Google Seeks to Monetize Google My Business

Google My Business (GMB), as it stands today, is a free product Google offers to local businesses to help manage their presence online. Through GMB, businesses can ensure their location information is accurate, provide a way for users to contact the business and showcase key information about the location, such as what the outside of the building looks like and if it is handicapped accessible. Small business owners and marketing agencies alike rely on GMB as a useful tool to ensure location information is accurate online.

At its core, GMB exists to enhance the user experience by keeping location information accurate for Google users. However, over the past few years Google has consistently evolved GMB to include a multitude of additional features that go beyond basic location information. For instance, in early 2016, Google rolled out Google Posts through GMB. This feature allows businesses to publish a Post within the Google search results, therefore allowing the business to directly speak to users via the free GMB platform. In addition to Posts, Google has developed ways for users to text the business (Messaging), created an FAQ feature (Q&A) and provided more insights into listing activity (search queries vs. views vs. actions).

Source:  Google

In addition to the list of free features Google has added to the GMB platform, they’ve also played with the idea of paid ads and paid listings. The first feature that sparked the idea of monetizing GMB was in 2013 when Google introduced local ads to Google Maps. More recently in 2018, Google launched Local Service Ads, which allows businesses in the home service industry to pay for a Google Guaranteed listing after going through background and license checks. Paying for a Local Service Ad shows users that you have been checked by Google and places a badge on your listing.

Fast-forward to this year; Google is launching The Google Guarantee. Similar to Local Service Ads, Google Guaranteed listings will receive a badge after passing a Google screening and qualification process. The upgraded listing will cost $50 per location per month ($600 annually). There has not been any information from Google on bulk pricing. It is unknown at this time if additional features will be added to listings with the Google Guarantee badge. The goal of the Google Guarantee is to instill trust and confidence in the businesses who take the time to go through the approval process.

Source:  Google

In terms of performance, it is unclear if having the badge boosts CTR or listing engagement as there is no public data available at this time, although it can be assumed that businesses with more trust receive more clicks and higher engagement rates. It is because of this assumption Mindstream Media Group is excited to test and learn more about Google’s latest paid feature.

As experts in the local space, we’re constantly looking for new ways to make our clients stand out from their competition, and Google Guarantee is an innovative way to do just that. Oftentimes businesses don’t put as much effort into local SEO as other channels and don’t explore the various features (free or paid) that GMB has to offer. If you’re interested in learning more about the Google Guarantee or GMB, reach out to connect with our team.

Marketing Isn’t Everything: A Look at One Customer’s Journey

As a marketer myself, it’s difficult to say that “marketing isn’t everything.” Ideally, if you have a great marketing strategy, the business would come rolling in. But, as we all know, that’s just not the case. Marketing is a small (but absolutely necessary) part of the process of growing a business.

Businesses exist to make money. Yes, there may be another goal of helping people, doing good for the community or advancing a cause, but the bottom line is what determines whether that business will continue to exist.

So why is it so hard for some companies to make a sale? Some seem to have a “secret sauce” for success, while others struggle. The customer journey plays a large role in the process.

Don’t be so quick to blame poor marketing for lagging sales. Before cutting your marketing spend, take a look at your sales process as well. Much has been said about the relationship between marketing and sales, and rightfully so. One can’t work without the other. They complement each other and sometimes are one in the same. But in cases where the processes and strategy are executed separately, they must be cohesive and focused on the end goal: growing the business. And at every step, the customer experience must be taken into consideration.

Let me give you a personal recount of why this is currently top of mind, and stress the importance of not only an integrated marketing strategy, but of every touchpoint your brand has with a customer.

In dealing with three different situations over the last few days requiring price quotes and the sales process, it’s clear why some businesses are not set up for success. Marketing is important, but if there are gaps in the rest of the process, you’re not only falling short on business goals, but also likely disappointing potential customers.

Situation 1.

Temps have been in the 90s for the last several weeks, so between the sultry weather and working from home full time, my air conditioner is working overtime. I also had family in town for a few days, so add more warm bodies and more indoor/outdoor activity. We noticed the A/C just wasn’t keeping up with the ideal temperature setting. Since the cooling unit is about 20 years old, we decided it was time to get a quote to replace it.

As my husband is a marketing person also, but works primarily in the HVAC industry, he naturally jumped at the opportunity to own this process. Between search, local advertising and previous knowledge of a few contractors in the area, he started making a list of companies to call. And for the sake of experimentation, he even wrote out a script to use when asking for an appointment, to ensure a fair comparison.

The results, which are still in progress as the quotes come in, are already staggering.

  • Some companies didn’t answer the phone.
  • Some voicemail greetings were along the lines of, “Hi, this is Melissa (or whoever). I check my messages after hours, so I’ll get back to you soon.” No company name was mentioned.
  • One contractor, after calling us back 9 hours after our initial inquiry, asked if we could text him our address and a few available appointment times.
  • After speaking to (or leaving a message for) at least nine companies, telling them specifically that we want to get a quote for a NEW air conditioning unit (a contractor’s top goal, by the way), we were only able to book four appointments.
  • We still haven’t received a return call from three contractors.
  • One appointment didn’t even show up after scheduling a 7 a.m. time slot. Rude!
  • One company, to their credit, arrived promptly at the scheduled time after calling ahead to let us know they were on their way. Great communication, but as they were only in my house less than 10 minutes, I was left with the feeling that they’re not doing a thorough-enough job evaluating the situation. If I’m going to drop thousands of dollars on a large ticket item like this, it’s a business’s job to make me feel good about it. Maybe not great, but at least that I’m not getting ripped off. Or at least make me feel like you understand my problem and that they are doing their best to give me a solution that works for my situation. As my husband (who is having a field day with this process) says, it’s a proven statistic that when contractors/salespeople spend longer in the house, the customer is more likely to buy.
  • The emailed quote from one contractor listed four different options ranging from $7,000-$12,000. While each option had bullet points of equipment specs, warranties and features, the average homeowner would have no idea what the differences are. The email body was clearly a template with no personalized information and barely scraped by as being helpful to me as a consumer.

