Welcome to the 7th episode of our Appreneur Podcasts.
In this series of podcasts, we’ll be bringing you some of the biggest names in the industry and the brightest app developers on the planet to discuss app marketing, monetization and development strategies with you every week.
In this episode, we site down with Taylor Pierce, author of the book Appreneur and founder of Idea2AppStore.com and extract (that sounds painful doesn’t it?) some great tactics and strategies that he’s using right now today. You’ll learn:
• How to tell if your app idea will make money
• Why examining other successful apps, and putting a unique spin on it is one of the quickest way to app success
• Which app research tools are worth their weight in gold
• How best to predict the amount of financial success your app will have (before you’ve even created it)
Check out the video and leave your comments and feedback below…
Len: Welcome to the app roundtable. I’m Len Wright, CEO and founder of AppClover.com. Today I have got my partner with me, Matthew Lutz, COO and cofounder of AppClover as well. We’ve got a special guest with us today, Taylor Pierce — Idea2AppStore.com. Taylor, you will have to excuse my stuttering over that one. We’re really happy to have you here with us today; we’re going to extract some valuable information from you. He is actually also the author of the book Appreneur. Taylor, maybe you can tell us a little bit about your bio and tell our audience a little bit about who you are, and the inspiration behind the book.
Taylor: Sure. My name is Taylor Pierce, I have been developing apps for about four years now. I started back when the app store kind of came life to the public. I interned at Apple in Cupertino in the summer of 2010. Last fall, in 2011, I started Idea2AppStore.com, which is our mind development company. In 2012, this July, I released my book, Appreneur Secrets to Success, in the app store.
Len: Awesome. It is a fantastic book, I suggest that everybody out there go and check it out at his site, AppreneurBook.com. Matthew, I’m going to turn it over to you. Matt, you’ve got a few questions for Taylor to start things off here.
Matt: Yes. Actually, today one of the things that we really want to talk about — because we are constantly getting asked this question from our community and things like that, and people want to know more information about the topic in general of app market research. It’s a pretty broad topic, so we will just kind of touch on a few things.
To kick things off, I guess the biggest thing is everyone, from time to time — all Appreneurs and app developers — are plagued with that whole idea block. They just can’t come up with the next great idea. For you, what has worked for you in the past as far as some quick solutions to break through that barrier and come up with, not only an idea, but something you can kind of predetermine a decent level of success, that you know it’s not just throwing a bunch of spaghetti on the wall and seeing what sticks?
Taylor: Sure. There are two ways to go about this. If you’re trying to come up with that new unique idea that hasn’t been done before, one of the things I like to do is just not really think about it. Go out and do things that interest you. Do other things, let your mind just get away for a while. Odds are, it will slap you in the face. A lot of the best ideas I have had are when I’ve been out just driving my car or riding my motorcycle, just out enjoying life. Then your mind just kind of starts thinking, and you’ll come up with some of these ideas.
Now, if you’re not as creative a person, this thing in your hand right now is your most powerful tool, because you can see what apps are doing well and what apps are not. From there you can essentially say, “Okay, I really like this idea.” Download the competitor’s app, dissect it, kind of pull it apart, and say, “Wow, I could do this so much better. These are the things they are doing wrong.” There is your inspiration. The cool thing about that is that if it’s already ranked in the app store, with a little bit more digging and research, you can find out what they are grossing plus or minus a day.
Matt: It’s funny, because it’s one of these things where, for me, I have a hard time just letting go and letting things come to me. Len is smiling right now, because this is one of those battles we have back and forth as business partners. If there’s an issue or problem or something that needs to get done, we need to find a new outsourcer or whatever it is, he’s just always like, “Hey, it will come to us. At the right time, it will come to us.” It sounds a little woo-woo, whatever, but man is there some truth to that. I am a new believer in that, and I never would have been before. I’ve always been the researcher; I need to consume more information and figure it all out myself instead of just letting it come to you. There is something for just being open to letting ideas come to you, and just figuring out, “Hey, I like this. How can I make this better?” I’ll definitely get behind you on that answer.
Len: Also, having that letting go attitude and just getting out there, as you were saying, Taylor, and mingling with life out there. What ends up happening if you’re not concentrating on it so much, is you’re more aware of what’s going on around you. Really, that’s where your ideas are stemming. What are people around you doing? What are they distracting themselves with? How are they playing the games, what are they playing, and what are some things that people do around you that you’re finding maybe could be made better by certain features that you can present in an app? By just playing with ideas as we go along — we are just idea and creative beings. We are creative machines, so those ideas will bubble.
