The Near Memo, Episode 17

Why Local Guides are Bad for Your Business; Google’s Push for Privacy to Regain Consumer Trust and SMB Products to Compete with Amazon. SMB platforms are converging on a suite of sophisticated tools for marketing & ops automation

The Near Memo, Episode 17
The Near Memo, Episode 17

Part 1 Video: Confessions of a Google Maps Local Guide & Why Local Guides are Bad for Your Business

Part 2 Video (8:00): Google’s Push for Privacy to Regain Consumer Trust and SMB Products to Compete with Amazon

Part 3 Video (15:00): Major SMB platforms are converging on a suite of sophisticated tools for marketing & ops automation

Reference Articles:

1 Confessions of a Local Guide

2 Content for Data Dead, Google's Local-SMB Strategy, E-Commerce 20%

3 Marketing automation platform Klaviyo scores $200M Series C

4 MailChimp Website product adds e-commerce & appointments


Greg: all right here we are. Once again, Greg Mike David for episode 17 of the Near Memo. And, um, we do this on Fridays and I've got to say TGF, uh, today it's just been a really long, long week, uh, for me and I'm looking forward to a three-day weekend. So. Um, anyway...

David: not such a long week for me, but I'm equally looking forward to the extra day

Greg: every day.

So we can start with you. Right? Right.

Mike: Every day is a wonder, is day. Uh, but the long weekend is nice because tomorrow is raining. It means I get to go bike riding either Sunday or Monday with my wife, which I'm looking forward towith  my new mountain. E-bikes zooming up the Hills. It's actually a blast. If you've never tried it, come on by.

You can try it. So.

David: If you live in Western New York, stay off the trails this weekend,

Mike: my story I'm kicking it off. My story, uh, is a article I recently wrote at near media called confessions of a local guide. And it's just the history of my, I somewhat, uh, Tainted history of my interaction with the local guide program and how I learned how to move through the program by finding the easiest way to upload a lot of photos and get a lot of views and achieve level seven glory in the local guide program.

It, it, it has to

Greg: be said, Mike, that you're like a secret spammer. I didn't know that about you

Mike: before. I it's a great way to test Google's various. Think how they think about various things. But the reality is that even though I was spamming photos at some level, I actually uploaded a lot. And even though I wasn't in the, the game for the right reasons, Google still got a lot of work out of me.

And it's a fascinating to me that that Google has so leverage gamification into so much data and they have so much confidence that they can control it. And that I played, even if I played for the wrong reasons, or maybe there were the right reasons. I don't know.

Greg: Well, you should, you should point out what the, what the serious point is for, for business

Mike: owners.

Well, the serious point is that some of the images I uploaded were absolutely terrible. Meanwhile, they became profile images because those business owners had not in fact done due diligence and uploaded good local images. The net result was that images that I had uploaded, some of which were good. Two or 3 million views.

One of the ones that was bad was for a Walgreens and it's got almost, that's a million views and it was the world's worst image. It's, it's a problem for businesses because they need to, they need to get engaged with this because it's the most visible is their most visible presence on the internet. It's probably the most seen image is that profile image.

And I managed to snag a couple of those spots with not very good

David: images. I was going to say, it sounds like not just a problem for small businesses, but, uh, enterprises as well, given, given your Walgreens example. And I can speak from personal experience, uh, helping our large hospital here in town, OSU, uh, one of their clinics, a patient uploaded a photo from the bathroom that continues to pop in and out of the, the primary, uh, position for a clinic.

And, uh, it's, it's a pain and, and I think even. I will say it feels like it's knock on wood. That it's a little bit stapled now in the photo that we've uploaded, uh, seems to be sticking, but, uh, you couldn't be more right than it's your, your, your GMB primary photo is the first impression that your brand, uh, receives from a lot of searchers.

And you've got to make sure that you take ownership of that.

Greg: One thing that has always kind of struck me. And I've, I've, I've found to be kind of a strange, if not, um, Uh, kind of galling is, is, is Google's aggressive use of gamification. I'm a local guy too, but I don't, I think I'm only a five. I mean, I probably have dropped down below cause I haven't done anything in a long time, but they're, they're, they're really aggressive use of gamification to incentivize people to add reviews and photos and all these modify profiles and, and how that right.

