I get a request to look over a new app specifically for helping freelancers to keep their books roughly every other week. I’d call that a fairly saturated niche. But I haven’t told anyone that they shouldn’t go after building a bookkeeping app for freelancers, because no one has really created what I’d consider the perfect app in that category. If someone builds it and manages to stand out, that person will make a fortune.
Standing out may be the hard part, of course, but there are ways to make your app shine even when you have a slew of competitors in your niche.
- Be the best: It isn’t enough to be the best app in your niche, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction. If you’re offering something that is truly a step above, you’re going to have a lot more potential for your users to act as evangelists — if they like it, they’ll talk about it. WordPress is a good example. It evolved at the same time that a lot of content management systems were getting their start, but WordPress left a lot of them in the dust.
- Inject some personality: Users like the sense that there’s someone on the other side of the computer screen. Little personal touches will set you apart from your competitors. Take a look at Wufoo. There are many different form builders out there, but how many have a dinosaur to mark the login link? Your personalization has to be part of a cohesive whole, but don’t be afraid to
- Partner with other apps: People who use only one app are rare. Most of us use quite a few, and we’re always looking for options that integrate. Take advantage of that fact and make sure that your app integrates with the other tools that your ideal users will probably be using. If you can get those other apps to recommend you to their user bases, you’ll be able to reach an audience guaranteed to have more interest than normal in what you’re offering. The Small Business Web is made up of startups doing exactly that.
- Actually market what you’ve built: There’s still something of a ‘build it and they will come’ among developers. I’ve seen incredible projects on GitHub and the like that absolutely no one will ever have the chance to use because the developers behind them weren’t prepared to market their creations. If you start searching for the names of the apps you use, you’ll see a variety of marketing strategies in play — blogging, speaking, issuing press releases and much more — but everyone that you can think of will have a marketing plan in place. Even a one-person operation like Instapaper has invested time in marketing.
Image by Flickr user Andy Wright