Jon Hall

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Hi all, I was hoping to find out your opinions on GMB's messaging feature. Now that it's been around awhile, are you turning Google Messaging *on* or *off* or *it depends*?

I have my own biases but I'll bottle them in for now ;) From what I can tell, it hasn't been huge topic here one way or the other.

@Brian Barwig posted an excellent overview of the feature here: New Google My Business Messaging Options And it sounds like Sterling Sky is turning Google Messaging ON: "We believe these are a terrific addition to the GMB rolodex and should be taken advantage of."

But there are also some mixed reviews from those using Google Messaging in different industries, notably the comments on this thread from people turning it OFF: Google My Business Messaging and Metrics are getting a boost

What say you? What say your clients? Are you turning Google Messaging ON or OFF? Thanks ❤️
 

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As an end-user, I like messaging because it allows me to qualify customers and leads without spending time on the phone doing it. For what it’s worth, it’s also a new avenue for spammers.

987ED854-8D3A-43C7-A0DF-D489CA980B07.jpeg
 

Jon Hall

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Thanks @JoyHawkins. Interesting! One of my old clients in healthcare said he felt like the GMB mobile app just gave him and his staff another pie pan to keep spinning and it wasn't worth it. Having that dashboard on desktop could change the calculus 👍
 

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Supposedly they were bringing Messaging to GMB thru the browser for some people, but it has not changed for me yet.

I completely agree about the mobile app being one more hassle to deal with. I hate the fact that the browser version of GMB says to use the mobile app to "Get full access to your Business Profile" when that is a blatant lie. There are many things that you can't do on the mobile app, you have to go to the browser version of GMB to do them.
 

Jon Hall

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I hate the fact that the browser version of GMB says to use the mobile app to "Get full access to your Business Profile" when that is a blatant lie.
Haha, totally! The app is way stripped down from what I could tell.

Supposedly they were bringing Messaging to GMB thru the browser for some people, but it has not changed for me yet.
Typical Google!
 

Eoghan_MFeed

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I work with chain brands mostly in restaurant, retail, banking verticals.

Haven't seen huge demand from clients to turn it on but can certainly see how it's a powerful channel for lead-gen focused verticals (Home Service, Financial Advisors, Real Estate).

APIs are available for enterprises to manage inside their existing customer service platforms too which is helpful. Managing self-serve if you're an enterprise is probably not feasible.
 

Jon Hall

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Great point, @Eoghan_MomentFeed. Thank you! Yeah, it seems like the value could be to net more leads, especially those hitting your listing after-hours or those who are more comfortable texting than calling, etc.

But for Starbucks? Messaging is probably a liability, haha.
 

Eoghan_MFeed

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YUP. It is more meaningful customer engagement to manage though vs. an hashtagged tweet though so it's under consideration. Someone who messages is closer to POS than a tweeter! Also businesses with longer sales cycles seem to be more message friendly (quote requests etc)

One way enterprises can manage is in reality, the same questions will flow in over and over again. Many tools offer auto-responses/filtering/redirection to call center capabilities.
 

Jon Hall

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Seriously, @Eoghan_MomentFeed. Thank you! And I almost can't contain my own editorial here because you point out real value propositions in messaging: leads/sales for small business, efficiency for the enterprise through automation, etc.

<begin editorial>
So I'm personally excited about the opportunities in messaging. But I think the question for brands and business owners becomes: How much ownership/control of your customer conversations do you want to cede to Google (or Facebook via Messenger and WhatsApp) by promoting their products? And what happens when those products are monetized, their rules changed, etc.?

It's a risk/reward calculation, no doubt. While I'm "all in" on messaging, I think moving customer conversations into good ol' fashioned text messaging can deliver on the value props you mention (and more, e.g. increased responsiveness, customer retention, re-marketing) while allowing brands and businesses to own the data.

Google no longer lets you have a "Text Us" CTA on GMB listings or Google ads. Hmmm... I wonder why! But there are strategies and tools to work around that :)
</end editorial>
 

Nicole Basham

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For service-area businesses, the messaging button shows up on profiles as Request a Quote. So for these clients, this is a valuable additional lead source. The flip side is that what usually happens is that these come in outside of normal business hours. Meaning, a GMB profile visitor will see the business is closed, so they will use the messaging function, assuming that they will get a quicker response. The next question then is: is the client positioned to actually offer estimates over text messaging? For most of our service-area clients, what this looks like in reality is the client asking for a phone number and address and saying they will call that person the next business day. So I expect with that approach, you'll lose some of the value of this function. But that would also happen when someone calls a business and leaves a message or when someone fills out a web form anyways.

Like most other GMB features, we encourage clients to test them out and see what works for them. Some clients do better with messaging than others. One decided wisely that they were not able to keep up with the volume of messages and decided that it was better to lose some leads than make people angry by not responding quickly enough. And I do see that if you don't respond to a message in under 15 minutes, that person is either upset or you have lost the lead.

We are pretty open and transparent with our clients about Google, so it's understood that free features can have drawbacks and that there is always the possibility that Google will monetize a feature down the road. But while it's free, if they can take advantage of it effectively, I guess our take is that it's just another way to improve their local search profile.

