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Steve Young of App Masters is our special guest this week to discuss marketing your app! Josh, Erick, and Steve chat about the importance of focusing on the main feature that will set your idea apart. Having a narrow target audience and being able to have people understand your pitch in a few words are two other important topics covered in this episode. Josh and Erick also chat more in the postshow about what Steve discussed.

Learn more about Steve and App Masters here: https://appmasters.com/

VO: Get ready for your semi-regular dose of random ideas from the guys at Codelation. We like to talk about big ideas companies that are winning, and those that aren't along with current events in our crazy world of software startups. So come along with Erick and Josh, who challenge you to think big, start small and turn your ideas into something on this episode of, from idea to done.

Josh: Hey everyone, I'm Josh

Erick: And I'm Erick. And this week's idea is marketing your app. And I'm really excited to be introducing Steve young of, at masters to the show. Um, the best way I think to learn is chatting with someone who's smarter than you. And so, Steve, can you give us our audience a little background on you and app masters?

Steve Young: Sure. Been in the app space since 2011, 2019 13. I was just doing on the side, Eric. I was just kind of like put myself out of code and back then it was Corona pad name for it now, but it was Java scrape orientate. And I was like, oh, I have a little bit of PHP backgrounds. I kind of picked that up. I try to learn objective C and there's just like way over my head. So I started making my own apps in 2011, just doing on the side nights and weekends. And then it's already seeing some traction, but a few thousand dollars to like a little vacation money coming in. Didn't really take off. And I wanted to be an entrepreneur. Like I sold cassette tapes when I was in elementary school. And so I was like, oh my God, I was itchy. And I was running growth first startup at San Francisco's.

Steve Young: I was itching to be an entrepreneur about 30 back then it was 31, but fast forward to two years later, I was like, you know what? I love this in podcasts. Avid app business apps are continuing to grow. Let me start a podcast on apps to learn from people who've made it and see if I can turn this little side business into a full-time business. So did that start interviewing some of my heroes co-founder Shizam Crossy road, you know, color, switch, mafia wars, all the big apps out there, who an audience who then started coming to me for marketing help. And in six months after starting the podcasts, I ended up leaving that startup job to then run my own marketing agency. And Josh, you kind of know this too. Like you think you have an idea of how your business is going to be when you first think about it, like, oh, it's just, it's gonna, I'm gonna start this podcast. And my app business is gonna grow, but then said, you know, it turned into more of a consultancy agency type and I've been doing this since 2014, so

Josh: Awesome. Yeah, absolutely. I, uh, I think my wife, or soon to be wife at the time said, Hey, pick one of these two things. You're well benefited, well paid job or your side hustle. And I said, I read the four hour work week. I got this, you know?

Steve Young: Yeah, totally. Yeah. So what we're known for in the space is just apps for optimization, which is app store SEO. And then helping clients get featured by apple and different like growth hacks that we've kind of come up with. Like, I don't like to focus more on the paid acquisition side and more on like different organic growth and like just growth hacks that help our clients. So we focus more on the growth, the retention and the monetization as well.

Josh: Awesome. Well, you know, we, we build a lot of apps. We don't market apps. And so for our clients coming through the door winch, when should they start considering their marketing strategy? Is it, you know, when have the idea when they're sharing to build, when the radio launch at what phase should they start thinking about it and what, what should they be thinking about,

Steve Young: Right. Away Josh, right? When you have that idea, like go talk to some people, talk to Josh, talk to Erick and be like, Hey, you know, I have this idea. What do you guys think? Cause I'm sure you guys have heard a ton of different ideas. I love it. When people come to me, like I got this great idea. It's very unique. I'm like, dude, I just heard this yesterday on a different client call. Right? Like, you know, nothing specific. So I think it's talking to your users. You guys are probably good at helping them build that minimum viable product and then showing that minimal viable product to other people. I think the best thing to do is talk to your target market. And I actually heard Oprah say this today, but you need that resounding. Yes. Because people will talk to you and to be like, yeah, that's a cool idea, Erick. That's really cool. You should do it. But it's like, oh dude, that's cool. That's a resounding yes. That's what you're looking for. The other yeses are just people being nice to you. Cause they don't, they don't know what else to say.

