Ray Barber, founder of prMac Talks App Marketing
Ray had quite an unusual upstart in marketing. Spanning some 20 odd years, he played drums doing top forty country music. After he got out of the military, he was lucky enough to land a job working as a recording tech at a leading ad firm. It was here that the real world met advertising, marketing and everything that goes with it.
In 2007 he just felt that something had to be done about the myriad of roadblocks that many developers faced, and most especially what appeared to be a disconnect that so plagued our industry. prMac was the first wire service that was specifically niched in the Apple and Mac (and later iOS) markets. What prMac immediately brought to the table were “template-able” press releases, ensuring that everyone followed a very specific and narrowly defined format. The entire goal was to make it easier for members of the press to cover a developer’s products and services.
What is prMac and how are you positioned in the market?
Launched in 2007, prMac is a press release distribution network, or wire service, niched specifically in the Apple, Mac and iOS markets. Our services cover free and extended distribution to our network partners, as well as professional level writing services. We also offer excellent VNR (video) production and delivery, specifically targeted to the media. Additionally, we offer discounted bulk distribution credits. These are very popular and many media specialists, as well as our members take advantage of them.
What types of clients do you work with?
Our clientele are primarily Mac and iOS developers, as well as media specialists who are issuing releases on behalf of their own customers. Both represent indie developers, to large scale companies and everything in between. You would be amazed at the number of home grown studios that have evolved into incredibly successful companies, all using our services. With very minor exception, most all of our customers have been with us since we launched prMac.
What geographies are you focused on and where are you seeing the most growth?
prMac’s distribution model essentially covers the globe. Our media partners are spread across the world, representing virtually every major city in most countries. With only rare exception, most of all of our media partners have been with us since we launched prMac. Our mantra is truly “Publish Once, Broadcast the World.”
Of course, the most growth we have seen is with the advent of the mobile industry. We have had a steady increase in developers who are developing exclusively for the iOS platform. But most are developing for both the OS X and iOS markets.
And likewise, our media distribution continues to grow by leaps and bounds. While the majority are specific to the mobile market, they do cater to the desktop market as well. In addition to industry-specific partners, we have had a surprising number of local newspapers and radio stations opt-in to our service. So I am very proud to say that our distribution is incredibly balanced.
prMac DIY Media Distribution
What are your main tips for successful mobile app marketing?
Well, we are solely in the press release distribution business. Press releases are the single most cost effective way to market your products/services, hands down. And while there are many different advertising venues, your press communications are the very mechanism with which you connect to the media. It’s why press releases exist in the first place. So developers simply cannot afford to market themselves without sending press releases.
But journalists are in the fact business, and will quickly trash releases that make exaggerated or promotional claims. As their goal is to provide readers a complete portrait of whatever they’re writing about, press releases must follow a journalistic style in order to be given any kind of consideration.
So the thrust of our support is always geared towards how we can best help customers write better releases, with the aim to get them the kind of media coverage they so deserve. It’s only one of the reasons why our customers take advantage of what prMac can offer them in terms of solid distribution, and a patent pending format that the media have come to know and trust.
What are your thoughts about the latest iTunes App Store updates? Specifically the ones that are about app review process speeding up, paid app ads and subscription?
Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge Apple evangelist, and will be until the day I die. But in my humble opinion, both iOS and Mac App Stores are completely broken. I believe Apple is thinking more about how they look to their shareholders than taking care of the very developers that cater to the platform. A great example of this are the simple act of updates. There is no existing mechanism for a developer to charge for that update, they are all free.
And while I believe that in-app purchases are a nifty addition for free apps, Apple offers no mechanism for a developer to give out promo codes to members of the press, or anyone else for that matter. This looms large, particularly with how one goes about marketing. The busy journalist either only writes about the freely available features of an app, or they are forced to buy the in-app purchase to know more.
I have always felt that the Apple Watch and even Apple TV showed great promise to our market, and what all of this means for developers who supports those platforms. But again, Apple blew it when they didn’t bother to offer web-borne landing pages for those apps. Apple Watch support isn’t so bad because developers can leverage their existing listing on the App Store. But it was way too long before Apple came around and made landing pages available for Apple TV. I believe this was a sorely missed opportunity.
With regard to customer comments, Apple makes it almost impossible for a developer to maintain customer comments. Now, some negative customer comments are in my humble opinion a good thing. It forces the developer to stand up and fix whatever is broke. But if they receive a bogus or slanderous comment, forget about getting rid of it. While there is a mechanism to report false or bogus comments to Apple, I have never heard of anyone who has had any luck with it. They just seem to get ignored. I hope that I am wrong.
My personal feeling is Apple can’t have it both ways. If you are going to allow customer comments, then at a minimum allow some amount of moderation by the developer who owns that app. I understand that developers can’t hold the reins to their own comments. Otherwise we’d only see good ones. But there has got to be a better way. And as innovative as Apple is, I refuse to believe there isn’t anything better.
I do see where Apple is getting better about vetting apps for listing on the App Store (or MAS). But I feel they aren’t properly enforcing properly linked profiles. We constantly see direct links to sites that don’t even represent the app itself, to being completely broken. In short, they aren’t policing those links. in my view, this is a huge oversight, and in the end only hurts the developer.
I could go on, and I’m sure there are other issues that I have completely missed. But the point I wish to highlight is that all of this makes it very difficult for a developer to make a living and support the very platform we all love.
In your opinion, what makes an app more marketable than others?
Oh, that’s easy. It all starts with building a great app. Developers must take the time necessary to implement a great UI and think through how it will be used by their customers. It’s crucial to ensure that an app offers features that help set it apart from alternative apps within its genre. This is not the same thing as creating an app with a few features, and then simply calling them unique. Developers must do their own homework.
Also, developers must take the time and think through what namesake they will christen their new app. This is incredibly important for branding awareness. As a general rule of thumb, shorter names are much more memorable.
Apple could help with this by offering sub-titles in app titles on the App Store. Right now, there is a proliferation of these ridiculously long titles that no one is going to remember. Short titles can be the main name of the app, with a sub-title underneath that offers a more broadened description of what the app is. This would go a long way towards branding awareness.
And test! If there is one thing we see a lot when writing customer releases, is that there was a lot of time devoted to the development, but frankly very little time towards testing. And if there is one thing that can shoot down your app faster is a lot of complaints from customers, particularly getting bad reviews on the App Store.
What mobile devices do you use?
All of us are using the latest iPhones, iPads, iMacs and MacBooks.
What kind of people work with you in the team at prMac?
Our staff of 5 consists of myself, and my wife Sandy. I handle all of the early morning moderation, and CEO related stuff, and Sandy handles customer support and new registrations. Chris takes care of all of our writing gigs, and Jeremy handles all of our video production. Lae Dean takes care of all of our social networking, as included as part of our Extended Distribution.