What Makes Non-Gaming Apps Organic Growth Ninjas

On the heels of moderating a panel focused on organic growth during the Amsterdam App Strategy Workshop in December (organized by the great people at the Application Developer Alliance) it’s clear that gaming apps companies could benefit from adapting the many approaches non-gaming apps companies have invented and innovated in order to market their apps to specific audiences on a tight budget.

In a way, you could say thinking ‘outside the box’ is baked into the DNA of non-gaming apps. After all, it’s a category of app that flies or fails based entirely on a company’s ability to create armies of app advocates, creatively and completely from ‘scratch’.

Naturally, non-gaming apps have to rely on good ideas, not just deep pockets, to reach and influence people around the reasons why their app is a ‘must-have’. Granted gaming apps companies also have to convince people to download and use their app frequently, but the stakes are not as high.

Gaming apps companies aren’t afraid to fail — and even when they do miss the mark with their app they generally fail fast and move quickly on to create another game. It’s a different story with non-gaming app companies. Often times they have bet the farm on their app and have no alternative to fall back on should it fail.

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It’s more pressure — but you could also argue it teaches discipline and transforms many non-gaming app companies (and their staff) into organic growth ninjas. Their methods to drive growth and turn their app into a sustainable business set the bar.

Many on my panel of non-gaming app experts (Ruben Vermijs, Digital Marketing Leader at Picnic; Pamela Neelis, Founder & Product Owner of Swipe & Shop; Robbert Bos, CPO & Co-Founder at BUX and Nicholas Duddy, Founder of Miratrix) revealed they achieve amazing results in the early days of their app through proactive and personal social outreach to their app fans. Granted, taking such a ‘grassroots’ approach requires time and patience — but my panel also showed it can pay dividends. Personal emails worked for Swipe & Shop and IMs via Facebook Messenger worked for Picnic.

This personal touch also extended beyond marketing to power a new (and bootstrapped) approach to product development. Many on the panel shared how they followed the lead of their users to improve the app by asking for and responding to user feedback and requests for new features and functions.

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As I said, gaming apps companies can clearly learn a lot from the way non-gaming apps companies market their apps effectively and with a sharp focus on capital efficiency. But what I’m really excited about is the way This no doubt goes back to their roots and the hard truth that most non-gaming app companies only have one chance to get it right with their app.
It’s why they have a laser focus on creating an app (yes, one) that pegs the needle.

Interestingly, this dovetails with what researchers in the Mobile Innovation Group11, a research collaboration between Stanford University, MIT, and INSEAD universities, also observe. Their findings underline the importance of focusing energy and resources on building one strong (‘killer’) app. The idea is to make one, good, basic app and then iterate on it to improve the user experience.

This approach stands in strong contrast to many gaming apps developers who (at least up until now) have spent time and money on creating many highly varied products and releasing them quickly to see what fails and what flies.

While this ‘trial and error’ approach is clearly what helped super-successful gaming apps companies like Rovio produce a mega-hit, it’s a strategy that is fading fast as UA costs rise through the roof.

Success is the reward for games app companies that focus — not squander — time and money to ensure they are on track to release an app that can have a positive impact on their business and their users. There’s no sense spending time and effort to launch an app that doesn’t have a chance of achieving either. It’s far more prudent and practical to borrow a page from the strategy pioneered by non-gaming app companies and focus resources and efforts on marketing and monetizing gaming apps you are dead-sure have what it takes to be a hit in the first place. Everything else is a waste of money.