Today, many developers choose to bootstrap building and monetizing apps – by using their personal savings, credit cards, and loans to cover the set-up costs. Thanks to low barriers to entry and the potential for high returns, app development is a strong strategy for a bootstrapping approach.
Essentially, bootstrapping your business today retains your control for tomorrow. It removes distractions and focuses entrepreneurs on the most important task at hand: building a business. And when developers focus on existing infrastructure, like app marketplaces, there’s a global audience to leverage too, making it easier to quickly generate revenue.
In this guide, we’ll cover the benefits of bootstrapping, four ways to monetize apps, and how to scale your bootstrap business. So let’s dive into the app marketplace bootstrapping playbook.
What is bootstrapping?
So that we’re all on the same page, let’s start by defining bootstrapping (feel free to skip ahead to the next section if you’ve got this covered).
Put simply, bootstrapping is a term used to describe setting up a business using existing resources like personal finances and money generated from early sales – rather than through external funding and investment. It’s a strange phrase. But, it essentially comes from “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” and using hard work and determination to succeed.
In fact, bootstrapping is often praised as one of the best ways to finance your own business if you have the resources for it. And while it’s exciting to start your own business, before you dive in it’s important to make sure you have a workable business idea.
This is where app development comes in. So let’s take a look at why developers are using this approach to build a marketplace app business.
Benefits of bootstrapping: Why developers use it to build a business
If you’re looking to start a new venture developing apps, or want to scale your existing venture, a bootstrapping approach to building your own business is an excellent approach.
- More easily generate revenue early on: Thanks to access to a wide and engaged audience, you can easily develop a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) with features that can quickly address an issue. Plus, with an add-on for an existing tool, you’ve got the benefit of their marketing too, which boosts reaching your target audience.
- Maintain control: Because you might be investing your own personal finances and such, maintaining control will understandably be a concern. But, it’s also less concerning than needing to generate a return for investors. With bootstrapping, you keep control of strategic decisions because you aren’t held accountable to the latter.
- Focus on customer needs: As you need to make a quick return, your app has to solve an immediate need. By doing so, this is how you generate demand and revenue because, with the right platform, you get access to your target audience and can even see what challenges they need resolving. It’s a perfect opportunity to monetize apps.
- Builds strong foundations for growth: Apps – and business models, for that matter – that focus on customer satisfaction are more likely to thrive. And, if you continue to develop apps that address needs well (i.e. it’s a good quality app), you’re more likely to experience continuous demand and revenue thanks to things like customer loyalty and word-of-mouth promo.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at why developers often turn to SaaS marketplaces to bootstrap their business.
SaaS marketplaces under the microscope
For developers that want to quickly generate revenue, SaaS marketplaces are where it gets really interesting. That’s because they provide all the necessary elements to bootstrap a new business idea and generate income, fast.
SaaS app marketplaces, like monday.com app marketplace, can provide developers with:
- Recurring revenue
SaaS marketplaces are more reliable and predictable revenue streams thanks to the heightened need for tech solutions, and because these apps tend to be on a subscription basis – rather than a one-time purchase option.
- Sizeable market
Because market size varies across SaaS marketplaces, it’s important to understand market saturation. Carefully look at the competition and see whether there is enough unmet demand to go after. To do this, we recommend looking at how many apps there are on the marketplace to understand how much competition you will face. And on the flip side, if there isn’t as much competition, it may highlight how much opportunity there could be for you.
- Engaged users
As SaaS platforms tend to be used for critical business processes, they have high user engagement. This means likely higher retention rates for your app and increased revenue over a lengthy time.
- Easy integration
SaaS platforms are built to integrate with other software. Particularly when they’re an add-on to an existing powerful solution, like work management tools. This means you can end up with a strong value proposition. Plus, you’re more likely to get referrals through these established tech providers.
If you’re looking for a brilliant example of a SaaS app marketplace, check out monday.com’s app marketplace developer website. Or keep reading to learn about what makes a successful app developer with a bootstrapping mindset.
The bootstrapping mindset for developers
There are plenty of marketplace apps out there – and plenty of competition. So, what do you need to stand out and grow as a successful developer?
Based on our experience supporting developers, here are the key attributes of an effective bootstrapped developer:
- Customer focus: A deep understanding of your target audience’s challenges, needs, and what they’d expect to see in a high-quality app is key to long-term revenue. Deeply understanding your customers enables you to provide value, which leads to recurring revenue.
- Strategic thinking: With a bootstrapping approach, you keep the reins of the operation and this is key to ensuring you prioritize the right things like which pain points to address, where to focus resources, and which areas to develop and fix.
- Agility: Things change in the technology industry all the time. So, you need to be able to pivot your strategy to address feedback and changes in market conditions.
- Resourcefulness: It’s not down to the financial funds you have available – it’s often down to your approach. For example, tapping into an existing successful platform and developing it further can be much more lucrative and instantly successful than trying to launch an entirely new app on a marketplace.
So is it worth putting all this to the test? We think so, and here’s why.
4 phases to monetize apps with SaaS marketplaces
We’ve now covered the benefits and what key attributes you need. But what you really want to know now is how you can monetize apps with a bootstrapping approach.
Let’s look at some key ways successful app developers are achieving recurring revenue:
#1: Identifying opportunities in app marketplaces
The first thing developers want to look for is the right revenue opportunity – ideally one that has the legs to grow into something bigger and create long-term revenue.
We’ve just covered why SaaS app marketplaces are so lucrative. They’ve got a larger user base, subscription-based users, and it’s a sector that will always be in demand. Plus, they’re relatively low-cost to tap into.
