Acquire enough users to learn your App’s weaknesses
Acquire enough users to learn your App’s weaknesses
In this podcast series we ask experienced Appreneurs for one success story and one fail. In this episode of the Mobile Engagement Podcast:
Logan Merrick, CEO of App development company Buzinga tells some stories of success and fail from customers. As a development shop they have gravitated from “cool” apps to Apps that are game-changing and Logan shares the experience with the Foodswitch App which was a partnership with Bupa and The George Institute. In this case the combination of these companies produced an App that had utility for users, deep value in health, nicely produced App functionality and strong promotional support in the media.
We score all out interview anecdotes based on 3 axes of: acquisition, UX and retention. The key lesson here is that planning and funding your launch and user acquisition is needed to just get enough consistent user interest and feedback on the App. If you don’t acquire enough users then as an App developer you are in a “no-mans-land” in regard to usage patterns and the curse that only 1 in 1000 users takes the time to provide feedback.
Let us know on our Twitter account how you score it.
- Reserve budget or plan how you will attract users to your App.
- Launch with a plan to acquire users and to understand how you will get feedback
- Look for where users are hitting problems or blockages in game-play. Where are they disengaged and use tools to measure where users are stuck.
- Partner with other players in your eco-system that will support the marketing
David: Gidday. Today’s guest is Logan Merrick and he’s the CEO of Buzinga. Buzinga is a development shop that’s done a bunch of really interesting applications for TV, media, all sorts of companies, all sorts of customers. So hi, Logan. How are you doing?
Logan: Good, mate. Thank you for having me.
David: Very happy to. So it’s really great to get back to development shops, to find out what they’re doing, how they’re looking at customers and so on. So maybe you can kind of just give us a brief snapshot in regards to what you guys do.
Logan: Yeah, sure. Absolutely. So we started the company. Basically, the idea was just to build cool apps. That was the idea. And as we’ve grown, we’ve moved now towards distributing any old app to focusing really on the key projects that are going to make a big impact in five to six years, or even three to four years from now. So looking at things, looking at the problem that we’re facing in terms of the food epidemic and sugar epidemic, and health and all these sort of areas. We’re really working with companies and startups who wanted to tackle some of these issues, with cool and engaging applications. So that’s a bit about us.
David: That’s interesting. So you’re saying that you were doing development work or agency-type work. And you’ve got to the point where you could actually choose which particular customers you wanted to work with.
Logan: Absolutely, yeah. I mean, we found ourselves in a really nice position in the market, where we have a lot of people come to us and want to work with us. And so that’s really good for us. We really don’t have to try— [laughter] We don’t really have to try too hard to get customers. But we’re really just, you know, we focus all our attention on working with people who really, really want to make a difference.
Logan: Because for us, that’s a lot of fun. That’s engaging.
David: Right, right. And so, you’re saying there’s a kind of, your sort of corporate mission includes some sort of social justice or environmental or health-type underpinning?
Logan: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And we actually don’t work on projects, unless they have some sort of social course attached to them.
David: Okay. That’s great. Okay, so you’re saying that’s where you’re at now, sort of historically would have done a bunch of stuff. So you’ve done stuff at TV stations and journalism, and stuff like that. And you’ve also got on the front of your website, that you developed an app that sold for $12 million. I presumed that was a customer app that you’re in.
Logan: Yeah, I know. I wish that was my app. [laughter] We built an application for a guy. And so, this was when we sort of started, and we built the application. And he had bought IP from another company, and we built on that IP. And he was able to sell that for $12 million. So he bought it for absolutely nothing. But the guy just really wanted to get out of the hole that he was in, and then sold it to Dominet. And Dominet worked with us to build a series of applications. And then he sold the whole company for $12 million.
David: I see. Okay. And so, what phase was that in?
Logan: So that was in a crowdsource Q&A.
Logan: It’s about—I haven’t got an issue. It’s one of the more popular ones for us, “What Would Jesus Do?”
David: Right. [laughter]
Logan: That sounds funny, but it was really, really popular then. It really took off, still taking off. And so, you know, someone might come to them and say, “I’ve got problems with this area.” or, “Is it okay to do this sort of stuff?” And it would be sent out to the platform and the platform would find someone to answer their question. The question would be answered with a bit of Christian context, I guess.
