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How to create a #1 selling app and gain over 120,000 downloads in just three months

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As a former teacher with a brilliant idea for an app, but no clue on where to start, my app creation and implementation journey has been one of the most rewarding and challenging things I’ve ever done in my life! From scope creeps, to complete changes in direction, to day to day dealing with strange customer enquiries, creating an app is not for the faint hearted I can tell you. However, if you’re passionate, love to learn and believe 100 per cent in what your app can achieve, like I do, then you’re onto a winner already.

If you want to know the nuts and bolts of what’s really involved, I give you my warts and all version.

Maths Rockx was born out of the need to help school kids struggling to learn their times tables. When I was a teacher I’d always used pop music to teach my class multiplication and get it stuck in their heads so we could focus on applying that knowledge. I built the app to do just that; teach kids in a fun way to learn their tables.

Show me the money

Firstly, you will need a cash injection to develop your app. We got the cash from my husband’s business and the app cost over $100k to develop, mainly going on development and upfront licensing fees for the music. These included upfront payment of royalties fees to the artists for each track (recoupable as tracks are sold), legal fees, licenses for the instrumentals for each track, sound engineers to record each track in both times tables sequences, singers and video productions costs for promotional videos.

And your budget also needs to stretch to setting up the structure of your business ie: accounting, IT hardware, setting up your company and trust, legal team, graphic designer, stationery (flyers, business cards etc), trademark registration and website development fees, developer registration fees for Google and Apple and web hosting costs.

One of the biggest and forgotten costs that I didn’t factor in were the lost wages when I made the decision not to go back to teaching. There were 18 months from the time we decided to start Maths Rockx to the time we made our first sale in the App Store.

Also remember that Apple take between 30 to 36 per cent of all sales through the App Store and Android take 30 per cent of sales through Google Play.

The fun of app development

The initial stages can be very trying, frustrating and even heartbreaking! Know what you want your App to do and how you want it to look. Get all your ducks in a row.

It is so important to have every navigation and page mapped out precisely. Go into way more detail than you think is necessary. Developers are not mind readers. You see the picture in your head, they only have your notes. This is critical in the initial phase of development. I am speaking from experience – hindsight is a wonderful thing!

Even so, once you’ve had your concept mapped out, the development is done and the first release is on it’s way to you, you have this huge expectation that it should be near perfect. It will not be. The finer details and tweaks, and being happy with your product – they will come after many releases and all the testing phases. It is trial and error. Then once you do go live, the users will let you know what works and what doesn’t. This process will go on and on and on.

Choose a team that values your idea and that love it and believe in it like you do. This is a tough call and it takes time to find it – when you have it, it is fantastic. We collaborated with Brisbane based mobile app development firm Cloud Downunder and I couldn’t be happier.

If you build it, they will come… no they won’t!

There are millions of apps out there so how do you stand out from the crowd?

Advertising is key. One wise guru told me once that one tenth of your costs should be spent on your product or service and the other nine tenths should be spent on marketing.

Facebook has been a brilliant platform for us and videos have been key to promoting to our target market – mums.

I was initially a little daunted about investing in advertising, However, watching the number of downloads in relation to how much we spent on advertising was a no brainer; the numbers don’t lie. Facebook campaigns are an incredible way to get to your target market quickly and provide amazing tools for setting up and monitoring your advertising campaigns.

The more people that have your App on their devices means word of mouth and organic growth will naturally grow. We have spent at least $25,000 so far on Facebook advertising.

We also engaged a Public Relations company in Australia to promote Maths Rockx with online media hits and radio hits all giving us added credibility and web hit uplifts as we grow our brand presence.

Know your customers

We’ve done huge amounts of research and gained a real understanding of country demographics with regards to population, number of languages spoken, percentage of population that speak English, percentage of internet users per country, percentage of population with Facebook accounts and countries that have the highest spend on educational mobile apps.

We’ve also researched the current attitude to methods of maths education per country and whether times tables are in favour or out of favour. This knowledge has helped us greatly to determine which country to “go live” in and in which sequence as well as helping us know exactly which angle to take when designing our Facebook Ads. As a result of this, we are seeing amazing return on investment from our Facebook advertising spends as we replicate our #1 selling app advertising strategy in different markets across the world.

Your customers are your business

We answer every email, post or comment that our users put up.  It’s important that our customers are always heard and that we actually care and value their opinion – even when it’s a negative one. We are always nice, always positive, even if they are wrong.

With an online business, it’s very easy for keyboard warriors to be mean and to make you feel bad. Just shake it ff like Taylor Swift says. (I know that’s easier said than done – it still hurts). Most assume that as they have bought an app that there is no customer service, they often start out a little rude and as soon as they’ve found out you’re a real person who is helping them solve the problem they are amazed by how they are treated and they go and tell all of their friends!

Plug in and keep evolving

You have to remain plugged in – watch where your App is – how many downloads you are getting and the trends from your advertising. This is the fun bit! Listen to the users and continue with development.

There is always something you can improve on. We’re always improving the functionalities of Maths Rockx, for instance, making the navigation easier or coming up with additional components to make it more user friendly.  What sets you apart from the competition is that you continue to evolve.  This is where the work really begins!

Jo Otto, Director Maths Rockx, was a primary school teacher for 15 years, teaching every grade and loved her job. Her teaching strategy for children to learn their times tables, was to sing them to rock songs. MathsRockx is frequently sitting in the #1 educational App spot on Apps Store in Australia and New Zealand, with over 120,000 downloads in three months. The app has recently been launched in the UK and jumped from outside the top 1000 to number 9 educational app in the UK in three days.

Jo and Stuart Otto
Jo and Stuart Otto
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