Will Your Business Avoid Google’s Marketing Mistakes?

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by on April 4, 2012

One of the worst strategic mistakes any large or small business can make is focusing on the wrong target. Most CEOs and business owners know they should focus on serving their customers, but that does not mean it always happens, despite being a most effective marketing strategy.

How to Respond to Competition
When a successful new competitor seemingly arises out of nowhere, the trounced executives naturally feel their confidence wane, causing fear or panic at some level to take hold. What happens next is important because this is where the mistakes begin.

  • Do its executives start dissecting the competitor, its successes, strategies and tactics?
  • Does the company establish new strategies, goals and actions focused on matching or exceeding their competitor’s gains?
  • Or, does the company renew its focus on serving its customers? (Best!)

Yahoo is a tired example of a business that lost their vision and focus, and now they are struggling to sell or revamp businesses that Google vanquished. The Board of Directors at Yahoo has also failed, and is now disassembling.

A more current example might be Google. Google was clearly shaken by the success of Facebook and its rocketing customer base and revenues. Facebook is now a threat to Google’s advertising revenues. Over the past year and a half, Google started following Facebook’s strategy by creating a competing social network, except it stalled after a stellar launch. (For full disclosure, I am an investor in Google while writing this post.

A Ripe Market Opportunity
One opportunity that Google is foregoing, due to its corporate mandate on social networking, is the relatively untapped local business market. Online marketing for local businesses is different from nationwide, worldwide and, in most cases, even e-commerce businesses. Local businesses are largely being neglected, and based on my experiences, sometimes mistreated.

This lack of focus is occurring even though the market is worth at least tens of billions of dollars annually. I assume Google is aware that they are inexperienced at serving these over 23 million businesses, since they provide some tools and education.

Education and Support with Impact
Local businesses are generally unaware of the great visibility and return small business SEO services bring to organic and paid listings. Many local business do not know where to begin or feel like failures after trying, still unsure how to find new customers after the demise of telephone book advertising.

Google needs to broadly communicate their synergy, not merely promote advertising (pay-per-click ads). Online marketing for local businesses needs more integrated tools, and better descriptions and enforcement of Google’s guidelines (‘terms of service’), especially for customer reviews and ownership rights of local listings.

New Marketing Partnerships
Reaching out to its natural partners can strengthen Google’s marketing. They can start by communicating with Internet marketers with established and successful local businesses relationships. Too much of what passes for local Internet marketing is naive or uses techniques and tactics that may not survive long. The quality of search results will rise if quality training is available for new or poorly trained marketers, and Google’s guidelines are well defined and enforced.

According to another online marketing expert,

Our clients need tools. We need to know our online exposure without hours of research. We need to know who is talking about us, where and when…without hours of learning solution A and failing at solution #2. Our industry needs standardization towards regulations and best practices towards this new age of marketing. Businesses need to learn how to properly engage with customers and continually figure out to improve this customer experience.

My job as an online marketer is to help my clients understand how this task is applied to their business. In turn, my clients naturally move towards paid channels. Google should help people like me to further grow their initial initiative.

An effective marketing strategy for any business is understanding its customers in depth, and then focusing on serving them as much as possible. All of our small and local businesses can use this as a lesson, and remind ourselves of it when it is our turn to respond to a fierce competitor.

How can Google better serve small and local businesses? What are the pressing issues your business faces?

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