Interviews with the experts behind the biggest apps in the App Store. Hosts David Barnard and Jacob Eiting dive deep to unlock insights, strategies, and stories that you can use to carve out your slice of the 'trillion-dollar App Store opportunity'.
Building the Berkshire Hathaway of Consumer Subscriptions — Eric Crowley, GP Bullhound
On the podcast: The B2B opportunity for B2C apps, the App Store alone being bigger than most Fortune 500 companies, and which current or future company will build the Berkshire Hathaway of consumer subscriptions.
📱 The App Store ecosystem is far from saturated. With a nearly doubled revenue from content being purchased since 2019 and hosting close to a billion subscriptions, the Apple App Store shows that there's still plenty of room for growth and opportunity. Despite debates about consumer fatigue, these numbers signify an ecosystem that is not only surviving but thriving.
👮 The regulatory spotlight could spark change in App Store fees. Amid increasing pressure from global and domestic regulators, the question looms: Will Apple and Google adjust their app store fees? If they do, it's not just a legal win, but also a potential cash flow boost for app developers. The decision could also be a tactical move for Apple to win back transactions currently lost to alternative payment systems.
🤝 The boundary between B2C and B2B is becoming increasingly fluid, offering a new avenue for growth. Brands like Peloton and Headspace, which thrived in the B2C space during the pandemic, are now venturing into B2B. This isn't a pivot but a strategic expansion, rooted in the belief that what consumers love, businesses will too. This trend underlines the potential of consumer-centric design in unlocking new business opportunities.
3️⃣ The Three C's: Content, Commerce, Community. Companies face three key challenges: acquisition, conversion, and retention. Content lures in users, commerce seals the deal, and a robust community keeps them coming back. It's not just a formula; it's the backbone of today's thriving subscription apps.
🤔There are untapped categories ripe for disruption.
While we often see a couple of dominant brands taking over established categories like dating or fitness, there are still numerous untapped markets in the consumer subscription space. Categories like Femtech and family management are just the tip of the iceberg, presenting just a few examples of the opportunities that await innovative apps.
About Eric Crowley
💼Partner at GP Bullhound, focusing primarily on mergers and acquisitions, capital raises, and advisory transactions for technology companies.
📈 With more than a decade in investment banking and edtech growth, Eric focuses on transactions for U.S. and Europe-based growth-stage CSS, adtech, digital services, and fintech companies.
💡 “Who's the Apple of female health? Who’s the brand you go to that is by far the best, [where] you don't question it, you buy it? There isn't one. There should be one, and — for something that happens millions of times a year — why isn't there an Apple of female health?”
👋 LinkedIn and X, formerly known as Twitter
Links & Resources
‣ Check out the CSS 2023 report
‣ GP Bullhound
‣ The evolution of consumer subscription apps
‣ Future subscription trends
‣ What venture investors look for when buying an app
[2:05] Doubling iPhone numbers: Apple’s consistently high growth sees 90 billion in profits this year.
[6:23] Apps are the internet: More people want to use apps over internet sites thanks to superior UX and UI, signaling more investment into apps.
[10:27] App economics: Consumer trends clearly indicate that apps have a lot more room to grow.
[15:01] Regulator attention: The growth of in-app purchases is pressuring Apple and Google to open up payments.
[21:48] Berkshire App-away: From textiles to hundreds of over $300 billion in revenue in 2022, the trajectory of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway portends what may soon happen in the app world.
[26:39] Making M&A waves: Eric talks through some recent significant CSS buyouts.
[29:12] B2B2C: B2B and B2C are blending, with movements between the two showing what Eric calls “growth extension,” rather than pivoting. But will they cannibal
How To Raise Prices (the Right Way) — Reid DeRamus, Substack
On the podcast: whether or not to increase your price, how to execute if you do, and why price increases often impact growth more than retention.
