1000 downloads in the first 4 weeks is relatively very small but it’s motivating at my end, so I decided to share with everyone a few things I learnt in the process perhaps it could help someone. You may also want to share this if you loved it to also help someone somewhere.
Often times the most lucrative opportunities are the ones we know nothing about. Indeed, how time flies. A quick flashback to June 2016 when I launched my bulk SMS business, https://appwebSMS.com, I was so afraid that my business could be one of those that died on arrival because there were thousands of bulk SMS websites already in existence.
I later picked up courage when I observed that there were thousands of bulk SMS websites, but there were just about ten bulk SMS businesses. There is really a difference between having a bulk SMS website and having a bulk SMS business. Lots of them had crappy CTRL + C & CTRL + V bulk SMS websites, but I wanted to build a business around my own website. Today, I want to tell you that my case is very much different. It has been a success story.
Earlier this year, whenever I checked the stats of the pages of my bulk SMS website, https://appwebSMS.com, the mobile app download page used to have the highest views after the home page. This kept telling me one thing; my customers need a mobile app.
But how can I give my customers a mobile app since I didn’t have the perfect skills in Android Development (things like Material Design, Java & Kotlin)? This leads us to the lessons I learnt from my mobile app’s journey to its first 1000 downloads on Google Play.
(1.) Procrastination is very deadly – I was really a poor developer before today. I needed to up my skills in Android Development to enable me to launch the mobile app for my customers, so I enrolled in a few courses on Udemy and I also downloaded some quality materials on Material Design and Kotlin.
Now came a time when my village people staged a fight with me. It was more like a Temple Run. The first night, I opened my Udemy app to start learning with the courses I enrolled for, next thing someone sent me a message on WhatsApp and vooooooooooom I’m already on WhatsApp to check the message. I did not leave WhatsApp again till the next morning and then realized I had wasted a precious night. I really blamed myself, but it did not stop there. The second day, the same thing happened, but this time it was Facebook that stopped me from learning. My bad, this happened for a period of 12 good days.
The 13th day, I decided to give my village people a run for their ***** you know and I stood against all odds. Believe me; I uninstalled WhatsApp, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Medium, and Quora from my phone. Yes, I also deleted Quora because I was spending tens of hours reading questions and answers of people that have made it. I installed Stack Overflow instead. I still wonder how early-stage developers succeeded without StackOverflow.
At this point, I was good to go. I shunned social media completely for a period of 4 weeks and the results became very interesting. I was able to learn Material Design, Java and Kotlin to an extent that I could develop the bulk SMS mobile app. Did I forget to mention that I learnt by doing? Well, I want to tell someone today that the best way to learn is by creating real-world applications in the process. There will always be great guides on Stack Overflow to help you understand every concept. Please, run away from any programmer that detests Stack Overflow. Let me tell you that I developed my bulk SMS app, appwebSMS within 4 weeks even as I was learning (learn-by-doing).
Had I allowed social media to win the war, I would have still been there hopping on when to learn. My brothers and my sisters, the time is now. Procrastination is very deadly. Don’t allow it to keep you back in the dark ages. Stay awake today and smile tomorrow. No time. I mean, no dulling at all.
(2.) User Interface and Experience are the Princess and Queen (use the industry standard) – Love at first sight, that kind of thing you know. They said all that glitters is not gold, but believe me, you will first pick up that thing that glitters before you now go ahead to discover whether it’s gold or plywood.
This same principle applies to mobile apps. If you want to download an app from Google Play and you notice from the screenshots that the design looks so bad, you will never download it. I guess you will agree with me on that because you don’t want yet another poison on your phone.
I was able to sell my app really quickly to my target audience because of its simple yet beautiful user interface and experience.
When creating your own app, you really need to invest heavily on UI/UX. It gets and retains those customers for you. Use the industry standard tools like Android Studio so that you can easily implement Material Design to your app. Also, ensure that you optimize the size of your app to get as small as it can so as to increase download choices in emerging markets like Africa.
(3.) Promoting your app aggressively with a personal story is the king – the need for this cannot be overemphasized.
