The Four Questions

You need to answer four questions to help you define your app's unique value and create a unique selling proposition. The answers to these questions become the pillars of your marketing efforts and should be incorporated into your overall marketing plan for maximum success:

• Who are your competitors?

• What are the key features of your Android app?

• What are the benefits of your Android app?

• What is unique about your app?

Your marketing message matters now more than ever. With more than 70,000 Android apps for sale, you must do everything you can to stand out. Your message will be seen on your own website, on the Google Android Market (and other Android app sites) description area for your app, and other promotions you may create. Take some time to do this right!

The rest of this chapter is devoted to helping you ask and answer the four questions.

Who Are Your Competitors?

Competition in any business can be defined as "the effort of two or more parties acting independently to secure the business of a third party by offering the most favorable terms" (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Competition). Competition gives consumers greater selection and better products at better prices. It is important to understand that competition should not be viewed as a bad thing. Competition establishes a market and creates interest in your Android app. Although it is possible to open a new business and truly offer a niche service (meaning that you have entered a new market without any direct competitors), it rarely happens in today's business environment. The same holds true for apps on the Android Market.

Understanding your competition is one of the most critical, yet misunderstood, aspects of marketing and applies to Android app marketing just as well as it does to marketing anything else. Even if you have not started developing your Android app, you should survey the Android Market and look at the competition to see what you're up against. Do you think you've thought of the perfect Android app? Check the Android Market (and other Android app sites) to see what has already been built in that category. I can almost guarantee that there is a similar app to what you are building or plan to build.

Chances are there are many competitors out there with the same or similar applications. This is not said to discourage you but to emphasize the point that you must take a close look at the competition. Not too long ago (relatively speaking) Hyundai entered the U.S. car market. They no doubt surveyed the competition to determine what they were up against. They had a very large hill to climb. They built their business and marketing plans and executed on them and have been quite successful by any measure. A quick scan of the market for apps to help you name your baby, for example, reveals more than ten apps on this topic, as shown Figure 3.2.

You can also be guaranteed that if you do create a truly unique application and your app shows signs of success, you will not be the only one offering that app for very long. Other people and companies emulate success. Rather than fearing the competition, learn to understand your competitors to leverage their successes and note their failures. Competitive reviews should also be viewed as an ongoing task— new competition will enter your market, and if you do not keep a watchful eye on your competitors, you will allow others to displace you.

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Figure 3.2 A search of the Android app market will help you identify similar apps that may be your competition.

Your competition can be leveraged to aid your marketing efforts. There's no shame in "copying" a good idea, especially if it works. You can be assured that your competitors will be watching you closely, too.

Meaningful differences in your Android app compared to that of your competitors should be created and communicated to your target buyer via multiple avenues, several of which will be discussed in this book. These channels include your web messaging, features and benefits copy on the Android Market with other Android app sites, product design graphics, icon colors, advertising, and other promotion media, including marketing campaigns and even spokespersons.

Intuitively (or based on research and/or trial and error) you believe that your app will succeed. You believe this because you are doing something different from some or all of your competitors. The first marketing test of any business, small or large, is to understand how you are unique when compared to your competitors. For example, you may be selling a financial app that offers some unique features you think nobody else can match. So perhaps you focus your message on communicating that your app has a highly complex financial formula that is so handy to have on the Android. This special feature will resonate with some customers and separate you from your competitors.

Identifying Your Competition

There are two types of competitors: direct and indirect. A direct competitor could be considered anyone who offers the exact app you provide to the same target audience. So, in the previous example of applications that help you name your baby, there are at least ten that do the same thing. An indirect competitor is someone who offers a similar app but targets a different audience. For example, if you look at the Games category on the Android Market you will see thousands of games. Some are geared toward younger kids, as shown in Figure 3.3, whereas others are clearly geared toward a male audience. Regardless, they may be your competitor, especially if someone is just looking for any game to play.

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Figure 3.3 Indirect competition can come from a category where your app resides on the Android Market.

Identifying your direct competitors is important as you finalize your decision about your app's unique messaging. It reduces risk, time, required resources, and expense when planning a marketing strategy. It may be more profitable to carefully target a specific segment of a category where the odds of success are greatest. Thus, posting an app and focusing your animal-related app on residential customers who spend a lot of money on their pets can be a very good marketing approach. Figure 3.4 illustrates an Android app that is focused on pets and dog training in particular.

Finding your competitors takes some effort. Because the number of apps is so great, the easiest way to search for your competitors is to go into the Android Market (www.android.com/market) or other popular Android app sites or on your

Android-enabled phone and do a search. You can search by unique category (Games, Lifestyle, Entertainment, and so on) for paid or free apps. Search for your app type by starting with the Arcade & Action category if you are searching for games on the Android Market site. This will give you broad results for apps that might be similar to yours, as illustrated by searching Androlib.com in Figure 3.5.

