“What Would Google Do?” by Jeff Jarvis

Terri Schlichenmeyer | 3/20/2009, 6:19 p.m.
Pop on your computer for inspiration, and you’d probably pull up Google. Type in a few words for some destination ...

How does a cheap, quick vacation sound this summer?

Pretty good, huh? A little fun, plenty of relaxation - but where to go?  Pop on your computer for inspiration, and you’d probably pull up Google. Type in a few words for some destination ideas. Google “flights” and “hotels”, search museums, maybe get some tickets, Google your maps, make reservations, and there you are.

Vacation: planned.

Notice that? “Google” is not just a noun anymore… we “Google” something when we’re looking for information. So how in the www did that happen? Better yet, how does it affect the way you do business? Find out by reading “What Would Google Do?” by Jeff Jarvis.

The first thing you need to know – and you don’t even have to search for it online – is that if you give customers power, they will use it. That’s something you want to happen: if you give your customers the power to offer feedback, tell you what to improve and tell you what they don’t like about your product, you have valuable information you just got without paying a penny for a think tank or survey team. In this way, through honest communication, your worst customer becomes your best friend.

But rule number one won’t work without rule number two: Pay attention. Read your customer’s blogs, websites, and online comments about you. Don’t ignore them, because they won’t just go away. In fact, start a dialogue with your customers. Offer to fix every problem personally, then watch the negative comments turn golden.

Understand that “small is the new big”, that the masses are now niches, and that you’re throwing your money away if you don’t go where your customers are. Embrace “free” as the new way to do business (think airlines, and the money they’re making with a la carte pricing). Decide what business you’re really in, and become the best at it. Give up control to gain your customer’s trust.

“Make mistakes well,” Jarvis says, and remember that life – and business - are just ongoing experiments. Fail spectacularly and learn from it. Encourage… no, demand innovation from your employees, then get out of the way.

Need to drag your business kicking and screaming into the 21st Century? Reading “What Would Google Do?” is as good a place as any to start.

While this book is heavily steeped in geekspeak (which may be hard for some CEOs to catch at first), it’s filled with sound advice and real-life examples for working with and retaining today’s computer- and internet-savvy customers (or Generation Google, as author Jeff Jarvis calls them).

In the last segment of his book, Jarvis gets brutally specific with industry-by-industry advice, which is not for the faint-hearted. If he’s right – and his track record is impressive – you might not like what you read.

Not as techie as you want to be? Then read this book, read it again, and turn it over to your IT staff. Give them “What Would Google Do?”, give your customers control, and they’ll all know exactly what to do.