Josh: Absolutely. We're on video right now when I'm showing Steve the book that kind of sparked all this for us as a book called The Mom Test that teaches you how to get the right answers out of people and not just get a, a yes and run with it. You need to actually have someone taking action with it. So side note on that, but

Erick: Midwest, like I was like, oh, that's a great idea behind your back again, whispering. And it's just dreadful. And so we can kind of talk about right away. That's what you should be thinking about with your marketing. Like what should you be doing kind of around like pre-launch and what in with your launch plan?

Steve Young: Yeah. So here's what I like to think about Erick. Like I like to think about it with, from a product perspective, what is the main feature that's going to move the needle. So, you know, all apps are different. And so focusing on that one feature, you know, when you think about Twitter and all these big things, putting you that from the early data, if we can get three, if you can get you to follow three people, we've got a really high end user. So like the us, that's all they focused on. So that's what you got to start focusing on. What's that one feature that's going to really help move the needle. And then secondly, from a marketing plan, you know, I think the go-to-market strategy is super simple. It's like, who is my target market? It's not everyone like get super narrow on this and where are they?

Steve Young: And that's it. Right. Like for me, when I first started the podcast, I went to Facebook groups and I was like, Hey guys, I just interviewed the co-founders exam. Like please check it out. It's a great interview. And I wasn't really trying to promote anything. And so you just have to very narrow on who your target market is and find the right communities, whether it's like you can do paid advertising on Facebook and Google ad words and all that stuff. But you can also go to like Reddit, Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, try to engage with the community and just start thinking through like, here's some ideas, here's some things that I've done. I want to give you guys something tactical too. Before I launched this app way back in the days in 2014, but it was called oh snap. And I wrote this blog post on medium.

Steve Young: That just, that said, Hey apple, I just fix your camera app. And it was kind of going through the different things I saw was wrong with the camera app. Like the little, the switch, right? The selfie does get it. But the front facing, it was like way up top. And if you look at the camera now I have like screenshots of like, this is way up top. Everybody's taking selfies. Like, why don't you make it close to the button, that to take the picture. And so I was getting into some of the details and I'm like, and I built an app called, oh, snap, that's completely gesture base to help you kind of take selfies easier. And so it's, it's about building the right content. And I promoted that everywhere. It picked up on, I think it was design hack, but these are the things that you can start doing before you launch, as you're building the product, show off the product. When you have that beta, I think too many times as founders, we kind of just like the bill to make sure it's perfect and then launch it. And sometimes you're perfect. Your view of perfection, the entrepreneur's view of perfection is nothing like what the outside world views as anything remotely useful.

Josh: Absolutely. There's been so many apps that have come through the doors to where, you know, the, the founder wants, keep everything so close to themselves because they don't want anyone to steal the idea, rip them off. And it's like, the thing we've learned over the last decade is show everybody you can, what you're doing, what you're working on, because everyone's going to have a different spin or take on it. And it's almost that, that pitch that you need to get to of like, what is the thing you're doing? What's the value do you add? What's the problem you're solving.

Steve Young: Totally. And you know, you, you said about Josh, like if you can't explain your app or your idea in a few words and you probably need to work on that and that's something you can do, what, right upon the idea of phase while you're working with Josh and Eric, you can start thinking about like, okay, how do I pitch this? Cause if you can't explain it to people like us, we've seen so many different ideas, then you have a real problem from a marketing perspective already.

Josh: Absolutely. So when you're, so let's, let's say somebody comes to us and they're looking to build an app and we've got a six month window in front of us. So we're going to build this thing out for them. What, what tactical advice would you give them to, to start growing their audience to start getting, you know, some, some marketing stuff moving. Cause that's, that's a flywheel that takes some time to get moving. It's not just a launch in the app store and you're a millionaire.

