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Marketing, Strategy and Awesomeness

You’ve probably heard of SEO but ASO might be a new acronym to you.

SEO stands for search engine optimization and is about how to get higher rankings in Google basically.

ASO stands for app store optimization and is about how to get your app discovered within the app store and appear in app store searches.

According to Forrester, 63% of apps are discovered through app store searches.  Which means ignoring ASO means ignoring your biggest possible referral channel.

There are 4 main factors that will effect your apps ASO:

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I get comments and emails like this every week:

Do you have any advise on making money from your app?

How do free apps make money?

One question, how do you market your app and since your app is free, how did you monetize this app?

If your app is free, how are you making a profit?

It’s a fair question.  With so many apps being free, how are they making money and staying in business?

There are basically 4 options to app monetization.

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I just got this email from Ashleigh that says:

“Hi Ben,

I want to thank you for your post, as it has brought a lot of clarity to my process. I have a very simple idea, pictures and information is the basic structure of the app, but my question is, how to you ensure that a freelancer doesn’t take your idea? Sorry if you have posted about this already. I appreciate your time and you willingness to help out.


The Big Steal

Almost everyone has seen the Social Network movie or at least heard about the early days of Facebook.

The hulking Winkelvoss twins supposedly hired Mark Zuckerberg to build them a website and he turned around and create TheFacebook.com

They accused him of stealing their idea and subsequently sued him.

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cheese powder

I originally posted this over at Medium.  If you like this article and want to help other people discover it, head over there and hit ‘Recommend’ at the bottom of the post.

During the Great Depression, Kraft Foods was unsuccessfully marketing a low-priced cheddar cheese powder.

It was a total failure.

Until one sales rep, searching for anyway to get rid of his inventory, taped packages of the unwanted cheese powder to boxes of macaroni. He then sold the new packaged item to grocery stores as “Kraft Dinners.”

When headquarters discovered how well they were selling, it made the makeshift packages into an official part of its product line – which is now one of the most famous meals in America.

What’s interesting to me about this story is how close you can simultaneously be to both success and to failure.

When things aren’t going well in our businesses, it can feel like success will only come hard fought and is very far off.

Maybe if we just keep slogging ahead and doing what we’ve been doing we will persevere and reach our success.

But sometimes a little creativity and problem solving can completely and totally 180 the situation and a total failure can turn into a hit.

Of course, it’s not always that easy.

But if you’re feeling closer to failure than to success, know that they really aren’t that far apart at all.


Book-funnelPerry Marshall is a Google Adwords expert and a marketing genius that I’ve been loosely following for a few years.

He recently came out with a new book about utilizing the 80/20 principle in your sales, marketing and business in order to get more productive work done in less time and see greater results with less effort.

When I saw Perry’s book available on Amazon, I dropped it into my wishlist so that I would remember to order it when I was ready for my next book.

A couple of weeks later though, I saw a really interesting Facebook ad from Perry promoting the book for just 1 cent.

What followed was a very high level sales funnel that I want to break down for you so that you can apply it to your book or business.

Amazon vs selling on your own site

First off – why would he want to sell his book for 1 penny (and a few bucks for shipping) instead of the $16 it is going for on Amazon?

Simple, when he sells a book on Amazon he makes more money up front – but he doesn’t get any information about his customer and has no way to follow up with them – unless they take action and opt in to his email list while reading the book.

When he sells the book on his own site for much less, he is given his customers contact information and can put them through a more sophisticated sales funnel and offer valuable upsells.

He probably breaks even or loses money selling the book himself, but makes it up on the back end.

Breaking down Perry’s Facebook funnel


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If your website is like most other businesses, your traffic from mobile devices is quickly approaching the amount of traffic you get from desktop visitors.

This trend has been happening for the last few years but we are finally starting to see that some business sites are getting MORE than 50% of their traffic from mobile devices.

Go ahead and check your own stats in Google Analytics right now.

My site gets about 35% of its traffic from mobile.

Most Businesses Are Neglecting Their Mobile Site

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facebook app ad newsfeed mobileAfter a year of my iPhone app being out and only having a free version, I finally launched a paid version of the app. 

Before that I just had it available for free which made money off of ads.  With 80,000+ total downloads, it does ok revenue wise but I was kind of curious to see what paid download numbers might look like.

So I launched that a few weeks ago and then thought, hmm, when I’m on my phone I’m seeing a lot of ads in my Facebook news feed for mobile apps.  I can click the ad and go right to the download page in the App Store and install it.  Like this one:

This is HUGE for app companies and for Facebook.

The App Store is a black hole of discoverability and one of the big frustrations for app producers is how to get their product in front of the right people.

Facebook delivers the goods and stands to make big $$$ off of app companies.

I wonder if we’ll see ‘Promoted Apps’ within the Apple App Store one day?