Matt: Something more to that too is the fact that you need to – Len, I know you meditate like crazy, like all the time. In addition to that, I’ve got a mentor of mine whose name is Philip McKernan. He always says that you need to create space for yourself. Without that space — I don’t want to get too far off the topic of apps, but I’m going to bring this back. It’s relevant, because without that thinking space or that alone time or whatever, just time to be, you can’t be open to accepting new ideas. You just won’t be creative. Mentally, you’re just not ready or prepared for it.
The other side of that is, like you said, you actually gave a really, really important tool. You probably just said it in passing because it’s probably second nature to you, but man, there is some powerful research to be done in the app store. We will dive into that a little bit more. Like you say, you held up your phone and it’s like, that’s a powerful tool in the palm of your hand. I will get into that in a second. I don’t want to just glaze over that part of it, because that’s a big part of the equation.
I want to move on to the next question really quick, because this is one that I’m sure you’ll grin when you hear this, because every single person — app developer or person — as soon as you tell them you do app development or whatever, they have a great idea, or, “Hey, is this a good idea?” But the second question really is, will this idea make money? You wrote in your book, I think it was Chapter 6, it’s called “What’s hot and what’s not.” To put it another way, the way I interpreted it was like marketing research and app idea creation. It really does tackle the ideas of, “Will I make money with this app? Will this app be successful?” If you don’t mind, walk us through the first step of what you’re thinking when you move forward with a new app idea. What research do you do to determine if the app will be successful or not?
Taylor: Absolutely, and I’m going to give you not just what normal people — this isn’t going to be what I do, and how I come up with this stuff. Say I’ve got an idea that’s brewing up in my mind. I’m going to grab my phone and I’m going to search it, just see what’s out there. I’m also going to make sure that there is nothing out there by any of the really big players. If it’s an idea for a game or something like that and EA did it, or Activision is publishing it – okay, time to move on to the next one.
If it’s something that there are a couple of other apps out there – I will use a real-world example. There are Internet memes, people like to caption pictures and do things like that. I came up with a cool idea for one of those apps. The first thing I did is I literally typed in “memes” and “funny pictures” in the app store, and began kind of seeing what’s on there. I then noticed that some of them do very, very well. From there I downloaded the top applications, and I gauged top applications by where they were ranked in the keyword search. The top three were the ones I grabbed.
I dissected them, I looked through and found features they had, didn’t have — what could I do better? From there I go look at their customer reviews. I don’t really care about what the five-star reviews have to say, I care about what the one-star reviews have to say. That right there is a customer that is going to be willing to jump ship when a better product comes out.
I’ll look, “He didn’t have Twitter integration. He doesn’t have a way to share these pictures with other people.” I’m just sitting on a notepad writing all this down. By the end of the day I had my idea. I started drawing it on paper and ended up producing it. I ended up outselling all of these other meme apps to the point where I just drove them into the ground. I actually outsold Angry Birds for couple of days in Australia.
It really kind of proves the point; if you take an idea, just because it’s been done, it doesn’t mean that you can’t do it better. Steve Jobs says, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” It’s kind of that sense. If you see a product out there where you know you can do better, then get off your butt and do it better.
Matt: I love that quote too, by the way.
Len: It’s all about adding value.
Matt: Without a doubt. That’s a good point. I think you actually covered one of the questions I was going to ask next, so that’s cool; you kind of did a combo deal without even knowing it. I’ll move on to the next one. The whole topic right now that I want to cover is app market research. One of the things that I really want our viewers and listeners to walk away from this with, is a couple of things they can literally implement. One of those is tools. We talk about it all the time, and as a marketer leverage is a huge point for us. Don’t reinvent the wheel; if you can already take tools and implement them in your business, great.
To that point, what are some of your – actually, you mentioned one of them. Before you answer, one of them you mentioned, and I think this is great, is the customer feedback. As you mentioned, that’s a huge tool for not only what the app is doing right, but more importantly how you can make it better, as you talked about. One of the things we did recently is we have been a part of a lot of product launches in the past, and we’re getting ready to do a new launch on a service we’re going to be offering in the near future. We watched someone else’s launch — like the entire thing, they had all of these live chats going on. All we did was literally go through and watch all of the questions that people had, all of the concerns they had and all the negative things they had to say, in addition to all the positive things that were features that we didn’t think of yet. It was just all literally data that we were like, “Okay, cool. Now we’ve got a great — we did a lot of research just by dedicating a few hours, watching a few videos and all that stuff, and listening to some conversations.” We documented all that stuff, and now we’re building that into our platform.
