Hiring an app agency vs. an app freelancer

What is the more cost effective option; an app development agency, or a freelance app developer? While there’s plenty of pros and cons to assign to either, it is our belief that ultimately, when presented with the entirety of an app’s lifecycle, hiring an app development agency is the better choice.

Why? Because apps are never truly finished products – they exist in a medium that necessitates constant and continuous improvement. When your product exists in a space that sees users demanding the best features, the fastest loading times, and the most up-to-date UI, you need to ensure your app’s code is accessible, modifiable, and organized.

Below, you’ll find the pros of cons of hiring an app development agency versus a freelance app developer, via a comparison of both options throughout each step in the development process:

Finding an agency vs. finding a freelancer

Whether you’re searching for a freelancer or a development agency, you’ll want to begin online – however, do your best to stay away from Google or other search engines.

For freelance app developers, sites like UpWork or Clutch or The Manifest. All of these sites function very similarly; you can search for developers based on certain criteria, and find contact information (whether through the aggregate site or their own) in order to begin the vetting process.

While it’s (usually) easier to find a freelance developer, you’ll find development agencies are (again, usually) more responsive.

Hiring an agency vs. hiring a freelancer

The difference in vetting a freelance app developer versus an app development agency marks where the process starts to noticeably deviate depending on which route you take. You’ll find freelancers’ CVs and portfolios to be very skillset driven – this is because freelance developers tend to specialize in developing one type of app.

App development agencies, on the other hand, will usually focus on presenting potential clients with examples of past projects and experience – this is because agencies employ a team of developers who each specialize in different aspects of app development – this diversity of knowledge allows agencies to work on a wider array of apps.

Agencies rely on steady clients, and therefore tend to take NDAs (and business partnerships in general) more seriously than freelancers – freelancers are, however, more likely to adjust to client demands.

Agency capability vs. freelancer capability

The complexity, scale, and scope of your app will largely determine if freelance development is even a viable option. As previously mentioned, freelancers tend to specialize in developing one type of app: such as eCommerce, productivity, or event apps, for example. Not only does this specialization narrow freelancers’ capabilities to the development of a single type of app, it often means freelancers are only capable of deploying in one environment, and developing for one platform.

Development agencies, however, will make use of the multiple skill sets available to them. These full-stack agencies can create any app, large or small, for any system, and for either platform: Android, or iOS (because Android and iOS utilize different code bases, it is exceedingly rare to find a freelancer capable of developing both Android and iOS apps).

Even when coding for a single platform, programming an app requires two different skillsets – frontend and backend development. For this reason, app agencies will employ programmers for both; frontend developers build out the UI and connect the functionality of the app’s features to the UI. Backend developers program the app’s logic architecture, set-up and implement servers, and connect APIs to their respective endpoints.

Agencies also utilize other tangential skillsets in order to improve the quality of the product that is developed; UI/UX designers create the visual design and flow of the app, providing a roadmap for the frontend developers – QA engineers create test environments in order to throughly analyze the robustness of an app before its initial launch, and project managers ensure every task is completed on time and in order, therefore maintaining a consistent and efficient development schedule.

When you hire a freelance developer, you are relegating all of these tasks onto either the freelancer, yourself, or your company. As an example – while a freelance developer might be efficient at developing the systems necessary for the entire feature set of an eCommerce app, they might not be the best UI/UX designer.

A freelance developer, in this situation, would most likely make use of an app design template (meaning your app will look cookie-cutter) – or run the risk of designing the app themselves – or, if their client was willing to pay for it, bring on a supplemental freelance designer.

Agency app management vs. freelance app management

Due to the nature of their work, freelancers tend to move from client to client very quickly – small projects have quick turn around times. Your app’s lifecycle is neither short or hands-off, however. All apps require updates for aesthetic purposes, improved security, and new feature implementation. Continual analysis of your app’s status via analytics and crash reporting is a necessary task as well – and with every update released by Google Play or the App Store, your app will need to follow suit. Even updates for changes as simple as new screen resolutions require time spent in development.

Agencies have this app lifecycle management structure built in to both their build teams and business model – freelancers generally don’t.

The cost of an agency vs. the cost of a freelancer

For all of the reasons stated above, the lower hourly rate freelancers are known for doesn’t equate to more cost effective development. For a freelancer to successfully develop the entirety of an app, they must have a mastery of a wide array of skills – and when they are lacking in an area of development, must spend time learning said skill, adding to the overall time your app spends in development, and bloating your budget.

Agencies specialize in producing complex apps efficiently; freelancers specialize in client acquisition, not app lifecycle management.

How much does it cost to update an app?

“An app is never finished.”

This quote is un-attributable because most every app developer has said it – it’s a constant in the world of programming – software isn’t complete until it’s dead. From websites to operating systems, updates are an inescapable necessity.

In fact, it’s safe to assume you’ll spend one-fifth of your total development cost every year updating your app – so if your app cost $50,000 to develop, you can expect to spend about $10,000 a year on updates.

That might sound like a lot of money – and it is. If you want your app to be a top performer in terms of user retention, conversions, and revenue, however, you’ll need to be prepared to absorb the costs associated with updating your app. Based on this graph from SensorTower, you can see the industry average back in 2014 was to update an app well over once a month:

This is a correlation that has only grown in recent years – the most successful apps today release an update one to four times every month.

Why do apps update so frequently? There are a few different answers:

Updates are a form of marketing

Updates are among your strongest marketing tools – right up there with push notifications and proximity marketing. Updates are so powerful because they convey a few messages simultaneously:

  1. Serve as a reminder that your app exists
  2. Inform your users about value added to the app
  3. Provide a free CTA with immediate value for the user

Updates will also create a notification tag on their settings icon – both Android and iOS operating systems are designed to make users aware of their available updates, so users are sure to be made aware of the added value you are giving them.

Finding the right voice and message through push notifications can be incredibly difficult, but updates can be plain and straightforward – they inherently come with free value for the customer.

Design and device trends

Keeping up with UI trends is a constant task of not only keeping your sights on what your competitors are doing, but also what the top twenty apps on the App Store or Google Play are doing as well.

This is because the competition in your category might not be staying up to date with their design choices as well – it’s always best to seek out the top performers and study what they’re doing. Keep a close eye on design aspects like:

  • Where buttons are located on the screen
  • Use of negative space
  • Transitions
  • How information is displayed

Design trends are always changing, and users are more likely to abandon an app than they are to stick by its side – if there’s an app out there that does what you do, but looks better, you’ll begin to lose users to it.

For more about keeping up with design trends, check out:

The same goes for device trends – mainly concerning higher screen resolutions. For every new screen size that hits the market, you’ll need to update your app in order to fit on those new devices. Keeping up with these trends is important to the health of your app – early adopters of new device models are usually power users, so if you aren’t catering to their needs, your app’s metrics will begin to drop substantially.

Security

Unfortunately, there will always be someone who is trying to exploit vulnerabilities in your app’s code – especially if your app deals with sensitive user data like payments or personal information. Luckily, updates can help mitigate these risks.

