Tuesday, March 21, 2017

How I got 2.3 million app downloads (without spending a cent on marketing)

Creating A Story
Rewind back to May 2013 and I was co-founder of a music app startup called Discovr. We had managed to achieve over 4 million downloads, raised over $1m and were perceived as ‘successful’ (unfortunately things didn’t end up that way) in our home town of Perth, Australia.

It was very common for people to come up to me and ask what the magic was to make a successful app. We’d fudged our way through and somehow made something people wanted to download, but could I recreate it?

I was lucky enough to be reading an advance copy of the amazing book The Fortune Cookie Principle which really opened my eyes to storytelling and products.

I was also inspired by reading this advice from the One More Thing conference about how to write a press release. Surely it’s impossible to stand out with a press release like that?
Hatching An Idea

I wanted to build an app in one night, not tell a single person about it and run some experiments on it to see if I could get it to some level of success. I thought maybe I could get a few thousand downloads and make a couple of hundred bucks.

I wanted an idea that I had no domain advantage in at all, so what better for a chair-bound developer than a fitness app. The 7 Minute Workout was getting a lot of press (and buzz) at the time on sites like the New York Times and Hacker News, so I already had some customer validation around the idea.

There were a couple of key goals for the app:
Explaining the 12 exercises (I had been digging around in Google, I had no idea what a plank was).
Adding a voice prompted timer for when it was time to swap exercises and to tell you and what was up next.

Many other ideas and features ran through my head, including:iPad support.
Adjustable durations.
Randomise exercises.
Adjustable repeats / sets.
Log book.
Social sharing.

Given a short time frame all this had to be cut (for now).

The Build
Five hours later I emerged with a couple of screens (dynamically filled with different data) and some text to speech. I’m no designer so there were no graphics, all flat views.

Another hour (yep I went over) was spent throwing together an icon (again a flat colour with the number 7, as my design skills are limited) taking some screenshots and writing up a basic description.

I was amazed that the name “7 Minute Workout” was still available, I assumed there were other apps waiting for review, I was right.

Built and submitted in 6 hours. The wait begins.

Version 1.0 Approval
After 6 days and a couple of minutes review time it was approved. Nobody else knew I had made it (I didn’t even tell my wife).

By this time there were several other 7 Minute Workout apps in the store. So the aim in the first week was to just let it run without telling anyone and to make no attempt to get press.

I was expecting very little, but was surprised to see that it actually sold a few copies with a steady rank.

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