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Free Google Helpouts - Providers Share their Thoughts on How to Make it Work!

Free Google Helpouts - Providers Share How to Make it Work!

Image: Ken Rubin, VP of Marketing for Rouxbe Online Cooking School

Since it's launch earlier this month, there has been an influx of businesses and individuals signing up to join Google Helpouts. In this blog, I interview some of the top providers on why they decided to make their listings free, and what the long term benefits are for providing a free service on Google Helpouts.

About the Platform

Helpouts by Google is about providing a personalised, 1-to-1 video sharing service. There are different categories and speciality on Helpouts ranging from cooking to photography, and gardening to computer repairs. At the moment there are only a select number of categories, and these categories are geared towards providing some sort of personalized service. Google will eventually broaden it's categories to provide health and business services, but for the moment it is geared towards consumer services.

You can become a provider on Google Helpouts, but you must apply for an invitation code. For more information on how to become a provider, please refer to this FAQ post about Google Helpouts. You can also take Helpouts for a spin and be guided by a live person by talking to the Helpouts support team.

Why Free?

The first and most obvious question is why free? Is there a business case for providing a free service?

Ken Rubin, the Vice President of Marketing for Rouxbe Online Cooking School said that their decision to provide a free Heloput was so that they could build and leverage positive relationships. It's about showcasing the quality and experience of his team. The Rouxbe currently has about eight listings on Google Helpouts, many of which are staffed by cooking veterans with 20 years of industry experience. He says that this not only creates a "wow factor", but the free listings have resulted in people signing up to do their paid listings, or to subscribe as members on their website.

Free is the New Black

In fact if you talk to a Google representative or any seasoned provider, they'll tell you that giving free services is the best way to build your reputation and get valuable feedback on your offerings. This will eventually lead to satisfied customers who will either become paid customers, or who can help create buzz around your services. Another advantage of going free when you're just starting out is that you can get a feel for the most frequently asked questions by people interested in your service. Not only will giving a free service help you to gain valuable ratings, but it will also help you to think of other services you can offer based on the questions and needs from your free session. For example, you can take what you learn from your free sessions and create web pages to frequently asked questions and direct your users there.

Once you have enough good reviews about your service, you can switch to a paid listing. As long as you don't change anything else, but only switch from free to paid, it will not trigger the dreaded "pending review" process all over.

Another way to utilise your free service is to build your reputation and authority on a subject matter. You can learn so much from your reviews, and use this information to blog, write books or create video tutorials.

How Other Providers Utilise the Free Helpouts

Good ratings is often dubbed "the currency by which decisions are made". Besides a strong, recognisable brand (and many small businesses don't have that advantage), a service provider with good ratings and reviews will likely influence a user to use your service. Here's are some interesting comments by other providers on why you should start out with a free listing.

I consider doing a free service because that's what generates more customers to my local business.
Computer Repair Consultant
Willie Alagha

I'm still testing out the system and trying to see how it all fits in. I have no paid Helpout as such. I spend on average an hour a day, and around 5 hours on a Saturday.
Google+ Help
John Elstone

My overall marketing strategy is to try and build up a good series of reviews and traffic to my blog. Helpouts adds great value when people want a channel to personally interact with me.
Health Lifestyle: Do-Able Tips That Get You Healthy!
Theresa Delgado

What's important about providing good Helpouts has to do with your experience. The best experience is about being real with people, listening to their concerns and trying to uncover the root cause of their problems.
Support for Home Repairs, Improvements and Maintenance Questions
Kirk Miller, HomeAdvisor.com

Even if the Helpout does't result in any immediate sales, it creates buzz and word of mouth - the oldest and most effective form of marketing for your business.

Success Story: Keenan Jones

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We all love a success story and Keenan Jones was happy enough to share with me how he was contacted by support.credit-aid.com to provide premium paid Helpouts. Keenan is featured on the homepage as the official Credit Repair Cloud Support Agent. He provides 1-to-1 premium support for IT and software training for all products. When I spoke with Keenan, he was providing Apple Product Support which he has since switched to a paid listing.

Though Google Helpouts is still a relatively young platform, there is no doubt that providing free Helpouts is the best way to quickly gain a good reputation. When you're starting out, and particularly while Google Helpouts is still new, you will get a few tire kickers. But it's the best long term strategy build up your authority as well as quickly gain a solid reputation through positive ratings and feedback.