Man App: The Marketing of a Relationship Preserver

Death and taxes are frequently cited as being the two great inevitabilities of life, but for a great many men frequent trips to the doghouse are equally hard to dodge. This enforced journey is often accompanied by a deep sense of confusion mixed in with a huge measure of mystification. (So I’ve heard.) By an odd coincidence, a great many of these unpleasant events seem to occur around birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas and sometimes, rather peculiarly, around the middle of February. (I think that’s the right month.)

What all those occasions have in common is that they come around every year, so you would think, and certainly half the population seems to agree, that they would be easy to remember and plan for. But for the other half of the population, that doesn’t appear to be the case.

But help is at hand. Man App could just be the salvation of relationships across the globe.

Cillian Ó Mongáin first had the idea for it when he was on a surfing holiday with a friend of his who had recently been dumped by his girlfriend. “He didn’t know why. He just didn’t understand.” So he decided that, “We need an app to tell us what went wrong… what women are thinking. I need something to beep at me to tell me to do things.”

Unlike many other men presented with a similar challenge, he figured out very early on that if they wanted to find out what women wanted them to do then they ought to ask a few actual women. Very wise and sensible.

Cillian surveyed 43 women and the results produced a (surprisingly for some,) consistent consensus of opinions on various subjects. For instance, suitable gifts for the lady in your life.

(Please feel free to copy and paste to somewhere handy.)

Gifts that the women surveyed said they would most appreciate:

A trip away
A dinner
A home made gift or card
Flowers (NB: Carnations are a no-no.)
Voucher for beauty salon

Gift suggestions unlikely to engender a wholly positive response:

Fancy soap
Cute teddies

A link to instructions on how it can be gifted are at the bottom of the page.

Man App, as Cillian admits, is a novelty app but like any other product it has to be sold. Putting it on the shelf at the iTunes Store is simply not enough. People need to know about it to buy it and therefore a marketing plan is needed.

There are three clear steps in getting a product from a sketch on a napkin into a fully functioning product that a paying customer can use. They are like the three legs of a stool with quality of attention being the key ingredient at every stage.

  • Idea: Origination, research, and development of the original concept.
  • Construction: The building of the product.
  • Selling: The use of marketing strategies to get the product sold.

Working up ideas, designing and creating a product are challenges that most app developers and many small businesses are willing to take on. However, selling seems to be the part of the process that often suffers from gross under-investement both in time and money. This is particularly true of engineer-led companies where hard-to-quantify marketing processes run counter to preferred ways of working and so are avoided or ignored.

There a number of possible reasons for this:

Most developers and business owners by dint of where their focus and attention has been while developing the product have not allotted the necessary time and energy to marketing until the moment they have to market the product.

For logically-minded coders and the practically-minded doers, the lack of directly-measurable and quantifiable cause-and-effect of marketing initiatives is vague and off-putting. It is really hard to know what works as what is effective with one customer maybe a turn-off to another.

Lastly, there is the psychological issue of the avoidance of rejection. It is far, far easier to keep developing features and add bells and whistles than to take a functioning product to market only to find that nobody wants it. Rejection is hard. You are not supposed to like it. But its absolute value is to save you from wasting your time. You learn your lessons and move on as quickly as possible.

This all can lead to a default approach to marketing that has the character of being based on the idea that the supposedly self-evident virtues of the product will somehow enable it to sell itself. This is more magical thinking then a workable solution.

Cillian is based in Belmullet in County Mayo. Like many app developers all he needs is his office, his laptop, some software and broadband. His commute is one mile and if you’re unlucky, “There’ll be cows on the road.”

While having experience of working for and with marketers he finds, “That pushing my own product is completely different. I was surprised at the amount of noise out there and how I don’t get heard.”

Cillian has targeted the selling of his app during Christmas gift-giving season as the prime near-term objective. The subsequent marketing window being, of course, St. Valentine’s Day.

Unlike many app developers, Cillian has developed a marketing plan that takes advantage of the fact that the app can be downloaded pretty much anywhere in the world. At the moment he is creating press releases to make initial contact with publications in Ireland, the US and the UK. He is focusing on publications that have an audience similar to the possible purchasers of the app.

His initial target list consists of 300 media outlets that he hopes would either report upon his product or dedicate an article to it. Crafting the press releases is a challenge in its own right. Cillian is also aware that there will still be serious graft to be done in the follow-up calls and reminders. He has already accepted in advance that he will have to face up to and handle rejection by simply acknowledging that not everyone he approaches will be interested.

