400% growth with positioning alone

I'm the creator of a money management app called Savings.

A few months ago, I decided to focus exclusively on marketing instead of development. At that time, my app was earning about $250/month. But in the month that just ended, my app earned $1,000. So I got to thinking, what exactly changed?


It turns out, the change can be summarized in one word: positioning

As a part of this marketing effort, here are things that haven't changed:

  • The app itself had no new features
  • I did not drive additional traffic to my site or App Store listing

But what did change are:

  • I figured out what my target audience is, and changed my marketing copy to speak directly to them
  • I doubled the price of my software to create perception of value ($14.99 to $29.99)
  • I further differentiated my product by positioning myself as the "anti-subscription" software. Customers only need to pay once for my app.

As soon as I made the last two changes (doubling price, market no-subscription as a feature), my sales jumped.

What I need to do now is to drive traffic to my app. Most of my customers still discover my app through the Mac App Store, which is weak because it's all in Apple's hand. If you guys have any ideas on how to drive traffic to my site, I'd welcome any!

  1. 3

    Congratulations on the amazing results!

    As @simplisticallysimple mentioned before though, be careful with your positioning strategy based on lifetime ownership. Speaking from a brand strategist's perspective this time, an optimal positioning should be three things:

    1. Relevant to what the brand promises
    2. Sustainable through the brand's internal resources
    3. Closely tied to a growth strategy

    Points 2 & 3 are where you could find yourself in trouble if you haven't thought this out properly on a financial level once growth ensures.

    Again, big ups and looking forward to reading more of your journey here!

  2. 3

    I further differentiated my product by positioning myself as the "anti-subscription" software. Customers only need to pay once for my app.

    I think this is a game changer.

    However, I'd be careful with this strategy as it's "instant gratification," unless you account for lifetime value of your subscription customers, and ensure that your lifetime deal price exceeds your LTV.

    I also find that the term "own" makes a huge difference and is a massive selling point.

    "Pay monthly for access" vs. "Ditch monthly fees, pay once and own it forever" speaks very differently to customers.

    1. 3

      Great points. For me I was kind of forced to make that choice, so I thought why not take advantage of it. The interesting thing is many apps in my category also charge once, but by saying it out loud, I make it a feature.

      1. 1

        In the age of SaaS, a "lifetime deal" is often a godsend.

        I also find the fears of supporting a large number of users who are no longer paying you to be overblown.

        Like it or not, lifetime deal customers don't use the product as vigorously as subscription customers.

        To me it's free upfront money mostly. Capture all that revenue upfront to invest for future growth.

        1. 2

          Right on. I did try subscription before and the upsell is so difficult, I make many times more when I just charge up front. With even the cost of $29.99, many users don't bother to return if they are not using. But the psychological effect of having someone pay $2.99 / month just causes so much friction than a lifetime deal.

  3. 2

    Wow amazing. I've been working on repositioning my app too, now I'm very eager to update it.

    1. 2

      I read your post regarding not hoping for the next feature to save you, I totally agree. I've been in that shoes, but even worse than your story, it's been the last ten years. Of course, I didn't only work on Savings during that time, I've done freelance work and "real jobs", but it taught me a few lessons.

      The biggest lesson is to go all in on an idea for a while, constantly make pivot, and know when to give up and move on. I've learned to focus in on a few actionable items, do it, and if it doesn't work move on to the next thing.

      Sadly, sometimes it's important to give up on the dream of making a living on a product if you simply can't find the market fit. This is really what my post was about. I've given up on the idea that I'm going to make a living (or even get rich) on Savings (i.e. monthly recurring revenue), and instead, just make it the best product it can be for its size (a one-time paid, no frills finance app)

      But who knows, maybe after giving up the weight of hope for a home run, Savings can become a moderately successful app as I layer on more marketing channels. Heck, it's already paying for my rent now! I now accept the product for what it is and allocate the appropriate amount of time to the right projects, including my consulting business.

