Building, launching, and growing a startup is one of the quickest ways to see how many different projects you’re truly capable of juggling at once. It involves thinking about things like funding, planning, partnerships, software, hiring, marketing, legal logistics… and the list could go on.
Without a doubt, though, one of the most important things within the startup-realm is marketing — getting your brand in front of potential customers. Unfortunately, though, with all the other to-dos on a startup founder’s plate, marketing is the very same aspect getting put on the back burner all too often.
And it’s not because you don’t realize the importance of marketing your startup; you know full well how vital your outreach efforts are. The problem is, as much as you’d like an endless abyss of funding to pull from when starting up, you’re often strapped for cash. That means marketing efforts have a tendency to be run in-house, by inexperienced “marketers” making the most of the existing skills they have.
Fortunately, there’s a tool that can handle most, if not all, of your marketing efforts: an app.
Think of all the big companies whose apps you currently use — for shopping, email, project management, meal planning, scheduling services, and more. From brick and mortar businesses to SaaS models, apps are becoming the norm. Just consider how powerhouses like Starbucks have created an app for their customers, or how any time you fly, downloading your chosen airline’s app gives you all sorts of new options.
The key is, while apps like those help you, as the customer, they also help the business — in a very big way.
Having an app for your startup is like casting a marketing net. Instead of spreading yourself thin focusing on separate aspects like running ads, maintaining communication with customers, or staying present on social media, an app allows you to do all that and more, within one neatly packaged tool.
Keep reading to learn exactly how having an app can help explode your startup’s marketing efforts.
1. You can always be on your customer’s radar
It’s a busy world, and there’s no doubt you’re going up against countless competitors and noise when it comes to getting your customers’ attention.
Traditionally, you might try to:
- Run ads to gain more touch-points with customers
- Create a social account for every platform and maintain constant activity
- Form partnerships with other businesses your customers frequent
- And more
In reality, though, how many separate marketing campaigns can you handle? Unless you have the funding to partner with a full-time marketing director or agency, chances are you don’t have much brain-space to handle dozens of outlets at once.
Having an app for your startup, on the other hand, can completely automate your efforts, which will help you stay front-and-center with customers.
Instead of running ads you hope will keep customers coming back, why not send push notifications to their screens at the exact moment you know they’re on their phone or laptop? Instead of using 10 different social media tools or manually trying to stay active on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Linkedin, and more all at once (and inevitably disappearing for long stints of time when it becomes too overwhelming), why not let your app do it for you?
Yes, there’s setup work involved, but once you’ve done the front-loading, staying on your customers’ radars can become highly automated, letting you focus on what you do best.
2. Your customer support can be top notch
You can put a phone number and email address on your website, but in reality, how frequently and consistently will they be manned?
Providing excellent customer service is one of the best marketing tools available. It’s what turns regular customers into advocates and evangelists for your brand. You need those people on your side. With crowd-sourced reviews saturating the digital world, it can be devastating for customers to experience poor (or even mediocre) experience.
With an app, your business can be online and present 24/7. You can implement help documents, intelligent chat bots, and other automated support geared toward giving customers instant solutions.
Not only that, having an app can potentially allow customers more ways to pay, subscribe, or commit to your company. It gives them options, and that’s a powerful thing.
3. You can give your customers a unique experience
When you create a website or front-end for your startup, it’s usually a static entryway for customers to reach you. Yes, you’ve done your research and geared your startup to be as close to what your customers and market need as possible, but at the end of the day, it’s still static.
An app doesn’t have to be. With an app, you can give each individual customer a unique experience of their own.
Let’s think about a real life example:
When creating an account, maybe Jane Smith lets you know she lives in Dallas, Texas. It’s a seemingly simple piece of information, but imagine what you can do with it to help enhance Jane’s experience with your business.
You could send her a push notification when the weather over Dallas is looking stormy — just a friendly reminder to take an umbrella to work that day.
Or, say Dallas was experiencing a conflict of some sort during a big product launch you planned to notify Jane about. Out of concern and respect, maybe you let your app filter out Dallas users during that time.
