Growing with Google

Last week, I spent a couple of hours at the Davenport Public Library’s downtown branch with some of Google’s Iowa-based team. The company has a program called Grow with Google, a kind of community-focused initiative with events and workshops designed to help local business-owners take advantage of all the free resources Google has available.

Lesson #1: Branding

They’ve made an investment with these free seminars, sending their employees to the users complete with a busload of laptops, free swag, and a generous snack budget. The expectation is the people who attend will make an investment, be it financial or chronologic, in Google’s tools.

It turns out I know a lot more than I thought I did. Experimenting with Google’s various business tools was one of the first things I did when I started Data & Lore, LLC. I did, however, learn enough to make it worth taking a half-day to attend a free seminar.

According to Dave Meyer, who lead the course titled, “Reach Customers with Google,” 85% of all transactions happen in/with local vendors. With this stat as a lead-in, he talked about how to direct locals to a small business using the same tools and strategies as national conglomerates.

He also brought up a point that I love to repeat to anyone who is skeptical about digital content: You have an online presence whether you want it or not. Someone has reviewed your business on Google, Yelp, Angie’s List, etc. If you’re not managing your company’s digital identity, any number of strangers is doing it for you.

Overall, it was an amazing free event, but I don’t know that I’d go out of my way to attend a second time. I’d rather pay a fee for a more intensive workshop. Fortunately, Google offers those, too! And training programs and certification programs and 1-on-1 coaching.

While (and I told them this on my exit survey) I’ll never fully trust any person or company with as much power and reach as Google has, they’ve yet to be unseated as my favorite international corporation. That’s a three-word phrase I never thought I’d write, but I also used to think I’d never operate a traditionally capitalist business.

It’s okay, though, because I’m doing pro bono work at the moment and feeling pretty good about it. Since it was so easy to do the paperwork to start an LLC, I’ve decided to tackle the red tape around a 501(c)3. Grow with Google even had staff on hand to answer my questions about that.

And so we continue to grow…

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