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Field Trip

When our publisher went to Google, she drank from the firehose


If all the other attendees were like me, they knew they were entering Google airspace the minute they saw the Google driverless cars driving down the road. In early May, about 200 franchise suppliers, franchisors and Google franchise partners convened on the Internet company Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California—and it was a far cry from most corporate campuses I’ve ever been to.

Google stairs

When you want to know what search words are trending on Google, just hit the stairs, as did FT Publisher Mary Jo Larson when she attended Google’s recent franchise event.

The point of the second annual GIFA (Google International Franchise Assembly), put on in conjunction with the International Franchise Association, was to bring together the suppliers, franchisors and Google partners/suppliers with the experts at Google to help them understand ways to market better using the Internet giant’s resources and tools.

Dodging the bikes

But first the attendees had to trek to the campus in Silicon Valley, dodging the Google bikes—with their telltale Google primary colors—used by Google employees to go to and from various parts of the campus. Then it was up to attendees not to be too awed by what was inside the building GIFA was held in, from lighted stairs with the most popular Google search words trending at the moment scrolling across each step, to the Omni-theater-like room where you could type in your address and have an almost-360-degree view of your neighborhood. Or the Eiffel Tower’s neighborhood, whichever you preferred to locate.

Once settled in, attendees heard from Google execs on everything from how to make your website increase its SEO, which is changing all the time, to what the trends are in mobile, YouTube apps and more.  

Google even offered examples of franchises that are doing it right and asked them to present to the group, like Massage Envy’s Susan Boresow, chief marketing officer, and Chris Stipp, director of online marketing. As Stipp asserted, it is the franchisor’s job to make sense of all things digital for their franchisees. “My job is to help them navigate” the digital world. “It’s their job to make money.” 

Amit Pamecha, CEO and co-founder of FranConnect and its subsidiary Zcubator, is a supplier who works with Google products and services, helping some 550 brands he works with optimize them. 

“No other supplier (in Google’s space) has devoted a team to franchising like they have,” said Pamecha. “This is the most open company. They may not have all the answers today, but they are taking the haze away for franchisors—they are making people available to help.”

Tips to use

One founder of an emerging franchise brand wasn’t sure he was following all the information on day one of the event—if you’re new to it, it was a little like drinking from a firehose—but as day two presentations unfolded he was excited to get back to the office and get started. A few of the takeaways:

• Build websites to be “responsive,” to respond and fit the device calling it up. If users are pulling up your website on their phone and it isn’t designed for the device and is hard to read, they’ll be gone and won’t be back.

• The trend is mobile: Increasingly, people use their phones to garner information. Get on board with the trend or be left behind. 

• Great content on your website is key to keep them coming back.

• Build an app for your fans, but a clean, fast website is effective to get your more average user there the first time and back again.

• Add video. Users like them because they tell a story. Embed them on Facebook, Google+, YouTube and your website.

 • The more followers you have on your Google+ page, the better your search engine optimization (SEO)—and the higher your chances are for showing your G+ page on the right side of Google.com site when users are searching for you.

• Users like photos of businesses, and photos drive SEO.

• Engage your customers for feedback and reviews. We are in the participation age. If it is a one-way conversation, today’s customer won’t feel compelled to engage with your brand. Said Massage Envy’s Stipp, “People can smell a soulless bureaucrat a mile away.” And who wants that?

As Todd Rowe, Google’s global director of channel sales and one of the leading forces behind the company’s franchise effort, told the audience at the close of the event: Be a disruptor or be disrupted. In other words, you are either the one making the change—disrupting—or you are put in the position of playing defense—being disrupted. It’s your choice. 

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