How to Determine the Necessity of Your Mobile App
You’re waiting in line. You’re taking a shower. You’re driving to buy groceries. And suddenly, it hits you: an mobile app idea so brilliant you’re sure it’ll take the app stores by storm.
But before you lose yourself in feature lists and start hunting for an app developer, there’s one step you might be forgetting: validating your app idea against the marketplace.
Why should I validate my app idea?
I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen an aspiring entrepreneur invest countless hours and thousands of dollars into building an app only to watch it fail after the release date.
With more than 2 million apps available on Apple’s App Store alone, competition for customers is intense. Before you even think about building, you need to validate your idea and prove that there’s a large enough market and sufficient demand to justify the cost of development. In my own agency, we’ve seen firsthand how apps that go through our product validation workshop are 2,600% more likely to get funding than the average startup, with 18% of our alumni raising at least $250,000 in pre-product capital.
But how do you go about validating your idea? Years ago, you might need to pay a research firm thousands of dollars or spend hours pouring over marketing reports, but today, the process is much simpler and much, much cheaper.
Using tools accessible to anyone, you can test your app idea and get a sense of the market size in a matter of days. Here’s how to do it in three simple steps.
1. Set up a landing page
One of the simplest ways to test an app idea, or any business idea for that matter, is to set up a faux landing page and run paid ads to it. There are plenty of services for this, but I’d recommend using Launchrock if you want something simple, or Instapage if you want more robust features.
Whichever you choose, use it to build a simple landing page that clearly communicates your key value proposition (the main benefit your app creates for users), a brief explanation of the most important features, and a strong call to action for users.
That last point—the call to action—is the trickiest. There are a few approaches you can take, and the right one depends on the nature of your app and monetization model.
2. Choose the right call to action
The easiest CTA to use is email capture. This means adding an email capture box and saying something to the effect of “enter your email and we’ll send you details when the app launches.” Because this presents the lowest barrier to action for visitors, you can expect to get the most conversions from this option, but it’s also the weakest in terms of measuring demand. While entering an email does show interest in your app, it’s a far cry from being willing to download or pay for the app. There’s nothing wrong with email capture, but it’s something to keep in mind if you do use it.
A stronger CTA for validation would be a “Download Now” button. Downloading the app is a higher barrier to action than entering an email, so while you’ll get less conversions on this type of CTA, they’ll be stronger for the purposes of measuring demand. You won’t actually have anything for users to download at this point, so you can have the button take visitors to a new page explaining that the app isn’t out yet but will be soon. Add an email capture to this page to get a head start on building a base of early customers.
Finally, the last—and strongest—option for a CTA would be a “Buy Now” button. This is a little trickier for an app, as you may not be using a paid download model. But remember that the purpose of market validation isn’t so much about validating the exact parameters of your app; what’s more important is to validate the idea behind your app and determine if there’s real demand for the value you’re providing. For this reason, it can make sense to use a “Buy Now” CTA even if it means modifying your concept to be a web app or downloadable piece of software for the purposes of this test. The only real validation for any business idea is having people give you money for it. Until you get that, nothing is certain.
The key to making this test applicable is to make it realistic. If you’re using a download or buy now CTA, create the landing page as if the app already exists and your visitors will immediately download or pay for it. It may seem disingenuous, but it’s the strongest possible way to validate your idea. If a significant portion of visitors are willing to give you money for your product outright, you know you’re on to something. Getting a bunch of emails or promises to pay in the future just doesn’t provide the same validity.
3. Run a PPC campaign
At this point, you’ve built your landing page and have a CTA set up. Now it’s time to put some eyeballs on it.
Use Google Adwords or Facebook’s ad platform to set up a quick PPC campaign pointing to your landing page. Try to think of search terms that target users of your app would enter, particularly at a point when they would need the solution your app provides. For example, if you’re building an app that helps users invest in stocks more effectively, you might run ads around search terms like “how to buy a stock” or “how to make money on the stock market.” Use Adwords’ built-in keyword planner to help you think of target keywords.
If you’re running a campaign on Facebook, you’ll need to target your ads based on demographics and interest data. To do this, build a customer profile of your target user: Where do they live? How old are they? What are their political opinions? What are their interests? What media figures do they follow? Answer questions like these to build a specific, comprehensive profile of your target user, then run Facebook ads targeted to those same demographics.
You don’t need to spend a fortune on your initial campaigns. A budget of $100 is perfectly sufficient to validate your idea. When evaluating your results, the most important number is the conversion rate on your landing page, which is the percentage of visitors who clicked on your CTA button. Even if you only get three conversions overall, if it’s three conversions out of 15 visitors, that’s a conversion rate of 20%—which is downright astronomical for our purposes. A conversion rate of 3% is solid in most cases, especially if the conversion comes off of a “Buy Now” CTA.
There’s no need to craft perfect ad copy or a flawless landing page to validate your idea. This is a quick and dirty test and should be the first thing you do after getting an idea for an app that you think could work.
Accordingly, what matters is to get started now. The beauty of this method is that it’s easy, fast, and cheap. You can have an idea on Friday, run tests over the weekend, and have compelling data that there’s demand for your concept by Monday morning.
So go ahead and give this method a try. Even if you only spend $10 on your PPC campaign, it’s still an actionable way to get feedback on a business idea from real users and customers. And no matter what kind of app you’re trying to build, that’s the best way succeed in the long-term.