Software is a dynamic industry, with customer expectations constantly shifting.
That’s why there’s no rule book for how to succeed in mobile app development. Understanding lean principles and MVP thinking will place you ahead of most businesses, but there are still plenty of traps to fall into.
I want to help people build engaging, profitable mobile apps. That’s why I’ve put together this list of the 50 most common and dangerous mistakes I see smart entrepreneurs and businesses making literally every day.
Being aware of these common pitfalls could save you thousands of dollars.
Let’s jump in.
1. Outsourcing app development overseas, blowing all their money, and having to get it rebuilt locally.
2. Assuming ‘build it and they will come‘. Great apps don’t go viral by themselves. They may seem to pop up overnight, but you can bet your life there’s a carefully executed marketing strategy driving it!
3. Not following the right process (Validate idea, build MVP, re-validate, capital raise, commercialise, etc.). Understanding the startup lifecycle is crucial.
4. Not thinking about marketing until the app has already launched or is days/weeks from launch.
5. Overall lack of planning. Spend time modelling and planning your business. Try to understand what the future will look like with your current strategy in mind.
6. Planning too much. Great startups are agile. You may have to pivot, adapt to changing market conditions, reposition your brand, audience or revenue model. Don’t waste time putting together 40 page business plans that will be irrelevant in 6 months time. Use and re-use this 1 page business plan instead!
7. Cramming too many features into the first release. Your first launch should be an MVP that doesn’t confuse the user.
8. Not including analytics within the app. Tracking user behaviour within your app is the easiest way to gain real, objective insights for future app improvements.
9. Assuming they can raise investment off a cool idea alone. You can definitely raise seed funding for an app idea, but you’ll need to showcase an irresistible business opportunity to WOW investors…
10. Being stealth about their idea. No one is going to steal your idea! You’re wasting valuable contacts who can help you if you don’t share it.
11. Hiring the wrong people. Don’t just hire the first person who’s excited about your idea. Evaluate your hires critically, and re-evaluate them at various points in your startup journey.
12. Hiring too quickly. This is a surefire way to blow all your cash in one go.
13. Taking too long to make decisions. Your [app/business plan/financial situation] doesn’t have to be perfect, you just need to do something. Launch hard and fast! Take Jodie Fox’s personal motto: “Do everything before you’re ready”.
14. Thinking they can do everything themselves. Sole founders are statistically much less likely to succeed. Get a co-founder, make sure you have a dedicated marketing person at the helm, and let your developers work their magic. Don’t micro-manage.
15. Not going all in. How many successful startup apps do you know that had a founder that was only working on it part-time? Or as a passion project on the side of their ‘real job’? Building an app means you are committed to building a business.
16. Handling money and cash flow incorrectly. Startups often will spend too much money in one go, on things like making a bunch of new hires all at once, or pivoting too quickly. What if a major investor backs out or a client doesn’t pay? Use this financial planning spreadsheet to manage your startup finances correctly and ensure you have contingency plans/reserves in place.
17. Not investing enough time and money in the product. Look at where the greats spend all their time; Steve Jobs, product; Zuckerberg, product; Elon Musk…product. ‘Nuff said.
18. Being too stubborn to pivot. It is very unlikely that your app’s core offering or audience will stay the same throughout its life. Don’t be too precious about your invalidated idea. And if you’re too stubborn to take my advice, check out this list of apps that had to drastically pivot in order to be successful, including Facebook, Instagram, eBay and YouTube.
19. Thinking too small. ‘Think global, act local’ is increasingly important advice as the world’s markets become more connected. Investors are also looking for BIG ideas, so make sure it’s in your your vision and business plan to expand into international markets. See also: Ultimate Guide To Pitching Your App To Investors.
20. Not sticking to the strategy. This is a little bit counter intuitive, but sometimes you need to stop taking advice, and start sticking to the strategy. Most of the time success is not achieved by listening to everyone’s advice, but rather accomplishing the outcome of one strategy. Then pivot. Then pivot. And then…pivot.
21. Getting distracted. As an entrepreneur, you have so many things going on that require your attention. Having clear priorities, as well as knowing which tasks you should delegate to someone else, are important for getting stuff done.
22. Trying to please everyone. Your app will not (and should not) try to cater to everyone. Pick a niche and serve that niche brilliantly in order to gain traction. This way, in a few months or years, you’ll be better able to expand your app’s audience and offering.
23. Not investing in their app’s listing page on the app store. This is the last thing people see before they download your app. Your screenshots need to be compelling, your app description punchy, and you want to rank highly in search listings for your chosen keywords. Learn about App Store Optimisation here.
24. Not releasing quickly enough. “If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product then you’ve launched too late.” Reid Hoffman, CEO – Linkedin.
25. Not thinking about the international implications of their app name. Your app name shouldn’t be limiting when your business expands. Read this for how to choose the perfect app name.
