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How to find your app target audience

Indians in traditional dress stood in group.

Pinpointing a target audience often trips up developers, who find it irresistible to be all things to everyone. But the truth is that before deciding exactly what your app will do, it’s important to think clearly about whom you’re building it for. It’s the first step in creating an app that people want.

 It’s tempting to try to build an app that will appeal to everyone, hoping it rewards you with a huge customer base. It won’t. You’ll end up overloading your app with too many features in a vain attempt to please everyone, sinking your app to the bottom of the iTunes Store. Not even Coca-Cola sells to everyone.

Your app will be available all over the world, in countries with customs, cultures, social structures, and beliefs far beyond your personal experience. So you need to toss aside the traditional demographics such as age, gender, and income. That too can lead you down the wrong path. There is an entirely different way of looking at app consumers and defining the unique community you plan to serve.

Go tribal

Instead of categorising and quantifying your audience, think of them as a tribe. We are all members of various tribes connected by our values, goals, interests, and life stages. Your tribe could share a love for the outdoors, loyalty to a sports team, or a knitting addiction. Perhaps they’re job hunting or trying to shed ten pounds.

Becoming a parent, for example, introduced me to the “motherhood” tribe. It completely reshaped me from a globe-trotting-thrill-seeker to a nose-wiping-eat-your-veggies-read-a-book-instead-nut. Mostly, I was suddenly best friends with all mums, even if we had very little else in common. No matter what language we speak, our age, personal beliefs, or cultures we’re from, we all want the same thing—a happy and healthy family. So we exchange tips about helpful blogs, reliable babysitters, knowledgeable paediatricians and healthy recipes.

To narrow down your tribe, try identifying key characteristics that unite the people you envision using your app, such as a shared passion, stage of life, or desire for change. Remember, your success is inversely proportional to the size of the market you choose to target, so aim to keep it small. Answering this list of questions will help you.

  • What are my tribe’s shared passions, values, and beliefs? Do they share a common goal?
  • Is my tribe at a particular life stage? Puberty? Parenthood? Graduation?
  • What is their common identity, sense of belonging, and expression?
  • Who do they hang out with? Where do they hang out (both on- and offline)?
  • What is my tribe currently talking about? An event? A product? A problem?
  • What rituals do they practice?
  • What goods and services is my tribe passionate about? How do they link them to others?
  • How will my app impact their lives? How does it make their world a better place?

“The most important part of our entire process is the beginning—deciding what to build. The first filter an app has to pass for us is relevancy to our own kids because they are a great proxy for the market we serve.”

Christopher Taylor, founder of Playtend (Counting Ants app)

This is an edited extract taken from Idea to iPhone: The essential guide to creating your first app for the iPhone and iPad, by Carla White. It is published by Wiley, RRP £19.99