      To understand my suffering, I've devised the following formula:

      Stress = Time Spent / Result

      And, I think the Serenity Prayer has a lot to say about product development :)

      "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

      1. 1

        Wow I love it. You’ve been on savings for 10 years? I admire that, deeply... Thanks for sharing your perspective so honestly 🙏

        I share your view on giving up, sometimes it’s the best thing to do. Just let the project fall back to its natural place instead of constantly pushing to change it.

        We still have a couple months worth of actions we can take to move the needle. After that if it still doesn’t hit home, it will be time to let it live its
        life as a side project.

        Feels very sad and disappointing, but the journey teaches me so much that there’s no regrets.

        Stress = Time Spent / Result

        Never thought of it that way. It’s on point!

        1. 2

          Glad to be helpful :)

  4. 1

    Contrary to most replies here, I am quite confused on your positioning of 'Donation'. As donation-ware softwares are free softwares with optional donation if user wants. I believe it is not right to just rename 'Buy Now' button with 'Donate' button.

    1. 1

      Hi, the Buy button is still the main CTA. The donation is just something optional the user may do. But I agree, there is a chance to confuse with donation-ware

  5. 1

    @yiman Congrats on discovering the power of marketing! It's an eye-opening revelation.

    Here's a follow-on tip:

    If you have a Facebook page, visit your Audience Insights, it'll show you all the other Brands that your customers like.

    You can copy the messaging/medium they use and adapt it for further marketing of your product.

    It all starts with knowing who your customer is, then it becomes easy to give them what they want.

    1. 2

      This is great. I spoke to one of my customer on Zoom who is prototypical of my audience, and when asked where to promote, she immediately said Facebook. I think FB ads are still relatively cheap at $1 / click and possibly lower, the cost of acquisition may make sense for my product now that it is priced at $30. If I can create measurable conversion there, it would be a great way to scale up.

      Right now, my problem is I don't have any knob I can turn to increase traffic. I'm at the mercy of the dribbling of people who browse the App Store. I want to try blogging but I'm having a hard time coming up with the portfolio. I found Plausible.io's growth blog post to be a great inspiration: https://plausible.io/blog/growing-saas-mrr

      1. 1

        Great to hear!

        You’ll want to start by logging all your events in google analytics, Facebook analytics so you know exactly how much each visitor is worth to you

        Then when you start Facebook ads run them as ROAS. Return on ad spend.

        It’s revenue / cost and if you logged all your revenue events before starting you’ll know your exact ROI

        Facebook clicks can be $.05 but don’t worry about the price per click, focus on the value to you. $.05 clicks that convert at 1% are useless. $5 clicks that generate $30 in revenue. That’s where it’s at

        How big is your user base now? I have a savings site that may be a good audience fit [email protected]

        1. 1

          My user base is about 600 weekly active.

          I like your suggestion, but my problem is there is no way to tie an event on my site to an app purchase. As soon as the user clicks the link to open up my app on the App Store, there is no longer any tracking because Apple doesn't allow it. The only way I can think of to know if a user was referred to from a FB ad is to ask user where did you find us. Not an optimal solution.

          Another idea that's kind of out there is to detect whether the IP of a user on app launch is the same as a click on the site. I don't know if this is an invasion of privacy, nor how well it will work.

          1. 1

            Install their pixel

            Digest this: How calm built a billion dollar app with Facebook ads

            Write me back once you see

  6. 1

    How is the donate option performing? Is it something users consider or they stick to buy once and forget it?

    1. 1

      I actually received $174 of donation in two weeks. However, that number is higher than usual because:

      1. A friend/user of mine donated $100. That's not to be expected
      2. I announced donation to my email list of 280 users. That provided a bump.

      However, I'll add a donate reminder in app that displays once a year. That should prompt a bit of donation.

      I don't expect donation to make a difference in terms of making the app sustainable though. It's just additional petty cash.

      1. 1

        Hi, yeah I would also exclude the $100 from the stats. Announcing do counts though. In general, I've also seen myself and spoke with other IH about the donations not being a sustainable way to monetize a product.

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