Have an app idea, now what? How do you go about shaping it into a successful business?
To turn your idea into an app, you need to understand the business and marketing aspects of it as much as the technical aspects.
You have to be sure that your app has market demand. Moreover, you must know your customer well before you can build something for them. Resources and financial requirements too are vital to transforming your app idea into a profitable business.
As the CTO of a leading app development company, I have shaped the app ideas of hundreds of clients from different parts of the world. I have had to let go of some of the potential clients too because I could see that their app idea wasn’t viable.
From my experience, I can confidently say that startups must follow a structured process to translate their app idea into reality.
How to transform your app idea into a successful startup
Now there are slight variations in how entrepreneurs go about developing their app and setting up a tech business. However, all the successful tech startups have followed most of the following steps in order to build a business out of an idea:
1. Formulate your app idea with utmost clarity
It’s possible that you have shared your idea with your friends, some people who might be your potential customers, some investors and all of them liked it.
However, an idea, when translated into an app, becomes a whole different thing.
For instance, the idea of having an app for on-demand coffee delivery service targeted at corporate employees might sound appealing. But if the app isn’t convenient to use or there is a competitor that is doing it much better than you, the whole idea will collapse.
Thus, it’s important that you formulate your app idea on paper with actionable insights. The following steps will help you gain clarity on your idea:
1.1 Confirm there is a market gap that your app can fill in
If you are launching a mobile app without identifying the market gap, then there surely will be a gap in your balance sheet.
The foremost thing to do when you have an app idea is to study the market and confirm that your app is needed there.
Is there a competitor app that solves the same problem that your app intends to solve?
If no, that’s a jackpot for you! There is no doubt you should at least begin to validate your business idea.
If yes, you must aim to understand whether the market has a demand for the said product/service and whether the competitor’s solution is providing satisfactory solutions.
After you have confirmed the market demand, look for a gap, a pain point that isn’t already being addressed by your direct or indirect competitors. And then, make it the topmost priority your app should aim to address.
1.2 Ascertain the key aspects of your potential buyers
By this point, you will have understood the market. The next step to understand your customer.
Define your ideal target customer
Your ideal target customer is the one who will provide you with the most revenue per head.
Without focusing too much on the details at this stage, you should write two or three lines describing the ideal buyer.
For instance, the ideal buyer for a home tiffin delivery app would be a working professional or a student who does not have the time or the inclination to cook food.
Define the biggest pain point of your ideal customer
After defining your ideal target customer, the next step would be to define the customer's most important pain point.
For instance, working professionals or students who are busy with their daily lives do not want to waste their time and energy in cooking food. This becomes their most important pain point.
Then, interview as many potential users as you can
People love to be listened to, and by interviewing your potential customers you will gain major insights into the viability of your app idea.
When you have an app idea, ask your potential customers the following questions:
- What are the biggest challenges that you are currently facing?
- How much time and money are you willing to spend on a solution?
- What are the lacking features in the currently available solutions?
2. Make a prototype of your app idea
Having tested the viability of your app idea, it’s time to test the viability of the actual app. Most startups like to test a preliminary, sample-like version of their app in order to avoid wastage of resources on building an app that might fail in reality. If you have an app idea and want to test it resourcefully, start with a prototype of the app.
There are many benefits of prototyping your app idea like:
- Save time and money on your designers and software team by showing them ready to go mockups/wireframes for prototypes
- Save yourself time and money by knowing the pitfalls beforehand
- Get clarity on the product
- Gather important feedback from customers
2.1 Types of mobile app prototypes
There are three types of mobile app prototypes:
Images courtesy: XD Ideas - Adobe
A conceptual prototype deals with solving most of the usability issues at the early stages of app development. It is a schematic depiction of future app screens.
Image courtesy: XD Ideas - Adobe
An interactive prototype deals with screens that have passed the conceptual stage. It’s where the designer presents an in-depth, realistic visualization of feature ideas.
Image source: Dribble
The animated prototype is of the highest level and it completely simulates the user journey via detailed animations.
2.2 Tools to use for building efficient app prototype
Paper prototyping tools
There are a few paper prototyping tools that help you in starting right away without any special skills.
For example, you can try UI Stencils for offline prototyping using stencils.
You can also download free sketch templates from various websites. Sketch App Sources is my personal favorite.
Software for prototyping app ideas
SketchUp is another software built specifically for building app UI. It has more features and plugins that are super useful for UI / UX designers.
Additionally, Adobe Experience Design CC is an all-in-one tool for building a robust prototype for your mobile app.