💳 Should you raise your app’s prices at all? It’s one of the most impactful ways of increasing lifetime value and revenue so the answer is yes: you should definitely consider raising prices. But it’s a balancing act. How do you not sacrifice long-term growth for short-term gain?
🌟 Avoid customer backlash by reaffirming the value proposition. Asking people to pay more for the thing they’re already getting is a tough sell, so reaffirm your value proposition by simultaneously launching new or teasing upcoming features ****to avoid customer backlash.
💰 Look at your retention metrics to determine whether or not to raise prices. Above-average retention metrics might indicate that you’re leaving money on the table and should consider a price increase — but if they’re not healthy, focus on product and retention first.
📈 Price increases tend to affect acquisition more than retention. Strong price increase execution means less churn from existing subscribers, with a little more pressure on new user acquisition.
🏆 Add tiers to give users options and strategically raise prices. Bundle higher tiers with extra features or introduce lower tiers for your core user base.
About Reid DeRamus
👨💻 Growth PM at Substack, a newsletter publication platform that provides writers and creators with infrastructure, payment, analytics and design to publish their work and send to email subscribers.
💪 Reid helped launch and grow Hulu, Crunchyroll, and HBO Max, taking his learnings and starting a company called Yem that helped individuals and small teams build their own media empires. Yem was then acquired by Substack, where Reid is now a Growth PM.
💡 “I need to figure out the value that my existing subscribers are getting [and] make sure I'm reinforcing that. But I also need to be mindful of how it'll slowly expand from my core audience today, too, if I want to continue driving subscribers.”
👋 LinkedIn | X, formerly known as Twitter
Links & Resources
‣ Growth Croissant
‣ How To Increase Your Price
‣ How To Improve Retention
‣ Boosting Retention with Better Onboarding
‣ Improving Retention with Audience Surveys
‣ Connect with Reid at LinkedIn
‣ Reid on X, formerly known as Twitter
‣ Substack on X, formerly known as Twitter
[1:13] Price increase: Raising prices is a great way to boost customer lifetime value and revenue but executing it well is a balancing act — with tradeoffs.
[5:40] Consumer sentiment: Asking customers to pay more for the same product is a tough sell. Take a cue from the standard set by Netflix and Spotify by teasing changes and with marginal — not double — increases.
[9:26] Subscription 101: Substack is a great analogy for consumer subscription apps. Health metrics can be “too good,” with writers significantly underpricing their work and not aggressively marketing.
[17:22] Surveys: Surveys don’t only help establish core price, but also what the most passionate fans might pay relative to core subscribers.
[19:18] Be sure to tier: Streaming platforms and a few pioneers in the subscription app space are leading the way in what is likely to become the default business model within the next five years. “Not all subscriptions are created equal,” Reid highlights.
[22:42] Hitting the ceiling: At what point are you bumping up against your total serviceable market?
[24:46] On reaching 12 million: Having a deep relationship with your audience can pay off much more than having the best video player, payment engine, website or app. It’s about persistently asking how you can deliver more value.
[27:51] Back to surveys: Figuring out where core users are finding value comes from surveys via Google Forms, or face-to-face on Zoom calls.
[31:47] Balancing act: There’s no un
App Store Ethics, Dark Patterns, and Rule-Breakers — Steve P. Young, App Masters
On the podcast: “Black hat” app optimization, the benefits and drawbacks of hard paywalls, and why, despite Apple and Google’s best efforts, so many apps still use dark patterns and even blatantly break the rules.
🎩 Lots of (even the top) apps continue to deliberately break app store rules — even if you don’t break them too, you need to know what black hat strategies you’re up against. (3:46, 13:25)
🔍 Running “keyword install campaigns” mobilizes a large number of people to search for a particular keyword and download the app, tricking the app store algorithms by increasing app relevancy — and rankings — against that keyword. (7:21)
🔐 Don’t be afraid to lock down more content, use a hard paywall, or get more “aggressive” with paywall visibility. If people can use an app for free, they will. (18:59-37:09)
📊 Opinions don’t matter — data does. There are contrasting approaches to onboarding and monetization, so test what’s right for your app and look at the data. (40:01)
✅ Fully optimize your onboarding and your paywall through tinkering, then stabilize to drive revenue via the top of the funnel. (45:46)
About Steve P. Young
👨💻 Founder and CEO of App Masters, an app marketing agency that helps grow apps faster, better, and cheaper.
