How SMEs can compete when it comes to finding niche app ideas – 7 top tips

Jean Frew

It can be difficult when running a business on a tight budget to know where to spend your time and knowing where to invest. Grant Carlisle, Managing Director of Atom Engine, gives us his top tips for how SMEs can compete against companies in the big leagues when it comes to finding an idea for an app.

Top tip #1: Don’t try to think of a winning idea “off the cuff”

It can be difficult when put on the spot to come up with a creative idea even if you’re the most imaginative person in the room. I’d liken it to when people ask you to give a fun fact about yourself and your mind goes blank for what seems like an eternity.

There’s usually a balance between a spark of inspiration and a considered, calculated approach to an idea that creates some of the most successful apps we have made.

Top tip #2: Embrace collaboration

Work with the wider team in your organisation rather than just your marketing people. The people who deal with your customers or who are at the user-end of your systems will be able to give you an idea of the real-world problems which may exist that your developers, creatives and marketers wouldn’t necessarily have sight of.

Gain opinions early on from a cross-section of your organisation and even your customers. If they think they can improve the way they work with you they will be happy to tell you about their pain points.

Top tip #3: Check your FAQs or your customer service standard responses

If people keep asking the same questions of your customer service staff to the point where they have a standard response template, this could be a starting point for an app. Equally if you have FAQs or standard operating procedures that could be simplified in your organisation, this could be another place to start to craft an idea for an app.

Top tip #4: Think about things that frustrate you, could they be solved with an app?

How much time do you waste during your working day solving problems? Do you spend time on calls with IT support staff, for example? Could this be expedited using an app to report issues rather than calling, being on hold, being transferred around departments?

Top tip #5: Are there apps out there that could be much better?

I’m not suggesting that you should go out and infringe on anyone else’s property. We advocate the use of NDAs and will help to point clients in the right direction to protect their assets. However, if there is an app with poor feedback, which hasn’t had any recent updates this could be a good place to start.

Always make your app your own, make it useful and make it unique.

Top tip #6: Get abstract

Why not try word association games, journaling or brainstorming ideas with a group of people? You’ll be surprised what weird and wonderful ideas people can come up with when you start an abstract dialogue. You might even find its good fun too!

Top tip #7: Finally, check your idea at every stage & refine it

As I mentioned earlier, it’s not often that the first idea is the one that makes it into production. Check at each stage that you’re still heading towards your end goal and that nothing has been lost along the way.

A good checklist to consider is:

  • Is it useful, entertaining and interesting enough?
  • Does it solve your target audience’s problem?
  • Is there anywhere else they can go for the same assistance?
  • Would they share it with others?
  • Is it the best app of its kind available?
  • Is it simple to use?
  • Does it meet any of your business objectives?
  • Have you spoken to an app development agency about your idea (under an NDA if necessary) to see if they think it’s viable?

If you are answering “no” to these questions it may be that your idea isn’t quite ready. If you are considering building an app we would always recommend speaking to an experienced and reputable development agency for advice.