How to Sell Mobile Apps – Explained!

On December 30, 2014, Posted by , In Uncategorized, With No Comments

You want to Learn How to Sell Mobile Apps ! Great.

This is a summary of our learnings over 6 Years as early movers in the mobile development industry. Please feel free to Get In touch with us , we will be happy to share our experience & answer questions

The Future is Mobile – we have been hearing this in the market place for the last 3 years , but yet I dont see the volume of Mobile work in the market anywhere close to what is needed to make the futuer mobile.

My personal opinion is that this is due to the lack of clarity around the whole Mobile Application economy, Customer’s dont understand it , hence they dont know how to sell it & end up feeling they are not capable of selling it. The intention of this post is to try & break down the process so that an average Customer can make an educated call whether the Mobile application market is worth getting into or not.

You Want to Learn How to Sell Mobile Apps? Great!

This is a summary of our findings, compiled from our own early experiences in the development industry for over six years. Please feel free to contact us, we would be happy to share our experiences and answer your questions.

The Future is Mobile – We have been hearing this in the marketplace for the past three years, and yet the volume of mobile work is nowhere near what is required to make the future mobile.

Perhaps this this is due to the lack of clarity within the mobile application economy, Customer’s dont understand it , hence they dont know how to sell it & end up feeling they are not capable of selling it. The intention of this post is to try to the break down the process so that the everyday customer can make an educated call whether the mobile application market is worth getting into or not.

Generally in the Mobile App realm, there are two types of apps: Conceptual Apps & Process Augmentation Apps

  1. Conceptual Apps
    These are the “Idea” Apps, which are typically very fresh and unique

    Some examples include the Tiger Woods App, allowing you to plot your golf swing against Tiger Wood’s. Or there is the Taxi Meter, which calculates fares as you travel. And there is also the Guitar Tuner App and the Mirror App. The best example of this category, as most of you know her is Siri.

    The financial benefits of building these apps could be HUGE and extremely profitable. But in most cases, businesses discount this market because not only are unique concepts are hard to come by, but the level of engineering needed to deliver these types of projects is even more scarce.

    Customers selling apps should spend their energy away from this segment, but if an idea strikes you, by all means, it could be a gold mine!

    The competition in this field is also serious. Some of the App Industry’s own pioneers, who are featured on, run this space with Silicon Valley PE’s, VC’s, and Angel Investors.

    A vast majority of these applications make their money just by selling the app itself, but another large segment monetize leverage the viral aspect of these apps.

    For example, Tiger Woods MySwing – $4.99 on iPhone $9.99 iPad – this has over 80K downloads in each version.

    **Can you add to the example, showing the “monetize leverage the viral aspect of these apps” ? In other words… how much did they make by going viral?

  2. Process Augmentation Apps

    These can become the sweet spot selling wise for Customers , here you are taking functionality or processes that already exist , either offline or as a web application & you are building an application to further enhance it or simple add mobility.

    Examples are in the 1000’s , Todo list trackers like “Remember the milk” , Google Maps Application etc etc
    The ideal stratergy here would be to look for companies who engage with their customers or employees that are mobile, try & pickup on processes that can be enhanced by adding mobility & then build an app around it.

    This needs a decent amount of ingenuity but to deliver such apps is not hard for the most part.
    These apps are normally free to sub $5 downloads & the monetization happens outside the app , essentially through the value enhancement that the app brings to the interaction between the business & the customer / employee

    Example – Tripadvisor , they probably spend upwards of $200k to build this , but they give it away for free, for them the added value that this app brings to their users is what monetizes the app.

The App Development Sales & Delivery Process

IN terms of the actual app development there are almost always 3 components

  • Planning & Documentation
  • Server Side Application
  • Mobile Client

1. Planning & Documentation – Absolute Key , explain to your customers that they should never fall for any App developer who will not give them complete specifications documentation before the first line of code is keyed in this is very critical as things will become messy without a proper & detailed plan.

Documentation should cover the following

  • Business Requirements – CLIENT TO CONFIRM & SIGN OFF
    • Communication Methods & Protocols
    • Mobile Client
    • Web Services Layer
    • Server Side Application
    • Database(s)
  • Scope
  • Data Model
  • User Interface – Workflow
  • Mobile Client User Interface
  • Server Side Application – Workflow
  • User Interface – Wire Frames
    • Mobile Client
    • Server Application
  • Test Cases
    • Mobile Client
    • Server Application

This documentation is & should be a chargebale effort & it will take a minimum of 10-15 hrs to put together something that is

enough to be Sell this document & its level of detail as an Insurance policy for the client , If your developer was to get hit by a bus the document will be strong enough that you take your half done code & get it built out anywhere

As a real world example from an actual project , here is a document that we used to build an application for a Tequila Distributor.