But he has ambitions that will help him weather the inevitable squalls and storms, “I want to do apps all the time. I’d love to be doing my own apps rather than commissions. This [marketing] is the last part of the puzzle. Without marketing it is just going to sit in the App Store and disappear. They don’t sell themselves. If you do nothing, you sell nothing. That’s what I’ve learned.”

Gifting apps on iTunes is straightforward. Just follow the instructions here or click on the Man App logo to the left.

Feedhenry: Building Apps in the Cloud

Feedhenry is service that allows developers to build an app from a single source code base; have it processed in the Cloud and receive an output that is configured for use on the relevant major mobile phone operating system of choice – iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone 7 or Nokia Web Runtime.

Applications are built using JavaScript which runs on Feedhenry’s open standards technology platform. Developers can construct their apps online through a browser or they can download a software development kit if they wish to work off their own computers.

Micheál Ó Foghlú is the CTO of Feedhenry and explains further, “It is an entirely hosted environment. The development platform is hosted as well as the server side cloud where the apps are deployed.

“On that website you edit html, javascript and CSS and you press a button and it spits out a binary APK file, for instance, that you can just upload on to your Android phone. Or it spits out a binary file that you can upload to the Apple Apps Store to put on your iPhone via itunes.”

Having a single source code base means that developers and client can work in a single cross-platform development environment and avoid having to write and update their app a multiplicity of times for multiple platforms.

Micheál cites an example of what can happen in the normal development process, “Usually the first thing a client may say is, ‘We want an app.’ Then they say, ‘We can hire these software developers to builds us an app.’ Then they say, ‘Hey guys, we’ll give you 5k, 10k, 20k. Can you build us an iPhone app?’

“The guys build them an app. Then they say, ‘Android have shipped more units in the States than iPhones did in 2010. Maybe we should have an Android app as well.’

“Typically, they go back to the same developers and say, ‘Can you build us an Android app?’ And they say, “No, we’re all Objective C guys. We know how to build iPhone apps. We don’t know how to build Android apps.’

“Then you have to pay another bunch of guys 5k, 10k, 20k to build the Android phone app and so on for Blackberry, Windows 7, Nokia Web Runtime.”

But the story doesn’t end there, “Then you have to update the app. So you have to pay the first guys to update the iPhone app, pay the second guys to update the Android app and so on across the handset operating systems.

“It becomes a nightmare in terms of code bases for what in terms of logical business functionality is a single functionality.”

The server side element which is hosted in the cloud allows easy back end integration into enterprise services. Sophisticated apps can be created using standard web technologies and be integrated into existing business and IT applications without any additional investment.

The three main market segments the Feedhenry team are looking at are enterprise solutions, telecoms operators and independent developers.

Its application delivery platform can deliver the same application interface to both smartphones and social media sites.

The original work on Feedhenry was done by the Telecommunications Software and Systems Group (TSSG) in Waterford, Ireland back in 2008 and now operates as a pay-as-you-go service with six full-time staff.

According to Micheál, “The purpose of TSSG is to try and be excellent at basic research, applied research and commercialization and to have a balance of all three. What Feedhenry represents is one our best attempts at having a real commercialization impact — to have a commercial spin out of the technology.

“It was a strong enough technology at the right time in the market place to make it worth getting investment and spinning out to make a play in the market place.”

The Web Is Not Dead: It Is Full of Apps (Soon)

Wired did a great job in their latest report “The Web Is Dead. Long Live The Internet“. A lot of the focus is on the growth of apps which we have written about before in “The Collective Brain App“, which talks about the potential for apps to elicit change in such a manner as to emulate a giant global brain.

In Wednesday’s article on the Synaptic Web, we again touch upon the importance of apps and concur with Wired’s assessment that they will play a major part in the future development of the Web.

However, looking at the graph that graces the Wired report, I have to say I am surprised by the growth of video on the Web. I had not expected it to be that much. I know television is very popular as is watching movies, but compared to social networking sites, watching videos seems such a passive, time-consuming activity.

I had thought of the Internet as an antidote to TV, not the TV experience by other means. Of course, the size of the pipes had been responsible for video really taking off, but with broadband becoming faster and faster, pumping large video files through downloads and streaming is also becoming more rapid.

In a part of Sweden, it is now possible to download a movie on a 40 Gbps connection in less than two seconds.

If this keeps on, we are going to end up with TVs with a computer attached in the same way we now have pocket-sized mobile computers with a phone in there somewhere.

The other surprising piece of evidence, to me at least considering the volume of e-mail I receive, is the decline both in volume and numbers of e-mail. It could mean one of two things: either the people who write to me haven’t got the message that e-mail is in decline, or video, peer-to-peer, web-based platforms and apps have become so incredibly huge in proportion. I suspect it is the latter.