Monday, October 8, 2012

Why Google Should Not Do Tradeshows

Add this post to the long list of reasons why I'm not expecting a job from Google. As a general rule, unless you're a comic, anything that makes you look like an idiot is probably bad for your brand. 

As someone who still finds my way to an exhibition floor now and again, I've seen my share of tradeshow sights. From big booths to small booths and busy booths to empty booths, I've seen a range of booth behavior -- attentive, bored, obnoxious, and drunk. But one of the most disappointing and frustrating things to encounter at an event is a booth that ignores you, that can't answer your questions, or exudes arrogance. And that pretty much sums up my experience with Google at tradeshows.

If you've encountered a Google booth, see if this matches your experience. Rather than being involved with the show, the people in the booth seem to be participating in a party that none of us are invited to. It's like you've invaded the space of some clique gathered at the university center.

I can only remember three times that I've actually seen Google booth staff show some signs of engagement in the event that they were participating in.
  • The SMX Search Marketing Expo conference. This was sort of home court for the Google team and they actually sent people who could speak to their tools and products. And, while they weren't the most amazing booth staff that I've ever encountered, if you were grading Google booth staff on a curve, this was their dream team.
  • At OFC/NFOEC, the Google Fiber team was out, trying to recruit telecom engineers. In their talent search, they were trying to collect as many leads as possible. So, when it came to trying to hire people, they were pretty focused. 
  • I think I also remember them at one of the old MacWorld shows -- back in the day when Apple was still at the event and it was in Moscone South. At that time, I remember the Google booth guys running their charging station and talking about Google apps with people that walked up to the booth. I even remember one guy talking to some kid that was there with his mom. It's funny how that seems like such a contrast from my more common Google-tradeshow encounters.
But the worst part of the whole experience is that, even if you can suffer through be ignored and you stand around for long enough force an engagement, the people that they have staffing the booth appear to be unable to answer any questions related to the products featured at the event. It's like staffing a customer service desk, gathering a line of customers, and then proceeding to visibly ignore them.

When you create an exclusive work environment, your bound to build an air of elitism into the mix. But most people don't actually encounter real, live employees for Internet businesses like Facebook or Twitter. But what most retail B2C businesses understand -- something that's probably lost on the culture of the Internet business -- is that each employee is a brand ambassador and each encounter with the public is image-shaping moment. Most people will treat accidental encounters as just that, but an appearance at an event is a show. Do you really want ignorant, arrogant, and useless to be the adjectives describing your business?

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