09/20/2012 07:28 am ET Updated Nov 20, 2012

Super-Social and Sophisticated, MacHeist 4 Marketing Creates Experience, Fun and Value: Exclusive Interview

This writer's biggest surprise this summer occurred when visiting Khalil Habib in New York and discovering he is part of the genius known as MacHeist -- the uber successful Mac software promotion company which just launched its fourth promotion. Macheist brings together a community of over 1.4 million Mac Software enthusiasts to learn about great mac apps, solve puzzles and complete missions.

This intriguing marketing model seems a win-win-win-win for the Mac user community, app developers, MacHeist and even select charities. From the customer's perspective, they can receive free apps once they solve the puzzles and "complete missions." And these challenges seem to be the greater thrill of MacHeist. The event culminates in offering a software bundle worth thousands of dollars for a few dollars.

Top software companies and newer apps developers get their software into the hands of enthusiasts who are likely to buy additional products from them. Of course, MacHeist benefits when they sell the bundle and charities benefit as well, since MacHeist gives 25% of all bundle sales to charities. In the past they have given away over $2 million to charities -- including a record setting $850,000 set by MacHeist 3, which they hope to surpass with MacHeist 4.

While Khalil has been quiet about his role in MacHeist, he's agreed to this exclusive interview as MacHeist 4 launches and offered to answer questions from readers in the comments section of this post.

Lisa: Khalil, what is MacHeist?

Khalil: MacHeist is the premiere Mac software promotion company. Our promotions are major online events followed by millions of Mac fans worldwide. We bring together a community of over 1.4 million Mac Software enthusiasts to learn about great Mac apps, solve puzzles and complete missions while working their way toward an amazing software bundle.

Lisa: What do you mean by "missions"?

Khalil: A series of puzzles and games that release over several weeks during our promotions that, through word of mouth, and now, through our subscriber list as well, get the word out and build the excitement. Users who solve a puzzle win a free app! The puzzle promotion builds toward a great bundle sale like the grand finale at a fireworks display.

Lisa: Why does MacHeist go to so much trouble creating all the games and puzzles, why not just give the software away in the first place?

Khalil: Unlocking great apps as a reward for solving puzzles creates excitement. Millions of users discuss the apps in our forums, learn about great software and share ideas about them with users all over the world in a fun and engaging way. The puzzles and games are a huge part of the culture and fun of MacHeist - people love to play and learn about Mac software. That's what makes us unique, and why MacHeist has become this giant online event that millions of people look forward to.

Lisa: Sounds very "social."

Khalil: It is. MacHeist is a culture, a social network of mac enthusiasts from all over the world. Many of our users have followed us for years and many friendships have been made as a result.

Lisa: How do you get these companies to give away their software?

Khalil: Even the biggest companies want more customers. Developers know that if they can just get you to try their software, there's a good chance you'll become a customer and buy something else from them in the future, or remain a loyal customer for life. Plus, the more people use an app, the more it sells through word-of-mouth. We have the ability - and proven track record - to get great apps into as many eager hands as possible, and quickly.

Lisa: Name a few products you gave away in MacHeist 3.

Khalil: Let's see, 1Password, DaisyDisk, World of Goo, MacJournal, and so many others. Pixelmator participated in MacHeist 2. We've had so many great titles.

Lisa: So, tell me about your new promotion, MacHeist 4.

Khalil: We've revealed a few participants -- Corel, TellTale Games, and great apps like NetShade and Appshelf. We just launched this Saturday -- and the experience is about mystery and surprise -- so I can't comment on additional apps, as we reveal the content of MacHeist 4 over time -- but if you are interested in getting some of the most amazing Mac software on the planet for free, keep your eyes on over the next couple weeks. I've spent the last year making deals with developers across the globe, from small indie developers to huge companies and I can tell you one thing, the industry has never seen anything like what's going to be unleashed in this promotion!

Lisa: How important is MacHeist to the Mac community?

Khalil: Very! MacHeist attracts more users to Apple and its products, as people get to see what the Mac culture is all about through our promotions. MacHeist helps users discover the hidden richness of great Mac apps out there.

Lisa: I love the idea of creating an experience for your customers, that it's social--which creates even more opportunity for viral, word of mouth visibility. Do you think we'll see more of this kind of thing in other industries?

Khalil: Absolutely! Virtual communities are real and powerful. Social networking has become a large part of our lives and shopping habits. Consumers trust recommendations that come from their friends. The difficulty is in creating an organic "social" culture that people genuinely want to be a part of. Our games help to create a MacHeist culture.

Lisa: And the companies are a big part of that culture...

Khalil: Yes, developers have an opportunity to interact with users in our forums. What better way for young indie developers to receive immensely valuable feedback from users, and for users to get to know developers? That organic exchange of ideas may direct much of an apps' future development.

Lisa: One could call it "Super-Social." Have you seen a similar model in other industries?

Khalil: Yes, I'm big fan of Fractal Audio's Axe FX guitar processor. Fractal has successfully created a "social" experience around their gear, resulting in a loyal following and sharing of ideas online. Guitar enthusiasts all over the world are aware of this great little company from New Hampshire. And users get to share what they produce from this great tool online and in forums. "Virtual" communities are very powerful and are a great way for any company to thrive in a competitive environment.

Readers, let's hear from you: What do you think of the model? Any questions for Khalil?