Google Rolls Out Broader Marketing of Helpouts

Google Helpouts, a G+ based product  “that enables individuals and small and large businesses to buy and sell services via live video” first came to light in early August. It is a fascinating product that creates a video based marketplace that allows  local trainers, national support personnel and consultants to engage a much larger market. It has “the capacity to connect merchants and consumers on both an immediate and scheduled basis, .. the platform will allow sellers to .. take advantage of reputation management, scheduling and payment features, while offering robust search and discovery tools for consumers”.

Apparently Google is now starting to invite highly rated local businesses to learn more about the product. It is odd that the invitation is not to set up or try the product, just to learn more about it and that the invitation was exclusive and based on review ratings. You can request an invitation here.

This email, sent to me by Mark Kelly, CEO of Chair 10 Marketing, Inc:

Screen Shot 2013-09-13 at 1.30.13 PM

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google Rolls Out Broader Marketing of Helpouts by

16 thoughts on “Google Rolls Out Broader Marketing of Helpouts”

  1. Thanks for reporting, Mike. I think Helpouts has a lot of potential. But there are a lot of ways it can faceplant, too. For one thing, I hope the initial invitation for highly rated businesses to “learn more” isn’t indicative of which businesses will get invited to the real deal once Helpouts rolls out. If only “highly rated” businesses can offer Helpouts, that’s not right. (The others should have a chance to redeem themselves – especially if they’re victims of fake reviews posted by competitors.)

    This doesn’t feel like one of those projects that Google will scrap quickly, so maybe this one will actually be around long enough to live up to its promise. That’s somewhat exciting.

  2. Hi Mike,

    I gotta say it was like vindication getting a copy of this email from a client. He was happy. For him it must have been validation from Google that his superior visibility and dominating reviews do mean something. He and many others just take it for granted.

  3. @Phil
    Let’s hope that the product works. It would be a huge, huge mistake to create it and then pull the rug out from under its users because Google didn’t sell 3 gadzillion of them. Remember PunchD? No, nor do I.

  4. Super terrific connectivity with a win-win endorsement, wicked awesome. Selection process seems a bit off but nothing is perfect (and no algorithm is 100% guess here) but certainly a feel good stamp of approval for recipients of the invite to try.

    Goes along with the the let’s hope easy and cheap – both ways – transaction proximity integration cited in a recent SES talk/article(s) coupled with how algo will evolve with semantic learning.

    The businesses need the help.

    Why abandon what they’re not slamming home money/mktg wise. Hopefully they’re comitted to the same concept – maybe they’ll be G+ officers visiting every biz with the mobile partner ready to shoot vids.

    Great follow up post too.

  5. Personally I find it a little frightening.

    Sure, Google is giving some businesses the chance to reach out well beyond their geographic boundaries. But at the same time Google is changing the way the world does business and making us depend even more on Google.

    Eventually it could well become Google’s way or no way.

  6. @Stuart
    One question for me is will Google be able to create a marketplace that adds new value. They are attempting to do something at scale that has only been done as one offs via Skype and Hangouts. If they succeed they will have a new way for folks to make money. Google can succeed in Apple like fashion in creating a whole new ecosystem and marketplace where value can achieved.

    Now, with all of capitalism, that new business model might also be destructive. That is the nature of capitalism and that problem can not be laid at Google’s doorstep. They are doing what the best of the capitalists do, innovate to attempt to gain super profits. I would suggest that blaming Google is the blame an actor when you should be blaming the director for the bad outcome.

    Another question though is what of value will be destroyed. Will we now be getting guitar lessons from (India, Bangladesh, China, Romania) instead of from the trainer down the street? Probably not but some more commodity driven services might migrate to this platform leading to that sort of displacement.

  7. Mike … you touched on the real problem of this system in your last paragraph.

    From what Google says we’re not going to necessarily see the best providers given the opportunity to be listed but we what we will see are those providers who are best able to manipulate the system with reviews that may may or may not be genuine.

  8. To look on the bright side (trust me, it’s not something I do easily), I do think there is a kind of self-selection involved in Helpouts, because Helpouts could really help a businesses reputation or damage it seriously. Mike, to take your example of the guitar teacher: if the guitar teacher down the street outsources his Helpouts, the customer (1) will be pissed, and (2) may write a scathing review of the business.

    Although Helpouts will probably give an unfair advantage to some businesses, at the same time, I think those businesses will have a unique chance to fall on their swords.

    1. @phil
      My scenario, or rather the one I was envisioning and attempting to convey, was the mother in Peoria hiring the talented Indian guitarist on Google Helpouts and not hiring the guitar player down the street.

      Although I could and did imagine Verizon doing what you said.

  9. @Mike

    Gotcha. That point didn’t get through my thick skull, so thanks for the clarification. I can envision either scenario.

    If the guitar teacher in Peoria and the guy in India are competing in a non-local context, then hey, there’s nothing wrong with mom choosing to pay the guitarist in India if he does a better job (as evidenced by his Helpout). That’s a level playing field.

    But that raises the question: how is Google going to keep Helpouts “local” – or at least keep non-local players out of the Helpouts arena in which local businesses are supposed to duke it out with each other? The kicker is that something like Helpouts is most useful precisely when you’re looking for an expert you can’t just drive to, so on one level I think “local” businesses and Helpouts are odd bedfellows to begin with.

  10. @Phil
    I don’t think there is any intent to keep it local. It is a tool that will be used by companies big and small to reach a global market.

    Having spent most of my life selling in a very small market, it was blogging that gave me a platform to reach out to the greater world. Hangouts is much like that via a relatively new medium of video over ip. That is not local so much as empowering small business folks with lots of knowledge and some savvy to reach out explore that great big world in a new way.

    Like you said its great when you’re looking for the expert you can’t drive to.

    That not only means the talented musician in Gujarati, it might also mean Sears helping out with a complicated install of an appliance or Verizon providing support for the installation of their router.

    We have no idea the uses to which it will be put and whether the businesses will be big or small or something in between.

    I do however think, sans a total Google f up of the marketing, that it has a decent chance of success.

  11. @Mike

    Yeah, I know Helpouts wouldn’t be only for local businesses, but my concern is simply that bigger and/or unethical companies will find a way to wet their beaks in markets where they technically shouldn’t even have a Google+ Local listing. Above all, I’m concerned that Google won’t really appoint a Marshall Dillon figure to make sure Helpouts doesn’t get abused to the point of uselessness and retirement. (Which would be a shame, because – again – it has so much potential.)

    But, as you say, we’ll see where it goes 🙂

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