💪 Steve has spent over a decade growth hacking millions of app downloads, and knows the black hat strategies many top apps use to game the system.
💡 “My opinion does not matter. Everything is based on data.”
👋 LinkedIn | X
Links & Resources
‣ Check out App Masters
‣ App Masters on YouTube
‣ Connect with Steve at LinkedIn
‣ Steve on X
‣ App Masters on Facebook
‣ Steve on Instagram
[1:40] Knife to a gunfight: App Store ethics aren’t cleancut. How can you play by the rules when so many apps are using dark patterns to get ahead?
[5:03] Do what you gotta do: Black hat strategies like review-buying are just too tempting not to use in the journey from zero to one.
[8:31] Relevant hacking: Keyword install or boost — similar to ASO — campaigns are still possible to get higher in keyword rankings — as long as you have the right keywords.
[13:25] Legal disclaimer: Even if you don’t like cheating, knowing what competitors are doing is crucial to planning your own strategies.
[14:43] Very edgy: Steve dives into his top “edgy things” for increasing visibility and revenue.
[18:59] No hard paywall: When a growth hacking tactic yields thousands of organic downloads, why put in the X? Data talks, until Apple comes around.
[26:16] AI wall: Given the costs of running AI models, you’re giving away value if you don’t have a hard paywall.
[29:48] Scammy territory: There’s a fine line between bannable black hat strategies and gaming the system.
[34:52] Lock it up: Steve suggests locking as much as you can behind a paywall: Beware giving away value for free, and always look at the data.
[40:01] Your opinion does not matter: Keywords tell us which apps to build.
From Consultancy to $10M in ARR — Vince Mayfield, TalkingParents
On the podcast: The right way to raise prices, the painful lessons from picking the wrong tools, and why you should respond to every single app review.
✍️ Start surveying as soon as you start developing, and don’t stop. Identify your MVP by understanding customers early on, and develop new features with key customer insights when you’re growing.
📈 Bundle extra value if you must raise prices to soften the blow of a tough sell and demonstrate attentiveness to customer needs.
🧰 Cheaper, easy-to-integrate tools might not scale on infrastructure and unit economics, which could lead to a painful re-engineering process down the line.
🏗️ Plan for scalability from the start by adhering to solid software engineering principles and ensuring your tooling integrations are easily switchable.
🤑 Provide premium support for a premium product price. Respond to every store review — each interaction leaves a lasting impression on customers and drives loyalty.
About Vince Mayfield
👨💻 Co-founder and CEO of TalkingParents, an app that helps divorced or separated parents manage communication and share responsibilities.
💪 Vince and his partner jumped from professional services to building a scalable app with $10 million in ARR.
💡 “People like to compartmentalize elements of their life and they don't want to have a million apps.”
Links & Resources
‣ Connect with Vince on LinkedIn
‣ Check out TalkingParents
‣ TalkingParents on Instagram
‣ TalkingParents on Facebook
‣ TalkingParents on Pinterest
‣ TalkingParents on X (formerly Twitter)
‣ Get TalkingParents from the App Store
‣ Get TalkingParents from Google Play
[1:35] Origin story: Making money while we sleep is the ultimate goal — Vince talks about how he moved from agency to product company to $10 million in ARR.
[4:44] From hired gun to product growth: Lack of app monetization and not understanding customers early on may make pivoting to a product focus challenging.
[7:59] Risk management for risk mitigators: How do you make money from the court system? Easy: Switch focus to the real customers.