And answer question on it with non-answers. Precisely, but, but if you were a business owner, you would never be permitted to incentivize your customers to, to, to, you know, to, to review you enter for a chance to win or quid pro quos or any of that kind of stuff. So there's a total double standard going on here.

And I mean, Google probably can defend it in some way, but I find it just really ironic and strange.

Mike: Yeah. I mean the, the legal basis is that you can't self-promote, you can't incentivize. Reviews because it's self promotion and against truth in advertising. It's, uh, you know, it's deceptive. Whereas Google is incentivizing you to leave information about other businesses where they have no interest.

No, no self-interest in,

Greg: so I G I get that as a kind of technical legal matter, but just philosophically it's, it's just really sort of a double standard. It's very, uh,

Mike: to me, the bigger issue is that they, they. The garner so much information there. So they have so much hubris. They think they can control it, and yet they never put enough intention into their, into their algorithms to do so.

So there's a lot of crap puts a lot of the onus and the costs back either on the business or on the agency to make it right. David spent a lot of time dealing with this image. They basically are offloading externalizing their costs for this data. And it's that to me is equally egregious or maybe more

David: related point, uh, in our chat earlier this week that, um, you know, Google is continuing to prioritize sort of volume over quality.

Uh, and the, the game of vacation only increases that, that prioritization, um, that they're just after more and more and more, regardless of how good or bad the contributions are. One of the side

Greg: effects. I think of that, that attitude is that they, they let a lot of spam go through. Um, and that was, there was that CBC story, uh, this week about, you know, it's one of an, any number of stories now about how a publication did an investigation and discovered a lot of fake reviews.

Um, You know, and then you get the sort of standard line. Well, we've removed X, billion, bad profiles, and, but it's, it's it's

Mike: and also it says, well, the spammers are really smart and we're constantly upgrading our systems. And we think we have it under control, which is what they said to me in 2008, as I noted in that article.

And they say the exact same thing in 2010, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15. And so on same.

David: Locksmith measles case.

Mike: No, that was no Microsoft escort case. Okay. Very good. Yes, totally.

Greg: Yeah. You talk about in the article, which is very, which is fun to read

Mike: my closing thought on this is if you want it be a local guide and you want to advance quickly, go read the article.

I can give you some great tips, how to scale your efforts efficiently. I used to Google with my model and I was able to crank out an image a sec, a minute. I was, you know,

Greg: so are you still doing

Mike: that? Okay. I have not. Once I hit seven, it was clear. I wasn't going to get to eight where I live. So

Greg: you have to, you're going to have to move to a more populated area.

I think that's going to happen. All right. So, um, the theme of, of, of sort of fraud and, and, and trust, um, one of the things that was really interesting about Google marketing live, which was there. Ads focused event. That's kind of a companion to their bio developer conference. So IO was last week or whatever, two weeks ago, maybe who knows the days are all bleeding together this week, Google, Google marketing live.

And there were ton of ad related announcements, which I couldn't capture in the newsletter, but tried, um, it talked about commerce. They, they talked about, um, you know, A lot of new tools, there's a ton of stuff. I mean, I, I posted the, uh, condensed version of their, their keynote, which is worth watching in the newsletter.

Um, but, but one of the things that was really striking to me is how privacy showed up in every one of these discussions with the exception. I think of bill Reddy's shopping discussion potentially, but it was an emphasis again and again and again. And Jerry Dischler, who's their VP that VP of ads. Um, basically said that this implied contract of trading personal data for content for free content is now over.

People are no longer one want that bargain. And everybody it's incumbent on everybody to, to recognize that and to change. And, um, That, that that was, you know, it's sort of like Google gets religion, but at the same time, not a hundred percent because they're still doing things in the background that are not consistent with that rhetoric.

And, you know, this list solution was basically, um, first party data develop your first party data, machine learning and automation, AI, uh, to do predictive marketing stuff and then flock, right. Google's browser based. A cohort group sort of targeting a methodology that a lot of people are objecting to. And, and the, and the by-product of this, of this is, you know, Google and Facebook and Amazon, and some of the big players are going to be fine because they've got such end to end data and ecosystems, but the smaller publishers and everybody else is not going to be fine, which is partly why we're seeing the rise of subscriptions.

