Small businesses are making successful leaps into developing apps that strengthen their customer base and profit margin. Success isn’t automatic, however, so when developing an app for your small business, what questions do you need to ask before you begin?

Increasingly, we are accessing the web using smartphones and tablets, with 90% of our time spent across a range of apps. From gaming to e-commerce, apps are proving lucrative, but that doesn’t mean that creating an app means instant success. As with a website, there are fundamentals to app development and maintenance that needs to be considered.

1. Do you have the time to commit to app development and maintenance?

Like a website, an app or apps you develop need to be maintained, as well as kept up to date and developed in such a way that your followers and customers will continue to find it useful. From time to time, apps need to be updated, which can release problems that need to be sorted. Although apps can be great for bringing in more custom and revenue, they can suck time and concentration.

2. Is there a market for your app?

There were 3.14 million apps available for users in 2020, a figure that looks set to rise. The Apple and Google Play stores have their fair share of apps for users to download. Companies, businesses and organizations of all shapes and sizes turn to apps to bring their products and services. For some industries, an app is considered (almost) compulsory, but for others, it can be hard to see how an app could improve or fit with what you do.

Just because you think you should have an app doesn’t mean that you should invest a hefty chunk of time and money into developing one. You need to check that there is a market for an app – check with your current customer and follower base, as well as researching across your own industry and sector to see what competitors are doing.

3. Is your customer and buyer personas up to date?

Developing an app that has all the hallmarks of success means developing one that has the features your customer persona will find useful. And that means understanding what they want and need.

You may have created a detailed customer persona when you began your business, but if you haven’t updated it in some time (or created one at all), app development is a good time to take a closer and analytical look at who your customers are.

You’ll need to examine customer behavior patterns, demographics, motivations and goals. By understanding these better, and the more detailed information you have, the closer your app will align with the needs of your customers.

Great apps that are useful and secure soon build a great reputation with followers. App users will often leave reviews on app stores as they can do so easily and readily. You’ll need to consider this as part of app development too. Do you have the time to respond to queries, concerns and suggestions for improvements?

4. Can you carry a potential financial burden?

The top-earning apps in 2019 brought in over $82k a day. Whilst nothing is stopping your app from reaching these dizzy heights, you need a hefty dose of reality – the likelihood is, your app will draw money for the first few months, turning very little in the way of profit.

That said, there must be something in it if organizations and businesses of all shapes and sizes are successful in launching and maintaining apps. These companies have a monetizing strategy behind app development which maximizes financial return. Even if you decide that making money is not a top priority, a strategy that addresses long term financing and profit is something you will need to consider?

5. How will you maximize your new-to-the-market app?

Like selling a property, you need to trade hard and fast on it being new to the market, so you get the interest of potential customers straight away. The misconception of app development is that you’ll load your app onto an app store, and people will find it and download it.

Like your website and other platforms, you’ll need a marketing strategy that places your app firmly in front of the intended user. It needs to maximize the fresh-to-the-market position as well as look longer-term to engage more users.

As well as utilizing your email marketing database, you may want to consider paid ads on search engines and social media. If you do, you will need your buyer persona ready as understanding who you are aiming at allows you to tweak your marketing so that it reaches the right people.

6. What is my marketing budget?

Marketing doesn’t have to cost top dollar, but you do need to have a pot of cash and commitment to drive it forward. You can, of course, market the app yourself using social media updates, paid ads and banners across your website, as well as leaflets in orders and QR codes in your retail premises, if you have one.

But the app market is a crowded place. For some industries, the app market can be a very crowded place, and so recruiting the expertise of an external marketing agency can make all the difference.

If you do nothing else, you need to have a marketing plan that lays out tasks and details behind app launch and ongoing marketing. Failure to think through the basics will mean the time and money spent on the app, no matter how great it is, will be wasted.

Factor in the cost of marketing for launching the app and beyond into the cost of developing the app.

7. Are you working with the right app development partner?

If you are non-technical and have no idea of the first place to start with planning and developing an app, you’ll need to work with an app-developer or app-development agency to bring your ideas to life.

Like website development, app development is more than just the app itself – there is marketing and maintenance to plan and execute too. That said, apps are popular and can, for a small business or organization, help to propel it to new heights.

Joe Dawson is the director of Joe has a passion for creating meaningful experiences. Through design he creates authentic and innovative digital products. Read Joe’s blog. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn, follow Joe on Twitter.

Developing an app stock photo by BongkarnGraphic/Shutterstock