How many of you remember the great Apple Maps debacle? In the business books of major failures – Apple Maps must sit in the top 25.
I never stopped using Apple Maps, but I did bounce between Google Maps and its sister product Waze, and weirdly, along the way, Apple Maps got good. It got really good – some say it is the best US mapping platform. Maps showcase Apple’s superpower that sometimes gets overlooked – commitment and persistence. It sets its mind to things, and over painful and consistent iteration, it can turn the largest turd into a diamond.
While this is great for Apple, many small businesses could care less. If you want to build brand recognition or get more people in the door, you have relied on SEO, Google Search Ads, Social Media Marketing, or updating your Google My Business Profile. All the combined tactics have become the base layer of the small business digital marketing playbook.
Apple, however, is slowly offering products that uniquely highlight its competitive advantage and shows that it may have the plan to push into this small business market in a much bigger way.
For starters, Google’s My Business Profile is a product that has allowed them to crowd-source data and, in exchange, offer companies a boost in relevance across its search platforms. If you do not have a profile, I highly recommend you leave now and create one. Google uses this to ensure it has up-to-date information, including links to menus, open and close times, reviews, rich photos, and other data. Knowing and assuming that the info given to it is better than what it can get from crawling, it tends to feature businesses with this profile data over those who do not provide it.
Apple knew it needed to make up ground and partnered with Yelp to source this data for its Maps platform. Still, in the last year, it has become much more aggressive in providing a new tool named Business Connect that allows business owners also to offer this same type of data to Apple. Like Google’s My Profile, some evidence shows that Apple prioritizes results from customers providing this data in its internal search results using features like Spotlight.
Rumors also point to Apple beefing up its internal ad division with some trial and error – but the writing has long been on the wall that Business Connect is the building block for more extensive paid search ads in Apple Maps. Some suggest that spotlight search ads like Maps could become extensions of Apple’s App Store search tools and provide businesses with increasing ways to reach Apple’s customers.
What makes this very Apple is the focus on exploitability within its walled ecosystem. Apple’s approach to working with businesses is giving them what they know is a valuable audience – high-income Apple users – while also making it easier for its customers to access what they need without leaving the walled garden.
That’s right, in Apple’s world, these ads for business help Apple customers engage within the ecosystem they love – and we all benefit. After you find a listing on Apple Maps you can always ask questions with Apple Business Chat and feel the integration with iMessage. Are you looking for reservations? OpenTable, for years, has had deep integration with Apple allowing you to reserve directly from the Maps app or by voice with Siri. Once you make it inside, pay with ease using Apple Pay – I love the ability to pay at a restaurant using a QR code.
Like many things, Apple is playing its cards slowly, but bit by bit its game plan to target small businesses is beginning to crystalize. If you’re finding the competition super steep on Social Media, Google, and other platforms it could be time to dip a toe into Apple’s unique model and try seeing who wants what you have in its ivory-colored walls.