And so this is kind of the paradox, which is that, that as, as. The internet gets more privacy friendly. It reinforces the power of these big companies. And I'm going to segue into small business commerce, unless you guys want to say anything there. Yeah.

Mike: well, the one observation I have is that FLoC though appears to be dead on arrival to me.

David: Yeah, that's right. Yeah. WordPress and Joomla. Right. And, uh, a whole

Greg: bunch of, bunch of Drupal, also a bunch of clothes. Have

David: 75% of the internet, probably right there between those three. So

Mike: default not accepted. So I

Greg: don't know, Google, Google is not acknowledging that at this point, at least. Right. But, um, so, so just real quickly on the shopping stuff also coming out of Google marketing live, um, you know, Google's shopping strategy continues to evolve.

Uh, Google is trying to get more and more product inventory and more and more product data out there they've made, they've opened up, um, you know, free distribution as a, as part of a, uh, strategy to do that. And two of the things that were really striking to me about bill Reddy's remarks and some of the announcements was, um, they're focused on real-time inventory and small businesses.

And to that end, they've done partnerships with WooCommerce, um, Shopify last week, GoDaddy and square. Now who are all going to be sort of on gateways. For their small business customers to syndicate products, uh, on Google. And I heard today,  all of these guys. Right? And so, so it struck me that years ago, when we all first got into this, the it's it's services versus products, but it's still sort of true the newspapers and traditional media companies and the yellow pages.

These were all the big aggregators of small businesses that Google was relying upon as a kind of outsource Salesforce or an out for outsourced kind of marketing channel. Uh, to reach these, your traditional businesses. And now they've really shifted to these SAS companies, you know, and, and, and again, it's partly about product versus services, but not, not entirely.

They, these, these are the new aggregators for them.

Mike: I heard today that Wix has been authorized for Google's white listed, uh, GMB listing creation as well. So they're, they're, they're, they're getting even closer with some of these platforms. Yup.

David: I know that's a gross oversimplification of their platform, but, um, they probably have the best reach into the GMB entities that Google has the hardest time reaching, uh, in terms of very small businesses, potentially very new businesses. Uh, so that seems like a really good partnership from GMV standpoint,

Mike: right?

One touch to create a website and get your GMB listing and to get your inventory into. Merchant center and compelling.

Greg: Right. And the, and this, and this emphasis on, on, on inventory, I think is one of Google's big pushes, you know, sort of the omni-channel plus real-time inventory is a big, big push for them in differentiating against Amazon.

And I think, I think it's, I think it does work. I think they don't have the user experience to really take on Amazon, but they certainly are getting the data. Um, there.

Mike: There are new product though, that, uh, in restaurants that does the order entry has a great user interface. So clearly they know how to do it.

You start ordering a product and it makes suggestions on which other foods starter with it. And then it takes you through a very painless checkout and payment process. They've inserted themselves. So elegantly into this, uh, that it's quite amazing. So they do know how to do it. And we are seeing that start.

Well that's

Greg: and that's a metaphor for their entire strategy, right? I mean, they're, they're, they're trying to simplify distribution, um, and, and, and reach and, um, you know, there's, everything is kind of a, um, a mirror of everything else. There's a way in which they're at the big, at the highest level, there's a, there's a consistency to what they're doing.

Mike: I would simplify it one step further. They want to become a rentee heir of all transactions in the local

Greg: world. I agree.

David: I'll take the segue, Greg at this point, uh, and move into a couple of news items. But, but before I do that, um, I think that your positioning of, of the, the sort of, you know, okay. Yellow pages in the mid two thousands say, and now it's these, these sort of scaled SAS platforms, um, that, that Google is eager to partner with them, I think has, has been the case, you know, kind of all the way along when it comes to.

Reselling Google ads or getting information out of these, out of these companies, uh, customer basis. I think the difference is unlike the yellow pages, the SAS companies that Google is partnering with, um, have a much more defensible position that there's, there's not really the same kind of end around that there was that there could have been, uh, with Google ads in the yellow pages.

