“We need a mobile app!”

Sound familiar?  CEOs across the land are proclaiming this need in board rooms and in corridors.  The head of marketing thinks the idea will definitely make the companies online marketing more sexy.   The work experience kid is also in on the action because he is one app-happy chappy and thinks your workplace should definitely be getting an app.

It’s the latest marketing must-have.  After all, all the cool kids are doing it.  But have you thought this process through, is it right for your business and do you have the time and money to do it properly?  Here are the 20 questions you need to ask yourself at the very start of the process.

Who’s in your sights?

Let’s think about who your mobile app will be targeting.  People on their mobile devices, obviously.  But as a first step, you need to go a bit deeper and ask yourself a bit more about your customers and their online behaviour, including their existing relationship with your website.

1.  Who are your current consumers and target market and are they app users?

2.  What do people want from you?

3. What devices are they using?

4. Where and when are they connecting to your information via their devices?

5. Will moving people into an app space help or hinder your website marketing efforts?

6. Will splitting your online information and marketing efforts be a smart move?

Who’s already gone mobile?

It’s pretty safe to assume people are visiting your website on their mobile devices.  A quick check of your Google Analytics will reveal the numbers involved, but I’m guessing it’s around 20% and climbing.  That’s more than 1 in 5 people wanting to connect with you, but are possibly dissatisfied if your website is not mobile optimised.  They might go away and not come back.  This is undoubtedly more pressing than asking your audience to go to the trouble of downloading your app in the event they MIGHT need your information or offering sometime in the future.

7. Is your current website optimized for mobile?  Would an app provide significantly more functionality then your website?

8. How will the experience differ in an app to a mobile optimised site?

Releasing the hounds

Releasing a mobile app is a highly competitive exercise, and one which must be integrated into your broader marketing strategy for any chance of success.  The Apple app store alone has more than 610,000 apps with the Android marketplace even bigger.  It’s vital your app can cut through this level of clutter, offering an experience and level of engagement for your audience beyond what can be found your mobile optimised website.

9. Which platform will you develop for?

10. Are your users using iOS or Android?

11. Who else has got apps in the market place, and what will you be doing differently?

‘Got the cash’ – maybe there’s an App for that?

Building a mobile app is a significant investment for any marketing manager.  And we’re not just talking costs, although it has to be said that any mobile app worth its salt with moderately useful functionality can easily come in at the $10-$20k range, at a bare minimum.  And that’s not taking into consideration your time involved in project managing a developer.

12. What’s your online budget for the year?

13. What are the initial setup and development costs?

14. What are the ongoing updates and maintenance costs (apps are update hungry little buggers)?

15. What’s your marketing budget to promote this app once it’s live?

16. How will you measure return on investment?

Words with friends

So friend – if your website is already mobile optimised, then it’s a gold star for you.  And if you can also answer YES to the questions below, then a mobile app might be just right up your alley:

17. Is your app offering something that people would actually USE?

18. Do you have a broader mobile strategy, incorporating mobile advertising and third party apps?

19. Can you integrate the promotion of the app in your offline channels?

20. Are you going to commit to keeping the app updated for new devices, operating system updates and secure?

So next time the CEO says he wants an app because ‘so-and-so has one’, and your website isn’t mobile optimised, then you may need to gently remind him that it’s important to have the house in order before the app party starts (or maybe pull out this list and let him know it’s not going to happen overnight).

The APPventure that we have outlined in this post is only part of our experience working in the app development field with clients.  A good developer will have many more questions to ask you once they start.  But start by asking questions, and make the first questions “Do we really need an app?”

Image courtesy SEOPledge.com

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