David: Right. And so, just coming back to this sort of social good-type things, you worked with a health insurance company by the name of Bupa. And there’s an app called “FoodSwitch,” I think?
Logan: Yeah, so the client is really the George Institute. And they’re an amazing company. They’re non-for-profit, non-government organization, and it’s funded by Bupa. As part of that, we do a little bit of work with Bupa in terms of building a couple of applications for them. So it’s funded by Bupa—it’s sponsored and funded by Bupa—so they’re partly the client as well, and it’s also government funded. So they’ve got, I do think a couple of million in funding, or something along those lines.
David: So this is really interesting because Bupa is a decent-sized company, and they’ve chosen to work with two other parties in this. So the George Institute would have a reputation in this space of which the app has been created, I guess?
Logan: Yeah, absolutely. So it’s actually the George Institute who instigated this. They said, the question was would people—because it was a research company—so the question was, “Would people make different decisions about the food that they buy if the labeling was transparent? If it actually told you what was in this stuff.
Logan: I know that over the last, you know, ten years, they’ve put the little information label on the back. But how many people read it-
David: [laughter] Sure.
Logan: -in addition to how many people know how to read it. So what they—because you know, you usually buy something called “go natural” and all this sort of stuff—I’m not sure if that’s even a brand—but everything says it’s natural. Whereas if you actually look at it, nothing’s natural.
David: Yes. It’s still a cake. [laughter]
Logan: Yeah, it’s still full of sugar. It’s crammed with sugar and salt, and all this sort of stuff. So the application that we put was, it was a very early version build to test if people would use it. It was very, very popular. And so, they went in for more funding. And this, the first version was funded by Bupa. And the second version, once again, was, of course, funded by Bupa, with the help from the government in Australia and New Zealand.
David: Right, okay. So basically, the George Institute went out and hustled another organization that could be considered to be a stakeholder in the ecosystem, and identified that Bupa could be somebody who would benefit from being a sponsor in that.
Logan: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Because they’ve got some great initiatives. So I think Bupa is one of the few companies that I could put my hand in my heart and say, “This is a great insurance company that actually cares.”
David: Yeah, certainly. I’ve seen some of their apps have been sort of forward-looking type apps and things like that. I don’t use those ones, yeah. So they’re quite interesting in that sense. They kind of get where engagement with customers is in the future, because those applications tend to be really around the benefit of the user rather than just being some sort of product catalog, that’s geared around services or something like that.
Logan: Yeah, exactly. They know what people want. They’ve actually got a huge team of people whose job it is to try and create positive experiences for their customers. And I don’t think that there’s a lot of companies who actually deploy that sort of initiative.
David: Okay. That’s very interesting. Alright, very good. I might try and come back to them at some stage.
David: Yeah. So on this particular podcast, what we do is we kind of talk about one win and one fail in regards to the inflection point that you might have seen in your customer base to deal with an app that you developed. Typically, what we try and do is look at either what’s really worked in terms of acquisition, user experience, or retention, what’s actually caused a really kind of great “aha” moment. Is there something you can share in there?
Logan: Yeah, I know. Absolutely. I think being in the market myself, I’m not so much a tech guy. So the FoodSwitch app, which is the Bupa app, would be a great win for us. And so, I’m happy to talk about that. And then perhaps using, let’s say, Twiggy, another application which hasn’t got social good connotation attached to it. It’s more of just a game.
David: Right, okay. Yeah, good.
Logan: So games tend to take off really quite easily. Twiggy just did not go anywhere.
David: [laughter] Okay, alright. So good, let’s start with that one and hear the story around that.
Logan: Yeah, okay. Sure. So a guy came to us a few years ago and a he wanted to build a game. And he had this vision for a game that would be up there with Angry Birds and all these sort of ones. And we said, “Look, keep your feet on the ground and do the hard work. And you’ve got as much chances like anyone else to do it.” When that fell over, we really fell over. I mean, it was like a good game—for a small budget, it was a good game—I think we put $20,000 or $30,000 into it. It was a decent game. It played well. And we accumulated a lot of users. And in fact, it’s still being developed. We can see that people are still using it.
