Dear Q&A Team,
My marketing team wants to learn more about Google Helpouts. We want to get a better understanding of this service as well as how we can use it to promote any of our products and/or services. We also want to know whether we should charge for Helpouts, and if there are any legal issues we should take into consideration.
Help Me Out
Dear Help Me Out,
It is always exciting to see whether you can integrate a new service into your marketing efforts. Here are four ProfNet experts who answer all your questions about Helpouts:
Explanation of Helpouts
Andy Abramson, CEO of Comunicano, says, “When someone needs help or assistance with a specific question or situation, they can now turn to Google Helpouts, a free or pay-as-you-go video help line where experts are available, or can be reserved, to assist with questions or needs by providing real-time advisory services face-to-face.”
The experts can provide advice on the following subjects: art/music, computers/electronics, cooking, educations/careers, fashion/beauty, fitness/nutrition, health, home/garden, adds Melanie Trudeau, digital strategist at Jaffe PR.
Sarah Hill, digital storyteller at Veterans United Home Loans, also explains that Helpouts are really Google+ Hangouts plus services plus financial transactions.
Hill says, “Helpouts are a new layer of e-commerce, ‘See-Commerce’ if you will. The difference between Helpouts and traditional Hangouts is there is a Google Wallet integration and customers have the ability now to pay for a service from within that Helpout.”
Marketing Using Helpouts
“Whether a marketing department should use Helpouts depends on the nature of the company’s core business. Marketing departments should ask themselves: What service about my product or business could I offer to the rest of the nation,” suggests Hill.
Trudeau thinks that marketing professionals need to look at Helpouts as another “channel” to reach their target audience. They first need to determine whether Helpouts will reach their intended audience, and then decide how they will “package” and price their offering.
In addition, “Helpouts are searchable, meaning, when you type in a search query in Google, you could see results pointing to Helpout sessions. My guess is that Google’s review ratings will play a strong role in ranking Helpout sessions in search results, i.e., the sessions with better reviews will raise to the top of search results. This is important for marketers,” says Trudeau.
Abramson believes that marketers can use Helpouts for remote pre-sales consultations and walk-throughs that can be conducted with groups where apps and services are shown off. It can bring the actual product owners closer to the potential users to gain real-time feedback and interaction.
He adds, “Helpouts are ideal for new product introductions as they allow prospects to discover more about the product or service in more complete ways. Prospects can ask questions, and the Helpouts can be recorded so others can view it later.”
“In admissions at Colgate, we are planning on using Helpouts to help parents and students understand the application process. Last year we did a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) about the admission’s process. This year, we plan to use Helpouts to help people in the same way,” says Matt Hames, manager of media communications at Colgate University.
To Charge or Not to Charge
Trudeau explains that a marketing department has three basic models to consider, they can: offer their expertise and charge for their services; offer free or paid support for their products; offer free information and advice that highlight their product(s).
If marketing decides to go with the first option, then they need to keep in mind that Google keeps 20 percent of their fees. Trudeau thinks that participants will be willing to pay for one-on-one attention to address their specific questions. But with free content readily available online, time will tell if personalized attention will command fee-based advice online.
If marketing goes with the second option, then people may be more inclined to purchase products knowing that they can get individualized support via Helpouts. Communicating this support option at purchase decision time will be crucial, warns Trudeau.
Last but not least, if marketing goes with the third option, it may give them the opportunity to connect with an audience that may seek out their product(s) and make a purchase after the Helpout.
Hill has another thing for marketers to consider. She says, “Offering your service for free can bombard your inbox with individuals wanting your service, so as a matter of supply and demand, you should seriously consider the consequences of offering a free Helpout as those sessions are indeed demands on your time. However, if your marketing department’s intent is simply to get individuals in the funnel and not as a money making endeavor, then a free Helpout is a great option.”
Abramson thinks, “Marketers should not charge for remote pre-sales consultations and walk-throughs. The idea is to service and support customers or prospective customers by being informational and demonstrative. Of course once it takes off, there can be a value added service offering based upon the same premise for more advanced discussions.”
Hames says, “We will never charge for Helpouts. Reddit, Hangouts and live chats are free, always will be.”
“Marketing should always be aware of legal and regulatory concerns as they always should avoid making false claims or misleading statements. The rule of thumb should be to never say or present anything that could come back to hurt you,” says Abramson.
Trudeau adds: “Certain professional services representatives may be excluded from using Helpouts due to state and federal laws. For instance, if lawyers want to charge for online advice, they must first contractually establish an attorney-client relationship, which would be impossible in Helpouts. If attorneys were to offer free advice online, they would need a fairly hefty disclaimer as dictated by the rules of their state bar. From a marketing standpoint, this may create a barrier to entry.”
“You must own the rights to the photos and videos used in the Helpout or the video trailer promoting your Helpout,” cautions Hill. “You have an option to decide whether to let your client record the Helpout. Both you and the client must agree to that recording and both of you get a copy of the video.”
Here are additional Terms of Service for Helpouts: bit.ly/18l0GoV
Have fun exploring Helpouts! Good luck!
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