There is no way to build an un-crackable app. No matter what, someone out there will find a way to exploit a previously-unnoticed vulnerability if given enough time. An oft-sought out type of app for hackers to exploit are those that work in eCommerce – so if your app exists in this domain, make sure you are updating your security regularly.

Users take security very seriously. Take, for example, the fallout from Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal: One in ten American users completely deleted their Facebook profile, and a staggering 26% deleted the mobile app from their smartphone.

When payment information is stolen, the response is even stronger. For this reason especially, eCommerce apps must be vigilant when it comes to the security of their users.

Bug Fixing

While the goal of any app is to launch without any bugs, they do sometimes happen. There’s many reasons for this – some bugs appear through situations that would be nearly impossible to test for, such as scalability issues, or new devices coming to market that don’t properly mesh with the code that makes your app run.

It’s a virtual guarantee that eventually, your app will run into a bug – what happens next is up to you. Users are fickle, and will abandon your app if they continue to run into bugs. In order to keep your users, you’ll need to fix the bug as quickly as possible.

New Features

Along with new device and design trends come new features – two big ones right now being location services and real-time updating. A good example is the order tracker popularized by Dominos Pizza. Dominos’ customers became familiar with their order tracker, and then began to expect it on other online ordering platforms.

Now, online food delivery platforms all make use of this order tracker – if they didn’t utilize it, users would abandon their app in favor of one that does. New features mean added value – always plan to add more value.

Show your users you care

What looks better – a website with a regularly updated blog and content, or an obviously three-year-old website that’s still touting an award from 2016? When shown the latter, you’ll probably begin to question if the company is still in operation.

Users want to know the app they are investing their time into is there for the long haul – by updating your app regularly, you implicitly show them that your app is here to stay. It also shows that your app is worth looking at and using – if you care enough to update it, there must surely be value that makes the update worth it.

Updates are a powerful user retention tool – despite their cost, app updates are necessary to your app’s longevity, and publishers stand to loose more by not updating their app than by spending capital in order to do so.

How much does it cost to build an app like UberEats?

How much does it cost to make an app like UberEats? Just like every app, the cost of development comes down to three deciding factors: feature set, time, and hourly rate. If this sounds similar to our last blog, How much does it cost to build an app like Uber?, it’s because this formula is a constant across all apps.

As we also went over in our blog about the cost of developing an app like Uber, the most expensive part of any app is actually post-development. This is due to app marketplace standards dictating the need for developers to provide continuous maintenance and update to an app’s code, infrastructure, and UI.

User retention is key to an app’s success – especially for an app with a business model like UberEats. Let’s look into the feature set that provides the platform for an app like UberEats.

First off, we need to segment the app into four different apps, those being an individual app for the customers, the restaurants, the delivery drivers, and the administrators. It is common practice for apps that require different feature sets to interact with a particular user to have different screen show depending on what the type of user is currently engaging with it – effectively creating individual apps.

To continue using the example from our previous blog, Uber; once a user selects that they are a rider, they are brought to the rider app – the same is true for drivers – once “driver” is selected, they are brought to the driver app. Both of these apps work in tandem with each other, but offer completely different feature sets, and thus show different screens.

As previously stated, an app like UberEats would be split into four different apps:

UberEats’ feature set

Customer app

Register / Log-in

Apps like UberEats make use of a login feature – this means users can save their delivery address, payment, and other info their account, therefore speeding up the process and bringing more value to the user.

Search Menu

For the user side of an app like UberEats, it is absolutely necessary to include a search function. In order for this search function to work, it must be able to search through the individual data points of your backend servers that house your restaurant data – proper logic and organization of your backend system is critical to decrease the time it takes the app to search through these data points.

Cart

A family simple feature, the cart allows users to keep track of what they have already added to their order.

Payment Integration

Payment services give users the ability to pay their driver directly though the app using a credit or debit card, as well as promotional codes – this feature is usually achieved through payment service APIs like Stripe or PayPal.

Order Tracking

Order tracking is a quality-of-life feature users have come to expect in the past few years – in order for this feature to be successfully implemented, a few different features must be used: GPS, and real-time updating.

Rating and Reviews

Users are able to leave ratings and reviews for restaurants that are aggregated in a database that can be remotely accessed by other users – this requires a connection to your backend servers.

UI

The UI is the layer of the app the users interact with; for UberEats’ customers, this would be to order food and put in the necessary delivery and payment info.

Delivery app

Register / Log-in

Delivery drivers use their account to keep track of payments and orders – accounts are also necessary when payments are involved; deliver drivers have their account info and payment info tied digitally together in the app.

Order Management

In order for delivery drivers to keep track of where an order needs to go, they need some way to manage the orders they currently have – in order for an app like UberEats to be able to tell a driver where a specific order must go, it needs to be able to access the backend servers remotely – it also needs access to GPS and mapping, as well as location services and navigation.

Updating of order status

The delivery side of the app must constantly provide the customer with real-time updates as to the driver’s current location – to do this, it must connect to the backend servers and provide location data taken from the app’s GPS, mapping, location services, and navigation features.

Restaurant app

Register / Log-in

Restaurants need to be able to create an account for the app as well – this is so they can update menus and other information as it changes.

Order Management

Restaurants need a way to manage their orders as well – this is put in place so the restaurant doesn’t need to contact the customer with a question; the order management system provides all the details they need to make the order – a feature like this would require sharing data over a remote server between the customer app, the restaurant app, and the delivery app.

Updating the order status

Just like the delivery portion of the app, users have come to expect to be informed as to the current status of their order while it is being prepared – just like the delivery app, this would require real-time updating over a remote server.

Admin app

Admin Log-in

This would function the same as any other log-in feature, but it would provide access to the administration portion of the app.

Restaurant management

This feature would give the administrator access to the data tables that create the organization structure that houses restaurant data – after a restaurant joins the app, the administrator would add their profile here.

Payment management

This feature, which can be achieved through API integration, is necessary to the processing of payments.

The cost of developing this four-in-one food ordering app would range anywhere between $100,000 to $250,000, and sometimes even more. Scale plays a large role in determining the development cost of your app.

Also keep in mind that an app like UberEats that requires the participation of individual businesses has to budget for the acquisition of those businesses. It is easiest to start with smaller, local businesses and move up as your platform gains traction in the market.

UberEats’ tech stack

In the same vein as our previous blog about Uber, UberEats exists mostly on the backend – while the simple UI exudes simplicity, the backend systems required to handle so much real-time updating and data sharing would be both extensive and costly.

Storing and transferring data, whether it happens through physical servers or via the Cloud (which is still stored on physical servers somewhere anyway), is expensive, and requires significant infrastructure and time spent optimizing the organization of data.

In order to create and maintain a stable backend, you must invest significant time and resources – both infrastructure and human.

UberEats’ maintenance and updating costs

The costs of maintaining and updating an app comes down to the total collective salary of your entire development team.

