This past week, I attended an all-day seminar put on by my favorite brand ever, Google. The Google for Entrepreneurs (GFE) team came to Denver to present on how startups and small businesses can use Google’s tools for everything from product development to advertising. I will admit that because this was a free event, I expected strong sales-ey undertones. What I got was a series of really helpful sessions, hosted by inspiring and educated people.
The schedule included a business and a technical track. I chose the business track. I am pretty fluent in Google’s business tools — I’m deep in Google Analytics everyday; I’ve used Google AdWords for several search and display advertising campaigns, and I’ve managed the Google Apps for Business tools for a couple of small businesses. Because of my experience, I was concerned that I wasn’t going to learn much. I was wrong.
What I love about Google is their drive to innovate and create tools I didn’t even know I needed. I learned about new tools and was exposed to alternative uses for tools I already use. I also had the opportunity to listen to enthusiastic and interesting Google staff talk about why they do what they do.
Everyone should take full advantage of Google’s tools. They are free and incredible. This post is full of nuggets of knowledge I feverishly recorded at my day long Google-ganza. I recommend that you take a look at each of the applications discussed and explore how they can help your business.
The first application covered was Google+. While most people are familiar with Google+, many (including myself) are waiting to see how it integrates into marketing strategies and provides value in the social media space. What I learned is that Google+ is not a Facebook competitor. It’s much more. Because it integrates with Google search and all other Google apps, it’s a tool businesses can use to maximize their online presence and internal communications. If you’re a business with an active Google+ profile you can do the following:
- Hangouts (duh.)
- Claim authorship of your content
- Increase the likelihood of local discovery of your business
- Receive feedback and reviews
All of this integrates with Google search, improving your search performance and creating a more robust presence online.
Another component of Google+ is Communities. The example used in the presentation was the use of Communities to create a bounded conversation with your family. I’m going to test this concept for internal business communications, in an effort to improve camaraderie and culture for employees at my current company. I will be sure to report back on the results.
The next tool covered was AdWords. I realize this isn’t a new tool, and it’s likely that you’re pretty clear on what it can do for your business — advertise. However, Google introduced really interesting applications of AdWords. Often, as a small business or startup, there isn’t a budget for online advertising and it’s difficult to justify spending when you’re just developing your messaging for your product or service. Spending money for brand exposure or lead acquisition is expensive and often fails to yield much value. So, why should a startup with a baby-budget consider AdWords? Discovery and validation. Google presented this concept in terms of a new business lifecycle:
During the “Search” period, small businesses can use AdWords to do the following:
- Validate hypothesis
- Demonstrate social proof
- Identify early brand champions
- A/B test your product or service
- A/B test your messaging
- Test by region/language/device, etc.
During the “Execution” period, use AdWords to:
- Develop your brand
- Grow customer loyalty
- Influence the market
- Drive sales
- Scale your marketing
The idea that resonated with me during this presentation was the concept of using AdWords to test your service and messaging. If you’ve ever worked for a startup, you know that defining your product/service and the messaging around it is a struggle. AdWords enables brands to test positioning and phrasing to expose the most effective messaging. It provides measurable results, and an affordable way to perform market research.
Google Trends is useful for a number of reasons. If you’ve never jumped into the trends tool, do it. It provides normalized and indexed data for competitive research, trending topics, and forecasting. As a new business owner, it’s likely that you’ll need to make a case for the viability of your product or service. Google trends can be used to determine if demand exists for your business. The filters uncover target regions and seasonality of market interests.
For example, a search I performed on “snow tires” shows me the following:
- Demand for snow tires is high during the winter
- Canada is the most viable market for snow tires
- Rising topics related to snow tires are “chains for tires” and “snow tires reviews.”
These discoveries can inform a number of business decisions and uncover new opportunities.
Lastly, Google Public Data Explorer blew my mind. This was a resource I didn’t know existed. This incredible site illustrates large data sets in a really beautiful way. It provides a look at an almost endless amount of data from international fertility rates to the impacts of high debt. You can upload your own data sets and use the functionality of their graph rendering to present your data. I could and will likely spend hours here.
Interesting non-Google Businesses
A site dedicated to “democratizing fashion”
A media company that offers content, community, and conferences for aspiring women in the tech world.
An international crowdfunding platform where anyone can raise money for their idea.
A travel planner, powered by locals.
A web and mobile app used to outsource small jobs and tasks.
An online workplace for finding freelancers and freelance jobs.
A resource for affordable design.
Words to Do Business By
“Always have a laser focus on the user.” – Mary Grove, Google
“Choose a mission that matters.” – Mary Grove, Google
“Constraint breeds creativity.” – Mary Grove, Google
“Focus on what’s working and optimize.” – Jim Deters, Galvanize
“Frustration is a catalyst for innovation.” – Dan Daugherty, RentBits
It’s pretty obvious — I’m a Google groupie. Their business has taught me to always have something in beta. Experiment, take risks, learn, fail, and begin again. If you have the chance, attend a GFE event. It’s worth it.
If you want to see more coverage on the GFE event in Denver, check out #GFEDenver.