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Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help Not Hype

By: Jay Baer

Reviewed By: Bob Ruffolo

Would you rather make a customer today or gain a customer for life?

In his book, Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help Not Hype, Jay Baer offers valuable Marketing advice that challenges conventional wisdom and backs his claims with real-life examples.

In Baer’s own words, this is what Youtility is all about:

“If you sell something, you make a customer today; if you help someone, you make a customer for life. Youtility is Marketing upside down. Instead of Marketing that’s needed by companies, Youtility is Marketing that’s wanted by customers. Youtility is massively useful information, provided for free, that creates long-term trust and kinship between your company and your customers.” -Jay Baer

Consumers have grown savvy to traditional Marketing methods. It’s not that those methods no longer work, they just don’t work as well. Successful companies today market themselves in a way that consumers want to purchase from them, without the heavy sales pitch.

Youtility is a Culture Shift

Marketing is traditionally taught as a linear activity -- you take x action now and get an immediate y result. Since that’s how most Marketers are trained, that is the typical Marketing behavior that we observe.

Baer notes that many business leaders don’t see any value in the slow burn of content Marketing, especially when it’s measured against hiring an entire team of telesales people that make phone calls all day. Ironically, as Baer continues to explain, those same business leaders despise and ignore sales calls themselves!

In the old days of Marketing, the sales call was the first step in the sales process. Today it’s one of the last steps and its occurrence altogether is declining.

Stop Trying to Be Amazing and Focus on Being Useful

Much of the conventional wisdom on Marketing is fixated on trying to impress consumers.

An example that Baer discusses is the fascination with “home run Marketing” such as trying to create a viral video. Many companies think that if they have all of the variables just right, they can create a viral video that makes their brand spread like a wildfire.

Baer says that the fluke scenario in which a video truly does go viral is so rare that it’s lousy goal. He suggests, rather than striking out over and over until you finally hit the home run, that you aim for consistent base hits.

By creating useful content on a regular basis you aren’t likely going to gain 1 million customers overnight, but you will gain customers consistently and exponentially.

Social Media is a Tool for Relationships, Not Sales

According to Baer, sales tweets are a waste of time because when the customer is ready to buy in today’s market, 60 percent of their decision has already been made. Marketers need to get into the buyer’s decision-making process early on to have a real influence. The way you do that is by being genuinely helpful to your buyer persona.

Social media has blurred the lines between our relationships with people and our relationships with corporations. Whenever you login to Facebook, you see posts and ads from your favorite brands right alongside pictures from your family and closest friends.

If someone likes your business fan page or follows your company on Twitter, they are inviting you into their personal life. Companies in previous generations never had the opportunity to form such an intimate relationship with their customers.

Which companies do you prefer in your newsfeed, the ones who are always pitching you their latest deal or the companies that consistently provide useful content?

Use Marketing Trends to Fulfill Demand, Not Create It

When we have a question, we look to Google for an answer -- search is a self-directed activity. Search is an activity consumers perform when they have an urgent need.

Many companies would rather study trends to create demand, because innovation is sexy and the idea of shaping our own market is enticing. However, Baer suggests that companies look for the demand that is already there and do a better job of fulfilling that demand than the next company.

This is essentially Inbound Marketing 101 and exactly why we prefer Inbound over outbound Marketing at Impact.

The Three Marketing Strategies

According to Baer, there are three primary strategies for Marketing. These overall strategies cover a wide variety of tactics and they aren’t mutually exclusive from each other.

Top-of-Mind Awareness

This is the Marketing strategy that most of us are taught in universities -- what Baer calls the Mad Men approach. The goal here is to secure top-of-mind awareness in the minds of consumers through a sustained widespread campaign. The idea is that by getting your name out to everyone, once someone is ready to make a purchase, your company will be the first that comes to mind.

While this approach certainly does work, it’s very inefficient and is a terrible approach for smaller companies that don’t have seven-figure Marketing budgets. In addition, the media landscape is evolving and consumers are constantly looking for ways to avoid outbound Marketing -- which means the value proposition of top-of-mind Marketing is declining.

Frame-of-Mind Awareness

With this Marketing strategy, you are focused on being available the moment a customer needs you. Baer mentions Yellow Pages as an example of a company that used this Marketing strategy successfully for decades. Whenever a person wanted to get the number or address of a business, Yellow Pages was the first place they would look.

Now that the internet has taken off and become so engrained in our lives, Inbound Marketing has allowed Google, social media, and blogs to become the dominant frame-of-mind Marketers. Baer predicts that Inbound Marketing will continue to serve Marketers well for a long time, but it will have to share the stage with friend-of-mine awareness as well.

Friend-of-Mine Awareness

With the merging of personal and commercial relationships, companies not only compete with each other for the attention of consumers -- they have to compete with consumers’ parents, spouses, kids, colleagues, and friends.

Baer says that there are two ways for companies to stand out amongst family and friends on your timeline, by being truly amazing (which is rare) or truly useful. Companies build trust with consumers by being as useful, or in many cases, more useful than their family and friends.

The Three Facets of Youtility

There are three facets that comprise the Marketing approach of Youtility. They’re all focused on being useful but in slightly different ways.

Self-Serve Information

Businesses in the past relied on their salespeople to directly build a relationship with their customers and foster loyalty. However, modern technology has radically changed the way businesses and consumers interact. As a result, businesses have to do more to foster loyalty than relying on their salespeople -- they need to publish information that people can find and benefit from on their own.

Radical Transparency

People today demand transparency. They’re tired of being lied to and they are holding companies more accountable than ever. Baer explains how there’s no reason a company shouldn’t answer every possible question that a prospective customer could have on their website or app -- unless it lowers the quality of the user experience on the site or app. Not only does this make a company more useful, but it builds trust and goodwill with their customers.

Real-Time Relevancy

This facet of Youtility is all about being useful when it matters most. The success of this type of Marketing is based on specific scenarios. A good example would be Yelp. If you’re looking for a recipe to cook for dinner, Yelp isn’t very useful. However, if you’re looking for a great restaurant to go to for dinner, Yelp is perfect.

This nature of Marketing doesn’t rely on being discovered since most people already know about it and have the app on their phone. When they need it, they’ll use it -- the company excels through reliability.

But this doesn’t apply to my industry…

A lot of companies object to Inbound Marketing because they feel it isn’t relevant in their industry -- especially if very few companies in their space are doing it. However, Baer argues that it’s a classic “race to second” Marketing scenario.

The fact that so many companies in other industries are changing their approach to one of Youtility, or Inbound Marketing, is changing the expectations of consumers in all industries. In today’s market, Inbound Marketing is the minimum standard to even begin having a conversation with potential customers.

The companies who fail to adapt will ultimately fall behind and be forgotten.