Logan: But what fell over was we didn’t get enough data to draw any conclusions for it quickly. So as you probably know, being in this space, in order to understand how people are using your software and are they enjoying it, and is it solving their problems. Or if it’s not, then what is it? Why is it not solving their problems? In order to get to that point, you have to have a lot of traffic as you go. You got to draw in the qualitative, you know, draw assumptions from qualitative data.
David: Things need to be statistically significant to actually make a decision on them.
Logan: Right, exactly. And so, which we really lacked that kind of data, because there really wasn’t much of a marketing plan. And the guy, he had a lot of great ideas. And people, they would get to tweet it for him and stuff like that. But he didn’t do probably enough—and I’m not obviously just ranting and pointing fingers or any that sort of stuff—but the fact is he didn’t really do a lot to get the application out there. And so, as a result, it just fell over. It’s still up and it’s still running. So he’s still paying his Apple bills.
David: Right. [laughter]
Logan: But it’s just not doing anything with it.
Logan: So it just sits there.
David: Right. Okay, so you’re putting this in the fail basket, are you?
Logan: I’m definitely putting this in the fail basket.
David: Okay, alright. Very good. So the lesson to take away from that is you can’t launch without basically a marketing or an engagement strategy to try and sort of build the user base, and actually understand enough about what’s interesting about the gameplay.
Logan: Yeah, I know. I think the real takeaway is that when you release an application, you have to have acquired a large budget put aside—and when I say large, I mean, it could be anywhere between $20,000 and $50,000—put aside for marketing alone, just marketing. And that stretched out over the sort of three months. And during that time, you have to put aside budget for continuous improvement also. Because the idea is you want to get to a point where you’re getting so many users coming back to the application, and to the point where you’ve got these users inviting their friends. And all this sort of stuff, this sort of activity, that keeps—you’re generating enough revenue from them that you can keep investing into marketing.
Logan: And we just never hit that point. It was basically because it didn’t get enough users. And so—well, sorry to say—we didn’t get enough users, so a) we couldn’t draw any conclusions on what to improve, and b) didn’t hit that sort of critical mass where people were spending enough time to actually spend money, and all that sort of stuff.
David: So in terms of customers or prospects that you might talk to in terms of the project, [laughter] is it near a 100% where most of them are actually only fixating on the budget to get the product released and they don’t have actually any dropout offer after that?
Logan: I would say that the people who—80% of the people we speak to will fall into that basket. And we virtually would just say, “Look, though you’ve got a great idea, you have to understand that this is a business. And businesses require money for a lot of the applications.
David: Yeah. So I think that’s probably like a really good filter in regards you. If you’ve got two customers in front of you or two prospects in front of you, and they’re both kind of worked. They’re both projects of equal size, but one has recognized that there’s actually something that actually has to be nurtured in building an audience and understanding that. Then you’re obviously going to pick that particular customers, because ultimately, they’re going to be a better, “referenceable” customer for you in things like that, right?
Logan: 100%, yeah. So what we—a) we want customers that represent us well and that are fun to work with, and b) we want to work on projects that are going to make a difference.
David: Right. Alright, very good. Okay, so the key thing there is for anybody who’s a dev shop, to really, basically look at the budget with the customer early in the piece before the projects are defined in terms of its first release and say, “Okay, well, how are we actually going to manage the launch strategy and the marketing of the app?”
David: Post-actually first, before it’s released to the app store. [laughter]
Logan: Correct, yeah. I think the interface into this—well, the user interface into this industry, the ability to build your own applications—has gone, it’s opened up to so many people now. It’s very easy to get involved in it. And so, I think that the focus is on the developers or the dev shop to educate the customer on the fact that they have to have some sort of business acumen and marketing expertise to pull this off.
David: Yeah. Well, I think that probably separates you guys from a lot of dev shops because there’s very much a kind of drop-out-and-run-type mentality in those situations, you know, moving from project to project. And they haven’t figured out how to kind of build those services into the total package, I guess.
Logan: Yeah, I know, 100%. And I mean, it’s something that we’re continuously working on because we’re not, by any means, perfect. But we’re trying to build our business so that we make more, I guess, profit on the talent of the project and the client’s success, as opposed to the upfront stuff. Because in my opinion, there’s no point in, you know, their cash is on the table, but there’s point doing that just for the sake of paying bills.