And there are certain hacks you can use to develop the most lucrative SaaS marketplace apps:
- Step 1: Research popularity: Study the market and see which apps are proving the most profitable. Once you’ve identified which categories are proving popular, you can delve further into your research. Popular apps tend to be those in project management, communication, productivity, and customer relationship management (CRM).
- Step 2: Find your niche: To steal market share, you need an app that stands out. Look for gaps in the market and how you can support solving a target audience’s particular pain point.
- Step 3: Check out the competition: And then see what others are doing and how you can create a unique value proposition: what makes your app different? Make sure you consider step one throughout the process – solving a customer need is crucial.
You can see why those key attributes like strategic thinking come in handy for these three steps. Given that SaaS platforms and their marketplaces are ever-evolving, we recommend regularly running through this process for your existing apps to find ways to develop them, and, of course, any new ideas too.
Ready to find out more? Did you know monday.com has its own app marketplace where developers can showcase their products and services to a customer base of over 186,000+. There are a range of categories including project management, marketing, sales, and more. Why not see for yourself?Start building
#2: Creating high-quality profitable apps
We’ve drilled home the importance of customer focus. What we mean here is to focus on the user experience, adding value, and producing a high-quality app – one that’s regularly updated and improved. And, of course, you want to make sure it’s profitable.
Here are some tips to help you with that:
- Focus on intuitive design, easy navigation, and clear communication – this is a basic foundation.
- Analyze customer behavior trends to find your opportunity to make money.
- Aim to develop an app that needs purchasing on a subscription base for long-term and consistent revenue. The average subscription billing vendor is growing 30-50% annually. That’s tens of billions each year.
- Capture and listen to user feedback like feature requests and bug fixes to keep users using your app, and to prevent negative reviews.
- Consider security and privacy because this is something all businesses are looking for.
#3: Marketing your apps on SaaS marketplaces
If potential users don’t know your app exists and what it does, it just won’t get purchased. So, to increase visibility, consider this:
- Optimize app listings: Using keywords in titles and descriptions. Clearly articulate the features and benefits. And use high-quality screenshots and videos.
- Use promo tools: Most marketplaces will have promotional tools like featured placement, paid advertising, and discount promotions.
- Multi-channel marketing: Consider your own marketing opportunities outside of marketplaces – like social media, email marketing, and content marketing. You should cover a range of content including guidance around a pain point, as well as product content covering features and benefits.
- Look for SaaS app marketplaces that promote developer apps: Some marketplaces provide marketing opportunities for your app – for example by recommending your app in their blogs, newsletters, and even through partnership awards. Essentially, their marketing directs traffic to your app – which is free for you. Additionally, some app marketplaces have community forums and social channels which can also promote your app. As can the platform’s sales team when talking to relevant clients.
Plus, you can also go one step further than this:
- Engage with users: Directly communicate with users that provide feedback or provide reviews to build relationships and trust – and increase visibility.
- Leverage analytics: Track behavior, engagement, and retention to inform your next steps for everything to do with your app (from product development to marketing). More on this here in our SaaS app analytics guide.
- Branding: This is another way you can build trust – which is key for the SaaS sector. A strong brand, featuring things like a consistent and authoritative tone of voice helps to build trust and also a following.
#4: Building a Loyal User Base
You know, a loyal customer base = long-term revenue. So, how do you do this?
Here’s what leading developers do:
- Provide exceptional customer support: Responding quickly to user inquiries, fixing bugs, and providing self-service guides for no-touch support.
- Ask for feedback: It’s better to proactively mitigate issues before it makes it onto review sites.
- Personalize the customer experience: Like with tailored recommendations, content, and app notifications.
- Build a community: Somewhere users can go to share content, ideas, and hacks with like-minded people. It takes it from just an app, and just a brand, to a go-to place for networking. Hence why it builds a loyal base. You could do this with social media and forums.
Scaling your bootstrap app business
So, these four methods help to build a successful app. Now, how do you maximize the revenue opportunities? The key is scaling your bootstrap business. Here are some ways you can do this:
- Expand to multiple marketplaces: Apps can be built and then tweaked for other SaaS app marketplaces. This means you can generate additional revenue streams.
- Think multi-app: Once you’ve established one app, it’s best to diversify your app portfolio to spread risk and increase opportunity by targeting different markets (like addressing different audiences or pain points).
- Outsource to specialists: As you grow your app business, you’ll have less time. By utilizing third-party specialists, you can delegate things like customer service, sales, and marketing – which frees up your time and gives you the best chance at success. For example, marketing teams are pros that know the tips and tricks to generate revenue and ROI. Plus, outsourcing is less risky than permanent hires.
- Leverage automation: Another time-saving app is automating manual tasks like marketing campaigns and customer support workflows. It can provide better customer experiences and reduce the risk of human error too.
Monetizing app development with a bootstrap business model
Let’s pull this all together. So, essentially, with the right skills and approach, the SaaS app marketplace has an abundance of opportunities to monetize app development – without needing significant funding and support from outside parties like investors.
There are relatively low barriers to entry and the SaaS app marketplace is incredibly popular and ever-growing so a great opportunity for a bootstrapped developer. The key to success is creating an app that’s unique in solving a need, is high-quality, and easy to use.
Think customer focus. With a laser-like focus on customer needs, you’ll be better placed to find unique revenue-generating opportunities and retain a loyal and referring user base.
Taking your first step can feel daunting, but every successful business started somewhere. And there are ways to improve success. For example, monday.com’s app marketplace supports developers in creating apps that solve users’ needs with its developer hub, app ideas, and a complete toolset for developers.
For the developer, this can lead to showcasing your apps to over 186,000 subscription-based users, reaching new audiences, and tapping into a growing market of productivity, CRM and project management apps.