Google SMB Event an Interesting Model

I was at the Google Favorite Places event yesterday in San Francisco. I’ve written up my experience on SEL.

It was ostensibly about the Favorite Places announcement but it was largely about explaining to SMBs (apparently 200 in the room) why they should claim and enhance their profiles on Google Maps through the Local Business Center. Citysearch and Yelp were also there.

Yelp encouraged business owners to “join the conversation,” while Citysearch was selling its reach and reporting (“we’ll tell you how many calls you received”).

Picture 32

The really difficult thing to gauge was whether the pretty basic information being presented was appropriately calibrated to the audience’s sophistication level. Among a couple of the SMB attendees — who were invited based on their inclusion in the Favorite Places lists compiled by celebrities — I spoke to were two people from the St. Regis hotel, part of the Starwood chain. They said they were there largely to get a better understanding of AdWords, which is managed on their behalf out of a Seattle office.

Even though they’re part of a major hotel chain they saw themselves as a local business trying to get attention within their organization and from local consumers in specific markets.

I could imagine Google doing a series of these events around the US, especially in “secondary” markets where they would be likely to get considerable media play. From talking to several Google execs and employees there it was fairly clear to me that this was a kind of experiment. They said that they would follow up with the attendees and evaluate the event accordingly.

I also asked how the Google LBC Dashboard was being received and I was told that it was being very favorably received. I said “what about call tracking?” (which it doesn’t offer) and got a non-committal response but that’s probably being looked at.

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Related: In reaction to a new PR campaign around Maps, Mike B says:

It is fine to educate and promote your products in an easy listening style but don’t try to tell folks that “we hear you” as a solution to real, concrete bug fixes and human support.

7 Responses to “Google SMB Event an Interesting Model”

  1. earlpearl Says:

    I’m with Mike on this. One only needs to review the comments in googles forums for maps to see the volume of questions, complaints, and utter complete frustration by smb operators, and their webmasters. Problems go unsolved. Google simply doesn’t address them.

    The volume of complaints and the dismay of smb operators is astonishing. Too often people report problems that have persisted for months. Months. Imagine if your phone was out of order for months and the phone company refused to fix it or worse yet, simply refused to acknowledge you at all.

    I’m surprised Google is inviting smb operators to join the Local Business Center. Mike B has reported that the volume of commentary within google groups forums for maps has risen dramatically in the last several months. Its currently running over 125 new issues a day. Extrapolate that out and you have around 45,000 problems/year.

    Google doesn’t respond to these issues.

    I suspect Google would like to move these small business operators into Adwords customers. There is money in that for Google. Its nice to introduce the smbs to the Local Business Center and other features…but the money for Google is currently Adwords.

    If you take this on face value….Google wanting to encourage smbs to use the Local Business Center its seemingly ludicrous. What business in their right mind wants to encourage still more users of a system that is rife with problems and provokes such incredible frustration let alone is being used at times to scam consumers and businesses. You’d think they would fix the problems. In fact they seem to be turning a deliberate deaf ear to those who are calling for fixes.

    Wise people have said…follow the money trail. I really think this is around about way to get more smb money for adwords.

  2. Greg Sterling Says:

    I’m very surprised that Google hasn’t done a better job addressing the customer service issues

  3. MiriamEllis Says:

    Greg,
    I appreciated your coverage of this event, both here and at SEL.

    As I see it, Google doesn’t think they have customer service issues because they don’t have customer service for Maps. It’s almost as if they are talking to themselves…holding fancy presentations, creating snappy videos lauding the merits of Local and all the while, turning a deaf ear to the people who use their products and whose businesses are most affected by Maps. There is something very wrong with this.

  4. Greg Sterling Says:

    Agree Miriam.

  5. earlpearl Says:

    @miriam:

    I don’t think they are talking to themselves. They are actively, aggressively, slickly figuring out ways to expand their presence with regard to smb’s. They can do that more effectively then is the smb awareness of problems with the local business center.

    Meanwhile the more exposure they get, ultimately the more dollars they get through adwords.

    Yes, though, they are doing all this while ignoring on going problems.

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