month?  Or how about selling upgrades from inside the app?

What about making some money from your data?  Or using your app to leverage partnerships that make you money?

I just listed 5 ways that apps can make money and most app “gurus” will do one OR NONE OF THEM with their apps!

Seriously… when you build your app, plan on making money with it. 

5. You Need More Than Word-Of-Mouth And Social Media To Grow

Word-of-mouth is an awesome way to get downloads.

Social media is great to get a ton of free downloads.

They are also both unpredictable and uncontrollable. 

You should have both of these in your marketing arsenal, but they can’t be your only weapons. 

How else are you going to get the word out about your app? 

  • Content marketing?
  • Partnerships with others in the same space?
  • Affiliate launches?
  • Ads?

I wish everyone could make it big on word-of-mouth and social media, and everyone can if they do it right…

Even if it isn’t working out as well as you hoped, you can still hit it big.

Just have a backup plan.

6. You Don’t Need To Code It Yourself

This is the #1 question that comes through our door. 

“I have an awesome idea for an app.  How do I learn to code it?”

The honest answer is:  If you aren’t a mobile app developer, you don’t learn to code it. 

You have to be a developer / coder / programmer of some sort to learn mobile app development quickly.  If you have never written a line of code before, why on earth would you want to do it yourself?

That’s like saying: “I want a house.  Let me go take a free course at the Home Depot and start hammering away…”

IT WONT WORK.

Get a professional.  Seriously.

If you plan your app properly, it shouldn’t cost you much money at all.  And the best part is:

IT WILL ACTUALLY GET DONE IF A PRO DOES IT FOR YOU!

We live in the internet age.  Use that to your advantage and find a pro in your budget that will get it done right.

7. You Don’t Need Any Partners Or Co-Founders To Start

Having technical (or marketing) cofounders or partners may seem like it will help move things along and make your life easier, but that isn’t always the case.

Nothing kills a business quicker than a partner disagreement…

Partners can flake out.  Co-founders can flake out.

And if they do, you are out 20% or more of your company with nothing to show for it.

The truth is no one will care as much about this as you.  If you go it alone, without any partners or cofounders, there is a single voice driving things forward and that is very freeing.

8. Things Are Much Easier When You Have Help From Someone Thats Done It Before

Just because you are going it alone, doesn’t mean you have to be totally on your own.

Consultants, books and online courses about app building all exist because someone has gone through this before and solved some problems that you’ll have to face.

This is like having a mentor hold your hand the whole way through.  It will make things much easier.

9. Perfection Is A Myth That Will Crush You

There is no such thing as perfection in technology.  There is always some bug that will pop up.  Some feature that has been left out.  SOMETHING that annoys you.

Something that embarrasses you.

Don’t worry about it.  That is the nature of technology — and no one cares about your app like you do.  They care about it solving a problem that they have.  As long as you solve that problem, people will live with missing features or bugs.  We all do it every day with products we swear by.

10. You Don’t Need To Raise Any Money To Start

You obviously need money to start, but not much.  Not much at all.

Sure, it would be just lovely to have $500k in the bank to start your life as an app CEO, but that’s not usually the reality.  To get started, you need much less.

It really boils down to summing up the rest of the rules: 

  • You don’t need to have your master plan completely built out to start, just enough that your target customers will love it.
  • Growing slowly is good.  You can tweak and perfect things, all while earning money, until you decide everything is ready for the big launch.
  • Small niche apps are just like small niche products.  They can be low maintenance and make you decent money.  Put a few of them together, and you are on to something big.
  • Have a growth strategy that includes more than posting on your twitter feed.
  • DIY is the way to go.  Hire some freelancers and get it done — don’t expect some technical co-founder to do the lion’s share of the work up front.  The results will leave you disappointed.  Just get a coach or consultant to help you along.
  • Don’t wait until things are perfect to launch.  Launch when its ready and perfect along the way.
  • Bootstrap it.  It will force you to be lean and mean the whole time, and that leads to a better product in the long run.

And do you know who lives and breathes these truths?  You.  The new-age titan of industry that laughs at the old way of running a business.

When an entrepreneur knows these dirty little secrets, they are able to properly plan for the future and won’t be surprised if something doesn’t go exactly as planned.

When does anything go exactly as planned in business? 

It’s all about starting and pushing forward until you hit whatever benchmark means “success” in your eyes.

Steve Eakin is an entrepreneur, startup CTO, technical advisor and JKD black belt. You can check out his latest work at startupblackbelt.com. If you want to build an app, but need a hand getting started, check out his FREE MINI-COURSE to help!