Google’s local ad performance is one of the top priorities for the company according to Susan Wojcicki, who is a senior VP overseeing the advertising business at Google (and Sergey Brin’s sister-in-law). With the Groupon deal being a thing of the past Google is on to the next way to crack this critical market. It’s actually interesting to see a monster like Google struggle to get its arms around how it can capture one of the most elusive, and potentially lucrative, market segments in business: the SMB.
According to the Wall Street Journal
“That is my biggest focus,” said Ms. Wojcicki, one of Google’s early employees who was interviewed during the D: Dive Into Mobile event at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in San Francisco. “How can we enable you, when you’re walking around, to find out the best local offers around? As an advertiser, how can I find out if someone saw my ad and went to a store? The local market is a huge market, we’ve always wanted to be in it.”
They and everyone else have wanted to be in it but in the online space the pace of adoption has been excruciatingly slow from the SMBs of the world. Of course, there are early adopters that are doing very well from the SMB side and they probably hope that no one else catches on because they can garner more success with less of a crowd to fight through.
With Google though, they are need to do something quickly. It’s not that there are many other competitors out there that have their scale and data. Those that are even somewhat comparable are still way behind the Google curve. Google’s desire to make this happen is, of course, about revenue but also being the leader. They have lost any chance at being a real threat in the social media space so this area is one where, if they can make a real good mousetrap, could actually stave off some of the Facebook erosion they have experienced as of late.
Wojcicki pushes the failure to get into this market back on the SMB but I think this is a cop out.
So far, local Web advertising has not taken off because existing services have been too hard to use for time-strapped small business people, said Mrs. Wojcicki. “For small businesses, they don’t have a lot of time,” she said. “You need to create a model that works for them. And it needs to be easy for them to sign up. On the back end, everything needs to just work for them.”
Why is this a cop out? Because it makes it sound like the SMB doesn’t have the time to do something that could help their business. What they really don’t have is any good reason to believe Google will actually help. Many struggle with AdWords already and feel like they are throwing money into Google’s black hole. They don’t necessarily trust agencies either because, let’s face it, they haven’t done much to be trusted for in the past. And just building something that Google thinks is easy could look like rocket science to the average SMB. Right now, their idea of easy is Boost but many SMB’s don’t know about it (Google’s marketing incompetence hard at work) and the solution is to turn over the keys to Google and trust them! Yikes.
What the SMB needs, and I don’t think Google can ever provide, is the relationship small businesses desire to engage in virtually anything. This is where Google will always, and I mean always, fall short because they are an engineering company that doesn’t understand people like they think they do. They get algorithms and large systems but they don’t get people and people are the ones running these local shops. Until they humanize their delivery there will be a significant disconnect that will hurt their business. This gap currently exists because most business owners are a bit older than the generation that has grown up with Google so they get it like others. Maybe in 10-20 years Google’s machine like handling of people will be more accepted but right now it hurts them a lot. They just won’t admit it or maybe they are just too arrogant to even see it as a problem.
This doesn’t mean that Google can’t grow in this area with who they are. There are enough SMBs who are on the edge of jumping in despite the lack of support and general communication from Google. The problem exists in getting widespread adoption. They won’t and honestly, maybe having two long time employees (Marissa Mayer and Ms. Wojcicki) at the helm of these efforts is a bad move since they helped develop the current culture of “We build it, you use it and if you have questions go to a forum” is the wrong way to go.
I’m not sure just how Google plans to master the SMB local ad market but one thing I think they will need to do is the thing that Google seems to dread the most and that is talk to people. Actually have conversations with customers. Yuck! Even then though, the Google ‘customer service’ results can be less than stellar as I experienced recently.
So what’s your take on Google and the SMB in the local ad market? Will the little guys just have to capitulate or will they find other ways to survive without having to be assimilated into the Goog?