On Friday in Hooksett, over two hundred entrepreneurs gathered at Southern New Hampshire University to build websites for their businesses and learn about online marketing. The event was free, sponsored and run by Google.
CORWIN: You know those red tear drop markers you see on Google Maps, with the black dot in the middle? At the entrance to the University dining hall where Google’s Get Your Business Online event is taking place, one of those markers — in vinyl — looms 25 ft in the air. Then, just before you enter the building, five shiny bicycles are parked in a row, painted with Google’s colors. These Googley gimmicks are being toted from state to state throughout the summer, as the company puts on 50 events like this one. The idea is for small business owners to show up and get help setting up a website. Google’s Head of Industry, Brian Cusack believes the stats speak for themselves.
CUSACK: We’ll start with the fundamental fact that 97% of Americans are looking for businesses and local businesses on line, and 53% of businesses in NH in particular are not online, they do not have an online presence, so those 53% are missing an opportunity to find customers today,
CORWIN: Google gets something out of the equation, too. For one thing, the more businesses can be searched on Google, the better the search engine becomes. Then on top of that, the event’s participants are likely to buy AdWords, plus business software from Intuit, Google’s partner in the campaign.
Adele Sanborn is sitting in a classroom filled with laptops. She owns a calligraphy and graphics company in Webster, New Hampshire.
SANBORN: I’m a little old, so it’s a little bit harder for me to get used to using the internet. But I think if you’re going to capture a younger audience and move forward, I think you’ve gotta have a website.
CORWIN: Jonah Erikson is one person who won’t be attending the event in Hooksett. He owns a car repair shop in Keene. Erikson grew up with computers, and calls himself “a Facebook addict as much as anyone else.” But Erikson’s business doesn’t have a website, although a few years ago he let Google display his phone number and address as a Google Places listing
ERIKSON: I wanted people if they lost my phone number to be able to find my phone number, and that’s all. I didn’t really want to be found by someone browsing the yellow pages, I found that when I get walk-in customers, they’re not looking to build a relationship with a mechanic, they’re just looking to get their water pump changed at five o’clock on a Saturday for fifty dollars, and that’s not going to happen.
CORWIN: Erikson says he has more business than he can handle from friends, and friends-of-friends, and friends-of-friends-of-friends. It’s simply more enjoyable to do business with people he knows. For him, having a business is really about participating in community.
ERIKSON: it’s more of an antagonistic relationship when they come from the web. I’m all for progress, but we shouldn’t lose sight of things that have worked in the past.
CORWIN: Back at the website-building event in Hooksett, George Fryburg is starting a new Christmas Tree business. He says that word of mouth doesn’t work for everyone.
FRYBURG: Well I think WOM is fine if you just wanna reach a very localized area, but if you wanna look at the broader market you’ve got to look at the website.
CORWIN: That’s the idea – and the customer that Brian Cusack at Google is looking for. And he claims this campaign will deliver. After one similar event in Texas, he says one business saw an increase of two hundred and fifty percent.