Posted May 10, 2011 10:16 am by with 3 comments

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Last week we spoke of the marketing efforts that Google is putting behind their Places offering in six test markets including Portland, Austin, Las Vegas, Madison (WI), Charlotte and San Diego. That post got quite a bit of attention simply because of the subject matter which is Google reaching out to, gulp, market their services.

One part of that offering that was not discussed was the mysterious box that showed up on the steps of most small businesses in those markets. Google sent along one of the kits that was sent to 41,000 businesses in Charlotte to us here at Marketing Pilgrim. We thought the rest of the world might like to see what Google is up to. Once our own Places promo box arrived at the Marketing Pilgrim world headquarters (embellishment alert!) we thought we’d open it up for you too.

First, rather than make the outer box ornate and scream “Steal Me!”, Google chose the plain brown box look. As long as it wasn’t ticking most SMB’s would at least be curious to open it up. I know a few business owners who got these packages and were surprised and somewhat confused to say the least.

After you crack open the plain brown wrapper, Google did the box in a box trick to help one peel through the layers to get to the fun stuff.

The enclosed catalog showed a variety of items that a business could order for free in these markets to help promote their Place page and the ability to nudge people to rate their business.

Unlike Yelp who acts like you shouldn’t encourage someone to rate a business online, Google just does it for the SMB. Personally, I think that makes sense since they are not saying “Rate us positively on Google Places!”. No harm, no foul and no hypocrisy like Yelp can be guilty of. One nice touch is a Post-It note congratulating the business on being one of the top rated Charlotte businesses. Nothing like feeding the SMB ego, huh?

Then there was the initial giveaway that will make Charlotte area dentists happy as Google gave the SMB owner / marketer a little bowl to be filled with Places mints. A nice touch but I would’ve preferred something else (but that’s just me being annoying so who really cares, right?).

In the end, the continuing push by Google to reach out to the SMB market is one to truly pay attention to. No matter how automated the world becomes small, local businesses are about people, relationships and connections. That how they sell and that’s how they survive. They support local events and sponsor local sports teams. They smile and welcome customers and talk with them. They actually shake hands with people (how old school, huh?!)

As a result, the company in the Internet age that bridges the gap between automation for scale and relationships for effectiveness will win the heart of the SMB. I would love to see a competitor make the same move but I doubt it will happen (in case you haven’t figured it out, that competitor would be Bing) since I am not sure they are going that route at least in the conversations I have had with them.

So like many things in the Internet world, the SMB market could be Google’s to lose. If this willingness to put some significant effort into reaching the 15 million plus small businesses in the US alone is any indication, Google is playing to win. Never mind how much it costs Google to put these packages together and ship them plus giving away more free stuff because that is chump change to a monster like Google. Why wouldn’t they do this on some scale considering many of those businesses haven’t scratched the surface of pay per click advertising with Google and, in the end, that’s what’s all about.

So what do you think of this Google Places welcome package and the overall effort Google is putting behind its local efforts in these select markets? Would you like to see this kind of attention in your market?

  • Hey thanks for sharing, but I’ve already seen the contents of a “box” in person.

    Even here in the TINY (under 800pop.) town of Dufur, OR (97021) where I live, the little local store ( who I showed how to claim their page, received a “box” within about 4 – 6 weeks. We were all pretty amazed, but there it was with high tech window sticker, toys, candies and all. Being pretty new at all this myself, it was pretty cool.

    PS….Love your site here. Thanks so very much!! 🙂

    • That’s interesting, Jeff, because when I spoke with Jeff of Google consumer marketing he alluded to the fact that the areas around these test markets are included as well. Honestly, I didn’t think somewhere 100 or so miles from Portland would be included. Although I must say it looks like there ain’t much between you and Portland according to Google maps :-).

      Thanks for reading and let us know what we can provide for information that would be of service to you and the town of Dufur!

      • Well, there’s a WHOLE lot more in Hood River and The Dalles than there is once you actually get to Dufur! LOL But I kid you not, they got the whole package. Seems a little silly way out here. I mean Kramer’s is one of the only places in town TO go. It’s not like hoards of people are walking by every day too busy to stop in, or with other choices nearby that might be “better”?

        Thanks for the reply though Frank! Much of what you seem to write about is quite relevant to the direction I’m trying to go with my new business, so I’ll be watching closely and looking for more ways to learn from you.