Developing Perspective

#97: Sales and Power Songs.


00:00:00   Hello and welcome to Developing Perspective.

00:00:03   Developing Perspective is a podcast discussing news of note in iOS development, Apple, and

00:00:07   the like.

00:00:08   I'm your host, David Smith.

00:00:09   I'm an independent iOS and Mac developer based in Herne, Virginia.

00:00:11   This is show number 97, and today is Tuesday, November 27th.

00:00:16   Developing Perspective is never longer than 15 minutes, so let's get started.

00:00:20   All right, so this is kind of a follow-on to this last weekend, which here in the US

00:00:25   was Thanksgiving and the traditional start

00:00:29   of the holiday shopping season.

00:00:31   And along that, there's this thing we call Black Friday

00:00:33   and Cyber Monday, which are both terrible names,

00:00:36   but just generally refer to this practice and process

00:00:40   whereby people who sell things, put them on sale

00:00:46   the Friday after Thanksgiving

00:00:47   and the Monday after Thanksgiving

00:00:49   to jumpstart sales and get ready for the holidays.

00:00:52   And then you think a little bit about hub sales.

00:00:55   I put my apps on sale for Thanksgiving,

00:00:57   checked the weather, and my recipe book were both on sale.

00:01:00   And I kind of wanted to talk a little bit about sales,

00:01:03   how they work, the mechanics of that,

00:01:05   as well as just kind of like why you should do them,

00:01:07   why you shouldn't do them, how often you should do them,

00:01:09   those kinds of things.

00:01:11   So basically, the mechanics of putting an app on sale

00:01:14   are fairly straightforward.

00:01:16   iTunes Connect has made this a lot simpler in recent years.

00:01:20   Basically, in the rights and pricing area of iTunes Connect,

00:01:24   you just specify a schedule for pricing for your app.

00:01:27   And you can do this for apps as well as for in-app purchases.

00:01:29   So if you want to put an in-app purchase on sale,

00:01:32   you can also do that.

00:01:33   Just make sure that your app is smart enough

00:01:35   to always be refreshing the bundle price before you

00:01:39   display it to the user, which I think

00:01:41   you sort of have to do anyway, but I've definitely

00:01:43   run into that trap before.

00:01:45   But basically, you can set a schedule.

00:01:47   And this can basically be as arbitrarily complicated

00:01:50   as you want.

00:01:51   But it can only be as granular as a day.

00:01:55   And essentially, you can set the price to change at midnight

00:01:59   on the day that you set it to.

00:02:00   So if you wanted it to go on sale on Saturday morning,

00:02:04   essentially, you would set the date to be Saturday and at 12

00:02:08   o'clock PM.

00:02:10   And I think it's in the local time zone,

00:02:11   though I'm not 100% sure on that.

00:02:14   The price will just change.

00:02:15   And users buying the app at that point

00:02:17   will just see a different price in the store,

00:02:18   will see a different price in your app for an in-app purchase,

00:02:20   and will take effect.

00:02:22   You can set an end date or not.

00:02:24   And when the end date arrives, essentially

00:02:26   at midnight on the day before you set at the end,

00:02:29   it will appear and that'll be it.

00:02:33   Sort of the new price will change.

00:02:35   And so when I wanted to go in and put my app on sale,

00:02:37   I just set--

00:02:38   for me, I was dropping the price at $0.99 for two days.

00:02:42   So basically I said from now until--

00:02:45   in this case, it was the Saturday--

00:02:47   the price should be $0.99.

00:02:49   And I added that, and then it just said from now

00:02:52   till Saturday, price will be 99 cents.

00:02:55   After that, it goes back to its old price, which worked great.

00:02:58   It's really nice that they automate that.

00:03:00   The only thing that's tricky is, of course,

00:03:02   if you're going to do any kind of update in the app's

00:03:04   description, which you probably will, just indicate,

00:03:07   hey, the app's on sale, or this is a limited-item offer,

00:03:10   get it for now before the price goes up.