Cloud software for prototyping apps
The leader in the category of cloud prototyping, InVision is the most advanced software for wireframing and workflow platform for web and mobile app prototyping.
UXPin is yet another design platform that you can use to build fully animated prototypes without any coding. Moreover, you can also collaborate with your team where everyone can comment directly on the designs and you can modify the designs in real-time.
If you are looking for simplicity in design as well as the design process, FluidUI is your go-to tool. With a strong focus on simplicity. It is equipped with features like high and low fidelity component libraries, video presentations, device previews, and live team collaboration.
3. Create a business plan
Failing to plan is planning to fail. While building an app, many entrepreneurs forget that they are not just building a mobile app but an entire business.
Thus, it’s vital that you create a business plan to materialize your idea efficiently.
Do not worry about getting into too many details, just figure out the basics like
- Revenue streams
- Cost structure
- Customer segmentation
- Key resources
- Value propositions
- Key activities
- Key partners
- Potential roadblocks
- Contingency plans
4. Write an RFP for app development
Unless and until you are planning to develop your mobile app yourself, you will have to write an RFP (Request For Proposal).
An RFP is a document that clearly outlines your app requirements and invites prospective vendors to bid for developing your mobile app.
While preparing the RFP, make sure that your RFP document contains all the necessary details like
- Executive summary
- Company information
- Project description
- Project scope requirements
- Project timeline
- Proposal timeline
The more details your RFP contains, the higher your chances of inviting the right kind of bids for app development.
5. Chalk out a marketing plan for your app idea
It doesn't matter if you have one of the greatest app ideas of human history, if it is not supported by a robust marketing plan, it will be a good-for-nothing.
Without effective marketing and promotion, the users won't be able to find out about your brilliant app in the sea of apps available at app stores.
Thus, if you have an app idea, consider these app marketing strategies to get the idea noticed by your audience:
SEO and paid ads
A good SEO strategy coupled with an intelligent content marketing strategy is necessary to get your app some visibility and attract users.
Hire influencers to promote your app on social media
Influencers have a loyal audience. A positive review by popular influencers can significantly increase the popularity of your app and goes a long way in building credibility.
Partner with mobile app promotion experts
Nothing better than working with the ones who have already achieved what you aim to achieve.
You will require a combination of the above-mentioned marketing strategies to effectively promote your app. Whatever you do, do not forget to
- Know your audience in detail
- Build a website or a landing page
- Utilize effective App Store Optimization (ASO) techniques
- Track and test everything
Also, while preparing the budget for your mobile app development, allot a significant portion to your marketing plans.
6. Now, you will be able to procure funds for your app idea
Rome was not built in a day, neither was it free of cost.
Mobile app development is a complex process and requires hiring a team of developers and designers, leasing out space, app store fees, hiring a team to maintain the app, and so on.
If you have followed the above-mentioned 5 steps then you will be able to easily track your funds for your app.
There are many ways to avail funding.
Approach venture capitalists
There are many investors who are ready to invest money in a promising app idea. By roping in venture capitalists, you will not only gain access to a reliable source of funds but also have access to the technical expertise which is at the disposal of big venture capitalists.
You can participate in various app development contests and acquire both funds as well as some free publicity.
If you have an app idea that is promising for multiple categories of users, crowdfunding can get you much more than just funds. Free publicity, loyal supporters, and who knows, you may be approached by organizations who want to take your business to great heights.
7. Put together the best development team to build an MVP for your app idea
When you reach this step you will have a much better idea about the requirements of your customers.
Now you should focus on building an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) for your app idea. An MVP will let you know whether your assumptions regarding your product are correct or not.
Because MVP is the foundation of your app’s future, ensure that you hire the best possible team for app development.
It’s always better to hire teams that have worked on similar projects like yours and have delivered great results.
Industry experience, diversity, efficient project management, and business expertise are the most vital qualities you should look for while screening software development vendors.
Building an MVP is an important step for your startup app. It also allows you to understand the needs and requirements of your customers and refine the features of your final app accordingly.
The Bottom Line
I hope you have gained some clarity on what to do next if you have an app idea. Without understanding your market and ideal buyer, you can’t build a product that they want. So ALWAYS begin with studying your target market.
As I said, people may like the idea but not be impressed with the actual app. So the right thing to do is to make a mobile app prototype, see if your audience likes it, and then move ahead with the rest of the steps.
Ultimately, it’s the MVP of your app idea that will be the decisive factor of whether you should invest in your app.