I launched my app on a Sunday and I told a few lines of personal stories linked to my developing of the app. That was the best thing I could have done and it helped caught my friends attention to download and also rate my app 5 stars on Google Play. Everyone wants to see a reason to support you. Don’t always present yourself as a company.
A company most times do not have a human face, but you as the owner of the company have. Use your personal brand to launch on the first day, then go back to respond to queries as a company. Human beings are always afraid of companies I must tell you. Come closer to your people and they will come closer to you. I currently have 62 five star reviews and 1 jealousy somebody’s 1-star review.
This early downloads and positive reviews you get from your friends are what will push your app to the next level. Use platforms like Nairaland, Google+, Quora and others to promote your app, but please, don’t waste your time promoting a crappy app. Ensure you have played your own good part, else bad reviews will eventually fall on you – Yakataaaaaaa…!
(4.) You can’t be perfect at first launch – “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you have launched too late” – Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn Founder.
You have heard it from Reid Hoffman. This is also one of the reasons Google Play has provisions for app updates. You can’t do it perfectly at first launch. Even WhatsApp, Facebook and other big players are still pushing out updates today. This is because it’s not yet perfect for their users.
When I was developing appwebSMS, I deactivated the search functionality so as to debug an error. As time goes on after my launching, one of my users complained that he needed the phone contacts search feature that was when I remembered I did not activate it back before launching. A user also complained about not being able to send messages to more than 100 contacts. I tested again and noticed that I had wrongly used GET request method instead of POST. This being that GET request method allows only 2085 chars long. I’m really a dumb ass programmer. Only a few users knew it then and the best thing I did was to fix the bug and push out the update. Life is so easy!
So, don’t wait to be too perfect before you launch. “Your ideas only gets clearer as you work on them” – Mark Zuckerberg. Launch today and seek user feedback. Remember, there is no time.
(5.) You will get 1000%+ new paying customers in few weeks – This is where it gets most interesting. Of course, everyone wants that ease. Nobody wants to dull at all. Everyone wants to just tap an icon on their mobile phone and do it vaaaaaaaam. Why then deprive them of their want? Launch an app today and see how your business will gain thousands of new paying customers. I’m a living witness.
Before I launched my app, I had about 170 paying customers in 1 year. But immediately I launched my app, my paying customers increased to 700 in just 4 weeks. Before, I used to wake up to lots of unsolicited MTN messages, but these days I always wake up to at least 4 credit alerts and another 5 credit alerts while in the office. This is just for customers that paid online; now add those that make a bank deposit and mobile transfers. It has really been a great journey. If I start BOLE (roasted plantain) business today, I must launch an app for online ordering the next day.
(6.) Customers are truly always right; be patient with them – during the cause of my exponential increase in customer base, I had received lots of calls from different backgrounds of individuals. I learnt that as a business owner, you must be patient with every single customer and offer them great support. One fateful morning, a customer called me on phone and this is our conversation over the phone:
Customer: Hello from the other side, my name is ******
Me: Well Done Sir (in Falz voice)
Customer: Please, am I speaking with appwebSMS support?
Me:* I now remembered that I forgot to do the normal thing because we were acting Falz over the phone.
Me: Good day and welcome to appwebSMS! How may I help you today?
Customer: I saw your app on Google Play. Please, how can I download it?
Me: *I was like Heeeeeeeeeeeeyyyy. How will you download it? I wanted to get angry in the first place but I had my chill. I started lectures with this man o. I mean, complete “Google Play Installation Processes 101” Finally we downloaded the app together over the phone call. Next…
Customer: How do I create an account?
Me: *What have I done to deserve this now? In my mind though. But we passed this stage.
Customer: How do I activate my account? How do I log in? How do I save phone numbers to phonebook?
Me: *My people, the questions were many, I nearly cried because I was answering the call. This is how we were on lectures o until he asked – How do I make payment? Then the normal me came back. Let me tell you that this particular customer purchased an SMS unit worth NGN40,000 at the end of the day.
Since then, I always treat all the customers like newborn babies over the phone. They are truly always right. We just need to be patient with most of them.
These are a few things I learnt in this short period of time and I thought it could be beneficial to some people, hence my sharing with you. If you found this piece interesting, do help someone out there by sharing these experiences with them as well.
You can check out the app on Google Play at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.frankappweb.appwebsms