by Matt Kapko

Why Google’s enterprise pitch is a confusing mess

Jul 30, 2015
Cloud ComputingCollaboration SoftwareEnterprise Applications

Google has allowed a branding and marketing mess to fester around its enterprise business for far too long. The company needs a unifying message that can explain Google for Work to prospective customers in a more cohesive fashion.

confused user worker laptop computer
Credit: Thinkstock

Can you explain to your business colleagues what Google for Work is? If so, you’re miles ahead of Google. The company’s foray into the enterprise has been little more than a hodgepodge of silos, delineated by products and their respective teams. The company is doing a poor job marketing the entirety of Google for Work because the initiative overlaps with individual product sales and leads to operational confusion.

Google for Work (formerly Google Enterprise) is the company’s business product offering, but it’s more of a vehicle for marketing and sales than it is the family of apps sold as Google Apps for Work (formerly Google Apps for Business).

Confused yet?

Google might have some moonshots in development on the periphery at its Google X lab, but the myopic thinking among employees working on the company’s most popular products has broken Google into fiefdoms marred by self-rule. Google for Work is an opportunity to highlight Google’s total value to business customers, but that sense of greater purpose is lacking.

Google now has a handful of killer products with more than 1 billion users each – Android, Search, Chrome, YouTube and Maps. The problem is that most IT departments and business decision-makers aren’t searching for single solutions these days.

When it comes to what Google can help enterprise customers achieve, the company should be pitching its brand and letting its products shine within the framework of a single platform that powers a suite of applications. Google could learn a thing or two from Microsoft about how it’s managed the development and expansion of Office 365, a cloud-based integrated platform that knows exactly what it is.

[Related Analysis: Office 365 vs. Google for Work: A cloud comparison for small businesses]

Google for Work should be that platform, but Google just can’t seem to help itself when it comes to naming its products and empowering those brands to rise on their own. Placing any of its products higher than any other only further muddies the waters of what Google for Work is and what the platform represents for the 5 million businesses that Google report use it today.

Google’s branding for the enterprise: Follow if you can

Let’s try to follow Google’s logic here, but be patient because first you need to get through a series of familiar Google product names with “for Work” simply added to them. Confusion sets in almost immediately on the Google for Work homepage where solutions such as Google Apps for Work, Google Cloud Platform, Chrome for Work, Google Maps for Work and Google Search for Work are all listed prominently.

Each of those services is sold and marketed to business customers separately, and Google Apps for Work is the only one with public-facing pricing. Regardless of what Google calls it, Google for Work appears to be a basic platform the company uses to upsell a host of services to prospective clients.

[Related News Analysis: Office 365 and Google for Work adoption rates to grow rapidly]

Google Apps for Work, which includes products like Gmail, Drive, Hangouts and Docs, is the suite of apps that most businesses are interested in licensing when they approach Google. Where they fit into Google for Work or vice versa is unclear, though.

Google Apps for Work deserves top billing

The fact it has separate product pages for Gmail for Work, Hangouts for Work and Drive for Work suggest that Google has let product managers and marketers get away from the message it should be conveying to the enterprise. Gmail may be the gateway drug (as some CIOs have described it) that hooks organizations into Google’s email app before employees get pushed into Google Docs, but Google shouldn’t be packaging its enterprise products in such a meaningless fashion if it truly hopes to be an enterprise-ready alternative to Microsoft Office.

Gmail and Drive for Work aren’t sold on an individual basis, but you wouldn’t know that based on all the “for Work” landing pages for these apps that just redirect prospective customers to the Google Apps for Work pricing page. The strategy raises more questions than it answers: Why does Google create extra steps and layers of confusion? Why does it have to call everything “for Work” when the products and features pertinent to business customers are already included in the Google Apps for Work package?

Apps that help users communicate (Gmail, Hangouts, Calendar, Google+), collaborate (Docs, Sheets, Forms, Slides, Sites), manage (Admin, Vault) and store files (Drive) are all included in Google Apps for Work package. Pricing is simple enough, but good luck finding it…and then then understanding everything that’s included with Google’s $5 or $10 monthly plans.

[Related News: Google tests $2 custom Gmail addresses]

Unless Google conveys a more holistic message for the enterprise, prospective business customers will make uninformed determinations about Google for Work. Considering Google’s terrible branding decisions so far, no one could be blamed for thinking that Gmail for Work and Drive for Work are two separate products with different pricing. They would be wrong, but only Google is to blame for the false impression.