What To Know Before Investing In App Development

Written by Michael Tauscher on . Posted in Blog, Sales & Marketing

1. If this is your first app, it may be wise to set a budget first and ask developers what they can do within that budget rather than presenting them with a concept and getting a quote

Read the responses to a Quora question asking how much development of an iPhone app costs here

2. What parts of the iPhone will the app utilize? Will the app be static, rely on external information from the internet, utilize the internal gyrosope or 3D physics engine, or use the iPhone’s camera?

Odds are, the more of the phone’s capability you’re using the more it’s going to cost to develop

See a breakdown of app types and functions here

3. It’s probably going to take longer than projected to complete, especially if your developers are not in-house (working for the same company as you)

Read one of the developers of Twitterific talking about the time investment and cost of labor here

4. It’s probably going to cost at least $3000

See this summary of articles and reports that places the cost of the average app at $6453 (for a “small app”)

5. Calculate a realistic cost/ROI. See Aaron Maxwell’s breakdown for Mashable Business here

According to Maxwell, you can reach nearly five times as many people per dollar invested with a mobile website rather than an app.

6. To get an idea of what the market looks like, check out Distimo’s publications on the current state of things

7. What’s the most you could make?

According to an interpretation of Distimo data on Quora, about 80% of PAID applications have been downloaded less than 100 times

Next, see this article that finds iOS apps average about $600 in revenue

Finally, according to another Quora post, the top iPhone apps of all time have made over $10M with a number of others making over $1M

8. For more info on iPhone apps, check out http://www.quora.com/iPhone-Applications

Update: TechCrunch & TIME have just posted reviews of the top iOS apps of 2011 

Can You Make Money On The Internet? Slicing The Internet Money Pie Part 2

Written by Natasha Goncharova on . Posted in Blog, Sales & Marketing

Earlier we discussed the eCommerce, Advertising, and SaaS industries and the potential for small businesses to generate revenue therein. Now we will turn to the other side of selling on the internet which is to say that there are a number a niche markets in which large companies don’t compete. Using examples of successful online entrepreneurs, we will outline both how they established themselves among the multitude of online resources and what they do to “snowball” their popularity once they have gained a foothold in their industries.

Some of the most successful online industries on a smaller scale are:

  • Professional/Career Coaching,
  • Online Certification Programs, and
  • Video Courses (the material taught has to add to the viewers’ earning potential)

However, the road to success in these industries is not as easy as simply writing a book or producing a series of video lectures and making them available for purchase.  Mostly, this is due to the fact that there is  A LOT OF free content out there.  Writing a book by itself, these days, isn’t going to garner much attention.  Making it in these industries requires building a large audience of followers (often referred to as “building a large email list”) with a (statistically proven) hope that 1-5% of your followers will pay for a product (a book or a video) of yours.   Repeat sales in this case are much more probable than the first sale.

What is important is providing something unique beyond the information itself.  In the world of freely available information, for viewers to pay for digital material, it has to come with the promise of adding to the viewers’ earning power or career growth.  What this means to the online entrepreneur is that there must be a certain qualities of the material published or services offered that are unavailable anywhere else.

This may be humor as in Roger CPA Review (which saw its sales jump from $4.5 million in 2008 to $6 million in 2010), free book chapters and a promise of access to other “free” digital resources in Michael Port’s Book Yourself Solid series, longevity and super confidence of Problogger, or by presenting your learning course as a smart and affordable alternative to traditional methods as in Mat Hulquist’s Quickbooks University.

Furthermore, a well established consistent reputation in these industries only leads to more business and thus the self-perpetuating cycle begins. This works because web-based content generated by professionals acts as tangible evidence of their expertise resulting in increased consulting business which in turn can increase the popularity and value of the content itself. Thus as an online entrepreneur, your goal may have be not to generate revenue from books, lectures, and other published materials but rather to establish yourself as an expert in your field and generate revenue by providing consulting services.

N.B.: Chris Guillebeau from The Art of Non-Conformity wrote a great piece about the fundamentals of selling online and how to focus on the right things.

Can You Make Money On The Internet? Slicing The Internet Money Pie Part 1

Written by Natasha Goncharova on . Posted in Advertising, Blog, Google, Sales & Marketing

This is the first in a series of posts about making money online in which we will discuss the major online industries and their leaders. In our next post, we will provide examples of niche sites that have had success selling online and outline their business models. 

I received a question from a professional acquaintance of mine about the best way to help a professional service client add the internet as a channel for delivering service.

My first instinct was to answer that there is A LOT OF FREE information online. Unless you are offering something that can not be found for free your chances of selling your product are bleak. As a small business or individual, potentially developing and offering some digital products, it can be difficult to both compete with the wealth of information and learning material freely available online and distinguish yourself and your product from the competition.

So the real question is: what market are you competing in? E-commerce, advertising, Software as Service, digital goods?

In 2010, Americans spent $165.4 billion online.  Perhaps the first monolithic online industry that comes to mind is eCommerce — selling both physical and digital goods online. While giants like Amazon.com (with its online properties at Diapers.com and Zappos.com and many, many affiliates) and  eBay certainly dominate the lion’s share of the market, smaller sites have been able to benefit from the industry’s long tail. Sites like Etsy offer handmade and unique items while specialty sites like Cabela’s cater to interest-specific shoppers.

The second major industry of the digital world is advertising ~ $26 billion in 2010.  Making money by selling advertising online requires significant traffic and, often, a niche site for advertiser to be willing to spend their advertising budgets on your site or blog. Google is the dominant advertising force, offering targeted ads based on search results and collecting the advertising budgets of so many small businesses through AdSense. Facebook is a prime example with > 750 million users and a high number of page views such that their low click-through rate  doesn’t adversely affect ad sales. Per Mashable, in 2010, Facebook  had 0.051%, or about one click-through (CTR) for every 2,000 ad impressions with the industry standard CTR is 0.1 percent, or one click-through for every 1,000 impressions. As with eCommerce, niche interest-oriented sites can also generate significant advertising revenue fron banner advertising by offering information and a point of view not available elsewhere. Examples of sites of this type are TechCrunch.com (a tech blog), TeamLiquid.net (a popular gaming community site), and GorillavsBear.net (a music blog).

There is the increasingly successful SaaS (Software as a Service) industry ~ $12 billion in 2010. SaaS is attractive because it makes itself available “on-demand” and exists completely within the confines of the internet which means customers are not required to have hard disk space, CD-ROMs, or a personal computer, just a credit card or a few :). Furthermore, as a relatively new industry North American SaaS revenue is predicted to experience an 18.7% increase between 2010 and 2011 alone.

Finally, the digital goods market (the goods that do not exist in real life) has been growing.  In the US, it is expected to reach $2.1 billion, up from $1.6 billion in 2010.  This includes offerings from the social gaming companies like Zynga.com

Jumping into ponds with such big fish (Amazon, Google, Facebook) shouldn’t necessarily be a deterrent to your internet sales venture, but in our next post we will outline how individuals and small businesses have had success selling online by targeting smaller niche markets.

Image credit: http://www.getelastic.com/profiting-from-the-digital-goods-boom/

Integrate & Automate Social Sharing: WordPress to Twitter to Facebook

Written by Michael Tauscher on . Posted in Blog, Google, Productivity, Sales & Marketing, Thumbs up, WordPress, Workflow


This post will outline how to integrate your Twitter account to automatically update your business’ Facebook page and for WordPress users, how to integrate Twitter with your Dashboard to directly share your latest blog posts.

The first step is to create Twitter and Facebook accounts for your business. Business pages on Facebook are treated differenly from personal profiles so you’ll want to head over to facebook.com/pages to create yours. It’s advisable to sign up for both accounts with the same email address since they’ll be linked later on anyway.

Once you’ve got both accounts set up you’ll want to navigate to apps.facebook.com/twitter to allow your tweets to be shared as posts on your company’s wall. To accomplish this, hashtag #fb at the end of each tweet that you want to appear on the wall.

During the setup you should be led to your Twitter settings page (twitter.com/settings/profile) but in case you aren’t, you’ll want to scroll down to the Facebook settings and check the box that says ‘Allow Twitter to post to the wall of: my Facebook page: [Page Name]‘.

That takes care of sending your tweets to Facebook, but for WordPress users there’s a plugin that will allow you to tweet from within the dashboard, eliminating one more step and saving you a few clicks in the process.

Begin by downloading the Twitter Tools plugin and installing it. You’ll then have to register your site as an application on Twitter’s app registration page  which is as easy as copy-pasting a few serial keys. Once your WordPress and Twitter accounts are connected you’ll see that Twitter Tools offers a large number of configuation options under Settings in the Dashboard. I prefer the more ‘manual’ application of its functionality, however, so that’s what I’ll cover here.