This cost is necessary to an app like UberEats, however – only the best apps stay on top. In fact, the average mobile user in the US will spend 90% of their time engaging with their personal top five apps.

UberEats knows what keeps their app in users’ personal top five apps is the experience it provides – and this is why they spend so much money maintaining and updating their app. If their servers are unresponsive, or provide outdated data, users will move on to a different app without these issues. If their app doesn’t keep up design trends and new device screen resolutions, users will, again, abandon their app in favor of one that does.

An app is never finished

This is why the cost of developing one never has a set number – the longer your app is around, the more money you will spend on it – but these should be measured against the lifetime profit of your app.

While the coding and design of your app’s feature set are one-time investments, keeping your backend running and your frontend up-to-snuff will constitute continual, regular costs, as they are necessary to maintaining and increasing your app’s user retention.

How much does it cost to make an app like Uber?

How much does it cost to make an app like Uber? The cost of app development (no matter if you’re building a game, fitness, or social app) comes down to three distinct factors: feature set, scale, and hourly rate.

Every app’s feature set is a combination of different features that provide a cohesive user experience; while the code that makes these features work is technically the same whether one user is engaging with the app, or 100 users are, the scale of an app has significant costs on your backend and server maintenance costs – not to mention API calls and other data transfer costs.

While your app’s feature set will make up the majority of your initial development costs, scalability and maintenance will easily overshadow these investment costs over the course of your app’s lifecycle.

For an app like Uber, which boasts 80 million users spread across 77 countries, scalability is literally a huge issue – so much so that Uber employs 2000 engineers – a full third of their total employees.

This isn’t to say all of an app’s reoccurring costs come from backend management – the app marketplace demands continuous improvements to an app’s UX and UI – meaning designers are needed to improve upon existing features and ideate new ones, and engineers are needed to code these updates.

In short, development for an app like Uber is never done. For as long as that app is available on the App Store or Google Play, there will be reoccurring costs. With these costs, however, come profits; the more time and effort is put into improving your app’s UX (design and feature set), the higher these profits will usually be.

Uber’s feature set

Uber makes use of the following features to provide a working app:

Geolocation

Geolocation is used to provide both riders and drivers with real-time locations of each other.

GPS/Navigation

GPS/Navigation is used to provide drivers with optimal routes.

Push Notifications

Push notifications are used to provide riders with updates about their ride, or other info when the user isn’t engaging with app directly.

In-app Messaging

In-app messages are used to provide riders with updates about their ride when the user is currently engaged with the app.

Payments

Payment services give users the ability to pay their driver directly though the app using a credit or debit card, as well as promotional codes.

Register/Log-in

Most apps utilize some sort of log-in feature via email or social media account.

Messaging

Not to be confused with in-app messaging, this feature gives drivers and riders the ability to directly message each other.

Price estimate calculator

By using data from the GPS/Navigation feature, the app provides riders with a pre-estimate of how much their ride will cost – this is influenced distance, time of day, and location.

Ratings and reviews

Users are able to leave ratings and reviews for drivers that are aggregated in a database that can be remotely accessed by other users.

UI

The UI is the layer of the app the riders and drivers interact with – for Uber riders, this is mainly used for booking rides and paying drivers, and for Uber drivers, it is mainly used to accept riders and follow routes.

If we were to add up the costs of developing these features, and not include the costs associated with maintaining those features, the initial costs would total anywhere between $100,000 – $300,000 depending on the hourly rate of the development team in question.

This might seem like a heavy upfront investment, but consider the potential for revenue available to you – Uber’s revenue was $11.27 billion in 2018.

Uber’s tech stack

Virtually every app (other than an extremely simple app) utilizes both a front and back end – and Uber is no exception. Much like an iceberg, Uber’s front end, while making up the layer users see, is dwarfed by its hidden-from-view back end.

While all of Uber’s backend functionality can be achieved through API integration, a backend is still required to provide the logic for the API calls. For an app at the scale of Uber, however, heavy reliance on third-party APIs can bring about exponential additional costs; GPS and mapping APIs, for instance, base their pricing on the number of API calls made – which when paired with the real-time updating that Uber utilizes, creates a significant operating cost.

Third party API integration, while expensive, can still come out as the cheaper option when compared to building your own custom system – many backend systems rely on physical infrastructure to run. Continuing with the previous example, third party GPS and mapping APIs are plentiful for a reason – significant physical infrastructure is necessary to the operation of mapping systems – everything from servers to satellites.

In order for Uber to function on a daily basis, its core functionalities – geolocation, mapping, GPS, and payments – require a significant amount of data to transfer through the app’s servers. All of its features, other than its UI layer, require some sort of data transfer in order to function.

Due to this heavy reliance on servers, backend maintenance is paramount to Uber’s success.

Uber’s maintenance and updating costs

The costs of maintaining and updating an app comes down to the total collective salary of your software and hardware engineers, as well as your UI designers. It might seem unthinkable to employ 2000 engineers like Uber does – but there’s a very good reason for an app with the scale of Uber to do so.

As loading times increase, user retention plummets. The same goes for any hiccup in the UX of an app – if there’s an app that provides even a slightly better experience in one step of the entire process, users will gravitate towards it in favor of the slightly-less-optimized one.

While many of Uber’s engineers are undoubtably updating and maintaining the frontend of Uber, there are plenty also continuously working to improve and optimize the backend architecture of the app.

Even if a week’s worth of work for an entire development team results in the increase of data transfer speeds by one hundredth of a second, the impact is significant when millions of transfer requests are made every hour. Those hundredths of a second add up when multiplied by a million over and over again – and users will notice their load times decrease, bringing them more value.

If the salary of every engineer on your team is $100K, and you were to maintain an app like Uber, your yearly operational costs would be at least $200 million (this number is based purely on salary, and doesn’t include the operational costs associated with employing 2000 engineers).

These costs are necessary to an app like Uber, however – only the best apps stay on top. In fact, the average mobile user in the US will spend 90% of their time engaging with their personal top five apps.

Uber knows what keeps their app in users’ personal top five apps is the experience it provides – and this is why they spend so much money maintaining and updating their app. If their servers are unresponsive, or provide outdated data, users will move on to a different app without these issues. If their app doesn’t keep up design trends and new device screen resolutions, users will, again, abandon their app in favor of one that does.

Operational costs are forever

Just like diamonds (and plastic), the task of updating and maintaining your app is forever present – and so to will the associated costs continue on.

While the coding and design of your app’s feature set are one-time investments, keeping your backend running and your frontend up-to-snuff will constitute continual, regular costs, as they are necessary to maintaining and increasing your app’s user retention.

Why we build apps like Wine Swap and Brew Trader

We were asked something recently that made me stop to smell the proverbial roses. The question itself was pretty simple – but the answer isn’t.

“Why do you make free apps using expenses from your own pocket? What do you stand to gain?”

It would be simple for us to reply with something along the lines of: “Easy – we make apps because we’re passionate about making them.”