Um, you know, several years ago, it's not like Google merchant center is displacing the, the, like. Table stakes necessity of managing online inventory in your Shopify website or your, you know, or, or the, um, table availability in your talk, uh, Squarespace platform. So I think that these SAS companies have a much more defensible, uh, business position than the yellow pages.

And. Arguably the, the media companies did, uh, in the first wave of this in the late, late two thousands. So that was interesting to me, uh, Greg, to hear, hear that positioning, the segue is, you know, we saw, uh, Claveo this week raised, I don't know what it was even hundreds of millions, more dollars, um, funding 300, $320 million, right.

It says a week after active campaign raised a very similar. Number, and we saw MailChimp this week, come out with a, at least it was new to me and I've followed Mitch relatively closely. Um, uh, the ability to make online, ordering and appointment scheduling, uh, through mail.

Mike:Would you tell listeners what Klavio is or does?

David: Yeah, so that's what I was getting there. Good segue and Mike, um, so it strikes me that the, that these SAS. Platforms, um, are really becoming sort of all-in-one operations and marketing automation. Um, which is how I would describe Clavio is essentially marketing automation for e-commerce. Um, and that this, this they're almost like all the we've we've at least some of us have talked for years about the need for.

Uh, SMBs to implement some sort of CRM, uh, whether that's just a spreadsheet or through a more, uh, complex system like HubSpot. And it strikes me that these, these platforms are kind of going around the need for a traditional CRM by just starting with the very base in MailChimp's case, in Clavio's case and Shopify by default and other e-commerce platforms, you're, you're getting their customer information as a starting point and then building out.

Uh, features from there, as opposed to the other way around

Greg: square has been doing

David: that for a long time, Square's doing the same thing. So it's just a real, I think, a really interesting time. We're sort of seeing the, uh, the traditional website builders move into sort of operations and automation. We're seeing email marketing providers like MailChimp, active campaign, moving more into websites and operations.

Um, and it's just, it, it just feels like, and we're seeing that investors are kind of buying the story as well. With the hundreds of millions of dollars flowing in. So I think it's an interesting time. And I think, as I said, unlike the yellow pages days that you highlighted, I think all of these companies have built pretty good products with a compelling value prop.

And it's, I think, uh, the differentiation is, is going to be really the hard part for all of these companies, because the feature sets are largely, uh, available in, in all of these platforms.

Mike: And I like to think about it. Sir pre-sale discovery in store operations, and then post-sale customer relations up and you're right.

All those areas where they started with operations and moved out to marketing and follow up or started in follow-up like email and then moved out to marketing. They're all taking on many more things.

Greg: Well, I mean, it's, it's interesting because in general, I think that small businesses, you know, to, to paint with a broad brush, Would prefer to work.

I mean, this is what the survey data reflect. We prefer to work with fewer rather than more companies. So they don't want a bunch of point solutions. So just some of these, some of this evolution is responding to that perceived demand also to create more value. So it's, so retention is, you know, churn is harder.

Um, It's just, it's, it's, it's a variable and there's a much longer discussion about sort of the evolution of the small business SAS marketplace. But it's really fascinating. I think some of the big money coming at these companies is post COVID. You know, th th now everybody buys e-commerce or digital commerce.

And so people are scrambling for providers and they, and the, and the market sort of perceives a much larger opportunity now, I think, than in the past.

David: I've been in this business, uh, have shown the preference for working with a single vendor. I think the difference is historically point solutions have been so much better breed than the all-in-one, uh, offerings has been. That that was, you would have been shooting yourself in the foot to choose the substandard all in one package.

And. Now we're seeing, I mean, pretty much every company I just mentioned has a really great best of breed solution, um, that is now available as an all-in-one. So I think that's the difference. And to some extent that the funding from these huge venture rounds has enabled these companies to invest in their product to that extent.

So that seems

Mike: like a very optimistic, close,

David: I would agree, Greg, are you happy with

Greg: that? I I'm. I'm yes. I'm happy with that. So, um, we, we can, we can close on that, on that upbeat note, but, um, anyway, it's always, uh, thank you for listening. Give us feedback and suggestions about how we can make, uh, what we're doing more interesting or more useful to you and have a good weekend week, whatever it is for you.