There are close to 700000 mobile app developers (including freelance developers) in Asia alone. If you think that’s a stunning figure, check this out – the total count of app developers across the globe is just a shade under 2.5 million. Many of them have been in this business for years, and have moved on to entrepreneurial roles in their respective companies. It’s, in essence, a crowd out there – and the challenge for any app development company is to stand out from it, to capture and maintain a steady clientele. How to do this? By following a few basic rules, which form the crux of the discussion in this week’s AppBoard Tuesday (ABT):
- Promptness in dealing with prospective clients – The good ol’ adage ‘first impression is the best impression’ holds true for the business domain too. When someone submits an app idea and asks for a free app quote, you should provide it within a maximum of 24 working hours (in fact, that’s sort of a standard). The more you delay, the greater is the chance of the concerned client slipping away to another mobile app company. There is no dearth of them, you see!
- Maximize chances of discovery – This is where the power of the internet comes into the picture. Admittedly, any app development company worth its salt will have its own website – but not all such sites are optimized properly. Do some research on the type of words/queries used by people while searching for app developers, and create your site content accordingly (do not, however, start spamming!). A strong online presence can do wonders for your business.
- Showcase your work – How would a new client know that your company has the necessary relevant experience and technical expertise to handle his/her project? That’s right, by browsing through the apps you have already churned out. Make sure people can check out the iOS apps and Android apps in your portfolio (from your website, on your social media pages, on app review portals, on request, etc.). If yours is a new company, create a few in-house apps with the latest technology. Your work should speak about your expertise – you need not make a separate song-n-dance about it.
- Learn, learn, and then, learn some more – The field of mobile app development is in a state of flux, and it always shall be. New programming languages (Swift 1.2 is out now), frameworks (have you checked out Xcode 6.3 beta 3?), game development engines (everyone’s talking about Unreal Engine 4.7), SDKs (beta of iOS 8.3 is available too), and other such tech stuff are regularly being launched. Add to that the scores of smartphones/phablets (mostly Android) that hit the markets every quarter. You and your team of developers need to constantly stay updated about all that is happening, related (in any way) to the creation of mobile apps. If your knowledge base is static, you will drown in the competition.
- Transparency is the best policy – Wouldn’t it be just great if you could earn a few extra dollars from each of your app projects, by adding some hidden clauses in your terms of service (say, selling of intellectual property rights)? How about charging a fee for giving out app quotes? Attractive as these ideas might seem on paper, they are sureshot recipes for ushering in business failure. Yet another poor strategy practiced by many mobile app agencies is charging a certain amount for app upgrades. Make sure that your terms and conditions are user-friendly (no big jargons please!), there are no hidden costs involved, and you are prepared to sign non-competing agreements (if required). The trust-factor is vital, and you can flout it only at your own peril.
- Keep your promises – It’s all very well to tell a client that your company will finish his/her app development project in 10 days flat. What if you cannot keep your word, and the project gets delayed? That will lead to two things: a) a loss of face for you, the app entrepreneur, and b) the loss of that client (rest assured, (s)he will never contact you for another project). Make promises that you know you can keep – and do not go overboard in your endeavor to impress clients. Sincerity, rather than hollow tall claims, is the most sought-after virtue.
- The cost factor – Well, you cannot do much about it. Making an iPhone app or an Android app involves fairly large expenses (that for the former being higher), and there is no way on earth that you can cost-cut your competitors to any significant extent. What’s more – your company won’t survive for long, if you keep taking up projects, and incur losses on them. What you can do is let your clients select from alternative budget plans for their projects. That way, people will be able to choose the expense slab that suits them the best, and not turn away because your app-making service is ‘too expensive’.
- Work with your clients – It’s normal practice for many mobile app companies to provide quotes, take up projects, and deliver the app after a certain interval (weeks, a couple of months, whatever). The poor client is practically shunted out from the actual process of app creation – something that the more discerning clients will surely not like. Be more ‘open’ about your activities, and make clients, in effect, a part of your team of developers. Share wireframes and mockups, and seek feedback and additional recommendations (if any). At every step, make your clients feel that they can jump in with suggestions and ideas. After all, they are the ones paying!
- Focus on innovation – There is a reason why an iOS app company is different from, say, a packaging firm. You should never treat projects as stuff coming along on a virtual assembly line/conveyor belt – finish the first as soon as possible, and move on to the next. Conduct intense brainstorming sessions for each project, and find out how you can address the requirements specified by the client AND add a touch of innovative feel in the app. There are thousands of companies that develop apps in the run-of-the-mill way…your services need to have a fresh, different feel.
- Create teams and train your staff – If your company is into making apps for multiple platforms (cross-platform is, indeed, the way to go), you need to have separate teams for Android and iOS app development. They are different specialized domains, and the training you need to provide to the two teams are not at all identical (for starters, it’s Xcode for iOS apps and Eclipse/Android Studio for Android apps). In addition, recruit a separate team of UI/UX designers, graphic artists and animators. You know what they say about coders not being the most creative of people!
- Participate in events and app competitions – Let’s cite the example of one of our own apps – Story Time For Kids – here. It bagged the Adobe Flash Summit award in 2012, was shortlisted at mBillionth South Asia Awards 2014, and has won a couple of other prestigious awards. That, in turn, has bolstered its popularity significantly. A travel app – Stopover – won big at Talent Unleashed Awards last year. Participate in as many such competitions as possible, and submit your best apps. If you manage to win, nothing like it. Even if you don’t, the additional publicity won’t hurt.
- Keep people happy – The more smiling faces you have in your company – the better would be its long-run prospects. Focus on two things: offering complete customer-satisfaction by providing app development services of the highest quality; and maintaining a healthy, enjoyable work-environment, in which your staff would love to work. Recruiting good app developers is tough enough, and retaining them is a challenge that you have to manage. You certainly do not want to invest time and money to train new recruits, only for them to leave your company after a couple of months.
These points, if followed properly, should give your company the room to compete on an even keel with your rivals. Whether you succeed in the long-run or not would, of course, depend on the quality of mobile applications you make. It’s not a walk in the park to make a mark in the fiercely competitive world of mobile app development – but having the right infrastructure and following the best practices would certainly put you on the right path.
With that, let’s wrap up yet another edition of AppBoard Tuesday (ABT). If you are new to the app development business and are looking for some tips and guidelines, do write in to us. Feel that there is any other rule of thumb that app companies need to follow? Share it with us too.
ABT will be back next Tuesday, with yet another interesting topic related to…what else…mobile apps. Till the next time, love thy apps!
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