But does that really answer the question? It’s an answer any company, selling any product, could respond with – and we’re not about being just like everyone else. Yes, passion does drive us to produce the best possible product every time, but there’s a lot more to the answer than “we wanted to.”

I mean, yeah – we did want to. Our founder and CEO, Nick Jones, came up with the idea for Brew Trader while looking at his craft beer selection at home; our Business Development Manager helmed the creation of Wine Swap – not only was it a logical next step after Brew Trader, he also really likes wine. He’s a level one sommelier, in fact.

So yes, we made these two apps because we like the subject matter. But we’re passionate about our clients’ apps as well – most of us here play some sort of sport, so Sportly was an absolute blast to work on. We live in Richmond, so we all understand the pain of parking in a city – which made creating iPermit a true joy. Knowing we were helping to take away the hassle of parking and permits out of peoples lives was, honestly, incredibly gratifying.

NS804 is a collection of people who all have different life experiences, come from different places, share different ideologies, and different interests. It’s this diversity of spirit that creates such a capable team – we all overlap in skillsets, while simultaneously all bringing something new to the table.

If you were to ask our Operations Manager what her dream vacation would be, you’d hear “Disney” before you could finish your sentence – if you were to ask me, it would be: “Camping somewhere far away from everything.”

What brings us all together isn’t even apps really (although, as stated previously, we’re truly passionate about making them). We’re problem solvers. And in the age we live in now, apps are the ultimate problem-solving tool. If it were the 17th century, we’d be watch makers, astronomers, adventurers. If it were 2000 BC, we’d be testing new materials for optimal wheel construction.

We’re drawn to problem-solving because when you solve a problem, you make something better. Bringing value into peoples lives is something that inspires us, gives us an easily-actionable reason to build apps.

The joy of knowing we made something easier for people out there in the world – even if it’s just a little easier – is worth the labor of creating an in-house app for absolutely zero profit. Negative profit, in fact.

That’s why we made Wine Swap and Brew Trader – to make finding your favorite beverages easier, and to help each other connect with people who care as much as we do about good beer and wine. It’s not the money, it’s not the drinks – it’s knowing we played a part in someone getting to do what they love, with other people that enjoy it just as much.

I’ve worked at a lot of different places, but I’ve never worked somewhere the CEO isn’t motivated by money – he’s motivated by helping others. If it sounds corny, drop on by sometime. You’ll find some of us diligently huddled over a keyboard, crafting lines of code, some of us playing fetch with our CBO, and a few others quietly designing beautiful UIs.

There’s a lot of different types of people here, but we all want to do one thing – make your dream a reality.

Convincing your manager to let you play D&D as a team building exercise: Project proposal

You reach the end of the hallway, the entrance to your boss’s office looming before you. As you extend your arm to knock on the heavy wooden door, you hear a voice reverberate from behind the closed threshold.

“Yup?”

Your hand turns the cold steel handle of the office door – your manager sits before you, leaning forward in their chair, studying the screen of their computer. Now is the moment you’ve been waiting for.

“Hey, um, I was wondering if we could play D&D as a team-building exercise.”

“Play D&D? No. When’s your code going to be ready for review?”

If you read our previous blog that goes into the theory of why D&D is the perfect team-building exercise, you might’ve had a similar conversation with your manager recently – and for that, we apologize.

Luckily, I have the best job in the world, so I get paid to come up with project proposals for D&D (well, just this once – but still). Not trying to sound braggadocios, it’s just when you work at NS804, you spend a lot more time smiling than frowning.

When our CBO makes the rounds every thirty minutes or so, it’s difficult to not keep a smile on your face – that, and our Thursdays are our Fridays, so our Fridays are our Saturdays, and we get this great day after Sunday I like to call I’m-actually-feeling-rejuvenated-day.

So anyway, here it is – your very own fill-in-the-blank D&D team-building exercise project proposal:

Executive Summary

Collaboration, cohesion, synergy, speed, unity – all qualities our ___________ Department / Team can achieve and improve upon in as little as two hours, and with virtually no spend – all by playing a session of Dungeons & Dragons. Below, you will find an outline of the information presented throughout this proposal:

  • D&D context
  • Player and game requirements
  • How D&D will improve our teamwork
  • Vision and goals for the session
  • Pre and post-session reporting
  • Session planning and implementation timeframe
  • Needed resources
  • Budget
  • Session ownership and responsibility hierarchy
  • Risk assessment
  • Session implications
  • Success criteria
  • Authorization steps

Our department / team has recently noticed we need to improve upon our ________ (communication / collaboration / criticism / deadlines / energy management / confidence / decision making) and in order to do so, we propose sending our team into the land of Codia.

This is a land fraught with many dangers and wonders alike – but tragedy has befallen the once pristine land of Codia. The once steadfast and robust Omnicron, the magical tome that brought order, law, and organization to the realm, has been torn asunder – its pages bereft of their bindings and scattered across the wilds.

Only the _________ Department / Team can deliver peace and unity to this once-proud land.

Our department / team must brave the wilds of Codia and the dangers that haunt them, journey to rediscover the pages of the Omnicron, defeat any who might stand in their way, and return the pages orderly, to their proper place. Once our ________ Department / Team has completed this dire quest, prosperity and unity will once again grace the land of Codia.

D&D Context

Sessions of Dungeons & Dragons have been promoting team-based skillsets since 1974, when Gary Gygax invented the game we now colloquially refer to as D&D. The game is classified as a pencil and paper tabletop role-playing game – it revolves around improvisational, collective storytelling, via acting out and imagining different scenarios that effect the players.

These stories can be followed to completion in one game, or over the course of many games. When a story takes place over many games, individual games are called sessions, and the entirety of the story is called the campaign. Campaigns are sometimes broken into story arcs if the scope of the campaign warrants it.

Player Requirements

There are two different player roles – those being the player characters, who together form what is known as the party, and the Dungeon Master (DM) who is responsible for narrating the world to the party – this consists of story-telling elements like the setting, supporting characters, antagonists, encounters, obstacles, and plot.

Players will create a single character through which they will experience the world that is presented to them by the DM. During the game, players embody their character, and should do their best to act using the mannerisms of, and in the interests of their chosen character.

The DM will both create the setting of the world and the denizens that populate it – and is responsible for telling the story to the party by acting out different characters, events, and encounters. The DM judges outcomes of events through dice rolls – mainly a d20. The lower the number, the lower the chance of success – the higher the number, the greater the chance of success. A “1” is always a critical and automatic failure, and likewise, a “20” is always a critical and automatic success.

How D&D will improve our teamwork

Unlike other team building exercises, D&D necessitates that everyone involved pretends to be someone else – making it much easier to self-reflect and be open to new ideas. It’s not them in the situation, it’s the character they’re pretending to be. It’s a game about working with what you have, rather than what you want – and how you can use what’s available to you in the moment, in order to solve the problem at hand.

It fosters the growth – and eventual mastery – of personal qualities and traits that make a great team player.

Visit Why D&D is the perfect team-building exercise for more information.

