I’ve been thinking about apps recently, and questioning more and more why people are so keen to jump on the band wagon, invest time and money in them, if at the end of the day they don’t actually achieve anything?
Aside from getting into the debate over the future of the app (is there one?), I wonder if organisations decide to do one without really considering their overall mobile strategy (if there is one).
Having said that, there are some hugely successful charity apps out there that can make a real difference to supporters, most noticeably the apps from healthcare charities that can, quite literally, save lives.
I went to MediaPro expo a few weeks ago and heard David Barker, Director of Communications at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, talk about their iBreastcheck app.
These app tips below were inspired by his presentation:
1. Create the right environment for success
- Do you have a mobile strategy, which includes apps, dialogue (text messages) and mobile web?
- Is your digital team in the right place in the organisation? Do they have access to the people and expertise required?
- Do you take a hub and spoke approach to digital content? Does content come before technology – after all, if you haven’t got anything to say – why are you making an app?
- Do you have a framework to integrate the app into? How will you involve your website, social media, digital PR, data, email, SMS, search and mobile.
2. Brief yourself
If creating the app seems a bit of a no-brainer, an obvious thing to do, because it aligns so perfectly with your organisation’s objectives and supporter needs, then (fingers crossed) you’re on the road to success.
If you can’t write a business case for creating the app – why are you doing it?
3. Ask your supporters
Don’t assume you know your supporters needs either – always speak to them. It will surprise you.
For Breakthrough Breast Cancer, they can highlight the importance of checking your breasts until their blue in the face. But host a focus group, and what they find out is “I know I need to check my breasts, but what do I do to check?”.
From this the obvious solution was a video, (not easy – it would require some bending of Apples ‘no nudity’ clause), and the core messaging for the campaign was ‘touch, look check’. Everything else followed that.
4. Make it accessible
If they have to pay, will they come?
If you want to disseminate your message far and wide, you have to consider how charging for your app will impact this.
The long term benefits of having a more widely available free app, could prove a better return on your investment in the long term.
If, for example, Breakthrough Breast Cancer’s app results in more people checking their breasts, and fewer people suffering from breast cancer, then the charity benefits in the long term, possibly far more than trying to recoup the initial costs of the app’s development.
At the British Heart Foundation the majority of our heart health publications are free. A health message based app is the same message, different medium. Why would we charge for our supporters to download it?
Of course an app isn’t the most accessible form of communication – not everyone has a smart phone, or an iPhone, and some of those that do don’t really take advantage of apps. Don’t forget to check if an app is the best way to reach your target demographic! if it’s not why not think about other platforms, or in-browser functionality?
Plus there are more ways than download fees to make money out of an app (but more on that next year ;-))
5. Make it sticky
Focus on what you wanted the app to achieve and the benefits it has for the user.
David broke this down into a 3 x 3 model, which really can be applied to any digital product you are developing, and is becoming a mini personal mantra:
- Utility – useful, timesaving and makes life easier
- Fun – entertaining, interactive, stimulating
- Social – collaborative, sharing, connected
I really hope this is self-explanatory enough and gets your mind whirring!
6. Make it famous
There’s a tendency to launch apps, make a song and dance and then neglect and forget them.
Don’t do this! Justify the charity spend and get a return on that investment! Make it famous!
If you’re a charity it’s not an option to leave anything you spent money on to just gather dust or prop open doors. The problem with apps is they don’t physically exist in your office, so they get left in the app store, gathering dust.
So launch it with a big bang, obviously, but try to keep interest in it sustained. It could help you stay up the app chart, and each bit of publicity can result in a download spike.
7. Integrate it
Thing about when you launch it, how you launch it, and how it works with your other channels and communications. Can you cross-sell to it? What can you cross-sell from the app?
Breakthrough’s app doesn’t have a fundraising objective, but each of the 20,000 people who downloaded the app is now a warm supporter.
The ‘ways to help’ tab makes the user journey user to donate, fundraise, and sign up for emails easy. To them this just seemed obvious. After all they’re a charity and if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
The email sign up rate was 5% which is more than the website.
8. Think forward
Does your app have longevity? Does it need to?
As a charity you will always be looking for ways to spend less money and reach more people. Apps may not be the future, but they are the now.
But… just because they are the now, does not mean they are right!
N.B. I do not work for Breakthrough Breast Cancer. These notes are inspired by a presentation by a Breakthrough employee. To verify stats and further information about iBreastcheck do talk to someone from Breakthrough.