soft launch for hit app mobilizeYour app is serious business and that’s why you must map out a soft launch strategy to find out if it has hit potential before you burn cash launching it to major markets.

You have to test the waters (ensuring your app has what it takes to be a commercial success) before you take the plunge. To help you determine if your app and strategy are on the money I caught up with Oliver Kern,  a noted growth-hacker who has helped app companies ranging from indies to market giants like Rovio and Wargaming to launch and scale their mobile businesses.

My interview with Oliver, which aired on Mobile Presence — the weekly podcast I host with Shahab Zargari from Higher Ground Creative Agency — was one of our top episodes.

It’s also my top pick to kick off my series of companion posts here on MobileGroove, where I will showcase top guests and their top tips. From apps and analytics, to advertising and wearables, I will recount the expert advice from past guests on Mobile Presence, the podcast series produced and broadcast on the Webmasterradio.FM network, a U.S. based Internet radio network that counts over 2 million downloads. (Check out the new player in the right-hand sidebar to browse all the shows.)

The hard truth around soft launch

As Oliver put it: The soft launch period is where you have to use your wits, not your wallet.

It’s the ‘make-or-break’ time for your app, but there is no need to break your budget in the process. This is where you validate if your app has legs, and you want to do this by launching your app in smaller markets that have similar behavioral patterns to the major markets where you want to ultimately hit it big.

Here are his 3 top tips around what you should focus on in the soft launch period and the mindset you must have to get the best results for your app — and your app business.

#Look for usage patterns and create app habits.

Pay attention to user feedback and look for the patterns that show users really do like your app. A key metric in this phase is retention. If you have a game, you want users to play this game often. If you have a news reader app, then you want users to check the news when they wake up and before they go to bed. A compelling app will shape consumer habits, and the more exciting, enjoyable or addictive your game, the better for your long-term success.

#Treat your game as a service and stay open for feedback.  

F2P games are a service. You start out by attracting players to the game and then you do what you can to keep them coming back for more. After you validate your product you have to connect with your customers, listen to their feedback (which is why user playtesting surveys are a centerpiece of what Oliver and Mobilize offer) and implement improvements to make it easier to spend time — and money —  in the game. Hear out what your users have to say, and do something about it, and they will become your brand ambassadors.

#Pay attention to the data, but your action is YOUR call.

During the show Oliver is also up front about the importance of following your own instincts and making your own way. Sure, there is a lot of data and best practice out there, but you have to find your own way to hack yourself to high growth. The path you take depends on your app and what works for your business. So, don’t just suck up UA advice and data like a vacuum; think it through and use common sense. If an agency says you will need $100K to market your app, then you can bet you will spend that — even if you don’t really need to spend that much.

Which leads us to the debut of the Sample Size Calculator — a free tool to help app devs validate what they need to know about their app, without trial, error and all the cost.

When it comes to proving or disproving what you think your know about your game or its users, the popular belief is that more is always better. However, there are many scenarios where acquiring more users will not only fail to significantly increase your level of confidence, it will burn cash in the process.

Whether you’re baffled by low retention rates in the soft launch phase of what you thought was an amazing game app, or you need assistance to identify and improve key features of your game based on user feedback, Oliver explains how you can use the Sample Size Calculator to help you determine on how many users you *really* need to validate key aspects of your game.

mobile sample size calculator for soft launch

Take the tool out for a spin and tell us what you think — and listen to the complete show below 🙂