[10:32] Freemium tinkering: Vince dives into the app’s early strategy for monetization and subscription — burning through close to $1 million in the process.
[12:59] Chartered surveying: When it seems like an app is charging too little, asking customers what features they want and need is the ticket to nailing down value.
[15:59] Downhill slalom vs. uphill climb: Raising already low prices can be delicate, but bundling additional value with a rollout often softens the blow. Look for opportunities to layer on deeper value.
[28:33] Nudges and needs: From surveying to app instrumentation, Vince and his partner had to understand the customer journey before making the right moves.
[32:08] The ultimate tool belt: Not paying attention to how apps can scale from the very beginning is an easy mistake for app developers to make — especially when using tools.
[38:28] Best-in-class assessment: Starting with best-in-class tools isn’t always doable, but adopting good software engineering techniques as you go is a satisfactory quick fix.
[41:28] Lightning round: Vince talks about why support matters and how that translates into running a business and customers’ responses.
What it Takes to Succeed with Paid User Acquisition — Thomas Petit, App Growth Consultant
On the podcast: Setting sensible goals for paid marketing, how to measure and learn from the results, and why a single ad creative can completely change the trajectory of a company.
🥅 Set clear and realistic goals before investing in paid UA — and make sure you can afford to experiment. It can be tough to get to ROAS positive, and even tougher to get that return quickly.
💰 Monthly ad budgets should ideally start at $10-20k for big, algorithmic platforms — increasing data volume for optimization — while lower budgets call for exploring non-algorithmic platforms and influencer marketing.
🤔 Successful ads are built on in-depth, comprehensive user understanding, including their triggers and responses to different messages — before investing in advertising.
🧪 Test and iterate radically and substantially in the the quest for the ideal creative: Promising concepts need further refinement and tweaking, especially given the unpredictable nature of what might work.
🤝 Focus on conversion rates, not just high user engagement
for ad campaigns — low conversion can negatively affect overall performance, and ad platforms like Facebook and Google aim for a balance between engagement and revenue.
About Thomas Petit
👨💻 Independent subscription app growth consultant.
💪 Thomas has worked with hundreds of clients and helped manage tens of millions of dollars in ad spend.
💡 “Know your expectations and know what you're after… a lot of people don't ask this question in a deep enough way.”
👋 LinkedIn | Twitter
Links & Resources
‣ David’s talk at Mau Las Vegas
‣ Revisiting the Fundamentals of App Marketing Post IDFA — Thomas Petit
‣ Check out MADV - Mobile. Ad.ventures on Substack
‣ Connect with Thomas on LinkedIn
‣ Connect with Thomas on Twitter
‣ Get involved in the Sub Club community
[2:50] Minimum viability: What does it take to start making paid UA work? The answer depends on what you want to achieve with it.
[9:44] The early bird catches the worm: If you know what you want from the get-go, Thomas explains why starting paid UA early might not be a bad strategy. But only gamble what you can afford to lose.
[14:00] A word on Facebook: If running on a tight budget, Thomas “strongly recommends against” buying ads on Facebook because of targeting and demographic challenges.
[18:44] Cash moves everything around: The guardrails around scaling on algorithmic platforms necessitate a five-digit monthly budget minimum. Below $10-20k a month you’re operating in a very tough spot.
[24:57] Good Ol’ Google: Operating on low budgets, choosing keywords for Google searches may still work. Using a simple landing page builder is an avenue to explore — but only very early on when you need to assess SEO and imagery. The three checks are: goals, cash, and ARPI.
[31:31] Scaling paid UI: Thomas goes deep into how to scale paid UI, and how MMPs and SDKs play into that.
[39:56] The measure of success: It’s critical to assess evolving trends based on changing spend. But attribution isn’t (and never was) an exact science. Look at whatever tools you have at your disposal for an estimate.
[45:39] His toolkit: Thomas talks about the tools he uses for modeling incrementality across product and subscription lifecycle events.
