While doing my analysis, I've identified a single acquisition channel where the saying "build it and they will come" still applies. It's not a specific channel per se, but a set of channels in the category of platform app stores.
While reading through the founder interviews, I discovered a surprising number of founders who were successful in using different app stores to get a steady stream of users. In fact, this was the second most-mentioned acquisition channel/strategy (after SEO) - with 78 mentions overall.
The interesting part was that almost none of the founders mentioned actively promoting the apps they launched on these platforms... They just built the app...and they (the users) came in. This was different from any other acquisition channel/strategy I've encountered before.
Take Shogun ($4.5k/mo), a drag-and drop page builder. They launched a Shopify app on Shopify's app store and here's what happened:
When we launched on Shopify, sales began to trickle in and have been growing ever since. We've been attracting users in the Shopify app store from the **beginning with very little marketing,*...
Shoutgun built their app, and they (the users) came in.
Sure, Shogun & Updown had some success, but how did Shopify/Slack users find out about them?
While reading through more founder interviews, I've noticed that a large percentage of platform users actively use the platform search engine to find third-party apps.
Take Shopify. According to the official Shopify blog, 60% of installs on the app store come from searches on their app store. Or take the Apple's App Store. 70% of users there use search to find apps. Salem Software ($10k/mo) is a Spanish Bible app for iOS, and they've noticed this fact:
The app got 99% of its downloads from people searching in the App Store. We ended up going back and forth between ranking #1 and #2 for "la biblia" and "la biblia reina valera" in the App Store.
These platforms are like mini search engines and there are literally hundreds of them.
Wordpress. Electron. Infusionsoft. Shoutcast. RapidAPI. Mozilla Add-on store.
These are just some of the platforms I've discovered founders are using to get paying users (I'll do a post on this next week, subscribe to my series to get notified when I'll release it):
This is good news for you. There are literally hundreds of platforms (with respective mini search engines) that you can target. Geocode.xyz ($10k/mo) is a geoparsing API, and they're getting users by being listed on the AWS marketplace:
AWS Marketplace is another revenue stream, clients pay for their own instances on the AWS cloud running my software.
And now for some bad news...
I started digital marketing back in 2006, when "build it and they'll come" still applied to Google and SEO. All I needed to do is create a bunch of Weebly/Blogspot blogs, make some on-page optimization for medium-difficulty search keywords, wait 1-2 weeks, and that was enough to rank on Google's first page.
I built the pages...and they (the users) came in.
But then things got a lot more difficult. Today, SEO is an acquisition strategy that founders mostly use after they've succeeded with another channel first.
Things seem to be heading in the same direction for larger platform app stores, as they get more saturated. For example, Apple is (probably) currently the most competitive platform search engine. Still, founders like Matt (from Happyfeed, a gratitude journaling app that makes $800/mo) find ways to break through:
The majority of the traffic has come from organic app store search and word of mouth. "Gratitude journal" was not a competitive term when I launched so it was a lot easier to get downloads (even though the app was pretty lame at first). (source)
As these platforms become more competitive, things usually move from:
Build it -> They will come
Build it -> Optimize -> They will come
This is how SEO was born (and developed) as an industry, as search traffic became more competitive. Now with Apple, ASO (app store optimization) is also becoming a fairly mature industry, similar to SEO.
Is Shopify likely to be following suit? Are we going to see a SSO (Shopify search optimization) industry next?
Lastly, there's some good news...
New, fast-growing platforms launch their own APIs/app stores all the time.
Just recently Notion announced they'll be launching a private beta of their API. The next logical step is for them to launch an app store. In case live under a rock, Notion is becoming one of the fastest-growing SaaS platforms with ~50M monthly users.
Keep an eye on these fast-growing platforms and announcements. Luckily, IndieHackers is a great place to stay up-to-date with news like this. These announcements are good opportunities to be an early adopter, build something and get users just because you got there early.
Do you think I'm right or wrong? Let me know.