Anyways, I got curious about all of this and decided to set up a campaign for my paid app to see how it works.

Why pay for app downloads?

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The Carousel

storage-full I’ve been getting this occasional ‘Storage Almost Full’ alert on my phone for the past few months now..

Why am I so low on storage? Because the majority of my 16gb iPhone’s space is taken up by photos and videos.

I have them all backed up but I’m reluctant to delete the majority of them because I love going back through my camera roll and looking at old pictures.  So every few weeks I’m forced to clear up space by going back through my old photos and deleting the ones from my phone that I can live with just being backed up online.

A first world problem no doubt, but a big annoyance and toleration.

Introducing Carousel..

So when I heard about the new Carousel app from Dropbox today I was excited to check it out.

I didn’t really see the benefit at first though.  Ok – so it shows my photos in a cool timeline and I can share and message friends within the app.. but I can do those things with the standard camera roll app.

carouselThen I saw this quote from Drew Huston and it made sense:
“When I’m looking at the photos on my phone, I see photos I took with the phone, but I don’t see pictures from my computer or anything else. Instead of one shoebox, I have many shoeboxes.”

Dropbox is trying to replace your default Photos app and make it so that you can see not only the photos taken on your phone – but ALL of your photos (if you’re a paying customer of Dropbox that is).

And thats why it makes sense why this is a stand alone app.  That’s why they spun it out instead of just improving the ‘Photo’s tab in the Dropbox iPhone app.  This is the same strategy used by Facebook and why there is a separate ‘Messaging’ app, Facebook Camera and Paper.

Your Best Photos vs. All of them

Facebook holds all of your best photos – your best vacation photos, the cutest photos of your baby etc.

Dropbox is aiming to hold those PLUS everything else, including: your more intimate, more embarrassing, less polished and if you use the ‘Hidden’ feature: more explicit photos.

With Carousel replacing the default photos app I no longer have to worry about balancing hoarding photos on my phone and maxing out my storage – now they’re all in one place.

Dropbox is really trying to de-commoditize online storage with beautiful software and a better user experience.  It’s their best shot at avoiding the race to the bottom.

We shall see if that is enough to convince the average consumer to pay 5x more.


“A two day stay, you may say I need the time alone, to relax my dome, no phone, left the nine at home.” – Nas

This year I was lucky enough to attend my first SXSW.  I learned so much, met so many interesting people and had so much fun that it kind of felt like compressing an entire semester of college into a week.

I went to over 20 panels and the most interesting co-presenters had to be Ben Horowitz, a venture capitalist, and the rapper Nas.

Ben is a nerdy, white investor raised in Berkeley.

And Nas is well, Nas.

The Unlikely couple

They really couldn’t be more different but, the two have been good friends for years.  They’ve not just been friends but have influenced each others lives and inspired one another in pretty interesting ways.

Ben talked about taking business lessons from Nas’ lyrics of growing up in the projects, rising to fame and raising a family.  Nas talked about admiring and learning from Ben as an entrepreneur.

How many VCs are good friends with a rapper?  How many rappers are friends with investors?

Not many – but maybe more should be.

Cross-Pollination FTW

The theme of cross-pollination was one I noticed through multiple panels at SXSW and it was perfectly illustrated in Nas and Ben sharing a stage together.

It’s easy to get confined to your industry and read the same blogs and magazines as everyone else.

Attend the same industry conferences.

Hang out with people who only work in your industry.

That’s what is amazing about SXSW – the diversity of presentations and people attending.

It’s labeled as an “Interactive” conference but the breadth of topics is HUGE.  Where else can you go to a presentation on Robotics, then go to a panel on creativity, follow it up with crowdfunding in non-profits and top things off with a talk on astrophysics?

To get truly creative and new ideas, I’d encourage you to get your head out of the sand and cross-pollinate with people and things that seem to have nothing directly related to what you do.

You might be surprised what you can take back to your work.

My crappy icon

My crappy icon

It’s been a year since I released my first app, Photo Date.  It’s a really simple app and I’ve always been content with it, except for one thing – the icon.

It’s pretty horrible in my opinion.  But I was in such a rush to launch the app that I just approved the first version the designer sent over.

It’s always been one of those small, stupid things that have annoyed me that I was to lazy to do anything about.

While creating the content for my ‘Make Your First App’ course, I recorded a section on how to find somebody on Fiverr.com to make your app icon for you for 5 bucks.

I was about to follow this process to have a new icon made – but for some reason thought, “It would be fun to see if I can design one myself!”

Now I’m not a designer by any means. I only have a beginners understanding of Photoshop from editing photos.  I don’t even own a copy of Photoshop.. I just used the 30 day trial for this.

I discovered though that you don’t need to be a full-fledged designer to create a basic but decent looking icon.

Here’s a screencast I recorded that walks you through my process:

You’ll need a few things:

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