The latest Gillmor Gang, recorded Feb. 17, is another great example of how strong ideas can uniquely flow and develop conversationally, where the power of the group-think merges in real time with the individual stream of consciousness to actually come up with some insights and conclusions that are truly fresh. It's why the show, after some two years, still works very well even with a minuscule amount of proper preparation.
And so I'd like to amplify a notion that percolated Enough with the betas - give me a real B2B relationship, please. to the top of the latest chatter as show guest Nick Carr and The Gang (Dan Farber, myself, Doc Searls, Mike Arrington, Mike Vizard, and Steve Gillmor) were musing about Google. Ya, the topic refuses to go away ... again.
The notion is about packaging, and why Google seems allergic to it. Peering into the tea leaf fragments that form in the froth of Google's dynamic assortment of services and offerings, it's hard to figure out what they are up to when it comes to distinguishing a business from a consumer. Maybe such distinctions are passe, but why seemingly put added work into making the service-level gradations opaque? Why not do some clarity-evoking packaging?
My thought is that a huge untapped opportunity exists for Google, among others (notably eBay, Yahoo!, Microsoft Live), to produce a one-stop shop service ecology for an increasingly important slice of businesses. And that class starts at a scale of one person doing any kind of commerce online, and moves up to a small business of perhaps 30 people: the small office-home office (SOHO) category.
The next layer in our business class parfait, would be small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), of from 30 to 2000 people. The neat thing about the SMB segment is that is often bumps up into and includes departments, SOHOs, remote offices, and subsets of the business enterprise up to and including the Global 2000 corporations. You can enter the enterprise by appealing to the SMBs, as we know. Ask AOL IM, or Google search.
So as the questions comes up again and again, What is Google's enterprise play? I think we can safely bet that it has everything to do with the SOHO/SMB classes of businesses, and then a surreptitious segue into the really big accounts. Or perhaps the global gazillion of SOHO/SMBs is good enough. As Steve Gillmor surmises so correctly near the end of the show, for any business success is increasingly about being noticed, of getting attention from scads of prospective online customers at low cost using technology as their wedge into profitability. And then scale it, again and again, virally.
And, so Google's AdWords services have a giant head-start in the market for what we can call SOHO/SMB viral business development, which is a larger concept than mere online ads and contextual search. Google is becoming an essential go-to-market partner for almost any and all SOHO/SMB businesses, especially those still not exploiting the Web and associated technologies to gain and fulfill more and more business. This also helps businesses make the leap from e-commerce to knowledge commerce. It works in the B2C, C2C, and B2B spaces.
But, lo and behold, Google has the same problem as everyone else in modern business. How to get noticed at a cost low enough to be worth while for the small transactions initially involved? How can Google with its largely automated AdWords services gain better attention, to easily appeal to, and then close real business with the global scads of small companies?
Google may only get a few hundred dollars a month from these companies (potentially millions of companies) so it needs an automated, high-scaling approach at low cost to reach and hold these small businesses. And it must then up-sell these businesses to a level of thousands of dollars a month in sales while proving a rock-solid ROI. Google grows as these SOHO/SMB firms grow, and it takes a cut of the commerce. Talk about oxygen. Right?
For Google, all commerce is local. They have been using free search and beta online services to reach out to users and businesses, fine, but it's been piecemeal. The packaging of sets of services to discrete constituencies remains missing. What gives? Why not make the connection apparent between Google's free services and its paid offerings, such as AdWords, to SOHO/SMBs?
I'm a perfect example. I own and operate the kind of small consulting and micro-media business that should be core to Google's future. And, yes, I am experimenting with AdWords to myself reach out to new clients affordably via contextual search phrases (want to sponsor a compelling B2B IT podcast?). And, yes, I have a Gmail account, use G-chat, and sometimes use Google's maps, keyword alerts, and various search offerings. I would easily consider having Google host my blogs, podcasts, website, and online payments. I also find ongoing value from Google when clicking through on sponsored links when seeking goods, services, or knowledge. Someday, when I get enough ears and eyes that matter on my podcasts, I'll experiment with AdSense too.
But I would really appreciate some added help here from Google. Can you package this a little for me, please? It seems to me that in kind of a fuzzy, haphazard way Google is offering me ways to conduct communications and online intelligence gathering via its free services. They are providing me no-cost services that increasingly replace what I do at significant cost from my current IT, software and services providers (Apple, Microsoft, Verizon, Verizon Wireless, AOL, MetroCast, Skype, Mapquest, Yahoo!, etc.).
And Google may soon provide me a sure-fire way to find and engage with new clients, which I will gladly pay them for. If they help me find more and better clients, I'll pay them more, too. If they help me save more money by giving me more reliable online services that replace what I pay for from other vendors and telecoms, I'll be wed to them on gradually more sticky basis. Let's grow together, and stick together, partner.
It could really be "Google and Me" on a deep, lasting business relationship. So why not call it what it is? Google Packaged Services for Small Businesses. One stop shopping for business services and viral selling services -- all in a nice, neat package. Enough with the betas -- give me a real B2B relationship, please. I'm ready. So are millions of others.