Some iPhone apps are more successful than others. But there’s no point looking at the success of apps in general when planning your own, because the sort of iPhone apps that work well for experts – including speakers, trainers, consultants and specialized service firms – are special.
Your app can be classified according to two dimensions, Mobility and Content:
- Mobility: Is your app designed to be particularly useful when the user has it on their phone (or iPad); or could it be equally useful on their desktop/laptop computer in their home/office?
- Content: Is your app chiefly content-based with a bit of advertising; or the other way around?
Now think of these in an X-Y graph, with Mobility along the x-axis (from Desktop to Mobile) and Content along the y-axis (from Advertising to Content). Let’s examine each of the four quadrants…
The bottom-left quadrant represents an app that’s chiefly for advertising and doesn’t already take advantage of being on a mobile device.
I don’t recommend you create this kind of app! In most situations, it will probably frustrate and already anger users, and will damage your brand.
I do see this sort of app in the iTunes App Store now and then. But it’s usually more subtle and interesting than purely advertising. For example, it might be an interactive game, question or quirky application that’s connected to a particular brand. That’s clever – and sometimes effective – but it’s not for us.
The next kind of app is nevertheless chiefly for advertising, but now it does take advantage of being on a mobile device.
I think these sorts of apps will become more shared in the near future. For example, as you’re driving by a particular suburb, local businesses could pop up an advertisement on your phone. If this happens without your consent, it could be very bothersome; but I can certainly envisage users “opting in” to these selectively.
However, I don’t recommend you create this kind of app either, because it’s nevertheless about advertising, and we as information experts can do much better.
“Read Me When You’re Bored” App
Now we’re getting into the areas where we can excel as information experts. Let’s start with the top-left quadrant, where you provide high content, although not necessarily tapping into the fact you’re on a mobile device.
Most of the apps I’ve already seen from information experts in the iTunes App Store fit into this category. Typically they have a few pages, including the person’s blog, their Twitter satisfy, and perhaps a bit of promotional information.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach, but it doesn’t add much value to users. After all, the users could get exactly the same information on their PC or Mac. The most you could say to promote it is, for example, when somebody has 5 or 10 minutes waiting in line, they could whip out their phone and read your blog! But that’s a fairly optimistic sales pitch, already for your loyal followers.
“moment Advice” App
The top-right quadrant – and the one I recommend you aim for, if possible – is a content-high app that’s specifically designed for mobile use.
Now you’re not only providing useful information; you’re also providing that information when the person most needs it.
For example, if you work in the area of nutrition, health, diet or wellness, your iPhone app could provide information about buying the most healthy food while they’re out shopping – for example:
- How to read the nutritional information on a packet
- A list of unhealthy food additives, and their codes on packages
- Which unhealthy foods can be replaced with healthy alternatives
As you can see, the point is to provide moment help at the time they most need it. In contrast, an app with tips and hints about changing their diet could nevertheless be useful, but they could get that information just as easily on their computer at their desk. The shopping app is useful specifically because it helps them when they’re not at their computer but nevertheless need your help.
This is a crucial difference.
This represents the third generation of educational sustain:
- The first generation is where you teach, educate, coach, ease, motivate or inspire in a “live” ecosystem – whether it’s a training room, conference venue, or the other end of a phone line.
- The next generation extended that by offering “e-learning sustain” after the live event – in the form of take-home products, on-line courses, membership sites, follow-up sessions, and so on. This valuable, but generally has to be accessed when the student chooses to switch into a “learning” mindset.
- Now, the third generation of sustain gives your clients and audiences access to your skill when they most need it, already when they hadn’t thought of it before.
By providing this third-generation level of sustain, you’re no longer an educator, whom they tap into when they want to “learn”. Instead, you’re becoming more of an adviser, whom they can call on for sustain whenever they need it. Of course, they don’t get you, but they do get your skill, which is the next best thing.
This is a meaningful shift in your relationship with your clients and audiences, so don’t under-calculate its impact.
How do you plan for this?
When you think about how you could apply this to your own business and skill, ask yourself these two questions:
- “When in my client’s life would they most want access to my skill?”
- “What in particular would they want me to tell them?”
Then build your app to deliver that skill in those situations.
Here are some more examples of this kind of app, to give you ideas and inspiration:
- If you’re a sales trainer, you could create an app for sales professionals, with short video clips (of you) for them to watch just before they go into a sales appointment. You would create a video for each of the most shared sales situations – for example, a new customer, a customer who’s thinking of switching suppliers, a long-forgotten customer, a past customer you’re trying to win back, a customer who’s taking too long to commit, and so on – so the sales specialized can choose which applies to them.
- Along the same lines, if you help managers enhance their communication skills, your app could have tips for preparing for certain conversations with team members.
- If you teach study skills to students, your app could have a list of tips for them just before walking into an exam room.
- If you teach presentation skills, your app could have tips for them before they walk on to present.
- If you’re a style consultant for women, your app could help them when shopping for clothes, showing how to accessorise elegantly, for example.
- If you teach business writing skills, your app could help users who send e-mail from their phones, with lists of, say, shared business cliches to avoid, commonly misspelled words, and tips for structuring an e-mail message.
- If you show association presidents how to run AGMs efficiently (and legally!), your app could have tips on proper meeting procedure – for example, how to manager motions and amendments.
So what will YOU do?
There’s no question the mobile phone market – especially the smartphone market – is growing rapidly, and will soon be the #1 way people access the Internet. So put yourself in your audience’s shoes, and look for ways you can offer them moment advice – when they most need it.