Taking it further, perhaps you’re attending a conference in Dallas. Wouldn’t that be a great opportunity to notify Jane through her app, ask her to join the conference, and invite her to say hello to you while she’s there?
You could never personalize interactions with customers like that without an app because there’s no way you can be a million places at once. With an app, though, all those features can be automated and built in.
By the time Jane gets to that conference, she’ll feel like you’re already friends. Now that’s a unique experience traditional marketing efforts could never offer.
4. You can always be social
Have you seen the social share widgets on the side of nearly every blog post or article you read online these days?
They’re helpful because instead of constantly sharing your own content yourself (to your own audience), those social share buttons allow your existing audience to share your content to their audiences. If you’re lucky, it can create a snowball effect.
Adding a social share widget to your blog often ends up forgotten, though. It’s kind of like “hopeful” marketing…you put it there and hope people share.
The results aren’t typically good.
With an app, you don’t have to rely on template tools to hopefully get your brand in front of new people, though. An app lets you do things like automatically share to social media platforms from one place.
Of course, you might be saying tools like that already exist. And it’s true. But what if you wanted more customization that either required you to use 5+ different tools at once, or submit to manually doing the work? And what if those tools didn’t allow you to do other things, like automatically notify customers of updates and news, send notifications to their phone’s screen during the hours they’re usually online, or prompt them to share something on the exact social media account you know they use the most?
An app can do all that and more. Imagine the growth.
5. You can stand out in your market
Let’s answer a few “would you rather” questions.
Would you rather:
- Call your doctor to schedule your next appointment, wait on hold for 10 minutes before doing so, and then repeat the process when you need to reschedule…or, would you rather open up the office’s app on your phone, pick a date off the calendar, and potentially spend another 30 seconds repeating the process if you needed to reschedule?
- Book a plane ticket, email the boarding pass to yourself, and print it off (or stand in line at the check-in counter at the airport)…or, open up the airline’s app, pull up your mobile boarding pass, and walk straight through to the gate?
- Go into a physical store or visit their website to purchase the same product, over and over again…or, click a button in the store’s app that automatically sends you the product on time, exactly when you need it, without ever having to think?
You’re choosing option number two in each of those scenarios because they’re easier and more convenient. They’re also all possible with apps.
Put simply, having an app makes your business more convenient, and convenience is one of the most valuable things you can offer a person. It’s why companies like Amazon and Google have infiltrated our everyday lives.
The thing is, your competitors are likely thinking on a smaller scale. They might be running ads, leaving business cards in coffee shops, or unethically buying email lists online to try and spread the word about themselves.
Giving your customers the convenience of an app will set you apart from the rest of the crowd.
How to Build an App
The question, of course, is how to build an app for your startup. You might be bootstrapping, or simply have too many other projects on the table to think about building an app. Likewise, you might have no technical background to speak of, making building an app seem completely out of reach.
As applications become more mainstream, though, so do the options for building one.
To start, you could go the difficult route of seeking a technical co-founder to handle the programming side of things. Not surprisingly, that might sound equally as overwhelming or unappealing as running marketing efforts on your own.
An easier option might be to hire an agency or development team to build your app. Of course, the cost can quickly add up when outsourcing the development of a custom business application.
That brings us to the simplest option: Building it yourself.
While that might seem like the most difficult route to go, the fact is, the technology available for building apps these days is more powerful than ever. You no longer need programming knowledge, a limitless budget, or months of time to put together a fully functioning app. Instead, you can use programs like Zapier or Bubble to “drag and drop” your app to completion — all in a language you understand.
Consider the tradeoff of hiring marketers or trying to handle outreach and promotion efforts on your own, versus spending a little time getting to know an app-building platform and building an app yourself.
Whichever route you go, think of an app as a “jack of all trades” marketing tool. With something like that in your back pocket, there’s no doubt your startup’s growth will skyrocket.
About the Author
Gaby Roman is the founder of Coaching No Code Apps, a place for founders, startups, and business owners to learn and build fully functioning apps and software with no coding required. Courses, consulting, and in-depth lessons teach students how to effectively use no-code tools to build, grow, or start their business.