Analytics · Business Strategy

Can Marketing Overcome Product Imperfections?

Ray Li Android Developer w/ 7 published apps on Google Play. Retention + Engagement + Monetization is Life!

Last updated on April 17th, 2018

So I'm currently at a crossroad between continuing a product or killing it. Here's a quick run down of where I'm at and how I got here.

I'm a mobile app developer and I created a new app that allows users to analyze their messages and get a positivity score based on sentiment analysis. The problem I'm trying to solve is not knowing if the message you type is good and understanding if the messages you receive are good. I made this app in 3 days and I've spent the last 3 weeks creating marketing materials, refining the onboarding flow, and doing experiments. Finally, the dust has settled down and now I'm trying to understand the data I've collected.

Right now, I'm torn between two conflicting data points that I hope the community here can shed light on.

1. I had 5 people purchase my app. I take this as a good sign because very few people purchase apps these days and they purchased my app which had no download and no reviews.

2. These 5 people stopped using my app. My usage metrics show that they've not opened the app or analyzed any messages in the past few days.

Based on the data I've collected, I know what I've created is interesting and my marketing is more effective than average. Unfortunately, the app itself doesn't seem to provide enough value to users.

Right now, I've still not figured out the product market fit or how to set the right expectations between the product and marketing. I've been focused on finding the most compelling marketing and then making the product fit that vision.

So my questions is, can tactics such as push notifications, engagement loops, and positioning my product correctly get users to use my product or does my app not create enough value?

Two possible conclusions are:

1. I've not spent enough time refining the product.

2. This is a dead end, my product isn't good enough to solve a pain point and the core value proposition isn't strong enough.

Here's the current version of my app on the Play Store:

Thanks for any insights and feedback!

Dimitry Rotstein Founder at Miranor

April 17th, 2018

Have you tried asking these users directly why they've stopped using the app? If not, then that's the first thing you should do before even planning anything else. If you don't have access to these users, then find other users and figure out how to retain access to get a detailed feedback. It could be someone you know in real life - in-person interviews will give you much more insight than some feedback form. Either way, be sure to ask open questions without giving "pointers" (i.e. suggesting responses), e.g. "why did you stop using the app?", "when you were downloading the app what did you expect to get from it?", "what problem did you hope to solve with this app?", "what is missing in the app, in you opinion? If you could add any feature(s) to it, what would it be?", etc.

In any case, 5 test-cases over a few days is definitely not enough to draw any kind of conclusions. You will need dozens of detailed interviews or like a thousand automatic data points before the picture starts to clear up.

Also, double-check you analytic functions, just in case (unless it's something built-into the platform). Who knows, maybe the lack of activity is the result of some malfunction and you're worrying for nothing :-)

Dan Hubbard Founder, www.FocusedAgility.Solutions/

April 18th, 2018

I think you might be looking at the wrong market/segment/vertical. And I think an App is the wrong product.

What you have is a tool; a useful tool.

Also, your website doesn't appear to be up, so it's difficult to learn more about you.

Abhishek Prasad

April 17th, 2018

I guess you need to work on getting product market fit. Since, you did find initial buyers but they stopped using it product implies they didn't find it upto their expectations. May be there is some demand but something is still missing out there. You need to find tht missing piece in the puzzle. Go for some research and probably if possible try asking these users as to why they stopped using and what didn't they find interesting about it. Refine the product and then launch again. Marketing comes at a stage when you do achieve your market fit and are ready to get your product to more users.

Dane Madsen Organizational and Operational Strategy Consultant

April 17th, 2018


1) How did you identify this to be a market need?

2) Can you develop a version for iOS as quickly and with low cost, to compare a premium user-base to a low-cost user base?

3) Can you tell how many users looked at your app but did not buy? If so, do you have visibility into how many, where they stopped, and what messaging they fell out?

4) Have you considered a "beta" group to provide feedback (via the app or directly) for no cost, moving to a purchase later?

I sense that you cannot answer #2 until you know more about #1. It may be a dead end, but you have such a small data set (depending on #1 above) it is difficult to draw a conclusion.

Shawn Kernes New Company or Tahoe Rim Trail?

April 19th, 2018

Of course marketing can not overcome product issues... If the product isn't useful but your marketing makes it seem as if it is, it will simply manifest as high customer churn.

What marketing can do for you at this stage is to help you identify what value and feature messaging resinates with potential users. It may also allow you to presell enough product to invest more heavily in r&d.

Wally Barr Business Owner at Undrnu Management

April 18th, 2018

High school student from Naperville Il. was on Shark Tank with a similar app. The market is not the end user. It is parents, community counselors and school districts. Cyber bullies are a very big problem. You do not address that your app helps in that area. I can help you with that if you would like. You have a good product. This was proven because a high school student got funding on Shark Tank. It matters. You are not getting the right message to the right audience so you think it may be a product problem.

Ray Li Android Developer w/ 7 published apps on Google Play. Retention + Engagement + Monetization is Life!

May 3rd, 2018

Thanks for all the answers! I've put Message AI on hold as I don't see a path to profitability.

Here's the top 3 reasons for my decision:

1. Little usage and poor retention - DAU is about 3% at Day 30. That means people aren't using the app. Which leads me to believe that people aren't finding the benefits of the app useful. Retention is at 40% which is average but should ideally be above 70%.

2. Low impressions and few opportunities for IAPs - my app works without the need to ever open the app. That means essentially no ad revenue and few ways to sell IAPs.

3. Lack of domain expertise - I'm not an AI developer so developing a revolutionary AI is beyond my abilities. Based on my research, companies doing similar things in my space have millions in funding and a team of skilled AI developers. Even then, the products they've created are less than revolutionary.

Could usage and retention be improved by developing engagement mechanisms? Yes, but then there's #2 and #3.

In the end, I've realized that there are a lot more easier and worthwhile opportunities than spending more time trying to optimize and promote the app.

This experience has been extremely beneficial as it opened my eyes to the importance of analytics driven product development.

As they say, if you're going to fail then fail fast!

Steve Skura, MBA Looking for a social media manager for my magazine startup.

May 7th, 2018

I'm an iPhone user, but it sounds like your app is incomplete. It's a good sign that 5 people purchased it right away. Maybe you need to go back to the drawing board and review where you could improve your app.

I have a question... you said this is an email review app. Does it qualify as AI? I get 200 emails per day at my job. About 20% of them, I have to respond the same day. I imagine that there is market potential for this app concept. And if it becomes AI, investors may be more interested in it as a startup.

Feel free to connect and message me. I'd love to learn more about your app.

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November 30th, 2020

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