As the CMO of a startup, I had many tools at my disposal to measure and analyze my digital marketing. However I was also spending money on above the line marketing and communications such as PR, events and social media. I knew in my gut that these efforts were driving growth, but I didn’t have the tools to prove it. Each time we received a mention in the press, or a key influencer tweeted about us, I would record the date and activity in an excel spreadsheet.
When it came time to prepare end of quarter reports for myself and my team, I would manually cross reference that list against our daily registration numbers, exposing correlations between my marketing efforts and our business wins.
It was pretty clear that some of these activities were having a huge, and previously untracked, impact on our company’s performance. And it stood to reason there were a number of other hidden performance drivers that also weren’t being tracked – like offline activity and what our competitors were up to.
Here are the top events that don’t get tracked through traditional analytics software that I believe are essential in understanding what drives your company’s KPIs, that all companies should be collecting:
Press Coverage – if you can’t remember the date three, six or twelve months ago when you received press, how can you understand historical growth data or optimize your PR campaigns?
Events and Tradeshows – do you compare company KPIs to the dates you attended events? Not only does this provide insight into performance but can help you decide where to spend your time in the future.
Product Releases – does an increase or decrease in sign ups follow your product releases? Unless you link your performance and the release dates, it can be hard to tell.
Changes in the Competitive Landscape – new competitor? Did the competition just raise money? Go out of business? In a previous role, one of our competitors received bad press – it was important to link the industry landscape to our own performance.
Tracking the dates of key events in your company timeline and correlating that information to KPIs can give you much deeper insights about what’s really driving company growth.
That’s why I created Spectacyl, the first analytics platform that links these events with your key metrics. Spectacyl is free to use and the easiest way to start tracking, and gaining insight, from these critical company events. Whether you use Spectacyl, a spreadsheet, a calendar or a post-it, it’s time you started tracking the events that are driving what might be a surprisingly large part of your company’s KPIs.
As an app’s user base grows, it’s likely the developer will start to consider localizing the app; that is they will consider translating the app and user experience into a new language to grow in another country or local. There are numerous articles and guides written about the process of localizing an app for another language, but I want to specifically address the process of researching competitors in a localized market.
The Apple App Store has no functionality to search apps by language. In other words, there’s no built-in way to see apps that offer specific languages (or are only available in one language). This makes it very difficult to see who else will be competing for your same users.
However, I’ve found a trick that allowed me to search for apps in a certain language, which can be a great help in finding local competitors. For the example below, I’ll illustrate how to search for social media apps that are localized for the Spanish language.
First, you’ll need to navigate on the web to the App Store in the language and category you want to research. The easiest way to do this is view your own app, or a direct competitor’s app first in your native language. I’ve used the example of Facebook below:
Notice the URL of the app in my case contains /gb/, which denotes the country (and language) of the app store I am viewing. However I can change this. To see this same app in the Spanish App Store, all I need to do is change this to /es/.
Notice below that once I change the URL, the meta data of the page changes as well (as does the app description if the app already has a localized version). This is important for the next step of the research process – in particular the localized version of the category and the meta data that denotes language.
Now we have three key bits of information: the URL format for the local app store, the localized meta data for language and the localized meta data for category. Using the Google site search function, we can put this all into a Google search. As you can see below, I am searching for all pages indexed in Google that are within the Spanish App Store site, and contain exactly the phrase that corresponds with the meta data that indicates the app is in the social category and available in the Spanish language.
As you can see, the search results returned will link me to pages within the Spanish App Store with Spanish language social apps. Job done!
This is a huge volume of search results so I can continue to refine the results to just my potential competitors by adding additional keywords (in the local language of course – Google Translate can help you out here) to my Google search.
Understanding local competitors can be key in successfully localizing your app. This is one way to find out who the players are in your new space. Any other techniques you know for finding competitive apps when localizing?
While a wealth of analytics tools gives us increasingly detailed views into how users navigate through our systems, services and apps, there’s no metric that tells you how your users were feeling at the time. In fact many of the terms that we measure for technology services, such as bounce rate, retention and number of pages viewed, all act as a stand in for how users were feeling – and one emotion in particular: frustration.
Frustration is the silent killer of technology businesses. It’s the feeling that causes users to close the screen, or worse delete the app, without giving you any idea as to why. Sometimes frustration can build over time, meaning that a series of frustrations can lead to a developer mis-attributing the source of lost users. Of course you can survey your users, run user tests and look to your app reviews for indications as to how people felt about your service, but by the time someone has become frustrated or annoyed it’s unlikely they want to spend additional time providing feedback.
However there is one metric that, at least in the mobile app world, can often be a strong indicator of the building level of frustration of your users – and that is time.