Figure 3.4 This app has been targeted to dog owners around the world.
Figure 3.5 Start your competitive search by using the Arcade & Action category and scrolling through the available game apps in this category.

The following example in Figure 3.6 shows the results of doing a search on Android apps by selecting the Lifestyle category. Given that the list is short, you can quickly see all the apps that are top selling and pertain to this topic. The Android Market is currently not particularly advanced in its searching capabilities. Other Android app sites offer the ability to search by app names or topics more easily.

Figure 3.6 Select the closest category for the type of app you are looking for. This will help you narrow down your search.

Now let's look at the games category again. There are, of course, thousands upon thousands of games in nearly every category in the store. So, you will need to be very specific about the type of games you want to identify in your competitive exercise. In the following example, we are searching for competitive battleship games. The best way to find these apps is to first select the category Games and then type in the keyword battleship. Figure 3.7 displays the results using the Androlib website. Selecting the See All button reveals three pages of battleship-related apps. You can then scan through them to see which ones most closely approximate the app you have written or intend to write.

The Android Market does not display the number of pages for the app type you search on. Most of us are used to seeing "Page 1 of 10" in search results, for example. The Android Market simply lets you scroll down to view the apps. The reason for this perhaps is to give all apps a more level playing field when it comes to being found. As searches go, most of us quit after two or three pages. If we see that we are only on page 2 of 10, we may be inclined to give up at that point. If we don't know how many pages there are left, we may keep clicking to the next page. This is only the author's supposition.

Figure 3.7 Searching for battleship games using the Games category and specific keywords.

Learning from Your Competition

Once you've determined your key competitors, build out a small list on a spreadsheet to make some notes about their features and other noteworthy items. You can also use the list to track the competition on an ongoing basis. Table A.1 in Appendix A, "Competitive Worksheet," shows a sample worksheet that can be built in Excel to help you gather your data. Try to narrow your list down to two or three apps that most closely resemble what your app does or will do.

Spend time reviewing the competition's written description of their apps on the Android Market or on other Android app websites. Be sure to review their apps' graphics and, most importantly, the customer reviews. The customer reviews reveal a lot about an app. People tend to talk about what they liked and what they think is missing in an app or what could make it better. No reviews either means that the app is very new or it has not sold too well. You can get an idea about how well an app is selling by the number of reviews posted. An example of an app review is shown in Figure 3.8.

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Sometimes it may be necessary to purchase an app to understand its full capability and assess its features. Competitors in every product area routinely purchase each other's products to understand their strengths and weaknesses, especially in the software industry. Software companies have dedicated labs, for example, where they do nothing but test their competitors' products in an effort to improve their marketing and positioning of their own products.

Keep in mind that I am never suggesting that you steal someone else's proprietary work. You are trying to understand how you can improve your own app and build a better app than what's currently out there. This is perfectly legal and within the bounds of ethical behavior.

Once you have narrowed down your list to the most likely competitors, ask yourself the following questions as you do some competitive Android app reconnaissance. The answers to these questions will help you make some important marketing and development decisions:

• What unique features does your competitor's app have that yours doesn't?

• How do the graphics look compared to your app?

• What claims does the competitor make about its app? Is it the only Android app to utilize such and such feature?

• Does the app appear to have multiple updates?

• Is the competitor's marketing message consistent?

• Does the competitor have a strong, compelling offer?

• What do you like or not like about the overall presentation of materials?

Maybe you've borrowed a good app idea from some other source and are attempting to build a successful business around it. Every buyer expects multiple options, and many of the apps look very much alike. However, if you examine the more successful apps, you'll notice that they tend to emphasize and promote something special or unique. It may be better graphics or higher sound quality. Some developers undoubtedly borrowed their ideas from other companies (for instance, Electronic Arts sets a high bar with its game apps) or others they've dealt with, or promotions they have noticed, and so on. Successful developers always find ways to make their apps stand out from the crowd or at least stand out from the crowd in their immediate niche area.

What Are the Key Features of Your Android App?

Features are "descriptions" of your Android app (for example, four levels of play, real-time play, easy user interface, works offline and online, and so on). When you review your app against the competition, you'll want to look at all the quantifiable features the other apps offer as compared to your own. You can use the chart found in Appendix A to build a comparative list. Utility applications on the Android Market, such as financial calculators and other scientific apps, tend to lean toward feature explanations in their product descriptions. Feature descriptions on the Android Market work best when they are in a bulleted list so that the buyer can quickly scan the list for what he is looking for. Keep the list short and relevant. Long lists get ignored, but a short list of features (five to ten items) will get read more readily. An example of an app from the Android Market with a feature list is shown in Figure 3.9.

Be sure to review the free apps in your category as well. If you are building an app that does not have any more features or functionality than a free app, the chances are slim that you will see sales success with your app. People love free but are willing to pay for value, and it's your job to convey your app's value!

