How to Determine Which of Your iPhone App Ideas Has the Most Merit

Seems there’s no shortage of good ideas for iPhone mobile apps. So, which ideas are worth pursuit?

Mobile app ideas with the most potential, meet these following criteria:

  1. Provide the highest payoff
  2. Have the strongest competitive advantage
  3. Require the least amount of resources to develop and market successfully.

First Criterion: Select ideas with the highest payoff. For each person, this may be different. Some seek monetary rewards, other seek fulfillment and yet others seek recognition. And there are those that have charitable motives and want to give back to society and their community.

For clarity, this might require some soul searching and goal-setting, beginning with the end in mind:

  • Where are you today?
  • Where do you want to be?
  • How do you get there?

It’s a good idea to prioritize to determine what’s aligned best with your life’s goals, dreams and morals. Evaluate how you can best leverage your areas of expertise and interests. I’m a big believer in the notion that if you do what you love, the money will follow.

If you were to read one book on goal-setting, I recommend “The Success Principles” by Jack Canfield, author of Chicken Soup for the Soul. What I like about Jack’s book is he taps into the ideas of thought leaders in personal and business development such as Jim Collins, Anthony Robbins and Stephen Covey.

Second Criterion: Select ideas that have a strong competitive advantage.

Close evaluation of the competition is critical and often forgotten step. You can have strong development, design and great marketing, but overlooking the competition can prove fatal.

The iPhone App Store is an open book with over 65,000 apps. Use this to your advantage. Scour the store for apps that appear to compete with yours.

  • Download free and paid versions to kick the tires.
  • Focus first on those with the highest number of reviews.
  • Read the reviews to see what people like about the apps and what they don’t.
  • Pay close attention to the feature requests.
  • Read the application descriptions to see how your competition is positioning their app and consider how you should differentiate yourself.
  • Make comparison of pricing and feature sets offered by your competitors.
  • Once you’ve identified your short list of competing apps, search Google to see how those apps are being promoted outside of the App Store via YouTube, Twitter, forums, publicity and websites.
  • Create a competing apps spreadsheet or database to capture all of your competitor information in one place and update frequently over time.

Third Criterion: Select ideas that require the least amount of resources to develop and market successfully.

So, how can you determine resources required to market your application?

  • It really depends on target your audience. Your strategy is going to be quite different if you’re trying to reach musicians versus physicians.
  • For each app idea, construct an audience profile so that you can begin to think about how you’ll reach them.
  • How accessible are they?
    • Where do they gather?
    • How do they consume media? (frequent users of Twitter, Podcasts, Blogs, watch TV, read Newspapers, etc.)
    • What are their demographic and lifestyle characteristics? Can they afford an iPhone/iTouch? Are they afraid of technology?
    • What is their potential for growth?

Regarding the app itself and its market potential:

  • Does it lend itself to a family of apps that complement one another for the same audience (using the physicians example, you might offer a drug reference guide, continuing medical education and a medical transcription app)?
  • Can the app be templatized and re-skinned to reach additional market segments (if you create a continuing medical education app for physicians, could that be repurposed for K-12 teachers who need to earn continuing education credits? Or really anything that requires recertification)
  • Does your app idea have potential to be sold as an app module where you could earn licensing fees from companies who use it in their apps? Perhaps your app has a unique and sophisticated scoring and reporting function.
  • How well does the app fit into your current business model? Ideas that are complimentary to your business model allow you to leverage your current customer base.
  • Reach out to through all of your customer touchpoints. For example announce your new app within:
  • Your Email signatures
  • On Customer Receipts
  • In Newsletters/Email blasts
  • Packaging, shopping bags, wherever you and your customer come into contact.

Finally, does your app have Apple Featureability?

  • Apps featured on Apples iPhone commercials typically get anywhere from 3 to 6 seconds of air-time.
  • Can your app’s benefits be made apparent in 6 seconds or less?

Thinking in these terms helps you to arrive at the true differentiation and benefits of your app over all the rest.

To recap, choose iPhone app ideas that meet these criteria:

  1. Provide the highest payoff for you.
  2. Offer the greatest competitive advantage.
  3. Require the least amount of resources to develop and market successfully.

Tim CascioTim Cascio is the author of the Mobile Marketing, Monetization and Methods blog, Co-Founder/Co-Chair of the Mobile Visionary Roundtable at the Illinois Technology Association and Sr. Digital Strategist at Bader Rutter & Associates, an award-winning integrated marketing services agency that specializes in advertising, public relations, brand asset management, relationship marketing and digital solutions. Tim is @timcascio on Twitter and can be reached in the United States at 262-938-5543.

Please reach out to me if there’s any way I can help you through my network or otherwise. Your comments below are welcome.


3 responses to “How to Determine Which of Your iPhone App Ideas Has the Most Merit

  1. Great article!!

    Curiously, sometime ago before having read this today, I had applied some of those principles when I chose the idea which I was developing for the Google Android contest.

  2. Nice overview, Tim. I think you have provided some sound advice for too-eager developers, considering how the App Store landscape is still basically a digital wild west and, understandably, a bit daunting. I actually just wrote about this topic (more or less) over on our blog:


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