David: Yes, right.
Logan: You know, if we have an opportunity to do something really good, we should take that opportunity.
David: Yeah. There is a difference in this instant. I see that, like ad agencies or media agencies, they do a lot of acquisition-type stuff for customers. They’ll run Facebook ads to try and drive installs and stuff like that. But today though, I’m not seeing much in regards to any agencies or any dev shops doing anything with, like retention marketing. You’ll find people out there who might be exact target customers doing e-mail campaigns and things like that. Or I’m guessing with HubSpot, we’re going to see a lot more people doing HubSpot-type stuff as well too. But in mobile, it seems to be quite a scarcity at the moment.
Logan: Yeah. So the mobile marketing is around, maybe two years behind the eight ball and overall, like marketing concept. So you see some of the leading tech companies like Uber and even HubSpot, and these sort of tech companies, they deploy their marketing with absolute cutting-edge techniques and methods. Whereas people who are fresh off the ground, you know, startups and stuff, they’re just trying to learn, how do I do the basics.
Logan: And basics being, you know, what we were suggesting two years ago, like buying lists and e-mail. And you know, all that sort of cheesy stuff, as opposed to what actually works today, for businesses today right now.
David: Yeah. And I actually don’t think it’s isolated to startups as well. We find that, you know, it may be retailers or mid-sized businesses. They’ve got an app, but they actually don’t know what to do in terms of that. And so, you get solutions like StreetHawk out there, technologies that allow you to do these sort of things. But they actually need a helping hand to be able to get out and do that. Or they need somebody, perhaps in agency, that will actually help sit down and figure out what the engagement strategy is and how to execute on that.
Logan. Yeah, I know, 100%. Does StreetHawk do any retargeting-type stuff?
David: We don’t do any retargeting outside of the app at this stage. We’re pretty much inside. It’s certainly one of those things we’re looking at, yeah.
Logan. Yeah, because that’s some really powerful stuff as well. I mean, you see a lot of it being used by eCommerce companies, typical people back in like, hey, you forgot—you know, you’re scrolling through your Facebook feed, and then it says, “Did you want to pick up those shoes that you were looking at?”
Logan: So it’s a little bit scary, but it’s like, wow, that’s really powerful.
David: Yeah. You know, maybe it’s because I’m in the business, but it doesn’t worry me, like I can’t remember what popped up for me the other—you know, it was just something that was back in my Facebook for—you know, this stuff is getting really good now. And it could be creepier or actually can be used, can be thought to be beneficial. It seemed a little bit smarter when you stand at kind of retargeting or remarketing-type stuff.
David: So we do a thing where we do kind of like nurture sequences inside apps, but not outside at this particular stage. But anyway, it’s not about us, it’s about you.
David: Let’s go back to the win. You wanted to share a win as well.
Logan: Yeah, sure.
David: You’ve broken my whole format. We’ve gone with the fail first. What am I going to do? [laughter]
Logan: Yeah, I don’t know. Maybe we can do it again.
Logan: Let’s go with FoodSwitch. That’s an epic example of a project that has gone extremely well. I mean, they’ve got worldwide audience of over a million people using this application right now. So what have they done well? Going back to what Twiggy didn’t do well, it didn’t drive a lot of traffic through the app. And so, it was very hard to improve on and figure out what’s working, and even just start some of this reengagement stuff. You just kind of—yeah, that’s not where you begin, right? So with FoodSwitch, what they did—the first thing that they did when we released the application was a worldwide media launch.
Logan: And the only fault over there was they forgot to tell us about it, so-
Logan: -we went monitoring the service. [laughter] So this thing went from a trickle of around about, you know, 50 or 60 people on there at any one time.
Logan: To a thousand, or it was a ridiculous amount. It was a lot of users at once.
David: The current users, yeah.
Logan: Yeah, but you know, since then, we’ve told them, “Just let us know what’s going on.” And now, they’re doing a media launch every sort of month. And last month, they were number one. They were gaining 6,000 downloads per day on the app store for their app.
David: Right, nice.
Logan: And they were number one on the app store for, I think, three days in a row.
