Live From Happy Hound: An SMB Story

Well, not exactly live but I was at Happy Hound yesterday in Oakland for the press event associated with the release of Google’s Economic Impact report.

Owner Suzanne Gotter has been a case study for Google AdWords for several years. At the event Google spoke and then Gotter spoke and told her story, which was impressive. She had a background in sales and marketing and so was, arguably, not the typical small business owner out of the gate. However confronted with an empty warehouse she used Google and AdWords to grow her business to 33 employees and now is opening new locations.

She said in total sincerity that the overwhelming majority of her new customers came from Google. How did she know? She asked them all.

Gotter said that when she opened several years ago she tried multiple forms of advertising, including magazines and, yes, yellow pages.

After the end of the press conference, I asked her about how the yellow pages performed. She said she took out quarter page color ads in three books. She added that it was expensive and while she did get calls and some walk-ins, she said the customers misunderstood the nature of her business (she’s not a kennel) and also didn’t want to pay and/or weren’t able to afford her services.

She initially managed her own Google AdWords account but now has an agency do it for her; she also no longer looks at her analytics because she’s too busy.

She spends about $400 per month on AdWords but now also ranks very highly in organic results:

She said that organic CTRs were about 5X AdWords clicks and Google confirmed that as a general matter. She was asked, “Now that you rank so well will you still buy AdWords?” Her answer was yes because she’s expanding her services and now adding locations. For awareness of the new services and locations she felt she still needed AdWords.

The agency she’s using now for search marketing is the same local ad agency she spoke with when she started the business. She told me they wanted to sell her a bunch of expensive, high margin offerings including outdoor. She couldn’t afford them and was skeptical. Back then the agency didn’t talk to her about search. Now that’s all they do for her.

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5 Responses to “Live From Happy Hound: An SMB Story”

  1. Jozef Foerch Says:

    in case the owner reads this….have your agency activate your address extension on your adwords ad since you have one location and this will greatly help out with drawing even more attention to you rather than others on the page.

  2. Mike Mueller Says:

    Interesting. Clearly a dual approach is best with good organic results AND an AdWords campaign. Although the CTR will be much better on the organic listing, keeping a PPC presence–especially on long-tail keywords where organic results are more difficult–is vital.

    Not surprised at all by her yellow page comment.

    Check out my recent post about SMB economic recovery: http://www.usearchinglocal.com/2010/05/small-business-optimism-grows-as-does.html

  3. Shelley Furse Says:

    Good stuff. Just for the record, the owner’s last name is “Golter” not “Gotter”.

  4. Greg Sterling Says:

    Thanks for the correction. Bad eyesight.

  5. Greg Sterling Says:

    However Google must’ve got it wrong since I was going off their materials.

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