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Yes, you read that headline correctly. On a blog focused on bringing you the latest tech trends and coaching you through the app development process, we’re pumping the brakes a bit and talking today about reasons why building a mobile app or web app might NOT be a good idea for your business or organization.

You Haven’t Conducted Any Market Research

If you know anything about us, you know that Oak City Labs is a huge proponent of market research. We believe it is the cornerstone of any worthwhile, successful app. If you have yet to complete any market research on your idea, you probably shouldn’t be building your app quite yet! If you don’t know where to start, download our FREE checklist detailing all of the steps.

Your Idea Isn’t Unique

Market research should help, but it’s important to answer the question, “Is this idea unique?” If the answer is yes, keep going! If the answer is no, take pause. Just because someone else has already built an app like the one you’re proposing, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. It just means that you should really think hard about how you can add or change functionality to differentiate your mobile app or web app from others. What is your secret sauce or unique value proposition that will make users download your app too?

Your Idea Doesn’t Provide Value to Your Users

If your mobile app is just a replication of your website, you don’t need a mobile app. Yep, you heard me right. Your app should provide value to your users through additional functionality, interactive components, connectivity with IoT devices, notifications, geolocation features, etc. Think through what additional functionalities should be added to your app to set it apart from your website – what additional value can it bring to your users – and build that!

You Don’t See A Lot of Mobile Traffic to Your Website

This one’s tricky, but worth considering. We believe that analytics are a powerful way to make business decisions – the numbers don’t lie! If you have an existing business with a website, have you checked your analytics lately? What percentage of users visit your site with a mobile device compared to a desktop? Maybe there are a lot of tablet visitors? If you have a mobile-friendly website and still don’t see a trend in the analytics toward mobile users, think twice before creating a mobile app. If users won’t visit a mobile website, it’s hard to expect them to download an app.

You Don’t Have the Resources

Building a mobile app or web app is not for the faint of heart. And when you launch the app out into the world, the work has really only just begun. Consider the amount of time and money you have available to bring your mobile app or web app idea to life.

Let’s start with time first: is this a side project that you want to tinker with for a year or so – or are you truly diving in and devoting yourself to the project? There is so much more to building a mobile than writing code; in fact, most times that’s the easy part! To be truly successful, you’ll need to devote a considerable amount of time to the project to handle market research, strategy, marketing, public relations, operations, among other things. Can you or your team devote time for that? And then there’s the other item: money. Building a quality custom mobile app from start to finish is not cheap. Expect to spend around $50-250k+ on the process. Need ideas for funding in the life science, education or agtech space? We have one tip here.

Of course there are plenty of reasons why you SHOULD build a mobile app, and we’d love to talk with you about those too! If you have an idea, but aren’t sure where to start, let us know! We’d be happy to chat with you!

Following the success of our last workshop in April, we’re excited to present this workshop again – this time at The Frontier in RTP on July 11.

If you’re considering building a mobile app or are embarking on a custom software development project, we’d invite you to join us for a free workshop next month. We’ll be discussing the most important, yet often most overlooked, step as you begin your project: market validation. We’ll also talk through technology and why it matters.

You’ll have full access to the entire Oak City Labs team for this engaging and interactive presentation, as well as Q&A and networking following the workshop.

We hope to see you there!


July 11, 2017
The Frontier (The Classroom)

  • Registration & Continental Breakfast – 8:30 – 9:00 am
  • Workshop – 9:00 – 10:30 am
  • Q&A and Optional Networking – 10:30 – 11:00 am
Shoestring Market Research

Two weeks ago we hosted a workshop discussing market research and validation. We shared several methods, tools and resources to use while researching a market opportunity. Most importantly, we covered why you should do research before building anything. Today’s post summarizes a few of those items and will give you a starting point into tackling your own market research.

Value Proposition

The hardest part of research, or anything really, is simply getting started. I like to begin with the goal of writing a value proposition. Fortunately, I spent plenty of time during the NC State TEC program working through value propositions, particularly one based on Geoff Moore’s Crossing the Chasm. I’ve since used the same value proposition with product teams, clients and our own internal projects. In order to “cross the chasm” and avoid certain death, you need a plan, a position and understanding of your market.

