Drew Cunningham (left) and Alan S. Morrison won two Google Silver monthly sales awards for Mr Droogle.

Drew Cunningham (left) and Alan S. Morrison won two Google Silver monthly sales awards for Mr Droogle.

In September 2012, Google launched its Google Maps-based 360 virtual tour product, then called Google Business Photos, in the UK, after trialling it in the US.

What it offered businesses with a listing in Google Maps was the ability for potential customers to walk inside their premises in Street View just like they could explore the streets outside.

To roll out the product worldwide, it decided to use a franchise model in which established professional photographers could apply for a non-exclusive geographical franchise in their area and they could keep all the revenue. To get one of the free franchises, they had to pass a vetting check, learn all the complex technical details of how to shoot a 360 tour using their existing kit and one of several specialist fisheye lenses and rotation measurement devices specified by Google, pass an exam on the process for which the pass mark was 95%, sell and shoot 10 tours to the standard required and pass a quality check on them.


Those who succeeded were awarded a non-exclusive geographical franchise and the title Google Trusted Photographer. Because Google’s primary goal for this product was to populate Maps with as many tours as possible in order to have searchers use it more, in return franchisees were targeted to sell, shoot and publish to Google Maps 10 tours a month. They had to publish at least one a month or they’d be on the road to losing their franchise if they published no tours over three consecutive months.

To help them, they were provided with templates for Google-brand marketing materials but they usually had to invest in some kit to Google’s technical specification, pay for all their own marketing, price their tours within 10% of Google’s RRP for their country and sell only inside their geographical territory unless a potential customer outside it requested they shoot theirs. Major public buildings were off-limits to franchisees as Google was shooting them themselves to encourage use of the product.

Mr Droogle

Among the first tranche of UK photographers to be awarded a franchise was Drew Cunningham, whose Mr Drew Photography business had been established a few years. He was given the first franchise for “Tayside” and named his ‘Google tours’ business Mr Droogle – a combination of ‘Mr Drew’ and Google.

He sold a few tours to shops around Dundee with the help of friends. But by the start of 2013, meeting Google’s minimum monthly target became a challenge.

Accidental meeting

That’s when happenstance brought us together. As a past customer, I was invited to the launch of the Volkswagen Golf Mk7 at Barnetts of St Andrews in January 2013. Interested in seeing the new car and potentially get some photos to promote my young business, I went along with my Canon EOS 5D MkII and took some shots.

One of the new Mk7 Golf models.

One of the new Mk7 Golf models.

Pretty soon I spotted two other people also taking photos of the cars and people there. Also with Canon EOS 5D MkIIs and professional L-Series lenses. So in the way that professional photographers do when they see each other, I went over and got chatting to them.

One was Drew and the other was his friend Amy. He was taking photos because his brother worked there and had asked him to get some. Amy was helping him.

Drew & Amy at the Golf launch.

Drew & Amy at the Golf launch.

We quickly agreed to pool our pictures for the garage to use on its social media and at the end of the night got talking about what software we used. That led to a meeting where I showed Drew the features and workflow of Adobe Lightroom as he mainly used Photoshop.


After my demonstration, we got talking about our backgrounds and I explained I’d passed the Marketing course on my MBA with Merit (70-84%). Drew told me about Google tours and said he felt Mr Droogle could with help on the Marketing side and offered me a commission-based role to do that.

I was impressed with the opportunity the product offered for all kinds of business and organisations, saw that sales could be improved with the right balance of multi-channel marketing and a dedicated person promoting it, rather than treating it as a side-hussle to the main photography business, which most franchisees did. As my own business was still finding its feet, the extra income would come in handy too, so I accepted Drew’s offer.


I first looked at how the product was being used in the USA and developed a value proposition that adding more value for customers than simple showing what their premises looked like. It was centred on delivering key marketing messages and information to potential customers as they walked through tours – to show them why they’d want to go there and what went on, not just what the wallpaper looked like.

This posed element in the tour of South Inch Osteopaths helped inform potential patents about what osteopathy involves.

This posed element in the tour of South Inch Osteopaths helped inform potential patents about what osteopathy involves.

Part of this was to use storytelling – with staff and customers being posed with input from Drew to show customer journeys and service – and other tools such as placed signs to deliver key marketing messages about that part of the place and the business, shooting the same multi-use space with multiple setups to show all its possible uses and ‘Easter eggs’ (e.g. someone in costume being seen in multiple locations) to add an element of surprise and engaging content to people viewing the tour. The value proposition also included free PR for the client and Mr Droogle in innovative tours.

A mysterious racing driver appeared in several places in the tours of Barnetts Volkswagen garages. They ran a competition on social for people to find them all.

A mysterious racing driver appeared in several places in the tours of Barnetts Volkswagen garages. They ran a competition on social for people to find them all.

Next I developed sector-specific sales pitch presentations showing what similar businesses in the US had done with tours – to leverage social proof – later replacing US examples with ones we’d shot ourselves, as well as listing the Features and Benefits of the product.

