How to use Google+ Hangouts for Business

There is nothing more personal than having a face-to-face conversation. Exchanging e-mails is impersonal, speaking on the phone is a step up, but having a face-to-face conversation allows you to see people’s reactions and non-verbal communication.

Anyone that has had to interview someone for a job knows that body language indicates a lot about a prospective candidate’s persona. The same came be said when it comes to sales. Does your potential customer have his arms cross? Are they paying attention to what you’re saying? Are they smiling every time you mention their name?

Sensing non-verbal communication, judging facial reactions and gauging attention are all things that can be done via videoconferencing.

For that last several years there have been a few free solutions including Skype, MSN Messenger and others. Companies like GoToMeeting and Cisco have even created solutions for corporations that cost a fortune, but are used every day. If you have ever been given the sales pitch about these services, you have probably heard of their countless benefits, expandability and more shockingly, their cost.

There is a free solution, of course, called ‘Hangouts’ and they are available on the Google+ social network.

Hangouts are similar to traditional web-based video conferencing interfaces in the fact that they allow you to share both audio and video with others around the world. However, there are a few things that really set Hangouts apart from the competition.

The hangout window itself is extremely innovative. Up to ten participants can join simultaneously (a perfect number for a productive meeting). The active speaker in any hangout is automatically featured in the main video feed (no need to click on thumbnails or try to figure out who’s talking, the software does the work for you). During the hangout, you can share your desktop or any particular window’s image (screen sharing). Lastly, you can share notes and hyperlinks on the left side of the screen using the integrated chat window.

Why do I need Google+ Hangouts for my Business?

Your customers like to be on the cutting edge. More and more customers across the world are dropping their phone-first cellular devices for new smart phones. Most of these smart phones now include front facing cameras enabling them to participate in hangouts almost anywhere they can get a wireless signal.

By showing your customers that you have learned to communicate through the mail, e-mail, telephone and social media, you have demonstrated that your business is moving forward. You are progressing as technology progresses. You need to continue doing that.

A face-to-face conversation will always yield better results and conversion than one over the phone or in e-mail. Thank about it.

If you get an unsolicited e-mail from a security company, are you going to be likely to open it and thoroughly read it? Probably not.

If you get a phone call from a security company that is advertising a free system installation if you sign up for their monitoring system, are you going to stay on the line with them for long? Doubtful.

If someone from a locally owned business that installs security systems knocks on your door and engages you in a face-to-face conversation, are you going to talk to him? Most likely.

Unlike traditional methods of push marketing talking face-to-face requires a response. Of course your customer could slam the door shut on you or tell you to get off of his porch, but human nature is to be empathetic.

If your elevator pitch is concise enough and communicates the why the how and the what then you are more than likely going to have an opportunity to engage with the customer and learn more about them. And who doesn’t want to learn more about their customers?

So, clearly, out of all of the communications explored, face-to-face communication is best. But what does that have to do with video conferencing?

Let’s break it down. If you have a strong social media presence and lots of interaction from your customers and followers, odds are that they like your product. That’s great, these people can be brand champions for you, if you engage them. You can only get as much out of social media as you put into it. Having a schedule of tweets that link to your homepage or Facebook updates that tell people they can get 20% off your product or service by doing the chicken dance in the lobby isn’t going to get you nearly as far actually having a conversation.

“A conversation with my customers, on social media, are you crazy?!”

No, I’m not. It works. Look at Southwest Airlines. They are constantly being handed accolades for their incredible customer service. Miss a flight, having trouble booking online? Send them a tweet. They have a team of community managers trained to respond to your inquiry quickly and solve your problem. Companies like Southwest recognize the power of social media and understand that if you don’t take the opportunity to work with your customers, you could receive some terribly viral press. Look what happened when American Airlines failed to apologize to Alec Baldwin!

Connecting with your customers is imperative, being able to have a conversation with them is even more important. Sure, you can call them on the phone, send them an e-mail, tweet or update, but what about talking to them face-to-face?

If you have these brand customers that love what you produce (your products and services) odds are they are excited about talking to you. Have you considered trying to reach out?

I want you to do an experiment, find a recognizable person in your company or business. Maybe it’s your chief designer or the guy that does your TV commercials. Schedule a time to have that person participate in a hangout. Tell your followers that you have a scheduled a time to allow them to interact. When it comes time, start the hangout and invite everyone in your page circles to attend. What happens next might surprise you. The people that will join this hangout are the people that are excited about your brand. They are people that like to talk and they are people that could be singing your praises and buying more of your products or services. Take advantage of the opportunity. Talk to your customers. Face-to-face.

Google recommends the use of the Logitech C910 for use in Hangouts on Google+, which is available from Amazon.com.

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