 

A well-researched value proposition will help you think purposefully about the business or product you are about to build. The structure to follow is:

For (target customer)
who (need or opportunity)
the (product/service name)
is a (product/service category)
that (statement of benefit)

Unlike (primary competitive alternative)
our product (statement of primary differentiation)
which leads to (economic impact)

If you break down each section, it walks through market size, problems and needs. It also covers competitors and your own unique differentiators. Using the value proposition as a guide, you begin with finding market opportunity or size in dollars. I primarily use Google search for finding reports or charts that show market size. As an example, we’ll research the construction software market. Here are sample search terms I might use:

construction software spend 2016
construction industry spend on software
construction software market share
construction software market size

It’s a good idea to also look at Google Images and different file types when using these terms. The data you’re after may be in an image or on a report. For file types, add “filetype:pdf” or “filetype:ppt” to the end and you might even find a report from another company that has surveyed the industry of interest.

Often times I’ll take a stab at writing the value proposition without real numbers and then fill them in later. Your value proposition will likely get re-written multiple times during the course of research and feedback.

Voice of the Customer

Outside of Google searches, the most important tool in your market research arsenal will be talking to people. The formal research method is called Voice of the Customer. It includes in-depth surveys, discussions and tracking of data from real human beings. Most small businesses might do a light version of Voice of the Customer in 4 steps.

  1. Create a contact list of people, including potential customers.
  2. Create a survey to use as a guide for interviewing people.
  3. Call and talk to people.
  4. Analyze the survey data and look for patterns.

The survey itself should have very open ended questions. You do NOT want to lead the interviewee. Here are some examples:

  1. What’s the most difficult part of your job?
  2. What are your top 3 challenges right now?
  3. If you could automate any part of your job, something that you find yourself doing over and over, what would it be?
  4. Is there anyone else that I should talk to?

Set a goal for the number of people you’ll contact. One hundred is a good start, but 200+ is even better. If you have a team and can talk to 500, you’ll have more data to support any conclusions. It’s also good to ensure the surveys are stored somewhere for review. It’s really easy to write down notes and then lose them later.

In every product or feature I’ve seen built, the most successful ones are supported by in-depth discussions had with real human beings. In-person conversations can also lead you to other resources and connections. For example, trade associations or conferences may not show up at the top of your Google searches. As an added bonus, some of the people you interview may become the first champions of your product.

Other Resources

Finally, a list of all the resources I’ve used in the past for research:

  • Google
  • Google Trends
  • Voice of the customer
  • Social media – Twitter, LinkedIn, Quora
  • Trade associations
  • Paid reports (IBIS, Gartner)
  • Networking events and conferences
  • App stores and reviews (Google Play and iTunes)
  • Digital surveys by using Typeform or SurveyMonkey
  • Annual reports, earnings calls
  • Job postings
  • University libraries and public libraries. Most public universities, like NC State, have resources available for alumni and community members.

There are so many resources available for market research on a budget. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and need an actionable market research plan, shoot me a note I’d love to hear from you!

These days it seems like everyone’s making an app. At Oak City Labs, we love talking with entrepreneurs about their next great idea!

If you’re considering building a mobile app or are embarking on a custom software development project, we’d like invite you to join us for a free workshop next month. We’ll be discussing the most important, yet often most overlooked, step as you begin your project: market validation. We’ll also talk through technology and why it matters.

You’ll have full access to the entire Oak City Labs team for this engaging and interactive presentation, as well as Q&A and networking following the workshop.

We hope to see you there!

  • When: Thursday, April 27
  • Where: Halle Cultural Arts Center – Studio Gallery, 237 North Salem Street, Apex, NC 27502
  • Schedule:
    • Registration & Continental Breakfast – 8:30 – 9:00 am
    • Workshop – 9:00 – 10:30 am
    • Q&A and Optional Networking – 10:30 – 11:00 am