Tequila Company iOS Application Specifications Document

The app is to help thier sales people view sales data for thier own product whenever they are in a store & then on to record the prices of competitor product that is selling in that store. All the competitor data will be stored on the server & the corporate office will be able to view it real time

This document took 14.45 billable hours to build , across 4 people

  • The Client
  • Solution Architect
  • Database designer
  • Lead developer
  • UI Designer

we did a 45 minute meeting with the client & 4 days later came back with this first draft. There were some minor clarifications largely due to the fact that the client thought the wire frames was what the app was going to look like & flipped out ! they also wanted to add certain email notifications to be sent out. The sign off meeting was another 45 minutes , we had signed & sealed requirements , let the coding begin !

2. Server Side Development – This is where the app will get all the data it needs that sits in some offline / online system , or if users are creating data this is the exchange that will be used to transmit it.
The app will almost always depend on a server side component , simply because of constraints like processing power , storage & reliability of connection on the mobile device makes it tough to use it as the central controller.
This part of the development is commonly under rated & mis understood by clients.
Any programming language that can incorporate a web service layer can be used here , we @ WSR use PHP for all our Server side work.

Even for a basic application it will take at least 50-70 hrs of work to deploy a minimalistic Server side infrastructure including a basic data model / web services , testing etc Im basing this on something like a task / todo application , fairly basic yet very scalable This development is also 85-95% re-useable across platforms (iOS / Android)

3. Mobile Client – This is the actual app that will be downloaded form the Apple Store or Android Market & will run on your phone.

This application will normally utilize all the facilities provided by the OS (a facility being the camera / key pad etc) as you need it & deliver the workflow you want. Again there is a 20-30 hrs basic setup that goes in consistently across any development , upon which the developer can start to build your functionality.
Beyond this the complexity of the functionality will define the effort
Also you have to be careful in design stages as iPhone apps will not necessarily run on iPads automatically & vice versa , so make sure you add in the extra effort to optimize for both devices.

The device issue gets worse on Android but only if your are trying to build some very specific functionality using the Motion sensing Gyros / GPS etc
This area should be documented down to the last detail before you start building


Pricing will VARY FOR EVERY APP , there is no golden rule or a benchmark to follow, there are just too many variable to develop any kind of pricing system. However if we look at our methodology described above we can establish a floor price , this will at least help you qualify the customer.

So looking at the 3 components (above) your minimum costs are 10+70+30 = 110Hrs , this will get you a barebones app with practically zero to very little in terms of functionality Hourly Rates will vary from $20-$75 depending on the skill levels you hire & then you will be able to negotiate some volume discounts.

You will also have to get into Android vs iOS , typical questions will be

  • Can we do one now & one later ? YES
  • What is the added cost to do both ? The client development cost will be totally new for the next platform, the server side cost can be re-used upto 85-95%
  • If I have to do one , which one should I pick first ? Depends on your user base , what devices are prevalent , in the general public though , its hard to skip a platform , you may have to do both
  • What about Blackberry & Nokia (Symbian) ? – TELL THEM TO GET AN iPhone !

Managing App the Development Process

It is critical to know how to manage the project well when it is in Development , at WSR use base-camp & where we have TODO templates for each step just as an example here is how 2 of our templates would look

[Server Side App] – QA

  • Staging Environment Setup
  • Bug Tracking Tool Setup
  • Test Case Execution
  • Regression Testing
  • QA Signoff

[Mobile App] – Deployment

  • Application Store Ready
  • Bundling
  • Final iPA files / Droid Files Tested
  • Billing

for a typical mobile application project there are 12 such lists that we have , from start to finish.

Our largest number of items is in the Requirements & Specifications Documentation list

We assign each of such task to individuals & they enter their time against it , Clients are able to see these time entries , we also maintain some threshold hours at the time of project initiation so that if in any area we are going overboard we get automatic alerts from base camp. [we have used the base camp API to develop a neat little tool to do this level of time management ]

Since most projects will be sold at a fixed price but that pricing will be derived from an effort estimate in hours , tracking time & holding people accountable to small work units being delivered becomes critical in keeping scope in check & delivery on track.

Try to break down tasks into small managable units vs large deliverables with many moving peices. As an example look at our list for Mobile App Deployement , in this list there are 4 tasks , One for the Finance person (to invoice the Customer) , 2 for the Developers & 1 for the QA person.

If we were to assign “Mobile App Deployment” as a task we would end up not knowing who to give it to & it would get lost in coordination , but since its broken down , things are simple & people know what is to be delivered. In Summary , Selling & delivering mobile apps isnt for everyone , but with the right team backing you up & the correct approach , there is money to be made here for Any level of Customer so go for it & make your future mobile Cheers to your Success !

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