David: Wow, very good.
Logan: So, yeah. And then from that, we’re looking at a data going and the feedback that we’re getting from all these people who love the app. Every day we would get feedback. And we can quite easily draw conclusions about how we can make the application better: what are the bottlenecks? What’s stopping them from using it here? And so on, and so forth.
David: Yeah, that’s great. So, yeah. There was basically enough statistically relevant data to really sort of pull out the areas where you can actually sort of focus your own road map priorities.
Logan: Yeah, correct.
David: So with the media releases, I’m just curious. Is this, you know, this is like big cash where they’re doing stuff with TV and print? Or is it they’re basically doing press releases? And do they have like sponsors or like people well-known that are actually helping push it?
Logan: I honestly don’t know how they got it. But they got it on to Lateline. They got it on to a number of different magazines and The Sydney Morning Herald, and all this sort of stuff; The Project, which I think is in Channel 10. And they’ve got on in a number of TV shows. Just recently, it went up on the TV as well. And it’s just kicked the whole thing into absolute overload. How they got to that position, I don’t know. They’ve got a fair bit of influence because these guys aren’t just a startup. I think they’ve got around 200 staffs. And they’re pretty influential in the health space.
Logan: So they’ve been around for a while.
David: Yes. This has a bit of resonance with—I did an interview with Brandon Cowan who has a dev shop. And he’s released a number of different applications that are social good applications, like taking pets out of shelters and putting them in homes, cruelty to animals around the world. And he did a project with Taronga Zoo. And those sorts of things have actually provided free marketing channels, as opposed to having to go out and buy traffic, go out and buy Facebook ads and things like that. And so, his whole interview on podcast is about how can I hack the ecosystem of stakeholders around the application to actually get the thing to really get a great, kind of launch energy, if you like, and be able to do that in pretty much zero Dollars. And there’s some resonance here because with this particular app, it’s around a really important issue to do with public health. And therefore, TV stations are willing to pick that stuff up and really go with it. Because it’s not just about a commercial venture or just yet another app, it’s actually doing something that can potentially change people’s lives.
Logan: Yeah, I know. Absolutely. It’s great to hear that there’s other people doing this sort of stuff. But that’s a fantastic approach. Because it’s a little bit controversial. It’s challenging the food label system, which there’s an entire industry, an entire industry that’s trying to fight this. And it’s quite literally a fight to put in. So the food industry are saying, “If you do this sort of stuff—if the government, if these guys do this—then we’re going to lose all our money. And then, you might lose our votes.” And so, it’s a little bit—[laughter] You can see how it’s a little bit funny. But it’s great to hear they’re working on this sort of stuff as well.
David: Yeah, so is there any way that you’ve actually seen an inflection point in that particular app, where you’ve done something based on the statistical feedback that you got? So you measured something, you saw something, you said, “Okay, well, we think the improvement for this is going to do something.”
Logan: I’ll tell you a bit about the application. You basically, you open up the app. And then you scan a barcode of a packaged product, packaged food product.
Logan: And then it will pull up from our database, it will pull up the information. So you’ve got all the information about the product right there and then, and what are some healthier alternatives. Now, if they don’t have the product, there was the option of you can enter that product, you’d take a couple of photos and you can enter it in. Now, we asked probably for too much information the first time around.
Logan: So we saw a big dropoff point, a lot of people just couldn’t be bothered. I guess, as you know, we should have that data already. And we have 90% of the packaged food product that are on your, you know, are already at the shelves at the moment.
Logan: But we still need more data. So you have the option then. But then, we’re asking for too much information, and eventually, we just cut it back, just a little bit. Just wanted bits of info. It’s like a form, you know, the less information you ask for, the better it works.
Logan: And we suddenly had an enormous influx in people wanting to provide that sort of information. So that inflow goes to a data entry company that basically compiles all that information into CMS.
David: Right, right. So what happens is the user takes a photograph of the product with the bar code and the ingredients, or something like that. And then, that basically has one or two menu sort of, driven inputs. And that’s it, you’re done.
Logan: Yeah, correct.
Logan: So you just take up photos, and that’s it.
Logan: So it was, enter all this information and what’s it called and radiradirah. But now, just take a photo of the information pack, and upload, and that’s it. You’re done.