00:03:13   You can do all those kinds of things.

00:03:15   Make sure you go in and undo them as soon as you can

00:03:17   after the sale's off.

00:03:19   Just you're not sending the wrong messages to your users.

00:03:22   But as for the mechanics, that's really it.

00:03:24   And like I said, it's pretty straightforward,

00:03:25   nicely automated for you.

00:03:27   One thing to be very careful about heading into the

00:03:29   Christmas season is typically over Christmas, iTunes Connect

00:03:35   is down, and I believe this year is the same.

00:03:37   I think it may even be down for a longer window this year.

00:03:40   Something like the 21st to 27th sticks in my head, so I'm

00:03:43   not sure about that.

00:03:44   But basically, you want to be very careful about doing

00:03:47   scheduling price changes during the outage window.

00:03:50   That's for two reasons.

00:03:51   One, sometimes they just won't apply.

00:03:54   And there's, you know, often their iTunes Connect

00:03:56   documentation will tell you this, that during an outage,

00:03:59   you know, any changes you make

00:04:00   may or may not actually happen.

00:04:01   And if they don't happen, that's not great.

00:04:04   If you're, you know, you're lowering your price,

00:04:05   expecting it to jump back,

00:04:07   say like you lowered your price,

00:04:08   trying to boost your rank going into Christmas day.

00:04:11   This point was highly possible.

00:04:12   There will continue to be that price on Christmas day,

00:04:14   which may not have been what you wanted.

00:04:17   Second, any time you make a change in something

00:04:19   in iTunes Connect, there's some chance

00:04:21   that something could go funny.

00:04:23   Exactly what that is will vary a lot,

00:04:24   but you just never know.

00:04:26   Something could just go funny.

00:04:27   And I've had this before.

00:04:29   Like, one of my apps was just sort

00:04:30   of unavailable for purchase for a day,

00:04:32   because somehow iTunes Connect got stuck in a weird state.

00:04:35   Who knows?

00:04:37   That kind of stuff happens, and so I'd always

00:04:38   be careful about doing it before what is traditionally

00:04:41   the biggest sales day of the year, which is Christmas Day.

00:04:44   So just be very careful about changing prices

00:04:46   too much right around Christmas, I'd probably recommend

00:04:49   just doing anything you want to do, get it set up,

00:04:52   and then just kind of lock it in for the Christmas ride.

00:04:55   So just something to keep in mind.

00:04:58   Then I was going to kind of think about

00:05:01   how effective are sales?

00:05:03   Do you actually end up making money?

00:05:05   Is it a really useful marketing tool?

00:05:07   I'd say maybe.

00:05:10   Generally speaking, I found sales to be--

00:05:14   Typically I don't lose money on sales, but I rarely make a lot more money.

00:05:19   When you do a sale, you're kind of having a couple of different goals.

00:05:24   Really, there's probably three.

00:05:28   You're trying to boost your rank and attract more users that way.

00:05:30   You're trying to get exposure from the variety of services and websites

00:05:34   and things that talk about app pricing that you'll hopefully be flagged as like,

00:05:38   "Oh, on sale today," and you get a little bit of publicity and exposure that way.

00:05:41   And you're hopefully also trying to encourage those users

00:05:43   who are very price sensitive to download your app

00:05:46   if they wouldn't get downloaded otherwise.

00:05:48   If they're just in their minds,

00:05:50   like I only buy 99 cent apps,

00:05:51   and there's nothing you can do,

00:05:52   no you can't make your app,

00:05:54   there's no amount of awesome that you can build

00:05:56   into your app that will make it sell to them,

00:05:59   you're just trying to attract that user

00:06:00   and sort of integrate the curve for them

00:06:02   and be like, you're going to get that little bit of,

00:06:05   that segment of the market you're going to be able

00:06:07   to monetize.