Vision and goals for the session

We envision our team-building session to bring about a noticeable increase in our department’s / team’s productivity and output. By taking on new team roles in our quest through the land of Codia, we will not only learn new skillsets under pressure, we will also practice our team’s task management and collaborative reasoning skills when faced with danger or adversity on our adventure.

We expect results to be both noticeable and quantifiable after one two-hour session of D&D – we also propose that the benefits brought on by a session of D&D can be compounded and mastered through repeated and regular sessions.

Pre and post-session reporting

We will provide you with both a report of Codia’s status before our session takes place, and a status update following completion of the session. Our preliminary report will give details as to locations of Omnicron pages, the dangers and obstacles that guard them, and the bios of the player characters themselves.

After the session has been completed, we will provide a report of the status of the three previously aforementioned details, those being: a) number of Omnicron pages recovered, b) number of encounters completed successfully, and c) status of player characters post session.

Session planning and implementation timeframe

We expect the planning stage of our proposed project to take no more than a total of ___ hours. We have come to this conclusion based on the following equation:

([1 hour] x [number of players] + [4 hours] = [total number of hours])

The reasoning behind this equation is as follows: 1 hour for each character created, and 2 hours of planning for every hour of gameplay. The gameplay planning is the responsibility of the DM.

The duration of the session is set to take no more than 2 hours. After, a post-session briefing will require a negligible amount of time.

Needed resources

  • Paper
  • Pencils
  • 2 sets of gaming dice

Budget

$10.

Session ownership and responsibility hierarchy

It is the responsibility of each party member to create their own character prior to the session taking place. Each player is required to collaborate with the DM during this process – characters must fit within the confines of the world the DM has created.

Our project manager, _____________, will take the role of DM. It will be _____________’s responsibility to create the following elements of the campaign:

  • Setting (Biome, geopolitical setting, type of civilization, objects and items that can be found, etc.)
  • Plot (different encounters, obstacles, and “hooks”)
  • Characters (characters the party will interact with in order to further the plot)
  • Enemies (stats, skills, and motivations)
  • The DM is to make sure no player is made aware of any detail of the story before the session takes place – this is to ensure every challenge is truly solved using improvisation. It is also the DM’s responsibility to never break immersion – if a player decides to take a route that has not been planned previously by the DM, the DM must cooperate.

    Players are free to make whatever choice they want to in regards to how they interact with the world presented to them – as long as their actions fit the motives of the character they are role-playing. It is the responsibility of the DM to work with these unexpected detours, and get the party back on track in an organic, unobtrusive manner.

    Risk assessment

    There is virtually no risk to this project – all normal office injuries do apply, such as: carpel tunnel, paper cuts, getting dust in your eye, etc.

    There is about as much monetary risk as a lunch out.

    Session Implications

    If this project is not accepted, not only will Codia fall into disarray and chaos, our ________ Department / Team stands to lose out on an excellent team-building opportunity with little to no risk. Due to the incredibly low risk of the project, even small increases to team efficiency will provide significant return based on the initial investment of time and capital.

    Success Criteria

    Success of this project will be measured by the following criteria:

    1. Increased rate of achieving deadlines
    2. Increased successful implementations
    3. Increased team cohesion and collaboration

    Authorization steps

    Y / N

eCommerce and ERP integration: Improving your B2B operations

Speed, efficiency, and long term goals – successful businesses in 2019 live by the pivot, and live for the future.

Integrating your ERP (enterprise resource planning) with your eCommerce is both a quick pivot, and a good investment for the longterm – and if your B2B operations lack this integration, now is the perfect time to do so.

Choosing the wrong ERP software, however, can spell doom for your company – many ERP platforms are insecure and pose a risk of data breaches. ERP software is meant to bring extra value to your customers, and increase efficiency in your daily inventory and account management – security breaches will have the direct opposite result.

Let’s get into why ERP is important, and what you need to know in order to effectively implement your own ERP integration with your eCommerce.

What it does, and why it matters

When you integrate your ERP with your eCommerce, you create a system that automatically coordinates your customer-facing storefronts with your backend inventory and accounting management systems.

This is important because it drastically increases the efficiency of your B2B operations – when an item is purchased by a customer through your eCommerce site or app, or even a physical store if you have one, your backend inventory will automatically update itself to reflect the change. At the same time, your accounting system will also update to show the transaction.

Integrating your ERP with your eCommerce creates a bi-directional flow of data – when your backend inventory management system is updated, your customer-facing digital stores will automatically in realtime update as well.

This bi-directional realtime exchange can keep track and manage your main types of data, including order, inventory, item, customer, and shipping and tracking data. For example, if you were to add a new item into the backend of your inventory, all of the information would automatically populate on your eCommerce site and/or app.

If you were to edit the description of an item in your backend to include a sale discount, the frontend would reflect that change automatically as well. As soon as a customer puts that item in their cart, your inventory management system will be made aware. As soon as that item is purchased by that customer, your accounting system will automatically note the transaction.

This saves you time that would be spent manually entering multiple sets of duplicate data – meaning you don’t have to spend as much money on menial tasks.

Integrating your ERP with your eCommerce also increases customer satisfaction and customer loyalty, which ultimately leads to larger or more frequent orders.

A great example of the value add integrating your ERP with your eCommerce brings to your customers is their ability to access their live account info 24/7 – data such as order history, invoices, realtime pricing, and realtime stock can easily be made available to them.

When your customers feel like they’re included in the inner-workings of your business, they’ll feel more in control – which increases their loyalty, satisfaction, and spending.

Even slight increases to efficiency can have lasting impact. Consider the 20 million gallons of fuel that were saved by UPS trucks not taking left turns on their delivery routes. Simple changes can have profound and lasting impact.

The investment required to integrate your ERP with your eCommerce will always be worth it in the long run – and according to Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of Vaynermedia and Chairman of VaynerX, if your business isn’t thinking about the future, you’ve already lost.

With great efficiency comes great responsibility

When you integrate your ERP with your eCommerce, you’re essentially collecting your business’s most important data in one place – it’s accessible by individual systems, but the data is shared amongst them, and the transfer of data between them can be breached.

If this happens, it can dramatically decrease your customer loyalty – which is the direct opposite of what integrating your ERP with your eCommerce is supposed to achieve.

Due to the tempting nature of this proverbial digital honeypot of business and customer data, it’s less a question of if a cyberattack will happen, and more a question of when. A recent report by Symantec found that this is a problem for companies large and small – 43% of cyber attacks are now against small businesses.

Not only do these integrated hub systems present a tempting target for data thieves, they usually tend to be implemented through third-party software. These integration systems can leave your company open to many vulnerabilities, for a few reasons:

1 – Lack of updates

When you don’t own the software, you’re unable to change the codebase to keep up with new security risks. If your company uses third-party ERP integration software, your data is at the mercy of when your provider updates their security. Lack of updates can leave your systems wide open to data breaches.

2 – Poor configuration

If your ERP system isn’t set up correctly, you’ll run the risk of leaving cracks for hackers to exploit. These vulnerabilities can include open ports, access parameter credentials that are unlocked, or issues that come from vulnerabilities left in the system.

