You don't want to be at the receiving end of a disaster stemming from a flawed mobile strategy--especially one that could have been averted had you known what works and what doesn't.

An alarming number of entrepreneurs still make the most fundamental mistakes while building a mobile-first startup. In my four years of actively mentoring a few hundred entrepreneurs and businesses on effective mobile strategies, I've seen many common factors that had an impact on traction. I helped them identify the issue causing a roadblock in growth and would often see surprised faces.

I don't want you to go through the journey and then encounter problems with app downloads. So here are the major roadblocks to avoid on your path to user growth.

1. Focus on growth

Ironically, focusing on growth itself in the initial stages of your app creates a roadblock to getting traction. The single most important metric for an app immediately after launch is retention, not downloads.

What would you rather have in the first 30 days of your app launch: 100,000 downloads, but no one who uses the app a second time, or 100 passionate users who regularly use your app? If you can get a small number of people extremely excited and passionately hooked on your app, rest assured they will make sure you hit that 100,000 or 1 million download mark in a very short time.

2. No market need

Often the most difficult part of building a product is identifying a product/market fit. While identifying a need may be easier if you come across the problem in your own personal or professional life, it is tough to validate if others have the same problem.

Most often, apps get built on a hunch, validated through straight Q&As with friends (who may not even be potential customers), and put out into the app store only to realize that people aren't downloading the app. The gaps are most often in realizing others have the same problem and secondly, in the way you've solved the problem for them, or your execution.

The way to overcome this challenge is to launch an app with just its core value offering to test your hypothesis. Integrate analytics to see how your current users are behaving, interview those customers to understand whether your solution addresses their problems, and continue to iterate on the app to finally build what your customers would want.

3. Noah's Ark syndrome

The notion of "If you build it, they will come," started and ended with Noah. It alarms me to see entrepreneurs and businesses make the mistake of thinking that just because they're building an app and putting it in the app store, users will flock to download the app.

This sort of thinking is the biggest roadblock to getting traction or downloads. With more than a million apps in the app store, what are the chances that a user will discover your app? Distribution is the hardest part of building a successful mobile app and you certainly should not take it for granted. Instead, have a marketing plan ready and begin to execute it even before the app is launched. Clear generated so much press and curiosity before it launched that in the first few days, it garnered more than 350,000 downloads.

4. Incrementally better

What was the customer insight that you had before building your app? That your customers find a gap in a feature or two that their existing apps don't provide? If that's the recipe for your app, it's also the recipe for disaster!

Don't build apps that are incrementally better than your competitors, especially if they're already the popular ones. The reason is that people don't often jump ship just because a better mousetrap comes into the market.

The cost of replacing a product is very high, as it involves fresh investment, new learning, change in behavior and often bringing their network onto a new platform. All of this often becomes a deterrent for people when it comes to adapting an incrementally better product.

5. Looking for partnerships

Let's face it, no one is interested in making your product successful other than you. Partnerships don't make your app successful, but customers do. Is your app serving the needs of another business, or the end customer? Because if it is the latter, than why should another business be interested in your app on day one when it remains an untested hypothesis? Partnerships don't yield any results unless there is a deep-rooted interest for both parties. Focus instead on acquiring customers.

6. Fail to communicate value

Oftentimes good products just don't get the traction they deserve. And that's not because they couldn't build something that people wanted, but it's that they couldn't communicate effectively to those people how the app could change their lives.

Craft your messaging to clearly communicate the value or benefit that your app proposes to its customers. The messaging should be in simple words, nothing fancy. Keep it short and stay focused on why a user should download your app.

Published on: Oct 29, 2014