Yaneek Page | How to promote a new app
QUESTION: My friends and I are creating a food app that provides customers with local restaurants to go to based on their preferences. We will be the platform where local restaurants can be marketed at an affordable price. We would like to know ways to advertise or get restaurant owners to use our app. Can you please assist me? Thank you and looking forward to your response. Abbi
BUSINESSWISE: Abbi, I want you to think of this journey of creating and launching a new app targeting restaurateurs - one of the most competitive and challenging industries with high start-up failure rates - as a hurdles race. Not a 110m hurdles race, but an even more gruelling 200m distance of jumping over significant obstacles in quick succession with little break in between.
To add to the challenge, the rival to beat is like the Briggitte Foster-Hylton of hurdles in Jamaica, a former directory listing company with considerable resources and experience, which has now evolved into a self-proclaimed media group that knows the ins and outs of every corner of your market. You'll need to train and strategise to earn your win.
There are other rivals, too. Folks who have created and launched similar apps but failed miserably to place in previous races. Some are tired and frustrated after spending millions in savings and start-up investment funding combined without seeing the anticipated returns.
A few rivals may also pop up, seemingly out of nowhere, like dark horses, just before the race.
I've used this analogy to impress upon you that this journey will be no walk in the park, therefore, you and your friends will need to be fit for purpose and well prepared, as a professional athlete would be in readying herself for the Olympics.
Most challenging hurdle
The first and most challenging hurdle you will face is not advertising to restaurant owners, but actually enrolling them in your service. Successful enrolment will depend primarily on the following things, which you can document among your critical success factors:
1. Convincing them that your app can help them make or save a considerable amount of money;
2. Showing proof that the app worked in pilot form and would 'take off' upon launch;
3. Outlining viable plans to ensure downloads and high usage by the majority of restaurant patrons, or at the very least, an attractive niche of patrons;
4. Proving that you are better for them than the competition or doing it themselves; and
5. Demonstrating that you are not a fly-by-night service provider who will disappear tomorrow, but a credible entity with roots, integrity, and sustainability.
In light of the foregoing, it should be clear to you that you can't create an app for restaurateurs without their input and/or needs driving the process. This is where many local tech entrepreneurs have gone wrong. They build first then engage their target customers later.
Start by building a database of restaurants and their contact details by combing through directory listings and doing research at the Companies Office of Jamaica as well as the Ministry of Health, where you would enquire about the food handler's permits issued by them that are valid or current.
Once you have a database, you can select a sample of businesses you will contact for interviews or to do focus groups to better understand their needs, challenges, and general wish lists to make their businesses better.
You don't want to tell them exactly what you're working on because you need to protect the confidentiality of any new ideas. However, you should use the opportunity to learn how much they spend on advertising, the frequency with which they advertise, where they advertise, how they calculate the return on investment of their advertising dollars, and what would make them advertise consistently.
Also, try to understand their attitude towards technology and apps as well as the infrastructure they have to support the uptake of new technology. This information will be invaluable for you because it will not only allow you to create an app that will meet needs you have validated and your customers where they are so it's easy for them, but you will also have enough data to make credible financial projections in respect of your potential customers and annual revenues.
Once you can cross that very first and most important hurdle of value creation, then you can move on to direct selling of your service by one-on-one meetings with restaurants. This will be the most effective way to connect with them.
You will likely need to supplement these selling efforts with advertising to create brand awareness to customers and prospective restaurant patrons online with Google AdWords, via social media promotions, at food events, and through some traditional media such as television, radio, and print.
- Yaneek Page is an entrepreneur and trainer, and creator/executive producer of The Innovators TV series.