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Figure 3.9 A financial calculator with a short feature list enables buyers to quickly scan for functions they are looking for in a calculator.

Once you have determined your app's key features, you want to also think in terms of the benefits those features will provide your buyers. Don't make the buyers figure it out for themselves. You can help them to "connect the dots" by clearly articulating the benefits of each feature, as explained in the next section.

What Are the Benefits of Your Android App?

Benefits are the "advantages" users receive from using your app (for example, experience hours of fun, feel better today, live healthier, feel less stress, lose weight faster, achieve a cleaner, brighter smile, and so on). A benefit is a powerful way to help you sell your product. Many marketers and Android app sellers overlook this very powerful marketing concept when describing their apps on the Android Market. When you link a benefit with a feature, you are helping the buyer see the whole story about your app. When we buy a car, for example, we go into a dealer showroom and start to look around. A particular car attracts our attention. It could be its color or its sleek or sporty look. On the window is a sticker that lists a bunch of features. The salespeople will answer your questions about all the features, but what they really want is for you to experience the car's benefits. They want you to feel good about the car, which is why they always ask if you want to take it out for a test drive. They know that if they can get you to experience the "feel" of the car, its performance, its quiet ride, its new smell, its "benefits," they are more likely to get your business. Obviously buying a car is a much bigger decision than buying an Android app, but in this highly competitive Android market, you want to take every opportunity to reach the potential buyer of your app at both levels: features and benefits.

Notice as you read reviews of each Android app on the Android Market that people tend to discuss their feelings about the app in terms of its benefits ("Most fun I've had in a long time!" or "This game is so addicting I can't put it down"). Notice the reviews shown in Figure 3.10. The writers focus on how much they love the app and its useful features. Whether the app developer has consciously intended to make this connection with his audience is in many cases coincidental, but one thing is certain: All successful apps connect with their audience through features and benefits. Therefore, if you want to increase the chances of your success selling your app, you must make these connections happen with your buyer.

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Figure 3.10 Android market product reviews tend to reflect how the buyer feels about an app in terms of its benefits.

What's Unique About Your App?

How is your app different? Can you express it in terms of a concise statement? This forms the basis for all your advertising, promotions, communications, and other marketing activities. Is your difference something that your buyers can appreciate so that they'll prefer or even seek out your app rather than your competitors'? In order to successfully market his or her app, every developer needs to focus on what's special and different about it.

To determine the unique qualities of your app, write down your answers to the following questions:

1. Which words or phrases best describe what your Android app offers your customers?

For example, educational assistance, financial problem solving, health answers, lifestyle, fitness ideas, entertainment, and so on.

2. What qualities do you think will attract customers to your app?

For example, incredible graphics, crisp sounds, amazing music, fast action, and so on.

3. What qualities do you think will keep your customers coming back?

For example, attention to detail, evolving new features, consistently challenging games, frequent updates, and so on.

4. Did your responses to questions 2 and 3 reiterate what you had indicated initially for number 1?

If you answered no, where is the mismatch? Perhaps you don't fully understand the unique qualities of your app yet or you are not sure about your customers' purchasing habits. Spend some time carefully working on this section until you come up with responses for questions 2 and 3 that fully support question 1.

As an example, we are going to be selling an educational app on the Android Market. We are in the design stages of our app and want to make sure that we are producing an app that is unique in the market. We need to determine the app's unique qualities so that our message is strong and clear to our buyers. We have created the following responses to each of these questions. The application for our example is an education assistance app geared toward high school students to help them prepare for the SAT test.

Here is what we have come up with for our example:

Question 1: What words or phrase best describe our app?

Answer: Premier SAT Preparation

In three short words we have described the quality of our app, the type of app, and our implied audience. You will be able to do the same for your app. A basketball game app can be juiced up by calling it "Blazin' Basketball Pro." A less exciting calculator app can be brought to life by calling it "Genius Calc." You get the idea

Question 2: What unique characteristics will attract customers to our app?

Answer: Complete SAT Prep (Math, Critical Reading, Science, and Writing)

The answer to question 2 supports question 1. We can call our app "Premier" because we have a complete solution. Not only do we have math and critical reading practice tests but we also include the newer writing component of the SAT. We provide test-taking advice, tips, and tricks.

Question 3: What qualities of our app will keep customers coming back?

Answer: Download frequent updates for the latest SAT test exams.

The app provides frequent updates to help high school students stay up on the latest material so they can be better prepared for their SAT test.

Question 4: Did the responses to questions 2 and 3 reiterate what we had indicated initially for question 1?

Answer: The app's descriptions found in answers 2 and 3 support statement 1 as being a complete SAT preparation app and the fact that you can download frequent updates.

The idea of this exercise is to identify a clear statement of value about our app. When you provide solid answers to questions 2 and 3 that support question 1, you are well on your way to understanding and defining your app's unique value. This information will be tremendously valuable to you in your other marketing efforts, as discussed later in this book.

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