Multi-channel marketing

I then developed a multi-channel Marketing Plan to take the business beyond face-to-face personal selling which included:

  • Social media channels sharing useful marketing content for target audiences as well as client tours and promotional content
  • B2B networking with business owners and their marketers
  • Paid Advertising in regional B2B magazines
  • Building relationships with people in marketing disciplines who could refer their clients to us
  • Using my membership of local business support organisations to promote Mr Droogle

Over the following months I got Mr Droogle new customers in a range of businesses across Tayside including the prestigious Crieff Hydro Hotel and a chain of family-owned florists. When Fife was added to Mr Droogle’s territory, we added businesses there too.

Google moves the goalposts

From March 2014, Google made changes to the product and programme which moved the goalposts for Google Trusted Photographer franchisees. It changed the name to Google Business View (like Street View, so more easily understood), but it removed the geographical restriction on sales for franchisees (within the country they operated in), the limitations on pricing disappeared and they launched an automatic 360 camera system they’d developed with another company to allow people without any knowledge of photography to shoot tours. They also heavily prescribed the content of tours of hotels – a key focus of the programme at that time.

Action Glen staff help Drew position the panopole for another panorama on the world-first Aloft! tour

Action Glen staff help Drew position the panopole for another panorama on the world-first Aloft! tour.

Soon I found small businesses with limited budgets were buying cheap tours from sales people with no photography or marketing knowledge at a third of the price we were quoting for something which would help communicate their marketing messages well. What they got was a tour which just showed what their premises looked like and poor-quality stills instead of the high-quality engaging ones we delivered.

Emergent strategy

As a result, I focused our efforts most on businesses which appreciated and wanted quality and innovation in their tours in order to delivery their marketing goals.

In return we pushed both the creative and technical boundaries of what could be done with Google tours. For example, to deliver a Point-of-View tour of what it was like to use the treetop assault course Aloft! at Crieff Hydro’s outdoor activities centre Action Glen, Drew bought a 6-metre long ‘panopole’ so the camera could shoot panoramas mid-air between platforms as Google said each had to be a maximum of 15 feet from the next.

Keeping the camera still at that height, even with the panopole’s three metal anchoring wires secured to the ground below, proved to be a nightmare. Instead of up to 120 panoramas per day, we were only managing to shoot four! Without any other way of solving the issue, we had to persevere and keep coming back day after day when we could and the weather would match the existing days – Google shooting rules meant continuity across the whole tour was mandatory.


As the shoot started in September, as the days went by the forest leaves started to change colour. Then snowfall and fallen snow on the ground halted shooting because of continuity – you’re not allowed to edit Google tour images beyond blurring faces. But we kept watching the weather and turning up again to shoot more panoramas when the weather and forest floor and canopy allowed.

In the end, what had been planned as a two-day shoot turned out to be 21 days from September to March through bitterly cold days, sometimes working 6 metres up in the trees. But we got there and delivered the awesome world-first tour we’d been challenged to make. Go try it yourself!

The unique aerial view of the Aloft! course provided by the tour.

The unique aerial view of the Aloft! course provided by the tour.

By the time I left Mr Droogle in March 2016, its clients including several quality hotels and other prestigious names including St Andrews Links Trust (which manages the world-famous golf courses for the town), Fife Cultural Trust (the county’s arts and culture body) and Edinburgh Napier University, which approached us after researching the product and what the Scottish franchisees were doing. We won the tender to shoot its main buildings despite being the most expensive bidder (we found out later) because of our quality and innovation. For them we delivered the biggest Google tour in Scotland, at more than 400 panoramas (most were up 30).


When I left Mr Droogle, I’d delivered several significant improvements, including:

  • 118 tours sold over 3 years
  • 2 Google Silver Monthly Sales Awards – for publishing 10-20 tours in a particular month
  • Shoot budgets extending from £100s to £1000s and one five-figure budget for the Edinburgh Napier University project
  • Higher annual revenues
  • A client list including several prestigious names
  • Clear market position as the top innovator in Scotland – with five world-firsts for Street View including allowing viewers to swim a length of a pool at Crieff Hydro – Drew’s brilliant idea – and see Point-of-View what it was like to use Aloft!, Segways and quad bikes at Action Glen
Mr Droogle’s first world-first for Street View – the ‘Pool View’ of the Victorian Spa at Crieff Hydro.

Mr Droogle’s first world-first for Street View – the ‘Pool View’ of the Victorian Spa at Crieff Hydro.

  • Market position as the Scottish franchise best able to deliver large, complex tours designed to meet marketing and business goals – with several more than 100 panoramas, something no other Scottish franchisee had done.
  • Case studies for multiple sectors
  • A value proposition which gave the business competitive advantage over rivals competing for customers wanting quality as well as value
  • A multi-channel marketing approach which increased brand awareness and sales as well as the reputation of the business


The lessons for other businesses and organisations are:

  1. Focus on how to deliver benefits which will help customers achieve their business goals
  2. Find new ways to create competitive advantage through innovation
  3. Focus on quality – to win business from those prepared to pay more for that and to build your reputation
  4. Use multi-channel marketing, including relationships with people who can refer customers to you on a regular basis.

Contact Us

If you’d like to know more about how you can learn from Mr Droogle’s Success Story, contact me.

For more about Mr Droogle and Google Street View Trusted tours, go to its website.