Confluent Forms LLC, located in Easthampton MA, is a boutique branding, graphic design, web design, web development, Blogger development, and PHP/MySQL application development firm providing services to customers from the Fortune 100 to local non-profit organizations and academic institutions. Serving Western Massachusetts and beyond.

Google Helpouts creating value & new opportunity

by on December 10, 2013
Last updated on
Google +Helpouts are a new product by Google that enables "real help from real people in real time" via Person-to-Person Google Hangouts, coupled with a paid aspect allowing the service provider to provide their time for free, or at a per-minute or per-session rate.

It wouldn't be surprising if you hadn't yet heard of Google Helpouts. Helpouts went live in November 2013, with listing offerings by invite only in limited markets.

I was one of the first round of people invited to host a listing in Google Helpouts, and after a month of Helpouts, I believe there are ways to create value in Helpouts for both the offerers and those seeking help, as well as ways to earn revenue for your business.

Determining the Helpout that I would offer

I originally started out with three different Helpouts, but interestingly only one of them was approved (at least initially): "Improving your website and blog's layout, design & experience". That Helpout began focusing on just blogs and blogging, helping users with design, layout, and content strategy. Since that original approved listing I have modified it multiple times, broadening the appeal to be for websites, blogs, and e-commerce websites, as well as focusing on content strategy and capture strategies.

I wanted to attract a wide audience of people wanting/needing help in an area that I'm very qualified in, and I wanted to make sure there was value that I could provide in a 15 to 30 minute video session. Providing detail work, and a Helpout that required more than consulting, would be difficult to fit into this format.

Setting the rate or going free

When Helpouts was first announced I thought: "yes, another market where I can charge my hourly rate and people can pop in for 15-30 min sessions prorated to my rate". Helpouts provides the ability to set a per-minute rate or per-session rate. I set the rate... and after a week hadn't received any takers.

I realized I was being penny-wise and pound-foolish. I wasn't capitalizing on the interest that there was in Helpouts, mainly because of the barriers that there were to capturing a paid Helpout. Beyond the technical (people needing to set up Google Wallet), there is also the fact that it's a brand new product where people are still kicking the tires. Add to this that I had zero reviews, and there was radio silence.

So I set the rate to free.

Building a reputation and developing a new market in a new marketplace

Lots of people have questioned my decision to set my Helpout as free. Some thing it's making it harder for those trying to earn a living through Helpouts by forcing pricing towards free, instead of making it "more acceptable" to have a paid listing. People have also questioned the "freebie model", believing that it decreases my value in general as I'm giving away my expertise for free.

I disagree.

Rather than aim to make a few dollars here and there from the people who want to "hire" me for 15-30 minute sessions, I decided the better strategy for our company was instead to use this opportunity to develop a warm lead, using Helpouts as a new aspect of my lead generation strategy. In my normal day I often receive phone calls from people looking to discuss their websites and to potentially hire my firm; during these conversations I give a brief consultation (sometimes up to an hour), discussing their website, website strategy, talking about what's working and what doesn't seem to be working. I'm doing a bit more in these Helpouts, giving more specifics and often lists of homework for the site owner to perform, but I'm also pushing the envelope with them as well, giving them ideas for where their site could one day go.

That future direction is when I'd like for those users to think about my firm, the one that gave them great ideas and great feedback, and hire us. I'll have established a rapport with them, and hopefully that will be a very strong factor in the next phase. And until then I ask that these satisfied customers leave positive reviews of their Helpout experience with me, helping me build my authority and reputation.

Did I mention that Helpout listings are indexed and prominent in search results?

Right now Google seems to be promoting Helpouts, and perhaps is giving them a boost in the search engine rankings.

How much of a boost? A search for "improving your website layout and design" returns my Helpouts listing as #1 in an incognito search. That result (my listing) is a great pitch page for my services, including links to my company website, Google+ Profile, and all of the positive reviews that I've received from very satisfied Helpouts customers.

All in all it's not a bad addition to my company's new business capture strategy!

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