[53:44] Let’s get creative: With growing automation, getting ads right is crucial. Messaging, USP, and understanding your audience all factor into effective ads. Don’t rely on intuition.
[1:05:01] USP: There’s no secret formula for a single, winning USP, but you need to test it to understand what users react to.
[1:09:41] Spanning the gap: Some successful ads are indirect and don’t transition. The relation between downloads and transitioning is a tough nut to crack, but teasing and explicitly explaining it’s an app are good ways to try at least a slight transition.
[1:13:26] Clickbait install rate: Beware of the delic
Achieving Mission & Profit with Freemium — Erin Webster-Shaller and Paul Apollo, Lose It!
On this episode: balancing mission and monetization, the challenges inherent to referral programs, and why Lose It! had to abandon a big push into paid user acquisition.
🆓 Excellent free products need a large user base to upsell — messaging millions of users about special offers can deliver fantastic returns. (10:32)
🚂 Extend onboarding for increased trial engagement by asking more personalized questions to boost trial start rates and tailor the user experience. (14:43)
👏 Celebrate user success to drive word-of-mouth marketing and organic growth, while strengthening the bond between users and your brand. (25:47)
🥇 Encourage setup of premium features during trials while carefully A/B testing each feature for user resonance. (31:49)
🏃 Identify key actions to boost user conversion with the power of data analysis: Target users with discounts or special offers to entice them to upgrade to a premium subscription. (36:29)
About Erin Webster-Shaller
👨💻 VP of Marketing at Lose It!, one of the first health and wellness apps on the App Store.
💪 Erin has been responsible for determining whether new features should be premium or free, as well as running A/B testing for messaging.
💡 “There’s a lot of gimmicks in the weight loss industry: We try to be authentic and real with what this product can help you do — but also not oversell it [and] promise something that isn’t realistic.”
👋 LinkedIn | Twitter
About Paul Apollo
👨💻 Senior VP of Operations at Lose It!.
💪 Paul has been with the company for nine years and has spent nearly that entire time in growth marketing.
💡 “We want to make sure that there is an excellent free product available for anybody who wants access to it.”
Links & Resources
‣ Check out Lose It!
‣ Work with Lose It!
‣ Connect with Erin on LinkedIn
‣ Connect with Erin on Twitter
‣ Connect with Paul on LinkedIn
[1:45] Mission-driven: Lose It! founder JJ Allaire was tracking calories on a spreadsheet when the App Store was born. Increasing satisfaction for happy users aligned perfectly with the app’s growth.
[6:18] No monetization: The app went from being totally free to freemium. The team didn’t even dabble with ads until very late in the game.
[7:28] Buying out Series A investors: Lose It! was so profitable it became fully founder- and employee-owned when it was acquired in 2022 by Ziff Davis.
[9:22] The feature adoption journey: The team doesn’t test locking features, but they do A/B test messaging and positioning. Apps and Devices is a big crowd-pleaser, Paul explains.
[14:02] Loss aversion onboarding: When Lose It! noticed inexplicably longer onboarding, they tested with more questions, which snowballed into significant success. Adding premium features to onboarding didn’t have the same effect.
[20:58] 135 million-pound loss: 50 million users came primarily from consistent word-of-mouth growth and organic acquisition. Experimenting with paid acquisition in 2019 didn’t work out.
[25:47] Pushing word of mouth: Erin explains how the company gets people to “spread the good word” to lose more, although experimentation showed that referrals aren’t a silver bullet.
[31:49] Lifecycle messaging: Paul jumps into the strategy of exposing freemium users to premium and keeping premium users engaged.
[38:07] In-app messaging: Lose It! experimented with in-app messaging versus email blasts.
Love the content, really helpful for anyone building subscription apps! More like the latest episode please
Sub Club has quickly become a favorite in my feed! I'm consistently impressed by the engaging conversations, insightful content, and actionable ideas. I truly learn something every time I listen!
Super insightful for indie devs!
Great guests, stories, and insights are shared.