26. Not thinking about the context of your app name…then having to rebrand halfway through a multimillion dollar expansion.
27. Thinking about monetisation models too late. How your app will make money should be something you are considering from the outset, even if you don’t have a revenue stream in place for your MVP.
28. Not spending enough money on marketing. Even if you’re using lean marketing tactics and channels, you should be prepared to invest a decent amount of your budget on marketing. After all, marketing is the number 1 biggest indicator of how much revenue your startup makes.
29. Marketing the product too soon. If you haven’t worked through a terrible and buggy beta phase then you shouldn’t be spending money on marketing.
30. Beginning with the ‘what’ and not the ‘why’. All great ventures start with why. If you’ve skipped this step, backtrack and do this exercise now – see Simon Sinek, The Golden Circle. Ooft, I get chills just thinking about it.
31. Carrying out surveys and user testing that aren’t controlled for biases. Read this for how to correctly user test your app.
32. Ignoring a hunch. Don’t act on a blind hunch alone, but use it to your advantage and conduct appropriate investigation to see if your hunch has validity.
33. Not reading the Buzinga blog…terrible mistake! We give away all our secrets for free. Subscribe here for weekly secrets.
34. Not spending enough time in your zone of genius. There’s a reason why people hire bad-ass app development companies like Buzinga…they’re not app developers, product strategists, software testers, UI/UX designers…they’re business people! Find what you’re great at, and focus on getting better at that. Delegate and outsource EVERYTHING else.
35. Gathering input from developers only. Yep, Buzinga is an app development company and I’m telling you not to JUST listen to us. Get input into your app from everyone and anyone you come across – marketers, investors, customers, beta users, people you meet at bars…not all feedback is worth acting on, but it’s worth just listening to a diverse group of people. Oh, and see point 10.
36. Not hustling hard enough. Work on your personal branding and raise your profile. Attend startup events. Meet people, make contacts and learn from people who’ve already been through what you’re going through.
37. Raising money too soon.
38. Raising money too late… Read this blog I wrote for how to raise money and when.
39. Forgetting about partnerships. Partnerships are a genius way to generate more customers, more revenue and more success. Not enough startups focus on partnerships to expand their reach or value proposition. Who could you partner with?
40. Forgetting to collect customer data. And they often forget to enquire into HOW MUCH data they can actually get. To give you an indication of the value of data…. look at services like Indeed.com and Pocketbook. These are hundred million dollar companies. Not because of how much they charge their customers…or how much money they make. But purely for the fact that they collect data. Start collecting data right away, even if you can’t sell it. There’s gold nuggets in the data!
41. Focusing on the wrong metrics. People tend to focus on downloads, Facebook likes, awards, and other such metrics. These are ‘vanity metrics’ and have a net value of zilch to your bottom line. These metrics will not show you the way down the yellow brick road.
42. Not validating the app idea thoroughly enough. You can’t know if your app concept is the real deal until you have validated it by putting it in people’s hands. Make sure you do this in MVP stage before spending the big bucks on a hard launch and marketing campaign.
43. Assuming that people will keep using your app forever. The retention problem is that 90% of your app users will leave you within 6 months. Fresh and personalised content, as well as a flawless user experience, are vital to keeping your app users engaged.
44. Attempting to commercialise prematurely. Initially you need to validate the model. Once you have validated the model, your aim is to find product-market fit. In essence, this is about figuring out who your customers are and what they want, then turning your product value proposition to accommodate them. You will know when you have achieved this when people are engaging with your marketing and your product.
45. Trying to be a unicorn. Healthy horses are way cooler.
46. Attempting to scale prematurely. You should only expand/scale once your commercial model is proven and your business is ready to make profit. If you scale sooner you’re only scaling a big black hole that keeps eating up investor money.
47. Backtracking on important steps. Going back to planning, not keeping a track of your product roadmap and customer feedback. What’s the next step? And the step after that…
48. Not prioritising their own learning. All successful entrepreneurs are avid learners. No one is born perfect (except Peter Diamandis!). Some people are born with exceptional skill. Some are born without…like me. If this is you, then you need to spend 1-2 hours per day, 7 days per week learning. “The more you learn, the more you earn.” – Tai Lopez. Start with these podcasts and my personal book list.
49. Not building the right team. Who do you need to have on your team in order to win? Who’s covering product design? Who’s covering technology? Who’s the subject matter expert? Who’s handling the finances? Structure your team correctly and you’ll increase your chances of success by 10 fold. Find genius-level team members ONLY. Peter Diamandis says; Team is the 2nd greatest indicator of startup success. The #1 indicator of success is…
50. Timing. Launching too soon could mean that you’re launching into a market that isn’t ready for your product/service. Launching too late could mean that your market is saturated with fierce competition. When is the right time to launch your business idea?
This list isn’t meant to scare you, just keep you proactive.
App development doesn’t have to be a hugely risky business venture if you do it properly and work with reputable partners, mentors and consultants.
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