It’s a really long-winded thing, but my whole point is, you can do the same thing in apps. I think that’s a great tip that people need to really think about; it’s something that’s free, it’s easy — you’re going to download those apps anyway because you want to research them anyway. Why not just pay attention to what people are saying about them and make those improvements? Sorry, go ahead.
Taylor: Like you are saying, I only download a few of my competitor’s apps. There are the screenshots. A lot of the screenshots — you get five of them — tell a pretty good story, and you can actually see the screenshots and the reviews without ever buying the application. You can spend a couple of hours and zero money, and really completely understand the market.
Len: I love the idea, too, that we’re covering a little more in-depth. I’ve been hearing a lot of indie developers out there, Appreneurs going, “Well, market research. Mainly that really is just asking my friends, ‘Hey, is this a cool idea?’ Or, ‘Hey, do you like this idea?’” That’s just not the way to go about it.
I actually remember an old story that is of a copywriting – I don’t know if you’ve ever heard this, Matt. If you write a piece of good sales copy, you go into a pub, into a bar and hand it around. If those people hand it back and say, “Oh, great job!” You’ve done a horrible job, and you haven’t done what you wanted. If they say, “Where do I get this thing?” Then you have done a good job. It’s the same with the app. If you have people actually wanting to download it now, that’s better feedback than, “Oh, great job.”
Matt: Without a doubt. Let’s take it a step further. If you could talk about some of the other top research tools, that would be great just to kind of give an idea of what’s available out there, some of the ones you use and whatever else.
Taylor: Sure. One of the things that I try to really focus on is — I believe the number is 80%. I could be wrong, but it’s a very high number of apps that are found by people just searching things, so keywords. I personally love the site AppCodes — fantastic site. I owe some of my success to this site.
Matt: Their tagline alone says it all, “The Swiss Army knife of SEO for apps.”
Taylor: Exactly. What you can do is type in, say you want to come up with an app for cycling. For whatever reason, that’s the example I always use. You can start plugging in your app’s title and then some keywords. You basically just hit enter, and it’s going to tell you all of the tons of meta data of where you’re going to show up for this word, and this word, and this word. From there you can know, “Okay. The word bicycle is super-flooded and has like 15,000 results. I probably shouldn’t use that as a keyword. What else can I do to really show up toward the top?”
What most people don’t understand is you get 25 apps per page. If you don’t show up on those top 50, don’t use it as a keyword. When you’re looking for an app, have you ever gone past that second page? It’s a powerful tool there. The most powerful part of it is the fact that you can search — how they do this I’m going to get is magic — all of the other apps out there’s keywords. You can type in Instagram, and it will show you Instagram’s keywords – “draw something,” “words with friends,” all of these huge games.
Then you can also take successful indie apps — that’s what I like to do. See, “Okay, what are the keywords they are using?” I remember seeing one a while back that had 106.1 KISS FM as a keyword, which is a fairly popular radio station. Sure enough, people were searching it and they were going to this app that had nothing to do with that, simply from that. I was just like, “That’s genius.”
Matt: When you gave that stat about 80%, something that just kind of jumped out of my head that I want to mention, because it’s great advice. We do a ton of research, that’s part of what we do. One of the things is the market end of things, and we like to see like what the Google analysts are saying and what-not. One of the stats that sticks out in my head is that, I think it’s nine out of every ten people that do a search on their phone take action after that, or something to that effect.
Here was an example that another developer we were talking to gave us. There was a technical calculator app. If people searched that word on the phone, literally just using their web browser for technical applicator app, that keyword in itself was just absolute gold. If you go out tomorrow and you create this, the people that are searching on the web browser — not necessarily in the app store, but in the web browser — and you looked at the traffic of people that were doing it, it is actually huge. There is an idea right there. Steal that idea, someone that’s watching that, because you will get a ton of downloads. You might not make it in the charts because there’s already competition, there is enough calculators out there, but all the people that are searching for that phrase, like on Google, there’s where you’re going to show up. The idea is that are actually searching for specific phrases and specific keywords, those people are more apt to take action and download the app than just finding them organically. That is a really, really important thing to build in.
Taylor: Absolutely, and that’s kind of another thing. I can’t dig too deep into this because this is a huge, very lengthy topic that I go over in the book. Really make sure you build Web SEO for your app as well. That can be done by tons of PR posts, stuff like that, people talking about it, so exactly like what you just said. If somebody searches something in their phone, and one of the first results back is a direct link to iTunes, they click that — not knowing what it is — and then it redirects them to the app store and boom, you’ve got yourself a sale.