Steve Young: Yeah. So, uh, like I said, I'll give you the macro and I'm gonna go into the details. The macro is like what I said before, who is your target audience? And go find out where they are and start talking to them right away. Okay. Here's a tactical one, one of my previous podcast guests. And she's got a great app called plan and they've, she's won some awards now, but essentially what she did was it's a social media planning app. So allows you to schedule your Instagram posts. Essentially what she did was she would go on Instagram, find all the influencers that she thought this is while she was building it, that she thought would be worthy of this app, but that they would find it beneficial. And what she did was she would turn on post notifications. You know, the little button get notified when this person posts, you get that post notification.

Steve Young: And every time they post, she wanted to be the first one to comment. She's like, Hey, thanks, Eric. That was a great post, beautiful, you know, cabin back there, beautiful house, boom. And she started engaging once they started seeing her three or four times she's then DM them and said, Hey, you know, I'm building this app, it's called [inaudible], we've got this features. Would you like to be part of the beta? Then she moved them into a private Facebook group and just talk to them along the way and started building these features with them along the way, and guess what happened right? Upon launch all these influencers. She had thousands of influencers were promoting her app because they felt so invested in the app. And at then back then it was a paid app. She launches a paid app. Now it's a subscription, but she drove over $10,000 of revenue, just straight up upfront, paid revenue on the launch because these influencers were also promoting the app as well.

Josh: That's awesome. That's similar. We got some friends that, uh, founded the marketing to co, a tool CoSchedule. And that's exactly what they did when they launched as they, they found a group of 100 people and started wireframing with them. So I love it.

Steve Young: You got to introduce me to the CoSchedule. I love CoSchedule.

Josh: Absolutely!

Erick: Um, let's just get into the next, sorry. Um, engage in like your, that was such a good answer that I just want to like soak it. Hey,

Steve Young: Erick, doing a podcast is hard, man. You got to like, listen and think about what the next question is. It's like my mental brain is gone. When I do a podcast, I talked to my wife and she's like, are you even listening to me? I'm like, look, lady, I have a podcast. I know how to listen to people. Trust me.

Erick: And I'm not married. And so like, I got to get better at that.

Steve Young: Yes. I call my wife, lady, lady, look, listen.

Erick: And so I guess I just kind of, I think we're wrapping up here as a, how is, how can people find you or is there anything that you can you're promoting right now that we can do to help you in your business?

Steve Young: I mean, nothing else. If you guys want to learn more about the app marketing side, go check out@masters.com. That's where our home is. You got the podcast, you got the YouTube channel. You can find it. There it is the YouTube. So we're trying to grow. Our YouTube count were ranking really well. We've got over close to 12,000 now subscribers on YouTube. But if you wanna check that out and learn more about app marketing there, it's just at masters.com/youtube. Perfect.

Josh: Awesome. Who's who's a good customer for you. Who can we be sending to your way?

Steve Young: I really, I liked working with startups. We're an entrepreneur. Like I, I have that empathy for entrepreneurs. It's just hard, right? Like everything is hard. And so startups are ones that I love working with because I love getting these emails, Josh, from people who worked like when they were getting 25 downloads a day now two years later, okay. This isn't like a quick thing two years later, like, Hey, we've got hundreds of thousands of monthly active users, 3 million over 3 million downloads. And you know, now we're really finding success. And so I love hearing those epic stories and I love working with the founders. So once somebody has an idea, even if they just want advice, I'm happy to provide that advice too.

Erick: Awesome. I liked that. Well, thanks Steve, for taking some time. And if you enjoyed listening to those answers, you literally have hundreds of podcasts that are kind of similar and they dig into that. And I really enjoyed kind of creeping on you after we got the intro. It's like, holy cow, I have some research to do. And so I super appreciate your time because like I said, this is just awesome knowledge and thank you. Yeah. Thanks Jeff.

Josh: Absolutely. Steve, thank you very much for your time and great answers. Great conversation. Uh, great to meet you.

