My mother was introduced to the Internet via AOL. She would log on and from there she could search the Web, check her email, join chat rooms, etc. To her, AOL was the Internet because it gave her everything she needed to complete her experience under one label. AOL was the Web because it smelled like the Web.
Now there’s this thing called Google.
Google didn’t wow us by simply creating a better search engine. I mean, they did that and it’s awesome and we’re all very thankful for it, but Google became Google by creating a new kind of Web experience. Suddenly we had more than just a great Web search – we had an image search, a blog search, a patent search, a book search, etc. They introduced us to all these other things we could do and find with the help of their products, thereby ingraining Google as part of the process. Now when you think of search, you think of Google. This is what the other engines like Bing are trying to undo. They have to work themselves into the experience of search where people don’t often think of them. They have to build a new experience.
But there’s a long process in doing that. It’s difficult for others to break in because our Web experience, regardless of what it is we’re trying to do, is so tied in with Google. In Google we trust and in Google we’re able to do everything we need to do. Things that we didn’t know we could do until Google showed us.
Without racking my brain, I know that I use Google in the following ways:
- Google Search to find relevant Web pages.
- Google Maps to find directions and stalk photos.
- Google Images to find photos or illustrations.
- Google Reader to manage my RSS feeds.
- Google News to catch up on the world (and steal NYT content).
- Google Docs to write, edit and share while on-the-go.
- Google Analytics to check the health of our sites.
And that’s just the short list.
We can debate Google’s motives for WHY they’ve done what they’ve done (they want to organize information! They want to own the Web! They want your data to make more monies!), but, for me, it’s more interesting to look at what they’ve created and how they did it.
Google created a mega-brand by forever linking themselves to the customer experience and customers’ every day struggles. In doing that, Google became the Internet.
They did it by putting their logo on products we didn’t realize we needed until Google gave them to us. They did it by redefining what our Web experience looked like. We had a problem, Google served us an answer. And once you use one Google product, it’s easier to use another, they’re created for that. Pretty soon you rely on Google for everything Web.
At this point, Google is more than a search company. Google is the Web.
As a business owner, you have the same mission if you want dominate your niche.
You need to not only create an experience around your product, but you need to identify how your product is going to change the way people do what they do in your niche. How are you linking your logo to someone’s experience, while also bettering it? What are you doing to make your brand part of their process?
For some, this is why they’ve gotten involved in social media. They’re trying to become part of their customers’ lives by answering questions in real-time, having conversations, and pointing people in the right direction. They hope this will tie them to a particular market.
Sometimes it does.
Others are using a combination of tools, information-rich content archives and real life events to tie the experience together and burn their logo into their audiences’ brain. If you’re a financial planner, you don’t just want to be on someone’s mind during tax season. You want to put together the right resources, training opportunities and online tools so that people think of you whenever they want to do ANYTHING with their money, now or in the future. You want to be in the conversation for the everyday balancing of the checkbook, but also to help them plan their child’s college fund or help decide if it’s smart to buy that car or take on that mortgage. The tricky part is figuring out how you establish that kind of brand power.
We all spend a lot of time looking at Google, but it’s typically to rant about whatever they just launched/took away/ignored that we don’t like. Instead, spend some time looking at how they strategically took over one market niche while their competition watched. Because, I suspect, your business is trying to do the same thing.
Success in your market rarely comes from upping your rates, Twitter conversations or getting someone to subscribe to your email newsletter. It’s about stepping back to understand their lives and their routine, and then positioning your brand as the indispensable and daily answer to what ails them. That’s how Google became so strong. It was through their ability to touch every aspect of our growing Web habit with a targeted product offering. And it worked.
It worked hard.
What is your business doing?