Everyone’s jumping on the app bandwagon, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to. Read on to understand what benefits an app might add to your business. If there are none, save your money for other things.

These days, it seems like there’s an app for everything, from finding the nearest bathroom to keeping virtual plants. Every company, it seems, has a mobile app. But does that mean your brand needs one? Not necessarily.

It’s important to have a goal in mind when considering an app. Will you make money by selling it? Use it as a way to send people to your website? Further brand your company? These are all valid reasons for designing an app. If you just think they’re fun, or want one to keep up with the competition, that might not be reason enough.

How Can You Help People?

Some apps are one hit wonders. Many company apps do nothing more than help a user find the storefront of the brand created the app. But now that more generic map apps like Google Maps help you find any business, these apps are quickly fading away. If you decide to design an app or hire a mobile app design firm, you need to think about how you can provide a useful or interesting tool to users.

If you own a bar, your app could offer drink recipes for your top selling drinks, as well as daily specials. If you sell eco-friendly cleaning products, you could create an app with a database of the most toxic products being sold on shelves. Both of these provide value to the user, and by putting your name on them, you’re helping them associate positive ideas with your name.

DIY or Hire a Firm?

There are websites that let you design your own mobile apps, such as iSites and MyAppCreator. This can be a good, affordable option if the app you envision is simple and you have someone who feels comfortable using one of these programs.

On the other hand, if you need a full-on app developer, find a mobile app design firm that has experience in multiple platforms, including iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows phones. And ensure that you get versions of your app on all systems: the phone that’s hot today will be yesterday’s news come tomorrow, so it’s important to have different versions for different phone systems.

When interviewing mobile app creators, ask to see samples of past work. Also ask to get a free download of some of their apps so you can see if the apps run smoothly. Looking in app stores can let you access customer reviews, which can reveal if the firm’s apps have bugs or are difficult to navigate. In that case, move on to another design firm.

Free or Pay?

There are two schools of thought about apps:

  1. Charge for your apps. You recoup your costs faster, and by charging you give more value to the application.
  2. Give it away for free. You get more users faster if you give it away, and you can create a free version of a pay app that will draw people in and get them to your site or to buy the full version.

If you decide to sell your app, read this presentation from Google on making money from your app. It’s important you consider this app as another product, as it will need its own marketing and attention to make sales a success.

If you go the free route, build in opportunities to promote what you’re really selling. That might be the full version app, or other products. Include an ad at the launch of the app with the opportunity for users to click to your website for more information.

The Time May Not Be Right

If after thinking about it, you don’t see enough benefit in investing the money on a mobile app right now, don’t beat yourself up about it. We’re starting to see that not every app is a successful marketing tool if it’s not planned out in advance, so you may be saving time and money that your competitors are wasting on an app that won’t help them get more sales in the long run!