Congressman Tom Marino hosted a business innovation summit today (10-27-14) at the Genetti Hotel in Williamsport Pa. This event fits in with Congressman Marino’s own ongoing efforts online where he does take the time to embrace modern technology (including social networks) to personally interact with constituents on Facebook and Twitter (according to his Chief of Staff).
One of the advantages of being a Congressman is the ability to bring in high profile guests for an event within their district and today was no exception. In attendance were representatives from Google, Facebook, Yelp and Ebay/PayPal. Attendees got to hear a presentation from each company and ask questions of the representatives afterward.
I heard about the event just a few days before it was set to happen via a note from the Central PA Chamber of Commerce but I was anxious to attend because I wanted to see how an event sponsored by a nationally known politician with guest speakers from some of the biggest companies on the web would play to a Central PA business audience.
Over the past year or so I have done many similar events myself as a Google Partner and Advisor to Google’s Small Business Community on Google+. My own events have been held in conjunction with the Small Business Development Center at Bucknell University, Several Chambers of Commerce in the area and as direct Google sponsored Partners Connect events.
The result was surprisingly similar as the audience was very interested in the presentations and asked a number of questions of the Internet company representatives as well as sharing personal stories. One of the attendees said that foot traffic to his small business has seen a three fold increase which he attributes directly to his listing on Yelp.
One thing that I have noticed in conjunction with my own events is that there are many small business owners who value a local source of ongoing support and advice on things related to their presence on the web. This is something that a one time event cannot provide. Of the companies who presented at the event today only Google has the infrastructure in place to supply such ongoing advice and support locally from real people.
While the Google Partners program is not totally new it has been developing in some new ways over the last year or so and is evolving to meet the needs of the marketplace. Unlike the Premiere Partners program, which is a partnership with large marketing firms who have the capacity to service thousands of customers simultaneously with automated advertising, the Partners program involves local Adwords Agencies who can provide customized marketing plans for local businesses that are tailored to the unique needs of each business.
I like to compare the local Google Partners with insurance agencies. They too are local representatives of large, national or global companies who bring a personal level of service to their clients based on their individual needs. Google Partners are required to earn the Partner certification through education and testing and, once certified, to maintain their Partner status through meeting customer service benchmarks and continued annual or bi-annual re-testing. No other big Internet company has this kind of local presence for business owners to utilize.
Success on the web depends on more than just advertising. As the Internet evolves finding success on it becomes more and more complex. Much of Google’s focus is on creating the best experience possible for the end user of their services. In order to do this the their system overall becomes more and more complex as they refine their search algorithm to be able to weed out spammy sites and low quality sites who use deceptive methods to gain prominent positions in search results.
As the system becomes more complex things like web design, search engine optimization and business directories come into play. Even for small, local businesses the need for a “Trusted Digital Media Advisor” (Google’s term) locally becomes obvious. Simply setting up a free, drag n drop website on GoDaddy is a great start for a business with no web presence but it soon becomes obvious that it is not enough for continued success.
I like to compare the web to traditional advertising as the web is now the yellow pages, newspapers, magazines, radio and TV all rolled into one. It is the way that many if not most consumers now access information and entertainment. In addition, with the current popularity of smartphones nearly everyone from Great Grandmaa to Great Grandchildren now have the web with them wherever they go and use it to find products and services near them.
Despite this nearly 50% of the businesses in the US still have no meaningful presence on the web. Having an effective presence on the web today is just as important for a business, even a local, brick and mortar shop, as it always was to have a listing in the yellow pages or to run ads in the local newspaper or on the hometown radio station near them. Business who realize this and take advantage of the opportunities provided on the web reap the rewards.
I think that events like the one held today by Congressman Marino are great as a way to bring this message to businesses but the ball is in their court after the event. Google Partner Agencies like mine stand ready all over the country (and the world) as expert local resources to guide them through the maze of products and services on the web in order to find their own, unique formula for success. If you are a business owner don’t hesitate to reach out to Google Partners to better understand how to best utilize the many resources available on the web and off.