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Best Way to Keep App Users Engaged: Build a Good One

  
  
  

3599753183 1302fe00b4There has been a lot of talk lately about how to keep users engaged after they download your app. Although it might sound smarmy to say it, the best way to keep users coming back is to build a compelling app.

That's all well and good to say of course, but it's not always a simple proposition. A recent article on FierceDeveloper suggested using SMS as a good way to stay in touch with your users, but I'm not so sure.

It might not be bad if you have one or two apps doing it, but if you suddenly have a dozen apps or more, buzzing you with text messages, it begins to lose its impact as a marketing tool and moves into the area of annoyance bordering on harassment. David Meerman Scott, who wrote the groundbreaking book on new media marketing, The New Rules of Marketing and PR, wrote a blog post the other day suggesting that interrupt marketing is ineffective and irritates the recipient to the point of wanting to ignore whatever it is you are trying to sell.

As Scott wrote: "Intrusive, interruption-based marketing techniques frequently do much more harm than good. The creation of a "campaign" can piss people off so badly, that it can actually cause business to fall. It would have been better to do nothing."

If Scott's right and I think he is, then interrupting your users just because you have their phone number may not be the best way to draw attention to your app. It may in fact backfire on you and cause the person to delete the app to avoid the intrusion.

So what you should do? A better way is to build an app that compels people to come back because they enjoy using it. Game makers have a built-in reason to come back. The game is fun and you want to keep playing, but all apps want to build in reasons to return, even if they aren't a game.

Glen Gruber, AVP of of mobile solutions at Ness suggests that one way to do this is to build incentives inside the app that keep users coming back and upsell them when you have the chance. "There are ways to incentivize use, while at the same time providing opportunities for the company to drive desired behaviors and increase revenue and margins," Gruber explained.

He points to the Starbucks app as a prime example where the app is an extension of what the company is trying to accomplish in the store. "It’s a very nice app, but it gets used all the time because people go to Starbucks all the time. It’s used for payments often because they’ve made it easier than using a credit card and incentivizing by tying it to their rewards program…spurring even more usage." he said.

While every developer wants people to use the apps they develop -- why else develop one in the first place -- you have to be careful not to alienate the very people you are hoping to attract. As such, you need to build apps that are fun and useful, but also have built-in reasons to keep returning. What those elements are is up to you and the creativity of you and your development team to decide, but think about the apps you use most often and why -- and then think about how that applies to the app you're building. 

Photo by Ed Yourdon. Used under Creative Commons License.

Your Company Need a Coherent Mobile App Plan

  
  
  
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So you want to go mobile. Now what? Like any other technology play, simple desire isn't going to get you there. You need a plan and you need to know what you hope to accomplish by going mobile -- whether that plan involves your employees, your customers or both.

From a marketing perspective that means more than simply building an app and throwing it out on the market because it's the thing to do. As Jason Gurwin wrote recently for the Harvard Business review, building a mobile app is not in and of itself a mobile strategy. Gurwin says too many brands treat a mobile app as an advertisement and as he asks, who really wants to download an advertisement?

The answer is not many people. If you are seeing your mobile app as just another channel for spreading your message, you are not using mobile correctly. You are just spreading a message that nobody really wants to hear using a different vehicle.

So what  should you be doing? As Scott Liewehr pointed out at the Gilbane Conference in Boston this week, "recognize relevancy as strategic." It would seem obvious that you want to be relevant, but an app that's an advertisement is not relevant to most of your audience, and you're deluding yourself if you think it is.

That means the app needs to be useful and well designed, and as Tony Byrne said at Gilbane during his keynote address, you have to think about how this app affects your relationship with your customer. "How does our company come off on this device?," Byrne asked. "Tablet owners are an important constituency for web publishers."

That's why Liewehr says it always comes back to good content, not necessarily a single message like one big ad that runs on every channel, but a core focus.

Last year at the Western Mass Pod Camp, I watched a presentation by Dave Wieneke. He talked about how Hyundai gave away an iPad last year with the purchase of its high-end vehicle, the Equus. But they didn't stop there. They included the car's owner's manual as an app.

They gave customers the device because it was cool to own, and set them apart from their peers in the market, but they also included a *useful* app. And it wasn't just useful to Equus owners, this app also provided Hyundai with information.

Every time an owner looked up something in the manual, it gave the car maker valuable feedback regarding what people were looking up and possibly what parts were faulty or needed replacement more often than they had imagined.

That ability to track data in this fashion is not a typical use of apps, but it shows there is so much more potential here than many companies realize.

Clearly Hyundai put some thought into this one, combining the device and the software in a creative way and that's what you need to be doing as well.

Don't just throw out an app, because as with any channel today, there is lots of competition and lots of noise, and you need to find creative ways to help your customers, while at the same time reinforcing your brand messaging.

It's not easy, but neither is any marketing in this day an age, where there are new rules and new ways of interacting with the buying public. The tablet and smart phone markets are clearly growing and you need to find ways to take advantage of this approach, rather than just throwing something out there will-nilly and hoping for the best.
Photo by dougbelshaw on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

Pharma Needs to Extract Business Benefits from Analytics

  
  
  
Data, data everywhereIn every company, you'll find a certain tension between IT and the business units. This is particularly acute when it comes to analytics because it's not clear to many organizations which of the two should be in control, and when you get into the pharmaceutical industry, the need for good data just grows.
 
That's because pharmaceutical companies put so much money into the research and development of their products that it's even more imperative than in a typical organization to understand their markets to the fullest extent possible and to maximize the return on their marketing dollars.
 
Yet according to a recent article on Information Management, even though researchers have found it makes sense to put marketing in charge of the analytics budget, IT is still often in control and the results aren't pretty.
 
In fact, article author Jim Ericson attended the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium in May and reported on, "an ongoing survey about to close at MIT Sloan that asks organizations how close they are to an analytic execution ideal on a scale of 1 to 10, from not at all data driven to thoroughly data driven. The answer at the moment is 4.5."
 
Now each company's ideal situation is probably going to be a little different, but the overall picture is fairly clear. All companies -- whether they sell pharmaceuticals or widgets -- are struggling to figure out how to deal best with all of the data they are collecting and who should be in charge of that.

Even when you get beyond the politics of control and budget, there are still many issues to be resolved. The fact is that as companies get access to more and more data, it should give them the ability to make better and more informed decisions, but it's not always easy to find the right tools to extract and analyze the mountain of information to take maximum advantage of it.

While there are many tools out there from data warehouses to business intelligence dashboards to predictive analytics tools, it's not always a simple matter to put these tools to work and get the data you need to understand your key business metrics -- and this is particularly pronounced in the pharmaceutical industry.

There are no easy answers to complex problems such as this, but when you compound the situation with turf battles, it just makes it even harder. Sometimes, it may be better to bring in a third party with experience in these matters, especially one that understands your industry.

But whether you go it alone or get help, you have to know that this data can provide key insight into your business and provide you avenues to pinpoint market requirements. In the pharmaceutical industry, which has more data and more at stake than the average organization, this is even more crucial because it's so important to maximize your return on your product development dollars.
Photo by smemon87 on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.
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