David: Right, very good. So are you saying you got like a 20% uplift in usage or a 50% uplift from that sort of stuff?
Logan: I don’t know the actual stats. I don’t have that on me. But I would say you’re looking at 80+%.
David: Right. Okay, that’s in particular—
Logan: Yeah, that’s a very significant increase.
David: Right, that’s in that particular section of the application.
Logan: Yeah, great.
Logan: So it’s not actually the uptake of the application, but getting people through that part. We had a bit of a bottleneck. And it just virtually fixed it.
David: Okay, very good. Okay, so the key lesson there is again, kind of like make sure your user interface gets out of the way, lets the user get things done. And then, you’ll actually, you’ll end up getting more valuable data.
Logan: Yeah. I think we are—because we didn’t have the Indian data entry company at first. So having that put in place afterwards was, as you said, take the user interface out of the way—a few iterations are actually getting to that point—but then, now, they’re virtually overloaded. So we’ve got over a million users on the app at the moment.
David: Right. Do you do anything really cool, like actually send a push-back to that user that actually took that photo of that new product and say, “Thanks. We’ve added that to the DB?”
Logan: We send out push notifications saying, “We’re going to add it.” But nothing to say that we already have. But that’s a great idea.
David: You know how often they are basically.
Logan: [laughter] Well, it’s about making the users feel good. So yeah, I’ll take that back to the guys.
David: Yeah. I hear that you’ve got some gamification there just right at the “Thanks for submitting. We’ll get right on.” That sort of stuff, and this is the way to say, “Well, it’s done.” So they can actually get feedback that it’s happening.
Logan: Yeah. Great. So it’s interesting because we are gamification. And I don’t have any stats whatsoever on this. But we are using gamification for another offshoot of that same application. It’s a private test once again to get a little bit more qualitative data on whether or not people would make different decisions about picking the fruits in the supermarkets, this sort of thing.
Logan: And so, within that application, you have the opportunity to get hand-selected. You have the opportunity to win $100, which is not a lot—sorry, I think it’s $1,000. And you have to use the app for a certain number of days.
David: Right, okay. So that’s basically a paid survey-type function.
Logan: Yeah, great.
David: Yeah, okay.
Logan: So we have a number of push notifications in that, trying to keep the users engaged and give them badges and all these sort of stuff.
David: That is very cool. Alright, that’s great. Alright. Well, Logan, thanks for that. We’ve done the one win, the one fail. Or we’ve done the one fail and the one win.
David: So tell us what you’re up to next? What should we look out for?
Logan: Well, at the moment, our goal is to encourage entrepreneurs to, basically, as we’ve been alluding to this whole time, take up to the fight. Let’s build technology—exponentially growing technology, because we’re in the mobile space—that solves real problems. So we’re opensourcing all our information. Everything we do, everything you learn on our website-
David: Very good.
Logan: -well, eBooks, and we’re doing more and more content every single day. So there’s just so much going on there. We’ve got a little bit of a secret that we’re working on at the moment, which we’re really excited about. I can’t say anything more than that.
Logan: Very exciting stuff.
David: Okay, that’s great. I think this particular interview came out of the fact that I received one of your newsletters, and they’re always really cool. So I thought, I’ll just ping you back and say first, thanks for the newsletter, but also having an interview. And your content’s really great. So it’s definitely worthwhile, people popping along there and seeing what happens.
Logan: Alright, I appreciate that. Thanks, man. And your content’s awesome as well. I mean, I listen to your podcast every now and then. I’ve listened to three podcasts, one is in Sydney, but I can’t remember his name right now. The other one is Tim Ferris, and the other one is you – I think your quite doing well.
David: Well, it’s quite a steam if I’m in there with Tim Ferris. [laughter] If I could get a damn from him, I think I should write the book “The 14-day Work Week.” [laughter] That’s what it feels like in startup.
Logan: 20-hour workday.
David: Yeah, exactly. Well, 25-hour workday, yeah. Alright, mate. I really appreciate your time. Thank you.
Logan: Not a problem. Thank you very much, David.
David: Okay, talk to you soon. Cheers.
Logan: Cheers. Catch you later.