Situation 2.

When it rains, it pours. While said family was visiting, the main floor drain in the basement (where they were staying) decided to get clogged, resulting in an unfortunate hour of pulling up carpet tiles, moving furniture, lots of spray cleaner and sweat (due to Situation 1). We needed to fix the problem ASAP. Let me add that by this point, it was 11 p.m. on a Saturday night. Convenient!

After searching online, we found a few local plumbers with good reviews. Since late night on the weekend is not really a great time to call around for quotes, we chose one to see what our options were. He was willing to come on over right then, but the price was steep: $250 just to show up, then whatever other cost to fix the problem would be additional. We decided to rough it for the night and booked him for the next morning at 9 a.m. (Sunday). He showed up a few minutes early, smiled, was friendly, fixed the problem and was on his way in about an hour. After expecting hundreds or even thousands of dollars in damage, it turned out to be a fairly simple issue resolved at a little less than the $250 rush charge that we would have paid the night before.

Could we have rented a snake machine and done the same thing this guy did? Yes. Would we have? Heck-to-the-no. There are things plumbers do that nobody else wants to do. And they know it. I was thankful to shell out $200 to make this unfortunate issue go away.

On the other hand, there are people who will do anything possible to avoid paying the expert, hoping to save a little cash and take on a project themselves. In the advertising industry, we see this a lot.

Situation 3.

I manage a subscription service for one of our agency accounts. That subscription plan is coming up for renewal in a few weeks. Our account representative reached out via email about six weeks in advance of the expiration to see if we could set up a time to discuss renewal options, etc.

My first thought was, “Why do we need to set up a meeting for this? Why can’t you just email me some information and we’ll go from there?”

I agreed to the meeting. It started with chit-chat, pandemic happenings, etc. and then proceeded to the details. She confirmed our contact info, billing address, all the basics. Then we talked about package options and costs. There was no waiting for an emailed estimate or any further delay in the process. I left the conversation with a pleasant feeling and all the information necessary to make a buying decision.

While this situation was quite different than the previous two, it just goes to show that a little effort can go a long way. It’s not always about the sale. You can’t always go into a situation trying to sell. Make small talk. Nurture a lead. Provide information. Listen to the customer. Then, give them what they’re asking for. Don’t inhibit the sales process.

So, what have I, as a marketer learned from my experiences over the last few days? Nothing really that new, sadly. I am continuously amazed at the lack of effort some businesses show, while pleasantly surprised by the small things some do to make an impression.

Key Takeaways

Here are some key marketing takeaways from these situations, plus solutions to consider in order to avoid pain points in the customer journey and improve your overall strategy:

  • Reviews are crucial. Potential customers want to know about the experiences others have had, whether good or bad. Lowest price doesn’t always win – fairness, friendliness and professionalism play a role among many other factors. Also, we know that reviews affect your ranking in search. Consider a reputation management or listings management solution to get started.
  • A little bit of follow-through effort goes a long way. Return calls and messages. Are you missing calls or messages, or choosing not to follow up? People (potential customers) are reaching out to you because they want to do business with you. Make it easy for them. Call tracking can help identify the gaps.
  • Customers are happier when you set expectations. Even a small effort to over-communicate your process can help make the customer feel at ease. If you set an appointment time or window, show up. Or at least call if something changes. Ask their preference on getting an estimate on paper or via email. Let them know how long the process will take. If your process has changed due to COVID or otherwise, tell people what to expect and how you’re handling the situation differently to keep everyone safe. Your brand’s Google My Business profile is a great place to showcase this information.
  • Marketing and sales must work together. Marketing generates calls, emails and leads, setting the sales team up for success. But if something is missing or off in the sales process, that’s the end. Take a look at your full customer journey. What messages are they seeing? Is your messaging strategy driving them further down the funnel?
  • Your team must know the goal. If your company is in the business of selling things, especially if part of that process involves coming into a home and giving a customer a quote, every step is necessary and valuable. From a uniform to a person’s demeanor, all the way to the price quote, all factors must reinforce a consistent brand image and have the same goal in mind. On the same note, ensure that your advertising is also communicating a consistent message across channels.
  • Know your value. Rush work and premium services should cost extra. Specialized skills earn higher rates. Cheaper isn’t always better. If you’re doing the dirtier jobs (whether actually dirty or not), consider the demand for your skillset and the value your uniqueness provides. At Mindstream Media Group, we pride ourselves on unique solutions that drive business forward. While there may be lower cost agencies, think about the added value that a growth-minded partner can provide.
  • You could probably save money by doing something yourself, but shouldn’t you just trust an expert to do the job more efficiently and accurately? Whether it’s plumbing or advertising, do yourself a favor and hire a professional.

While it’s true that marketing isn’t indeed everything, it can also be said that everything is marketing. From that first phone call or voicemail greeting, to a representative’s appearance, to the sales call follow-up, it’s all marketing. And it’s up to all of us to make that customer journey a little bit better.

From search to review management, call tracking to customer journey strategy, and much more, it helps to have a partner on your side. If you’re struggling with the details or need a strategic advisor to help, reach out to our team.