Erick: One week later,

Josh: It was a great interview with Steve. You know, this is, uh, one of the first podcasts. We've kind of done a summary after the fact, um, after talking with our, our interviewee, um, you know, I, I really loved the fact that he just, he jumped in a, try to start building his own app and trying to build something around that. I think that's a really, really good way of just jump in and do it. And you don't know what you don't know. So why not just start something?

Erick: And I like this idea too, because there was a time in the, when we were recording that I just, my brain froze because I wanted to soak in that information. And, and cause I did, I really enjoyed everything that he was saying. And now that I've had a little bit of time to kind of stop and reflect and actually re-listen to myself without getting too mad at the sound of my own voice. Um, I thought what he did was awesome when he started interviewing his, uh, his, some of his heroes in the app development space. And I think that that's kind of an interesting, it's good to hear it from someone who's more successful at us that they started doing it, doing what we're kind of doing with the podcast here.

Josh: Yeah. I mean, when he started back in what, 2013 or something like that, so he's doing it for a long time. You know, something to that I learned about this is that, um, you know, we learned this from Shawn over pre-ops and also with, with Steve here on this is that, you know, app store SEO is a thing it's, it's, you know, growth hacking it's, it's something I didn't know, actually was a thing up until we talked with the, with Sean, Steve,

Erick: I didn't know it was a thing until I started kind of researching Sean after we got that other intro and I'm like, oh, that absolutely makes sense in our space to be, I mean, I know as web developers were, you know, SEO has been around for awhile and I didn't really, but I never really thought of app store optimization. So that was, that was new to me too. And it's always good to learn from different people. And then I really, as a marketer for us and some of the companies that we work with, I love when he's like, you have to start marketing right away. And I, I agree with that. Even if you have something that you don't even want to tell what it is yet, I think you should tell your friends publicly, Hey, I'm going down a journey right now and it's going to be awesome. Give them a bit of teaser. And I think that marketing, as soon as you can, as an important takeaway in the app development space,

Josh: I absolutely agree with that. I mean, that goes back to everything we're trying to do with, you know, like start a Pappy and reading the book, the mom test and pat Flynn's will it fly and all these different things that you need validation from your audience and what better way than to put together a marketing site where you're trying to get cold traffic to sign up for an ebook or something without knowing you. I mean, there's, there's just a huge value in that

Erick: Kind of like jumping forward on that. I really liked his aspect of getting the resoundingly. Yes. You know, we're, we're from North Dakota where everything is nice and you know, I think that there's a huge difference in, you know, when you show me something and I send you a gift that says shut up and take my money to like the John Oliver states or something that I'm ready to buy that second, if you can build a product around that reaction, you're much better position than if you know, no, that sounds like a good idea.

Josh: Yeah. And most of the yeses you get are false positives or something, just trying to be nice to you and not wanting to hurt your feelings. And it's so easy to take that information and not deflect it and go onto the next thing. And to say, everyone loves my idea. Let's go, let's go build it. You need that actionable. Yes. Behind it.

Erick: I liked the, um, you know, the last X was or feature focus and kind of finding, finding where that, you know, shut up and take my money. Like go find more people that say that to you and you need to live there until you're ready to really grow. And I thought that was a really good takeaway from him as well.

Josh: Yep. I don't disagree. And Steve, we need to introduce you to our friends over at CoSchedule. So

Erick: We'll get that. Yeah. You gonna say, did you introduce them? Like he asked us at the end.

Josh: Yeah. We will get an intro over to Garrett and the team that's CoSchedule. So

Erick: That's awesome.

Josh: So great. Well, if you know a startup that use it, user advice, have them subscribe and leave a review on their favorite podcast platform.

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Nick Horob from Harvest Profit Discusses Employee Equity

About the Show

Erick and Josh talk about big ideas, companies that are winning and those that aren’t, and current events in the crazy world of software startups.

Josh Christy


Erick Roder

Director of People
and Nerd Culture