When the iTunes App Store first opened, wild stories about iPhone app developers making $100,000’s in a few days were all the rage. For the most part, those days are over. iPhone App development no longer means you can throw a simple (think flashlight) app into the App Store and expect to rake in $1000’s per day.
Back in the hey day of the App Store when developers were having a field day, it was just approaching 100,000 apps near the end of 2009. As of September 2012, there are more than 700,000 apps available in the App Store. Trying to be found in this sea of apps is nearly impossible.
Sinking $5000 into an iPhone app, uploading it into the app store and waiting for the dough to roll in is no longer a reasonable strategy. Companies need to market their apps outside of the App Store. Think of the App Store as a product delivery vehicle for your customers. It’s the place where people buy your app but not find it (although sales will still trickle in from people finding your app in the App Store).
What’s the Strategy Then?
Here’s a quick guideline on iPhone app development cost:
$2000 – $3000: Simple app, some graphics work, social media integration.
$5000 – $7500: Some complexity, graphics work, database connectivity, social media integration.
$10,000: Game with professional graphics. Although this is certainly not on the level of complexity and graphics design of Angry Birds.
Given the above cost of creating an app, think of the smallest amount of application you can release as a free that still adds considerable value. This requires thinking of your application is modules that can be built in stages. Each stage can be added on later and released.
The first stage needs to make a positive impact. If it fails, you know not to go forward with the other stages. But how do you know if the first stage has failed?
You’ll know if it has failed by the types of reviews and number of downloads. While paid apps are difficult to sell in the App Store with no other marketing, free apps will still get downloads. This is how you begin getting some exposure.
Couple your free app downloads with marketing outside of the App Store for a solid push. If downloads and reviews look good after perhaps three months (this number will depend on how well things are going), begin stage two. Stage two is the first paid version of your app.
In order for customers to receive additional value from your application, they must do an in-app purchase (of stage 2). This further validates your ideas and provides feedback if you should move forward with stage three, which will also be an in-app purchase.
Starting off with a free app that makes money from in-app purchases is certainly not a new idea. The difference with this strategy is that you start off completely free with a minimal viable product. Wait for validation and then move forward with additional stages.
Best of luck and I would like to hear about strategies that you have successfully employed to sell more iPhone apps.