3 – Lack of access controls

If too many people have access to your system, or have the ability to access too much data in your system, you can run the risk of an account being compromised, which would then grant access to your entire system. Use the principle of least privilege wherever applicable.

4 – DOS attacks

If hackers find a vulnerability and gain access to your system, the can use DOS (denial-of-service) attacks to shut down your operations. When all of your operations run off one system, this can bring your business to a standstill.

Due to all of these risks, you’ll want to ensure the highest level of security possible. Custom software development will always be your best option for security because it is tailor-made to your system and specifications. Also, the code is your own, so whenever you need to update your system to defend against a new security risk, you can do so without waiting for another company.

If you’d like to learn more about integrating your ERP with your eCommerce and custom inventory solutions, visit our blog on the topic.

Efficiency and speed are the keys to success

By integrating your ERP with your eCommerce, you can reduce your time spent manually entering data, streamline your systems synchronization, enable auto-notifications for customers, manage price and product changes, and integrate multiple online and offline sales channels. All of this integration is scalable as well – giving your business the ability to not only increase its demand, but handle that increased demand as well.

How to develop a MVP app when competition already exists

Developing a MVP app is great for beating your competition to market – but what do you do if your competition already exists?

Competitive analysis is your answer – and a powerful tool for helping to create a successful MVP app. By conducting a review of your competition on the App Store or Google Play, you can simplify and streamline your app’s development. While it’s great for your app to offer a completely unique experience, the most important aspect of UX is the quality of the solution your app provides its users.

In this chapter of MVP development, we’re going to go over the steps you need to take in order to run a successful competitive analysis of your competitor’s app. If you want to learn more about MVP app development, check out these other blogs:

First there was Uber – then there was Lyft

We covered this a little bit in a recent blog about market research and pain points – and we’re going to use it again, because it’s the perfect example for showcasing just what is possible from competitive analysis.

When Uber was released in 2009, it rapidly brought change to a set-in-stone industry. Users piled on to Uber as the app went relatively unchallenged, bringing a complete shake up to the taxi industry – until three years later in 2012, when Lyft came onto the scene.

Uber basically invented the idea of ride-sharing. If someone had said “ride-share” in 2008, you’d think they were phrasing “car-pooling” weirdly – Uber was also one of the first major platforms to help set up the gig economy.

Uber was so successful because of the app’s UX – finding a ride went from being a stressful guessing game fraught with social challenges that could have any outcome, to an exact process that required minimal human interaction while an app handled the logistics – for the drivers and riders both.

Uber was unstoppable – news about its earnings, tech, and disruption to the taxi industry were inescapable headlines – and then along came Lyft.

While Uber did do many things right when it came to the app’s UX, there was one single step that Lyft did better. Did Lyft take extra time to design a better screen for a certain step in the ride booking process? Did they figure out a way to improve latency throughout the app through clever implementation of real-time updating?

No. They actually took a step out. Uber – when it first started – allowed users to select an available rider from a list. Lyft, on the other hand, automatically assigns a driver to a user who has requested a ride – while this might seem like a devaluation to the use experience that Lyft provides in comparison to Uber, it was actually a huge boost.

Users never cared about who was giving them the ride – they were using Uber for the ease of finding a ride, not a driver. Ride share drivers are notorious for lacking the intimate knowledge of city routes that professional taxi drivers have, anyway – if Uber’s users were actually worried about who was giving them the ride, they’d stick with a taxi.

It’s worth noting that in 2019, Uber is still a much larger company than Lyft, but that’s not to say Lyft is either small, or a failure – as of January 2018, Lyft had 23 million users, and a market share of 29-35% worth $2.2 billion after a compound growth rate of 223% between 2014 and 2017.

What was the reason Lyft was able to grow so rapidly, when there was already a ride share giant on the scene that effectively held 100% of the market? Competitive analysis.

Let’s go over the steps you need to take in order to effectively analyze your app’s competition:

1 – Android, or iOS?

If you’re developing a MVP app, you’re probably doing so for two main reasons – affordability, and speed. Even if your app looks and functions exactly the same, if you plan on releasing it on both Google Play and the App Store, your app will require two different code bases; therefore, you’ll be spending extra time and money on two separate development teams, two beta tests, two marketing and ASO campaigns, and two app review, approval, and publishing processes.

Basically, if you’re developing a MVP app, and you plan on publishing to both the App Store and Google play, your app isn’t really a MVP anymore. We recommend developing your MVP for iOS for many reasons – the main being that IOS users engage more with apps than their Android counterparts.

If your competition only exists on Android devices, you should ask yourself a few questions:

  1. Is your target market heavily skewed towards Android devices?
  2. Is your app based around a pain point only Android users face?
  3. What is better for your app – competing against another app on Google Play, or capitalizing on an untapped market on the App Store?

Obviously, if your target market prefers Android devices, or your app gives users tools to create their own widgets for the Android homescreen, your MVP app should be designed for Android devices, and publish to Google Play.

In almost all other cases of MVP app development, iOS is going to be the best platform for quick growth, and high rates of user retention and engagement – the lifeblood of a MVP app.

2 – Categorize your competition

After deciding on your app’s launch platform, you’ll want to head on over to the App Store, and begin searching using keywords that are related to your app so you can begin analyzing your competition.

There are three levels of competition your app will face:

  1. Primary – These are apps that are competing for the same target market, and provide solutions to the same pain point. Think Uber vs. Lyft.
  2. Secondary – These are apps that seek a different market than your own, but provide a very similar solution. Think Snapchat vs. Instagram.
  3. Tertiary – These are apps that tangentially come into contact with your app’s target market, or pain point. Think LinkedIn vs. Facebook.

Knowing who falls where in these categories will allow you to hone your competitive analysis research, strengthen your chances at developing a successful app – MVPs are all about efficiency of production, after all.

3 – Examine your competitor’s app

There are two aspects of an app to pay close attention to when analyzing your competition:

  1. Design
  2. UX

The design your competition uses can always stand to be refurbished – UI trends and user expectations are evolving constantly for many reasons – two big culprits being bigger screens, and better, faster tech. For app design ideas that will stand up to the tests of 2019, check out these blogs:

  1. Top app design practices – 2019
  2. Five mobile app design ideas

Make note of what looks good, what can be changed, and what should absolutely be updated. Don’t be afraid to come to a similar design solution – if it works, it works. Design is a language; design like Yoda talks, you shouldn’t.

The flow of an app is exceedingly important to the UX it provides. Any snag in the process will almost surely take away from the positive experiences of an app – too many snags, and users will immediately abandon it in favor of a competitor.

That’s where you come in – if there’s one step in the flow of your competitor’s app that creates a hang-up in the process, you can use that to your advantage – just like Lyft did.

4 – Identify your competitor’s ASO and market positioning

Take a close look at your competitor’s page on the App Store – make a note of what they include in their short and long App Store descriptions, the types of videos they show, the promotional text they use, and the keywords they are utilizing.