Matt: It’s funny, because in your book title and the title of our magazine, we share a keyword, which is why we play together. Rather than being enemies, we can play together and figure out how to support each other. If you type in the word “Appreneur magazine” or “Appreneur” or whatever, you’re exactly right. You see our iTunes link on page one right at the top. You type in “appreneur book” and you’re right there. The proof is in the pudding; if people want to go out and type that in right now, you will see exactly what Taylor is talking about.
I think those are great tools. I know the app store, obviously you’ve covered that, so that’s a really great tool. The other one is the AppCodes site. Are there any others that come to mind?
Taylor: Yes, there are ones when you have existing; basically your app is out and live. The other side of the sword is called Search Man, and it does updates basically daily for your app. I’m not going to go into how the search algorithm works for Apple, the keyword algorithm – it’s one of my well-kept secrets, but it’s in the book.
One of the things that’s really neat with that is that as you make sales and downloads and reviews and all this, you’re going to start climbing up the ladder for that search term. What Search Man does is it takes all of the legwork of you having to search in word one, “Okay, I’m number 827.” Word two, number 216. They basically tell you, “Hey, this word jumps this much; this word jumped this much.” It kind of lets you know where you’re starting to rank. When you pair that with your category rankings and all that, you can really see how your application is trending.
When people talk about how an app is trending, they generally talk about revenue and ranking in some categories. I don’t base it off that. If you want to base it off long-term revenue, you need to just come up very high on your keyword searches, so you’re always there and people are always downloading your app. That’s another fantastic tool.
The last one you can’t live without is App Viz. It’s a Mac desktop program. It’s one of the few ones that’s fairly pricey, it’s about $50, but it handles everything and anything that has to do with revenue and rankings. It gives you nice pretty charts. When you pair all of these tools together, you’re able to essentially see how your app is doing, see how it did and predict where it’s going to go.
Matt: Awesome, I think that’s great. There are five market research tools right there for people to go out and try out if they’re not already doing it, so I think that’s great. One last parting question — this is something that is not an exact science, and I think everyone will respect that. To go back to the whole idea of, “Will this app make money?” To take that a step further, because the next question is, “Okay, if it will, how much?” Are there any indicators, or predicting patterns, or things to look out for? Even if it’s just looking at other competitors, or similar apps that you want to emulate or clone or whatever. Is there anything that you can gauge what kind of success an app will have before you create it?
Taylor: Yes, and that’s one of the things I really try to do is I look at potential competitors. Of course, some apps are just a dash of luck and you kind of have to throw those out. If you have a competitor, say, on a cycling app. You have three or four of them that you know you can make an application as good or better, and they are ranked fairly static, say they are ranked top 25 in reference.
All you have to do from there is really get on a good developer forum, I personally like iPhoneDebSTK.com. Ask around and say, “Hey, people that are ranked top 25 in reference. What are you making in a day?” They will tell you, “Oh, we’re making 500 to 600 sales.” Ask for their category. You just kind of write these down, and over time — it’s going to be a completely new revision in my book, I have almost got it finished of what you’ll make if you are ranked here. You can know, “Okay, if I come out with something similar to this idea and I do as well as they did, I can expect to make between $600 and $700 a day.” Just based off of where they’re ranked. Of course, if you do it better, then you get a chance to make better sales.
Matt: It’s the power of asking people what you want to know; most people don’t do that.
Taylor: Exactly. It’s a lot like networking.
Matt: Yeah. Cool, man, I think that pretty much buttons up all of the questions I wanted to ask. I think it was a good top-level look at the app market research in that category or that topic. Again, I definitely urge people – I’ve got it, I’ve read it – to take a look at your book for some of these things to get a little more in-depth. Obviously, we can’t do it in a short little video, but we can definitely scratch the surface and give you direction. I wholeheartedly stand behind your book. It’s a great book, and I suggest people download it and check it out and buy it. Len, if you want to go ahead and say parting words.
Len: Parting words — there we go. Thanks, Taylor, we really appreciate you being on. We have shared a little bit of information, as Matt mentioned, a top-level view of some market research. We will be coming on in the next while with other podcasts and with other shows as well, and delving even deeper into the subject. Thanks, Matt, and thank you again Taylor for being on. Again, it’s AppreneurBook.com. We definitely suggest you check it out. Thank you again for being on, and we look forward to our next time with you. Thank you.
Taylor: Excellent, thank you guys for having me.
Matt: See you later, man.