00:06:08   And to some degree they work,

00:06:10   I mean, I've put apps on sale and sometimes I've lost money.

00:06:14   Sometimes I've just broken even, which is sort of good.

00:06:18   But like this last one, I had two apps on sale. My recipe book and Check the Weather.

00:06:22   My recipe book did much better in revenue, which is great.

00:06:26   The sales seemed to work and kind of coincided well with, I guess, Thanksgiving and the cooking going on.

00:06:30   So that was great. Check the Weather, on the other hand, didn't really do

00:06:34   much better at all. I basically broke even, maybe slightly lower in sales,

00:06:38   which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

00:06:40   I mean, from a revenue perspective,

00:06:42   I'd rather in some ways have more users

00:06:44   because hopefully they're going to like it

00:06:46   and share it with their friends and things,

00:06:47   but it's definitely another thing

00:06:50   you're always going to make money on.

00:06:52   And I think especially the effect of a sale

00:06:55   wears off dramatically after a day or two.

00:06:57   It's not the kind of thing that you put on sale for a week.

00:07:00   You're going to get a better impact

00:07:01   than if you put on sale for a day or two.

00:07:03   For me, I just put it on sale, I think,

00:07:04   for basically two days.

00:07:07   it was basically Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

00:07:09   And I think that after, you know, sort of,

00:07:12   it seemed as though that was, you know,

00:07:14   my rank in other changes that were happening on late Friday

00:07:18   were, seemed to have basically settled out.

00:07:20   And so it wasn't the kind of thing

00:07:21   that I was continuing to see an advantage,

00:07:23   and so I may as well raise my price

00:07:24   and make a little bit more money on the revenue side.

00:07:27   And that's really speaks to a little bit

00:07:28   of the frequency question,

00:07:30   how often should you put your apps on sale?

00:07:32   Traditionally I would say you don't want to do it too often.

00:07:36   it's always tricky if you create this expectation with your users

00:07:39   that they should be waiting for the app to go on sale before they buy it,

00:07:43   because it's entirely possible, or if not likely, that they'll forget about it,

00:07:48   that something else will catch their interest and they'll use that instead,

00:07:53   or just that if you've gotten someone's attention to be thinking about your app,

00:07:59   you want them to buy it.

00:08:01   You want as few reservations you could possibly have in their mind

00:08:04   as to why this would not be an awesome time

00:08:06   for them to give you a couple bucks.

00:08:08   And so you just want to be very careful about,

00:08:10   if they go to App Shopper or one of those kinds of sites,

00:08:13   and I'm not sure how many people do this kind of shopping,

00:08:16   but I'm sure there are a fair few,

00:08:18   go to a site like App Shopper

00:08:19   that shows you the price history,

00:08:21   and if it looks like every couple weeks

00:08:23   it's bumping down, bumping up,

00:08:25   jumping down, bumping up,

00:08:26   you're probably going to be,

00:08:28   they're probably going to wait for it to bump down again.

00:08:31   And so for me, I typically,

00:08:32   I'd say I put my apps on sale.

00:08:35   It's maybe kind of like a semi-annually,

00:08:37   maybe every six months, once a year, something like that.

00:08:40   It depends on the app, it depends on if there's

00:08:41   a good situation or a reason for it to be on sale.

00:08:45   But typically I try to do it no more frequently than that.

00:08:48   There's a period of time I even were,

00:08:50   I used to, there was a time when you could,

00:08:52   I found a little pattern where if I dropped the sale price

00:08:57   on Saturday, it would boost my rank,

00:09:00   and then I would raise my price again on Sunday

00:09:03   and it would boost my revenue

00:09:04   'cause Sundays were my heaviest volume day

00:09:06   and so being slightly higher ranked would be beneficial.

00:09:10   And I tried that for a little while and it sort of worked.

00:09:11   Like I was squeezing out an extra like five or 10%.

00:09:13   This was a couple years ago.