These pieces of information will give you insight into what your target market has come to expect. This will set the standard, and the expectations to exceed when marketing your app, and building out your ASO.

If, for example you were making an app similar to Brew Trader, you’d want to pay close attention to what keywords it is ranking for. You can do this without any special tools by searching as many terms as you can come up with that have something to do with “beer” and “trade.”

Here’s a great keyword analysis tool for Google Play: https://keywordtool.io/app-store

Also, take a look at how your competition engages their target audience through social media, and their main website – apps require a web presence just like any product. Many times, users are made aware of a new app through engagement on social media, and then search the App Store for the app.

5 – Pricing model

This step is pretty simple – does your competition use advertising through a free app to generate revenue? Is it subscription based, or a one-time-fee on download? Or, does it utilize in-app purchases to drive revenue, like many games do? These are pretty much the four pricing models available to every app on the App Store or Google Play.

You’ll want your app’s cost to be in the same range as your direct competition – and since you’re making a MVP app, you might even be able to charge a little less.

6 – User reviews and ratings

The best part about competition already existing is a lot of your market research is already done for you. All you have to do is go to your competitor’s page on the App Store or Google Play, and check out the reviews and ratings left by users – they’re basically free focus group sessions!

Pay attention to what users like, and what they don’t like – many times apps can be slow to change, as to accommodate user requests can mean completely re-structuring the backend of an app’s architecture, or the company might lack the funding to implement updates.

Include the features you see most requested – but always make sure your app’s feature set compliments the solution to its pain point. Developing a MVP app means creating something that provides a solution to a pain point with as little features as possible. For more advice on creating tight feature sets, check out our blog on the topic.

7 – Company diagnostic

While this isn’t necessary to the success of your app, it can give you insight into the future of your own company. Two easy researchable things to look out for:

  1. Are they hiring?
  2. Are they receiving any funding?

The figures you find can give you an idea of what to expect down the road – don’t be dissuaded if the company isn’t hiring or hasn’t received any funding recently – they might only need a small team, or don’t require any outside investment.

Most importantly – have fun

When you’re conducting your competitive analysis, you’ll want to make sure you’re in the mindset of a user. The best way to create a successful app is to create a fun experience – this is why gamification has become such a phenomena in app design.

The easiest way to get into the mindset of a user is to forget you’re conducting competitive analysis – use the app the same way a user would, and you’ll gain much more insight into the experience it provides.

How do I build my first app?

Are you getting ready to make your first app, but you aren’t sure where to begin? Well, don’t worry – we’ve gone ahead and made you your very own app development roadmap!

With a little bit of planning, some market research, and practicing the implementation of a few marketing fundamentals, you’ll be well on your way to launching a successful app. Unless you plan on actually coding the app yourself, your developer will be there to help you along your app creation journey.

If you want to teach yourself how to code an app, our Swift and Android development guides are a great place to start. If you’re planning on making a code-less app, here are three blogs that go over the reasons why we believe native app development will always be your best option when it comes to making an app:

Step 1: Your pain point

Ideation is the first step in your app’s development – just like any product. All apps are designed around solving a pain point – it’s why users engage with apps – Face App answers the important questions like “what will I look like when I’m old?,” Waze helps you dodge traffic, and Instagram makes every shot look like a pro took it.

Something important to note is that your app’s pain point doesn’t need to be unique – all games solve the same problem: boredom. Your app can even solve the problem using largely the same feature set as a competing app – it really only has to do one thing differently to make an impact on the App Store of Google Play.

If your app’s pain point is in line with another already existent app, download your competitor and use it a few times – research and pay attention to how the app interacts with its users, and take note of what could be changed. Next week, we’ll be going into a lot more detail on how to develop a MVP app when your competition already has a grip on the market, so stay on the look out!

If your app isn’t facing any competition, make sure to conduct as much market research as you can – it’s important to tailor your research to the purpose of your app, however. For a detailed guide on the methodology behind conducting market research for your app, check out our MVP development: Market research and pain points blog.

Step 2: Your design

When on the topic of apps, the word “design” can refer to a lot of different aspects of app development. The first part of an app that needs to be designed is your main user story. A user story can be thought of as the steps a user takes when interacting with your app.

User stories can look very different depending on the nature of your app. A workout tracker app will see lots of downtime in between periods of quick interactions from the user over the course of their workout – a gaming app will see continuous interaction for the duration of their session.

User stories are important because they give you a roadmap for how to design the UI (user interface) of your app. A lot of questions can be answered by determining your main user story – that being the most likely situation users will be in when engaging with your app.

So, if you’re making a workout app, you’d want to stick with bold, energetic colors, big buttons, and easy-to-read, quick messages. If you were making a game, while you’d most likely still work with bold colors, you’d want to include a wider range and variance of colors, your UI will be more complicated to facilitate your app’s gameplay mechanics, and messages can afford to be a little longer (not too much though – apps are about quick feedback and interaction).

Other things to keep in mind when designing your app’s UI: the most likely time of day (or night) users will be interacting with your app, where they’ll be (out and about, or sitting down), the mood they can be expected to be in, and whether or not they’ll have access to wifi (some features require a lot of data to be transferred between the user’s device and a server).

If you’d like more tips on designing an app, as well as ideas for designing an app that will keep up with users’ expectations in 2019, check out these two blogs:

After you’ve sketched out a few screens of your app, and have a little bit of an understanding of how users would interact with it, it’s time to find a developer. When searching for a developer, always start with Clutch or The Manifest, or other software development sites like DesignRush. Sites like these collect reviews of developers from past clients, and provide rankings based on their portfolio, ability to deliver, and other metrics.

This will help you narrow down your search. There’s a lot that goes in to finding and building a relationship with your developer. For more tips and info, check out our blogs on the topic:

From here, the developer you’ve partnered with will begin designing the finalized versions of your app’s frontend and backend. The frontend of your app is the UI, and is what users interact with – the backend is the logic of your app.

Backends provide the architecture that keeps your app functioning – this is where your app’s APIs (Application Programming Interface) will connect with your app’s code to provide extra functionality. An example of an API is Google Maps, or the “log in with Facebook” button some apps use – APIs can be thought of as building blocks that speed up the development of your app.

APIs are a handy tool because they (usually) do their task extremely well, and will add to the overall UX (user experience) of your app because of their robustness and expertise at what they do. You do need to be careful when selecting which APIs your app will utilize, however – there are security risks and ethical violations that can come from implementing a bad API.

The backend also encompasses the nodes in your app that connect to databases that are stored in servers – storing data in remote servers means your app takes up less storage space on your users’ devices, and it loads faster – all key factors in helping to grow and maintain your app’s user retention.

