There are over 3 million apps in Apple’s App Store and over 2 ½ million in the Google Play Store. In contrast, there are over 1.5 BILLION websites in the world. That’s one app for every 2,000 websites, but the number is growing exponentially. Whether you’re looking for a game, a communication tool, or a proprietary app for use within your business, “there’s an app for that” is probably a true statement.

For most of us, none of those apps belong to us. There’s no app out there branded with my business, my logo, and my team’s process that brings value to our clients in a way they can’t get elsewhere. Sure, I can direct them to use apps provided by our vendors to interact with us, but I want an app that’s “mine.” What does that look like?

Our business has been building apps for almost a decade now, and for 9 of those 10 years we’ve focused on big budget, custom-made, time-intensive apps that did something no other app could do. Our clients had something unique they wanted to offer to their users, and we crafted that into an app. These value-adding apps proved to be excellent investments for our clients, and this allowed our team and theirs to invest significant resources into them.

But what if I want an app – me, Mr. Small Business Owner, who doesn’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars and years to invest? Am I out of luck?

We recently helped the Parks Foundation of Hendricks County bring a new app to life. They came to us looking for an app on a small budget. We almost turned them away, but both teams decided to take a chance on  a new small-scale app platform that allowed them to take key portions of their website and integrate those within the framework of an app we could publish in the Apple and Google stores. For a fraction of the time and cost investment of a big app, the Foundation has an app that meets their needs and serves their visitors well.

Apps like this aren’t for everyone. You don’t need an app if you’re hoping it just acts as a billboard for your business. Apps aren’t as ubiquitous as websites. If you feel your business truly needs an app, consider it from the point of view of your customers, clients, and visitors. What will they use it for? Will they come back to it repeatedly? Or will they just ask Google the next time they need your phone number and eventually delete your app forever?

Mobile apps provide a new medium to reach our customers. To be a useful and sound investment, they must also provide value TO those customers. Whether it’s an interactive map of parks, a calendar of events to what’s happening this weekend, or a convenient way to contribute to the community, consider carefully the value of what you’re providing before you venture too far.

Written by Chet Cromer for publication in the Business Leader