00:09:15   I'm not sure if the app store would respond

00:09:17   in the same way as it did then,

00:09:19   but what I found with that,

00:09:20   being frequently changing the price

00:09:22   is that I got a lot of people who were really upset

00:09:25   when on Sunday they bought the app

00:09:26   and it was more expensive

00:09:28   and they kind of felt cheated because I was constantly

00:09:32   bumping the price lower and higher, lower and higher.

00:09:34   And if they missed a window, it kind of felt annoying

00:09:36   to them.

00:09:37   And that was, as soon as I sort of started getting

00:09:39   that feedback, I stopped playing that game.

00:09:40   It just wasn't worth kind of this extra 5%

00:09:42   that I was squeezing out to have all these people

00:09:44   who were really annoyed at the price changes.

00:09:47   And they're like, "What's going on?

00:09:48   "My friend bought it for, got it for 99 cents,

00:09:50   "I got it for $2.

00:09:51   "He got it for 99 cents, I got it for $2.

00:09:53   "What's going on?"

00:09:54   And so I just kind of stopped that game

00:09:56   and kind of moved on.

00:09:57   But that's sort of how you do it and the mechanics of it.

00:10:01   Like I said, sales are great to have a short-term goal

00:10:06   if you're trying to target something specific.

00:10:10   Otherwise, there's not really that much point to it.

00:10:13   I think generally, you raise your price,

00:10:15   it'll probably make a little bit more money.

00:10:17   Unless you're going after ranks, if you're going after--

00:10:19   it's like when I launch Check the Weather,

00:10:21   I dropped the price of $1 because I

00:10:23   thought it would make a little bit more money there.

00:10:25   And it did, I think, in terms of being

00:10:27   able to have that extra rank support when you really are ranking aggressively.

00:10:31   But otherwise, it only has limited effect.

00:10:34   All right, so that's the main topic for today.

00:10:37   I'm going to talk a little bit for the last part of this, just about, this is kind of

00:10:41   more of the personal section or whatever.

00:10:44   I'm just going to talk about something that I've been struggling with recently in the

00:10:47   hopes that other, you know, sort of it's helpful to hear that someone else is struggling with

00:10:50   it if you are yourself.

00:10:52   And it's this constant, it's sort of the problem of focus.

00:10:55   It's something that I've struggled with a lot over the years.

00:10:57   I've written articles about it.

00:10:59   But it's just something that is so difficult, I find,

00:11:02   as an independent, where your time is your own.

00:11:06   There's no one telling you you have to do anything

00:11:08   by a particular time.

00:11:09   And that makes it incredibly difficult

00:11:11   when you are trying to get things done.

00:11:13   That you have lots of different sort of,

00:11:16   like lots of different fingers and lots of different pies.

00:11:20   And you can always kind of be moving between things.

00:11:22   It's hard to know what's the highest priority,

00:11:24   what you should be working on.

00:11:26   And it's really discouraging and often even depressing

00:11:29   when you kind of go through a day

00:11:31   and you're just kind of like, man, I got nothing done today.

00:11:34   I did lots of tiny things that don't really add up

00:11:36   to hardly anything being done.

00:11:39   And there's no accountability for that

00:11:40   because you're just independent.

00:11:41   Like, what are you going to do?

00:11:43   And I guess the encouraging thing that I'd say is,

00:11:46   what I find is you just have to kind of work your way

00:11:49   through it.

00:11:51   Whenever I had to hit these spells,

00:11:52   and I had a couple last week where I just couldn't

00:11:54   get anything done, you just kind of have to work out

00:11:57   what are the tricks that can try and jump start you

00:12:02   into the zone or jump start you into a productive place.

00:12:06   And just focus on those.

00:12:07   There's not a lot of, I wouldn't say there's necessarily

00:12:09   a lot of, I don't even know, these productivity hacks.

00:12:13   It's not like you need to reorganize your to-do list.

