Will Google Start Marketing?

Marketing often gets a bad rap. It sometimes is described as ways of manipulating customers so that they buy products they don’t really need. Surely Google’s Do No Evil would not prevent them marketing. Let’s be clear: the existence of bad drivers doesn’t mean we should all give up driving. Equally the existence of bad marketers doesn’t mean Google should give up on marketing.

Marketing in its most useful sense is the process whereby suppliers determine the true needs of their customers. They then use that information to satisfy those needs in the best way possible. Done correctly, marketing can create win/win situations for both suppliers and their customers. It’s all about being customer-centric rather than product-driven.

That’s not to say that product-driven companies like Microsoft or Google do not produce good products. Apply enough money and talent and good products should result. However they will not be as appropriate as they could be to meet customer needs if customers aren’t part of the dialogue.

That dialogue process can be very well served by the blogging process if senior management is self-confident enough to allow it. Of course the Titanic cannot turn on a dime. A huge organization does not change culture in months but rather in years. CRM Magazine suggests how it can be done in an article: A New Marketing Medium – Blogging allows marketers to start conversations with prospects and customers. See how they describe the effect on Microsoft:

Robert Scoble was blogging about Microsoft independently and the company, rather than shutting him down, recognized him as an authoritative voice, which gave him the freedom to be effective. “Blogging is the best relationship-building device I’ve ever seen. It lets Microsoft have a human face other than Bill’s [Gates] and Steve’s [Balmer], but it also gives customers a way to find people who are working on a product,” Scoble says. “In the old world you didn’t know anyone important would read your feedback. [Now,] product managers use it to gauge how important a new feature will be. It’s a new way to get feedback. I’ve had a lot of people say it’s changed their view of Microsoft and how evil we are.”

Contrast that with the somewhat surprising Google decision to close down Google Answers recently as described by David Sarokin, one of the researchers, as described in an article, “Google Answers is Dead! Long Live Google Answers!“, which appears in today’s issue of the Free Pint Newsletters. An extract shows his view of what happened.

Google made a mistake
It all comes back to marketing. I believe the market for Answer-style services is huge. ..

So what was the problem with Google Answers. People ready and willing to pay for reliable information simply didn’t know where to turn to obtain it. Everyone knew how to ‘Google’, but hardly anyone knew how to ‘Google Answers’. And for some inexplicable reason, Google made it increasingly more difficult to find GA. The service seemed doomed by its own invisibility.

Google may possibly be a very open community within the walls of the Googleplex. However there is very limited dialogue with its customers and prospects. Now even Googlers are questioning this wall of silence. Nathan Weinberg discusses the problem in a recent post, Can Google Get More Bloggers In 2007? Time Magazine nominated You (that is all of us) as the Person of the Year in 2006. It shouldn’t be a hard sell to persuade Google to talk to the Person of the Year.

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