If Google is good at one thing (other than search of course) it’s marketing strategy. Though you’ll never see an ad for the king of the search engines, this query behemoth employs some of the most subtle, yet fantastically impressive marketing strategies out there. Strategies that you should definitely take a look at and work into your own marketing tactics. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when you can learn from the Grandmaster of subtle marketing.
GOOGLE MARKETING STRATEGY #1 – IT’S FREE-FOR-ALL
Google does marketing like Keyword Ranking Api, stealth-like. To this extent its open access is its biggest, and perhaps most successful marketing tactic (though one that applies to most other search engines, but let’s stick to Google for now ).
In a sense, Google is a bit like a drug dealer, they get you hooked and now you have no choice but to keep using. By offering a free and open platform Google draws in users without any concerns, as there is absolutely no loss in giving Google search a try.
It reminds me of the single greatest marketing campaign ever… free TV. Imagine if way back when TV was free, imagine you had to pay for it. There is no conceivable way that television would have developed the way it did if usage was not free for viewers.
Google is the same way, by offering a free product, that like TV is supported by advertisers, Google became an open access giant. Time warp back to 1998, and you’re a bit weary of this newcomer… this “Google” with their fancy PageRank technology, you like Yahoo, why would you want to try something new and untested?
Why not, you pay nothing and you lose nothing. This trend continues today, just look at all of the SERP features Google provides for free. Tons and tons of user oriented information within Knowledge Panels, Answer Boxes, Featured Snippets, all for the user, all for free. It’s like TV without the commercials!
How Free Access Can Apply to Your Business
Obviously this model doesn’t work for every company since not every business can be supported via advertising. But the core message is still there, open and free access is extremely important. Offering a free trial is a powerful way to get potential customers to give you a serious look.
A lot has been written about how to ensure you retain trial users, but that’s really a separate question. You can’t ask to retain that which you don’t have yet. This is precisely why a free trial is pertinent, it sets you up for conversion.
People have a general anxiety when it comes to change, there’s a certain distrust of something “new.” My mother-in-law eats Peter Pan peanut butter religiously. Is Peter Pan really that much different than Jif or Skippy? Is it really worth the extra $1.29 it costs to buy instead of the generic brand? Probably not (I prefer natural peanut butter anyway)!
Why does my mother-in-law eat Peter Pan peanut butter? Because she does. Were you expecting some sort of profoundly illuminating answer, because there is none. And guess what, most of your potential customers are like my mother in-law, they’re using your competitor’s service or product not because it’s really better, but because that’s the one they use.
Not only is there a comfort in using what we have for so many years, but there is a tremendous anxiety about moving away from it, as if there is some sort of ineffable security bound up within the old and cannot possibly exist in the new.
If you want new customers, like Freud himself, you will need to address deep-seated anxiety. To expand your customer base you will need to address my mother-in-law and her Peter Pan peanut butter. One of the best ways is to pull “a Google” and offer an expansive free trial.
Does Google only offer two types of SERP features to non-paying users? Neither should you. A free trial that presents the bare bones minimum your service or product has to offer is not only worthless, its detrimental.
The old saying that first impressions are the most important holds true here, you need to offer a substantial look at your service or product. By doing so you can effectively level the psychological playing field by giving potential customers a look at what you have to offer that isn’t tainted by any anxiety of leaving behind the familiar.
Once you’ve done that, then you can ask “oh, but what about conversions, how am I going to convert my free trial users?” But when you do ask, do appreciate the equal playing field position the free trial has put you in.
GOOGLE MARKETING STRATEGY #2 – A CULTURE OF CONVERSATION
Google takes the phrase Let’s give them something to talk about to a whole new level. A quick look at the “search industry” is all it takes to see that the most discussed topic is none other than Google itself.
What the search engine has so brilliantly done is to create a culture of conversation. Within the SEO and SEM industries, Google is not only some abstract corporate concept, it is its “Googlers” (i.e. John Mueller, Gary Illyes, etc.).
Google has literally given its company human faces that drive the conversation, again literally. By opening up itself in this way to the public, or in specific to its industry voices, Google has fostered a communicative environment that is quite interactive. The obvious upshot is that all of this talking centers on one thing… Google!
From a more psychological perspective what Google has done is to give a certain amount of life to itself by creating a dynamic. When most companies talk it’s not only a one way conversation, it’s not to anyone in particular.
The result is what I’ll call an “un-dynamic,” a flat, dead form of communication that is as cold and lifeless as space itself. On the other hand, when Google (via its Googlers) speaks, the communication is interactive and aimed specifically at a certain community (i.e. the SEO community).
The result is a form of communication that is filled with life, meaning, and belonging. These are powerful existential drives to tap into. We all want to be part of a community, to be heard and to be addressed, and not to go all mystical on you but there is something majestic in it. Google simply does a wonderful job tapping into this aspect of human existence.
Creating a Sense of Community within the Context of Your Business
Chances are you and your company are not Google and people are not hanging off every word you have to say… and that’s fine.
Not generating such prolific buzz as the search engine mega-giant doesn’t mean you shouldn’t capitalize on the psychological/existential underpinnings that interactive communication brings with it.
In an effort to make this more practical for you and your business let’s downgrade from Google-sized expectations and focus on smaller and more digestible steps.
1. Don’t be afraid to get a little personal: Put your face out there (or someone from your company). For a lot of industries the days of a complete corporate veneer are long gone, people want to see a face. Go with it. Everyone has their own comfort zone and philosophy and so the possibilities are in a sense limited to your own creativity and comfort level.
Just by way of example, you could certainly decide to use the same Twitter account for your personal and business Tweets, a trend I see happening more and more as time goes on. Doing so would give your customers a small glimpse into you as a person. Along the same lines, you could certainly post some of your office doings to social media in order to create a more inclusive and personal feel.
The offering of webinars on industry trends and topics would be a perfect way to introduce a personal element into your business doings. Again, there are endless ways to go about this, it all depends on you.
2. Don’t be afraid to speak directly to your customers: While there’s certainly a time and place for a staunchly professional and technical tone, there’s also a time to ratchet that sort of talk down a bit. Don’t be afraid when creating written, video, or audio content to speak in the second person.
Forget terms like “users” or “consumers” and include “you” into your professional vernacular. It might sound like a small thing, but speaking in second person conveys a significantly more personal and warm tone.
More than that, don’t be afraid to convey personal affinities or experiences (see above in regards to my mother-in-law, who upon reading this will be flattered I even noticed her peanut butter preference). Doing so makes you seem more “human” and therefore identifiable, which in turns brings in a whole new psychological dimension to your business picture.
3. Don’t be afraid to explain yourself or even get a little emotional: Moving your company in a new direction? Adding new features to your service or product? Provide some background to your customers. Provide them some context, let them know your thinking, and maybe even share how you might feel.
Opening up in this way allows your customers to feel not only part of a community in a small sense, but allows them to see you as a person, not just a corporate entity. Allowing your customers to see you as a person as your company shifts, grows, and changes fosters a sense of identification and introduces that human element which Google incorporates so well.