Simply click ‘Tweet’ under Posts and you’ll be brought to a simple tweet platform within the dashboard. Here’s what I recommend from there:

1. Open your newly published article in a new tab and use the goo.gl URL shortener (or another if not using Chrome) to create a shortened version of your article’s URL.

2. Back on the tweet page, write the title of your article followed by the goo.gl URL and then the hashtag #fb (remember how we set up automatic integration earlier?)

Now you can easily share your posts via Twitter and Facebook without ever having to leave the WordPress backend UI. If you have a different setup that works for you let us know in the comments, convenience is king!

What killed SohoOS for me

Written by Natasha Goncharova on . Posted in Admin Tools, Blog, Calendar & Scheduling, Customer Management, Document Management, Productivity, Project Management, Sales & Marketing, Thumbs down, Workflow

In a attempt to find an “all in one” solution for startups and small businesses operations management, after seeing so much praise given to SohoOS by TechCrunch, I gave it a try. Michael outlined some of the issues with the service in his post here.

These are the issues that killed the service for me:
1) It prompted me to bring all my contacts from Gmail, which I did, and then I could not find where my contacts were nor could I find how to delete them from the system!

2) There does not appear to be a way to close an account once you open one at SohoOS. On many web-based services, the option to close your account and how to is stated almost on every page or provided in the FAQ page, so that customers feel assured they can; this is not the case with SohoOS as of 1o/2011.

3)  The service states it is is free, however once you get through a hodgepodge of interfaces ‘thrown together’ to give a perception that a user can manage projects and invoicing with SohoOS  (below you can see an interface with the missing logo and less than optimal UI for adding a task), you soon come to a screen where SohoOS wants you to pay for SMS messages supposedly to communicate with your team members, and for documents from Docstock.

At the end I felt “cheated on”. My info was inside the system with no way to take it out or delete it with no trace (no way for SohoOS to use my contacts), and no value was provided within the project management and invoicing screen. After being promised something for free, I kept bumping into screens that were asking me to pay.

Adding a task to a project:

Pay for sending SMS:

SohoOS Docs — pay to use the documents from DocStoc:

 


SohoOS: “F” is for Beta

Written by Michael Tauscher on . Posted in Admin Tools, Blog, Calendar & Scheduling, Customer Management, Document Management, Productivity, Project Management, Sales & Marketing, Thumbs down, Workflow

Roi Carthy of TechCrunch posted an article recently after speaking with Eran Manor, SohoOS’s lead designer, that ended on the high note, “The thinking here is that providing [invoicing, billing features, CRM, inventory & project management] to a sufficient depth allows SohoOS to appeal to a larger userbase. With the US, UK, and the EU constituting 54% of the userbase, this is a smart move.”

Let’s get one thing straight: Users, “growing at a rate of 30% month-over-month,” doesn’t say anything about retention, satisfaction, or the utility of the service. Amid the hype I became one of the more than 400,000 users that their front page boasts, only to find that what is presented as a product in Beta is little more than a, “reverse engineered…iPad app”, it is a “service” that lures you in and then doesn’t let you out.

According to Carthy’s article, SohoOS has discovered that small businesses:

• Don’t consider accounting software a substitute for an accountant

• Don’t see accounting as the heart and soul of their businesses’ management activities.

To the first point, it seems unlikely that small businesses feel duped for using both an accountant and software programs programs.  An accounting program allows for day-to-day entries to be recorded so that when the time comes for tax filing an accountant can easily collect the necessary information.

To the second, accounting certainly isn’t the heart of business management but it is a necessary part.

This, I believe, is where SohoOS has lost sight of their audience. Carthy even praises SohoOS for, “focusing on several services that are key to the daily management of a small business,” rather than “the conventional wisdom, of ‘do one thing and do it well’.”

My criticism for SohoOS then is twofold:

1.       The result of trying to take on so many traditionally divided tasks is a cluttered interface that seems lost between invoicing features and priced-t0-sell business document templates.

2.       The term ‘Beta’ has fallen victim to semantic satiation and companies like SohoOS are to blame. Beta used to mean an essentially finished product that leaves room for rapid user-oriented change, but now simply means ‘something we’ve put together and are still working on defining’.

If a company doesn’t have a clearly defined vision of itself, there is no way that a customer can see future potential. Perhaps my cynicism toward the ‘do everything well’ model will turn out to be the mark of a dying philosophy but until a service like SohoOS pushes companies that ‘do one thing and do it well’ aside, I won’t be investing.

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