I'd probably always let a new client know about Messaging, but I can't imagine that it would be something I'd recommend for many industries and for clients that don't have the in-house capability to manage these effectively on their own. Apart from scheduling service calls, how many businesses can effectively communicate via text the way it's currently limited to just people who have the app on their phones? Even if you have some canned responses you can copy and paste from, it's a challenge. And right now if the person who originally messaged doesn't see your reply immediately, it goes to Maps, which makes sense, but means it's probably lost.
 
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My wonderings about this surround whether it's going to be better, in the long run, to let Google into this area of customer service, or if brands would be better off doubling down on marketing their own text messaging capabilities, independent of Google. Of course, you could do both and have the best of both worlds, but I'm not 100% comfortable with inviting Google to become even more of a middleman between your brand and your customers. Thoughts on this from the community?
 

Jon Hall

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Fantastic, @Nicole Basham. Thank you! You hit on so many of the considerations involved in evaluating messaging strategies for SABs, I feel like I should try to systematize your thoughts into a kind of decision tree, like:
  • Is the value of a lead to your business high enough to warrant messaging with them?
  • If yes, can you convert a lead via messaging? (Maybe "conversion" isn't a sale or even providing a quote but scheduling an appointment or site visit, etc.)
  • If yes, does your business have the capacity to respond to inbound messages promptly...
  • ... during business hours?
  • ... after hours?
  • If yes, turn messaging ON.
... and so on, haha.
 

Jon Hall

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Very well said, @MiriamEllis!

From a brand standpoint, it seems like a no-brainer to at least *prefer* driving customer conversations into SMS/text. Text isn't owned or controlled by one entity. A direct customer contact via text is durable, it's "forever." And an SMS contact list is a business asset that can be built and leveraged over the short and long terms.

From a consumer standpoint, Google *owning* messaging means that Google can provide consumers insights about your company's responsiveness and history of outcomes. That seems pretty good. Until you realize, as @Nicole Basham points out, that the data is "limited to just people who have the app on their phones." But it *seems* trustworthy. Sigh.
 

Nicole Basham

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Fantastic, @Nicole Basham. Thank you! You hit on so many of the considerations involved in evaluating messaging strategies for SABs, I feel like I should try to systematize your thoughts into a kind of decision tree, like:
  • Is the value of a lead to your business high enough to warrant messaging with them?
  • If yes, can you convert a lead via messaging? (Maybe "conversion" isn't a sale or even providing a quote but scheduling an appointment or site visit, etc.)
  • If yes, does your business have the capacity to respond to inbound messages promptly...
  • ... during business hours?
  • ... after hours?
  • If yes, turn messaging ON.
... and so on, haha.

I hadn't gotten as far as a decision tree, but that's much more useful!

We started using this feature with clients in November of 2019, and I hoped that at the very least Google would offer scheduling options so you could only have messaging turned on certain times of day. And based on the results we had, I was hoping this feature would become more robust. But then COVID happened and a lot of the free or "beta" type features I'm sure got put on the back burner.

In November 2020, messaging was completely turned off at one point in the month and we lost all the data in the app from that point to date, although I had been tracking Request to Quote lead counts manually in a spreadsheet. Again, very frustrating!
 

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For service-area businesses, the messaging button shows up on profiles as Request a Quote.
I didn't realize that was for all SAB's, I thought it said "Request a Quote" on my profile because I have the "Online Estimates" attribute turned on.

But now that you mention it, I see the difference. An online estimate is something that they want done online, without a site visit, and they most likely expect it sooner rather than later. Requesting a quote via a button is essentially the same as calling me and saying that they want a quote for work, in which we would discuss a day and time in the future to do it.

I really like the idea of messaging. I prefer it thru the form on my website, but direct text message or thru Google is good just the same. I like being able to qualify it as I mentioned before. And really like being able to research it. Someone wants a certain item installed I can lookup it's power requirements (etc. etc.) before getting back to them so that I can speak from a level of authority instead of telling them that I am not sure about it as I would if they just called and sprung it on me.
 

Jon Hall

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I like being able to qualify it as I mentioned before. And really like being able to research it. Someone wants a certain item installed I can lookup it's power requirements (etc. etc.) before getting back to them so that I can speak from a level of authority instead of telling them that I am not sure about it as I would if they just called and sprung it on me.
Great point, thank you @DontBiteUrNails! This resonates with me.

One of the core aspects of messaging that seems to draw consumers is its "asynchronous" nature: they're reaching out on *their* timetable, in a medium they're comfortable with, without fear of immediate sales pressure, etc.

And as long as the business is responsive, this arrangement suits many of us, even across generations. (@Nicole Basham mentioned a 15-minute window to respond or miss the lead. I wonder if you have seen that as well?)

But your example suggests there are advantages to messaging's asynchronicity (I don't think that's a word) for the business, as well: to qualify the lead, prep for an informed response, put our best foot forward in every communication.

Efficiency
and efficacy seem to me like pretty significant wins for messaging! Though I agree with the sentiment here: better to have it through a medium you control than through the Big G.
 
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