Coming from a web marketing world, where “time on page” was a key metric that web owners tried to optimize for, not against, it’s a fairly significant change in thinking. But with such limited real estate on a mobile app screen, there’s not a huge amount to occupy a user’s time on functional pages – such as screens to sign up, options, invite or settings. Increased time spent on these screens can signal that something is overly complicated, difficult to understand or generally frustrating for the user.
There are a number of tools that help app developer measure time spent per screen, although all have limitations and a fair bit of set up required. The one that gives the best indication is Google Analytics for Mobile:
However to get an accurate reading for this metric, Google requires a lot of advanced set up, including detailed naming of all of the screens within your app. Additionally, Google is great for looking at average results across your whole audience but has significant limitations for drilling down into your audience – it’s much harder to see who is having trouble with your app screens and the range of times it takes different segments of your audience to move through your app.
An alternative is Mixpanel which doesn’t allow you to see the average time that users spend on a specific screen, but does allow you to see the time it takes for user to move through a series of predefined steps in, say, a sign up funnel.
Like Google, Mixpanel requires some initial set up, but allows for much greater segmentation of your userbase, to determine which subsets of your users are taking the most time to get through your app. For many independent developers, however, Mixpanel’s higher costs can be off-putting.
Regardless of how you measure the time that users spend on various screens within the app or service, this us an often under-utilized metric that tells you quite a bit about how frustrated or confused your users are. If a screen that takes you 15-20 seconds to pass through has an average use time of over a minute, your audience could be missing the point, unable to find a button or unsure of what to do.
Using time as a proxy for frustration in your app or service can help highlight places where you’re causing users to fall out of love with your product, even if it’s not the place where they give up on your app entirely.
A quick one before a more thorough summary of my week at Mobile World Congress – I gave this talk as part of the Advanced User Interfaces Seminar at Mobile World Congress 2014 (#mwc14) hosted by the UK’s ICT KTN. It covers the challenges and proposes some solutions in designing and testing apps and mobile services geared towards a non-traditional audience such as elderly, disabled or young users.
Every Monday, I write about something new you can try this week to drive more downloads for your mobile app and increase engagement with your existing app users, based on what has worked (and what hasn’t) for 23snaps.
Last week I gave a lecture at The Mobile Academy about app promotion and marketing. It was a crash course in getting your first downloads and while much of the content I’ve covered here; one new piece that I addressed during my talk was getting tech press for your app. There has been a ton written by people much more knowledgeable than I about bootstrapping PR, getting press and connecting with journalists so I’m just going to cover a couple of elements that I found particularly relevant for independent app developers when it comes to getting tech press.
1. Be a company, not an app
It’s very rare to see press about a new app launching. You see coverage of new companies trying to solve a problem. If their solution happens to involve an app, then that’s addressed but an independent app developer creating a new game isn’t news. Describe yourself as more than an app – figure out how to position yourself as a company.
2. Do something different
Kind of a no-brainer but if you are making an Angry Birds clone called Miffed Mice or something, you’re not going to attract much attention. What are you doing that’s a bit different or unique? Do you solve a problem that exists in other services? Figure out how you stand out from the crowd.
3. Share statistics
If you’re willing to share real, legitimate statistics from your company’s growth and usage then you give journalists more context. Take a look at popular stories on TechCrunch or The Next Web – most will have some sort of statistics from the companies mentioned. Numbers not only validate stories but help other companies and readers understand the ecosystem and benchmark themselves which is one of the reasons stats make popular reading.
4. Target the right journalist
Usually rule number one of bootstrapped PR – make sure you’re talking to the right person. If your emailing a journalist who only covers hardware about your app, you’re just cluttering up their inbox and you certainly won’t get a response. Get familiar with the journalists who cover your beat and write them personalized pitches when you have something relevant to share.
5. Define your audience
Another ‘duh’ concept but it’s very easy for journalists (and readers) to be skeptical of apps and businesses that claim to solve a problem for everyone in the world, or a new network that “everyone” will want to join. Niche is the current buzzword and it’s because it’s a much more interesting and believable story when a company recognizes a problem that affects a specific group and then goes about solving it. Who are you solving a problem for ? Who are you creating content and entertainment for? If you answer is everyone, then you’d better have some pretty impressive stats to back up that claim.
6. Pick a fight
While you should avoid actually throwing punches, sometimes some healthy competition can help garner some publicity. Whether you place yourself at odds with a bigger company or app in your space (such as a Facebook, Instagram, Candy Crush or similar), play off of another company’s misfortune or mistake to highlight your own offering (such as the news highlighting Amazon’s poor staff conditions or Google not paying UK taxes), or do (or provide) something slightly controversial (such as Snapchat being associated with sexting), any conflict can help you grab headlines.
This week, make sure you’ve set up your company to address the six points above to generate tech press for your app.