Jeff Smith and 10 Principles for Successful App Development

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="200" caption="Jeff Smith loves apps and animals"][/caption]

Last year, Jeff Smith (CEO of Smule) joined Startup Grind audiences to share insights on user acquisition, compelling video demonstrations, and app development. If you've been on a team making apps, we're confident the lessons in this edition of Top 10 on 2sday will ring true for your organization...

The best technology doesn't always win. It's sad to say for the producers of the product with all the whistles and bells, but less is sometimes more. Jeff also noted that the code doesn't have to be elegant for a product to work well and be successful.

Talk directly to your target user. It's important to ask yourself if they are likely to recognize the inherent value of your product. If your target doesn't get it, then you have a problem in one of two places: your marketing or your product.

If your product is sound, you should be able to:

  • Distill the essence of your product into a 10-second message

  • Build a motivating 20-second demo

Measure your success to identify potential for growth. Many Community-driven apps identify success by Daily Active Users (DAUs), Monetization of daily active users, push messaging of daily active users, and other engagement metrics.

Determine how often users will come back to the product. If this is a one-and-done scenario, then you'll need a constant supply of new users. If you are counting on repeated visits, be realistic about what reasons they have for coming back. If the user doesn't like the product you have a problem, because there are plenty of other apps out there they can drop yours to use.

How likely is the user to recommend your product to somebody else? The best marketing is communicated by word of mouth. Whether it is on a plane flight, a train ride, or via social media, you want your users to be showing their friends how cool that app of yours is.

Social marketing channels only work if the user is going to recommend the product. It is a long principle, but important to remember. Terrible things happen when you have influential people saying bad things about your product. But the good news is, great things happen when lots of people say positive things about your product. If people are using your product to show others how great it is, you have won.

Iterate. Don't let the engineers convince you that you need to start over every time. Sometimes success comes from merely tweaking your current formula. Drop awkward features, add in the kitchen sink, change things up and only keep what works for your solution.

Use your customers to market. If I have a customer that is having a great experience with my product, I ought to have all the other customers call them. If you empower your customers, they'll become your Chief Marketing Officer[s]. They frequently give more persuasive demos, deliver the core message of your brand, and communicate exactly what resonates about your service.

Your team is more important than everything. If you recruit and retain the top people, they will contribute directly to your success. Build a culture in-line with your business. You may have heard that Marissa Mayer is reviewing every new hire at Yahoo. It's not only important to find the right talent, but ensure they are the right fit for your culture.

If you do two things well, you'll have a successful business:

  1. Listen to your employees

  2. Listen to your customers

What do you think? Have you been living by other lessons you learned from Jeff and the Smule team? If you weren't one of the lucky few to hear him speak, be sure to check out this video of his talk: