Tom Tancredi has worked (alongside twin brother Dominic) on the successful launch of over 250 digital products while building their digital agency, DOM & TOM into an Inc. 500 fastest growing company two years running. Tom is a resource on anything startup related including mobile strategy, onboarding a technical team, finding a cofounder or structuring a fundraising deal. Tom has built high profile applications for Fortune 500 companies and is an expert on intrapreneurship in large organizations.
Take Steve Balmer with Microsoft. He’s a great example of Intrepreneurship. One of the first employees of Microsoft (he was employee number 30) – Steve was really the right hand man for Microsoft founder Bill Gates. He negotiated himself 8 percent of the total company, which is really incredible, considering there were 29 employees who were hired before him. Steve helped build Microsoft into the huge company it is today. With over 90% internet using Microsoft products. Steve Balmer was not the entrepreneur. He didn’t come up with the product – he did however, see the potential for the product, understood the strengths of the team and had the vision to take the product (Windows) to the marketplace in a scalable way. Although Tom is not the entrepreneur for his company (his brother Dom is the entrepreneur) – Tom found himself in the unique role as the “Intrepreneur”. In 2008/2009 he saw a unique opportunity to learn all that he could about the Apple iPhone. Since no one was the expert on that platform, Tom realized that if his company could be the subject matter expert for iPhones, they could create demand for their mobile software development services.
70% of all retail “research” is done online, on mobile devices – before products are actually purchased. This makes for an incredible opportunity for any retailer who is open to (or already using) flash sales, deep discount offers or impulse point purchases. In fact, if you’re not using mobile, you’re going to miss a TON of sales, especially around the holiday season, with so many consumers making last minute purchases for gifts. Likewise, if you’re interested in year-round sales, mobile is equally as important. Before creating an application though, you really need to ask yourself what benefits and features your application will offer to consumers. Tom recommends that you don’t even bother with creating a mobile application if you haven’t clearly thought through the features and benefits of you application. Whatever you do, don’t just go copying some other larger corporation’s application. Large retailers for example, the money and resources to “get it wrong” many times before they get it right. As small business owners, we don’t have that luxury. As a small business owner, you must play to your strengths. One of the things that you can do, that larger corporations have a hard time with is – you can be face to face with your customers much easier. This mean, you can solicit feedback, answer questions and solve problems much faster than a larger corporation. If for instance, you can think of features for your mobile application that can help you do that, then your customers will find great benefits with that. Anyone you touch in that regard, will find more value doing business with you, than anyone else. In the hands of your customers or prospects, your mobile application may just be the first time they research what you have to offer and who you are. For a great example of how NOT to create a mobile application, you only have to look as far as the banking industry. It doesn’t matter who you’re banking with, just about all of them have one experience online and a completely different experience on their mobile applications. When you go to their website to do any kind of online banking, most of the time, they have really thought through what features, choices and the “look and feel” you as their customer should experience. Contrast that experience, with how most mobile banking applications operate: They are not user friendly, don’t offer valuable features and worst of all, they can feel totally insecure. Once again, this a great example of how NOT to design a mobile application. It’s absolutely crucial, that you take into account the user experience and value that your customers will get by using your application.
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “Timing Is Everything”. Nothing could be more true in the case of mobile technology – especially when it comes to user purchases. Through real world experience, Tom shares with us that if you have some process for a user to go through…as an example, it could be a purchase. If they are using a mobile application to make a purchase, processing time included, if it takes up to 30 seconds, your chances for success are really great. If on the other hand, your purchase process takes longer than 30 seconds, you’ll see your users drop off, discontinue the purchase process and buy from a competitor who has a faster option. This could be making reservations for a restaurant, purchasing movie tickets – whatever the process Is, it needs to take 30 seconds or less.
Amazon is a great example of streamlining this process. When you open your Amazon application, you’re automatically logged in. Not logging in before making a purchase, lowers the total processing time. Then, once the application is open, you need to make a selection of what you might want to buy – Amazon did it again, decreasing processing time buy making suggestions for you. Think about it like this: Amazon took a process that was five steps long and shortened it into two steps. All so you can quickly open their application, easily find what you are looking for and make the purchase. This shortened process has created a hockey-stick like growth for Amazon. You can achieve success if you do the same thing. Other examples of organizations who lower processing time to almost nothing include companies like “Trunk Club”. Once signed up for this subscription service, customers automatically receive things they may like. If they choose to keep the products, the purchase is already made. Companies like Trunk Club have brought the processing time down to almost nothing for making purchases from them.
Tom’s Best Mobile Application So FarTom has recently created an application called “Life Is Simple”. It’s a mobile application that connects customers to beauty industry professionals (like hairstylists) and their employees for the purposes of scheduling appointments in a quick and easy way. This really hits at the heart of what Tom is all about. He wants to help those who are struggling to make ends meet. Most beauty industry professionals make less what is considered to be at the poverty line in the United States. If adopted, this application will change the lives of thousands of hard working professionals who are struggling every day.
Starting with offering services to generate cash flow, Tom and his brother Dom created an environment where they could offer value to others, including mentorship for those who are less fortunate. They were able to get the attention from Fortune 500 companies by taking on contracts with a simple philosophy: Do what you say you’ll do, when you say you’ll do it and charge a fair price for doing it. Most people just want to be treated fairly and with integrity. Once you provide services or products with that philosophy, the people who you do business with, will appreciate that and take notice.
Once you have an idea for a mobile application, do some research. Try to find other applications that do something similar. If you find them, that is actually a good sign. You really want to see market validation before you invest time or money into your application. If you find other applications that do something similar to what you have in mind, the next question to ask is: “How are they doing?” Are they performing poorly? If so, then try to find out what their strengths and weaknesses are. Why haven’t they hit a bulls-eye? What are they missing? Once the above research is done to your satisfaction, before building an application, first find a designer. Designing out the application using wireframes is a great way to figure out how it will work and is a lot cheaper than hiring some one to write code before very important questions are answered. A great designer can be hired for as little as $30 per hour. Once that is completed, find a technical co-founder to work with you. This person can help work out the entire application process and just as important, who to hire for which parts of the development.
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