Unboxing Google Engage
While the agency world’s demise has been the subject of quite a bit of opinion over the years, it seems Google is embracing the fact that advertisers often hire professional services firms to help them — at least for now.
Agency “certification” programs are nothing new in search, and the last time I wrote about them back in 2005, they were overwhelmingly engineered to cater to larger advertisers. The names and target audiences of ambassador programs have changed over the years, but the goal of increasing stable revenue has remained the same.
Enter Google Engage for agencies.
Why Here, Why Now?
The top spenders in the search category are known; they are either engaged with larger agencies or have built their own in-house resources. Their growth in spending is predictable and relatively slow.
On the extreme low end of the search marketing ad spend spectrum, we have Mom & Pop businesses. Mom and Pop either go to a local marketing aggregator one-stop shop in which website, ads & everything else is rolled into one offering, or they go directly to Google. Churn for small business is high, and the ad sales revenue is anything but stable.
So, the very large advertisers and agencies are well cared for; the small ones are unstable. Who’s left?
The vast middle tier of advertisers, which I lovingly refer to as “no man’s land.” These advertisers spend between $10,000 and $100,000 USD per month on search ads. They are not big enough to get big brand or agency resources, but they’re big enough to need professional services firms and tech tools. They require a fair amount of internal resources, but can’t handle it all internally.
No man’s land is a vastly underserved segment of the marketplace; it represents the largest opportunity, and it appears Google is waking up to what this group needs.
Why Is This A Good Thing?
The plight of the small agency is vast and complex. I’ve had the distinct pleasure of working inside small and large agencies — both have their own challenges. While big agencies struggle to navigate the space with multiple layers of management, political battles and territorial demands, the little guys can be made or broken with one or two month’s receivables.
While the account folks at large agencies are being taken to fat lunches, spa days and boondoggle retreats with fancy Googley names, the little guys struggle to get someone on the phone for a new product introduction or to correct a simple error.
Millions of dollars in ad spend can get you all kinds of neat perks that go well beyond lunches and high-end logo trinkets and trash. It gets you education, training, financial incentives and someone to tell you about all the new things you can bring to clients — all things Engage is meant to provide.
I’ve my own reasons for wanting my own shop. I found it difficult to handle the nauseating hypocrisy of being instructed to bilk the clients out of as much money as possible. In that environment, doing great work took a back seat to getting perks. Multi-layer bureaucratic nonsense got in the way of getting the job done right a little too often for my taste.
Whatever the reason might be for a small agency’s existence, Engage allows access to lots of educational materials, financial incentives for new clients and help with agency positioning. It’s an incredible set of resources previously reserved for those with fat wallets. Engage also opens the door to special events and networking. While the events are certainly no Zeitgeist, they serve a valuable purpose in connecting the right people with the right information.
Status Shouldn’t Equal Spending
The biggest complaint I had with so-called certifications in the past was the relationship “status” had to do with ad spending goals. Status had more in common with an airline loyalty program than a professional certification.
When your rank is tied to how many ads you sell, you aren’t an agency, you’re a sales rep — which is a foundational conflict of interest for any agency. The Yahoo Ambassador program, for example, doesn’t carry quite as much weight as it once did, and the status-for-spend model has proven to be feckless.
Google Engage has a good start at being something great, and it is one of the few tools that has made a serious step forward in leveling the playing field for everyone living in no man’s land.
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