Invest more in Products that users would love to use – Akhil Chandra

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Invest more in Products that users would love to use

Akhil Chandra

Akhil Chandra

Founder, Studio Mosaic

Akhil is a mobile app entrepreneur and the Founder & CEO of Studio Mosaic – a self-funded, fully independent studio that has created StickMe Notes and a bunch of other apps in the productivity and business category that have been downloaded over 1 million times on the Apple Appstore. 

Studio Mosaic in its alternate avatar is also an award-winning app marketing and growth agency that has consistently been ranked amongst the Top App Marketing Agencies in the world. 

Akhil is an Engineer and MBA with over 12 years of experience in technology and marketing and regularly consults other app entrepreneurs, startups and large enterprises on their app store strategies.

Your journey so far

I got interested in mobile apps in 2012 when the world had started to move towards smartphones and apps were beginning to catch the fancy of people. This is when I thought of starting an app publishing studio to build and market my own applications. Studio Mosaic was born with the launch of our first app – StickMe Notes. The app was published on the Appstore in 2013.

We tried a lot of things in the process of launching StickMe Notes and learnt the ropes of launching, growing and marketing it both organically and inorganically. After the successful launch of StickMe Notes, we decided to work on our other apps. Work was started but the turn-around-time on these apps was very high. While waiting for these apps to be completed, we decided to use our newly acquired knowledge and experience in promoting a mobile app to help other mobile app owners succeed in the competitive Appstore landscape on the side. This was the start of Studio Mosaic, the agency and the rest, as they say, is history.

Today, we work as virtual CMO’s or an outsourced growth team for a lot of apps. As their growth team, we monitor all aspects of their business and help them grow in their desired manner, without charging an arm and a leg for it!

One of the biggest challenges we continue to face is hiring. Firstly, Given that the industry is still very niche, we do not find trained people for the job. Hence, we find it difficult to both judge and hire people who would be able to understand and excel at the job. Secondly, we are very particular about the work culture of the organisation and are looking for people who can not only be a superstar but someone who can gel with the rest of the team. Hence, selecting the right person based on a cultural and skill fit is essential and we’re constantly trying different methods to do this better.

How do you help your clients grow and achieve their goals?

We start by first understanding our clients business goals and the budget outlined for the same. Once we get a full understanding of this, we use a mix of product improvements, appstore optimisation and user acquisition activities to grow their business. 

Our strategy uses a healthy combination of organic and paid activities and we rely heavily on usage analytics and funnel analysis to measure the performance and constantly tweak our strategy.

Experience from 0 to first 10 clients and further growth

We first started out by consulting clients on their monetisation strategy, business growth and app store optimisation performance. A large part of the delivery, including design, during this stage was outsourced. Our consulting business grew with time but we were still limited to a small set of services. And then one of our clients insisted that we also run acquisition campaigns for them. Our initial thought was to outsource this as well. However, when we couldn’t find a suitable freelancer we decided to do this ourselves. We learnt to run and optimise campaigns on the job and thankfully, did a good job of it.

This was a turning point for Studio Mosaic because a couple of our clients were looking for user acquisition services and we had a ready stream of clients to get more work from. UA services also helped pave the way for longer ongoing engagements with our clients where we started delivering ASO and acquisition campaigns on a monthly basis. Soon, we realised that the app itself too is an important element that determines the success of the business. 

We, therefore, started advising app owners on how to make their app better from a UX perspective and also helped them set up analytics and attribution before starting our marketing activities. As we started getting more work, we hired marketing managers while still outsourcing the design brief. As we grew bigger, we developed in-house expertise to deliver all services we offered i.e design and marketing. Eventually, we hired a sales manager and a finance/accounts manager too. Today we have delivered results for 500+ apps and over 300 clients with our team of close to 20 people.

Keeping pace with changing technology and remain competitive?

The nature of our industry is such that in order to remain relevant and impactful, one has to keep oneself abreast with the new developments in the industry. At times, Apple or Google might change their appstore guidelines, which would lead to major strategy changes at our end. We keep ourselves updated by keeping a constant watch on the appstore changes, reading blogs written by industry experts and participating in industry led conferences and meet-ups all over the world. 

A large part of our learning also happens within the team since we cover a wide range of app categories and each project, brings with it, a whole set of learning in its own niche. We do regular knowledge sharing sessions within the team where everyone talks about something new that they did for their app(client) or a challenge they are facing or an interesting marketing hack they have read about.

Top hurdles faced for business growth

Two of the biggest hurdles that we face is hiring, and the opportunity to work with great products and product owners.

With regards to hiring, like I mentioned earlier, there is a severe dearth of trained people. Soit gets difficult for us to find the right people for the job.

As for products, sometimes a great idea has not such a great execution and it leads to a less than satisfactory uptake despite our best efforts and the client has to go. Finding well made apps is therefore a challenge. Also, since a lot of app owners do not understand the industry as well, they end up taking decisions which may impact the app adversely. And when they come to us, it is sometimes just too late to salvage the app..

Core specialties and offerings to your clients

Our core expertise lies in helping mobile app businesses achieve growth. We follow an analytics centered approach, combined with creative execution to achieve business growth. We’re able to understand the app business as a whole and formulate a holistic marketing strategy to scale the app’s earnings or users.

Our first differentiation is the fact that we focus on mobile app business only. A lot of other agencies offer digital marketing services and also do app marketing. This approach is not necessarily directly replicable.

Our mobile-first approach helps us devise better and more effective product and marketing strategies for our clients. Secondly, we don’t speak the language of impressions, clicks or installs – which, when not put into meaningful analysis, is useless for our clients. We align our activities and specifically our KPIs with our clients business goals in terms of revenue or active user and use data and analytics at every step to optimize and achieve growth.

Key to motivation

Honestly, I don’t really need to put in any extra effort to motivate myself as I am internally driven. In order to remain productive, I do try and organise myself by dividing the day into multiple parts and planning my day in advance. I try and start my day early, read up on the latest and spend time with my family and child. I listen to a lot of podcasts and follow lots of blogs etc such as Steve P Young’s Appmasters podcast & Topical Digest.

Advice to Product Makers

A few things actually.

Get the idea right – Your ideas may be great, as per you but not so great as per your intended user. Don’t get blinded by your own conviction. Respect the user and give them what they want and not what you think they need.

Invest more in the product – Put in your time, resources, efforts into making a product that users would love to use. The only way a business can succeed is by offering a good product or service at its core. Look, feel (Ui/UX) and functionality are all equally important for a good app. You may be able to acquire thousands of users through campaign s and other means, but a truly successful app is one that can retain its users and that will only happen if the app itself is enticing and sticky.

Analyse the data – Invest in a good analytics tool that can tell you what your users are doing within the app. Constantly optimise campaigns/ in-app experience to reach out to a more targeted audience with a better product.

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