00:12:15   Your to-do list needs to be better.

00:12:16   You need a bolder bolder, redder red,

00:12:19   to steal Merlin Mann's phrase.

00:12:21   It's not that you need to organize

00:12:22   what you need to do better.

00:12:23   You just need to get yourself in a chair

00:12:25   with fewer distractions, focus on your task, and do it.

00:12:30   And for me, this is how I kind of do that.

00:12:32   Like when I hit this, I think it was last Thursday,

00:12:34   I just couldn't get things done.

00:12:36   And I was like, okay, I need to focus.

00:12:38   So for me, what I do is I have sort of like,

00:12:41   it's almost like I have an emergency stash of music.

00:12:44   And they're songs that I don't go to very often

00:12:47   because they're a little intense,

00:12:49   but they really help kind of focus

00:12:50   and amp me up and get me going.

00:12:53   And for me, it's a band called Dragon Force,

00:12:56   which if you're not familiar with them,

00:12:57   they're this kind of strange,

00:12:59   I don't even know how to describe them.

00:13:00   It's like speed power metal, maybe.

00:13:03   I'm not a big sort of power metal fan in general.

00:13:06   This one band, they have tremendous tempo,

00:13:08   they play at tremendous speed,

00:13:10   and for me, it's almost like audio caffeine.

00:13:12   I put Dragon Force on,

00:13:14   like my pulse quickens, and my fingers go a little faster,

00:13:18   and it's like I just took a triple shot espresso,

00:13:22   followed by a Red Bull.

00:13:23   Like I am on, you know, sort of on for it

00:13:25   when I'm listening to this music,

00:13:27   and it kind of gets me pumped, gets me jazzed,

00:13:28   and I just sit down, the Dragon Force on,

00:13:30   and just sort of grind it out.

00:13:32   And often that is painful, that is sort of hard to do.

00:13:36   I don't really want to do it,

00:13:37   but it's just something that you just kind of

00:13:38   force yourself to do.

00:13:40   And if you put around yourself

00:13:41   a couple of those types of things,

00:13:43   like you just go to, it's almost like you have

00:13:44   the power song if you ever did that

00:13:46   when you're going running.

00:13:47   Like you put it on, you're like, yeah, I'm going to do it.

00:13:49   And like you save that for the, you know,

00:13:51   so that it's not all the time,

00:13:52   you don't want to waste, you sort of waste it too often,

00:13:55   but for me, you just kind of have to find that environment.

00:13:57   And it just, everyone's different.

00:13:58   I know if some people were like, they can't get focused,

00:14:00   they go somewhere, they have a particular place,

00:14:02   whether it's a coffee shop or a park,

00:14:04   or it's a certain kind of place in their house,

00:14:06   and it's just trying to get into that place

00:14:08   where it's like, okay, this is my productive place,

00:14:10   I can't slack off here, I'm in the mode,

00:14:12   and you just force yourself to do it.

00:14:14   And it is painful and hard, but often it works.

00:14:17   So, just kind of sort of something I wanted to mention

00:14:19   because I often struggle with it,

00:14:21   and maybe that's helpful to someone else.

00:14:22   And if you ever find yourself needing a little audio caffeine,

00:14:25   check out Dragon Force.

00:14:26   They're pretty awesome.

00:14:27   I'll probably have a link in the show notes

00:14:29   if you want to find out more easily.

00:14:31   But otherwise, that's it for today's show.

00:14:33   As always, if you have questions, comments, concerns,

00:14:35   I'm on Twitter @_davidsmith.

00:14:37   I'm on AppNet @davidsmith.

00:14:40   The podcast feed for the show,

00:14:42   as you can find on the website, developingperspective.com,

00:14:45   or on Twitter @devperspective.

00:14:48   Otherwise, I guess have a good week.

00:14:49   I'll talk to you on Thursday,

00:14:50   And happy coding.