Market Maneuvering: Cooperation May Be Key

Market ManeuveringAs developers have been noticing, getting noticed is hard.

Just because you build an app and put it in the Android Market, the world will not beat a path to your door. Partly, the Android “world” is smaller than, say, iPhone’s. Partly, the Android Market’s ability to help your application stand out is modest. And partly, there are thousands of apps in there, and so you will be hard-pressed to get much attention that way.

So, if Android Market will not help you get noticed, you will need to take other steps. However, you do not necessarily have to take those steps alone.

Many markets create cooperatives to help promote and sell their wares. In the US, the farming cooperative is common, from small-time regional co-ops to major organizations like Ocean Spray and Florida’s Natural.

An Android developer cooperative would help its members find and retain users, outside of the Android Market. While the cooperative could run its own market, it could also allow members to handle paid product distribution however they wish (Android Market, alternative markets, or self-distribution).

For example, a cooperative could set up a secured Web site where people can download apps written by the cooperatives’ members. Ideally, there would be perceived value in being able to access this site and download these apps — it would not only be apps one could get for free from the Market.

Then, the cooperative work work to distribute “free passes” to this site via co-marketing with other firms:

  • Mobile carriers
  • Booksellers or publishers for Android books aimed at end users
  • Mobile device magazines (e.g., blow-in cards)
  • Retailers offering Android devices outside of carriers

Co-marketing usually involves some money, which each cooperative member would contribute towards.

The net is a stream of sales leads, in the form of people accessing the site via their “free pass” and downloading what they want. The cooperative members could then use those leads to promote other, more lucrative applications. Cooperative members do not make money directly off of what is in the site, but instead make money off of ongoing sales to this audience. And, since these leads were obtained outside of the Android Market, there are no restrictions upon their use, other than whatever rules the cooperative collectively decides upon.

This is old-school marketing, at least relative to tossing an app into Android Market and hoping for the best. It requires work, though through a cooperative much of the work can be done by people with expertise rather than everyone doing it themselves. It requires money, but the old adage holds true: you have to have money to make money (usually). To make it scale, though, it also requires cooperation, with developers pulling together to achieve what each developer alone might not be able to. Or, in the words of Benjamin Franklin, “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

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