Before you settle on how your app will be designed, you need to decide which platform (iOS or Android) will be best for your app. For more information on choosing between iOS or Android, check out these blogs:

Step 3: ASO and launch

ASO – or App Store Optimization, is the process of building your app’s rank in the App Store or Google Play by strengthening these key metrics:

  • User Acquisition
  • User Retention
  • User Engagement
  • User Ratings
  • User Reviews
  • Keywords

After putting all of these metrics through a formula, your app will be ranked on the App Store and Google Play. Your app’s ranking is incredibly important – when users on the App Store or Google Play search the app store using the phrase “workout app,” the keywords you’ve selected, and the metrics created by your user data, will determine where on the list of workout apps your’s will show.

This is why keyword selection is a finely-tuned process – try to rank for keywords that are too competitive, and your app (when it’s starting out, at least) might not be able to handle the heat. Ignore popular searches and your app might miss out on a huge number of conversions. For more about ASO, check out our ASO: 101 blog.

After selecting your keywords, and collecting all the media your app will need for its page on the App Store, Google Play, or both, (that being your app’s icon, promotional text, screenshots, a promotional video), you’ll want to submit your app for review. Apple’s review process is much more stringent than Google’s, and both have one-time publication fees, and take 30% of each purchase. The App Store has a yearly fee for hosting your app as well.

Once your app is launched, you’ll want to use your standard marketing channels, and social media to get the word out there – while apps do rely heavily on ASO for growth, traditional marketing campaigns still have there place.

After launch, pay attention to user reviews and ratings, and make sure to hook your app up to an analytics service like Kumulos. These allow you to analyze detailed reports on user data, giving you the ability to find trouble spots so you can maximize your app’s user retention.

Finally, it’s time to start all over again – apps require frequent updates to stay competitive.

There’s no magic formula

Mobile app development isn’t much different from any type of software development – it can just seem daunting because it’s still relatively new. But with the right developer and idea, your app stands a good chance at being a success.

Improving your business development process with an internal business app

If you work in business development, sales, outreach – or any facet of business that deals with the exchange of goods or services for economic gain – you know the struggles of dealing with client expectations, leads going cold, client acquisition, and all the other challenges that come with the territory of selling – either emotional or job-wise.

We’re living in the age of user experience – clients expect your engagements to be even more personalized and targeted to their needs than the native ads they see on social media. In fact, 79% of your communication efforts will go ignored by clients if the messages don’t meet your clients’ standards of desired personalization.

We’re also living in the age of speed – not only do your communications need to be personalized, you need the ability to react to changing demands and needs, new challenges, and new opportunities – and sometimes, even quick reactions aren’t enough – predicting your clients’ needs is the only true way to stay on top of your game and reduce client churn, dead ends, and increase your numbers.

The most effective way to accomplish this is by integrating your business development process with an internal business app.

For more examples of how you can improve your company’s efficiency, culture, and processes, check out these blogs:

In this blog, we’re going to go over the different features and capabilities an internal business app can add to your business development practices.

Lead management

Introducing yourself is easy – it’s keeping track of who’s who after the fact that’s the difficult part. It’s already hard enough when meeting prospective clients in face-to-face networking events, let alone when dealing faceless customer profiles aggregated through your website’s analytics.

Keeping track of leads, both at scale and speed, is crucial to your company’s success in today’s market. With the mobile revolution and the burgeoning IoT, large corporations aren’t the only businesses with global reach – the interconnectedness of markets and systems means your client can be halfway around the world, or right down the street – your methods for selling to them will largely remain the same, but their expectations will vary.

Measuring data is key to predicting your clients’ needs. By utilizing an internal business app that can keep track of customer relationship analytics like how often you speak with your most billed client, pending orders, or previous support inquires made, you can more accurately predict their requests or questions.

With an internal business app, you can automate both your relationship analytics, and your mid funnel marketing processes; such as marketing and re-marketing campaigns that utilize email or text to keep your prospective clients engaged with your business.

Even for businesses with smaller budgets, who lack the ability to implement complex backend systems necessary for such automation, a small backend system that auto-imports client data to your business developers is achievable – when a client fills out their info on your website, the backend system can then add it to their customer profile in your database. Small increases in efficiency can provide a huge boost to your employee’s productivity.

When your sales team adds contact information to a customer profile from a lead they just created, the data all ends up in the same place. Not only does this make it impossible to lose or create duplicate pieces of client data, it means that if a sales representative is no longer with your company, the lead’s info stays within your database – not on your employee’s personal phone.

Client communications

A small business in Virginia is expected to communicate with a client in London in the same manner as a large corporation with a London-based office would.

Customer service means a lot more than being polite and knowing your client’s first name – it means being able to answer their questions before they ask them – using the same phrases and language someone from their corner of the world would. Before you can achieve this capability, however, you first need to develop and maintain a personal connection with your clients.

The easiest way to create a personal relationship with a client is to know their personal needs – this means past interactions, as well as possibilities for potential business they have expressed to you.

Every business knows customer satisfaction is the number one key to success, and failure to meet customers’ expectations will spell the doom of any company. Knowledge is power – and in this case, knowledgable employees means happy clients.

Customer service and a personalized experience are important – in 2016, out of customers that switched services, 64% reported their reason was because of lack of a good experience with the company that was serving them – not due to the cost of services provided.

With the help of an internal business app, you can make sure every interaction with every client is measured, strategic, personal, and under control – meaning there’s no surprises for either you or your client, and everyone is sure to be happy.

Referral mangagement

Everyone knows the power of a good referral. Other than reengaging with an existing customer, it’s the most cost effective method for driving sales.

It’s truly a small world – but without a data management system made possible by an internal business app, networking and business development can look like a vast, disconnected landscape.

Through the backend client data management system made possible by an internal business app, you can connect the dots to figure out who knows who. Maybe one of your best clients knows that lead your business developer just added into your system? As soon as the data points connect (which, with the implementation of real-time updating, can be near-instantaneous), your entire business development team will know.

Your employee out in the field can start a conversation with the new potential client about your company’s work with the existing client, or, you can get a head start on communicating the request for a referral from your best client.

Having the power to connect referrals with new leads both at speed and in the field is a great tool to increase your lead generation: customers acquired through referrals have a 37% higher retention rate.

With an internal business app, you can, of course, add these referrals to your lead’s contact information that is stored on their personal profile – so all the data you would ever need to know about a client is stored in the same place, and is accessible from anywhere.

Account Management

When was the meeting with David? No, the other David. You know – the one with the on-demand dog walking app?

An internal business app mitigates these wasted minutes. If an account representative schedules a call with David-the-dog-walker, your account manager will know as well, because all the information David and his business can be found in the same place – his client profile in your internal business app.

Assigning tasks, scheduling meetings, making sure follow-up emails are sent, and phone calls are placed is simple when it’s automated. You can even set up automatic notifications to make sure no task is left by the wayside, as a double layer of redundancy to ensure your clients’ satisfaction.

Strengthen your customer relationships

There’s no better system than an internal business app for keeping the ever-changing world of business development in check. By managing and analyzing client data, you can increase lead generation, and solidify existing customer relationships through your internal business app.

We hope you’ve found this blog informative! If you’re interested in learning about the cost of implementing the capabilities we discussed, check out our How much does it cost to implement backend CRM software? blog.