YOUtility: Stop Trying to be Amazing and Start Being Useful!

That is right. You read the title correctly. The business mantra for so long has been “your company must be amazing to succeed”. That works for Apple, Starbucks and Amazon, but if that is the measuring stick, there are a whole lot of companies that are NOT going to be amazing and, therefore, NOT successful. What if you were “useful” instead? Could that be the “secret sauce”, the “game changer”, the thing that took you from good to great and from marginally profitable to swimming in cash? A very credible, social media genius friend of mine thinks so.

That person is Jay Baer. For those of you who do not know Jay, he is the President of Convince and Convert, a social media and content marketing company that helps many of the world’s leading brands take their digital marketing from good to great. He has consulted for more than 700 brands, including 29 of the Fortune 500 companies. More importantly, Jay is brilliant and completely dialed into the ways that social media is reshaping the business landscape, especially the ways that companies must change if they plan on reaching consumers in the information age. He is also a heck of a nice guy, a fellow hockey parent and a 20-year internet-related business veteran like myself.

Like most of the social media world, I have been anxiously awaiting publication of Jay’s new book “Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help Not Hype”. Well it is out and already #9 on the New York Times Best Sellers List! Of course, I got and dove into my copy immediately and asked Jay if I could interview him about the book. Jay graciously agreed and you can watch all 35 minutes of the insightful and straight-to-the-point interview right here:

So let’s get back to Jay’s hypothesis. Think for a second the way the world of sales and marketing has changed in the last 10 years. Going to buy a car was a scary trip into the great unknown. You had no idea how much you should pay, if the dealer had the one you wanted in inventory, what other people paid, what options you could have, etc.. You basically showed up at the car dealership hoping they had something that “kind of” fit what you were looking for and prayed you were not going to get hammered too hard by the sticker price. Now, as Jay pointed out in his book, the average person does not even go to the dealership until they have used an average of 18 different online information sources to research everything about the car AND the one they are going to trade in. Withholding information had tremendous value before. Now new car information is ubiquitous and withholding it has a negative value for the dealership.

One more example – home buying. Information on the housing market was closely guarded. It was a major reason you hired a real estate agent. Without one you needed a full-time statistician to conduct market research and compare different properties to figure out what comparable houses were selling for and what you should either list yours for or pay. Boom!, here comes Zillow and other like sites and now information is nearly perfect, comprehensive and free on a device the size of a credit card that you carry around in your wallet. The MLS barely matters anymore.

Instant access to free, accessible, credible information has not just changed the playing field in the housing and automobile markets, it has done it in every market, INCLUDING YOURS!

Marketing has evolved from “in your face all of the time” marketing – think 1980’s and 1990’s television commercials, radio ads and billboards, to “we are here if you need us” marketing – think Google search in the 2000’s, to where we are now, a place that Jay calls “Friend of Mine” marketing. You see, people tuned out (better known as TIVO’ed out) television commercials a long time ago. Although search itself has gone up, Google’s stranglehold on it has decreased as more competitors arise. Now here is the important part…these search competitors are not just other search engines like Yahoo and Bing. They include Facebook and review sites and Pinterest and Instagram and hundreds of other sites.

What is different about these sites? They incorporate social. Why is that important? Because search results are WAY more impactful when they come from people you know and trust. If your Uncle Charley tells you he loves the BBQ at the restaurant across town and you are hungry for BBQ, where are you going? From the restaurant’s standpoint, they do not have to have the world’s most amazing BBQ. They just need Charley to like it, and tell you.

Do you see where I am going with this?

Be useful, provide valuable information on a consistent basis to people and you become somebody they know and trust. People, especially in this hyper-accelerated information age, buy from their virtual friends, the ones they carry around in their smartphones. What is useful? How about travel tips or a DIY gardening videos or an e-book on how to pick the perfect paint for your daughter’s room. You see, I have friends that own travel agencies, nurseries and hardware stores and you know where I met them? Online. They do not have to tell me to buy stuff from them. It is just that they are the first people I think of when it comes time to buy the thing that I know they sell.

What do you think? Is being YOU-seful the answer to today’s marketing success?


  1. says

    Loved the interview. Helpful and mobile is the key for our future. The Future is here and we all need to be reminded that this is the way Enjoyed it thanks.

  2. Melissa says

    I think just as side note… as we have more information available to us in general the harder it becomes to know how reliable the information is. Zillow is a great example. Sites like it, etc have a lot of information on them, unfortunately it is rarely reliable. The approximated prices Zillow gives are rarely comparable to real time market value and the homes listed on often are already off the market. It is a false sense of knowledge. We think we have a lot of the answers and maybe we do, but sometimes we don’t even know the right questions. At the end of the day I hope consumers still remember that they need professionals that specialize in one thing. These professionals can often answer in five minutes what we might spend a week researching online.

    It’s our job as professionals to continue to educate OUR clients so that unreliable sources do not.

  3. says

    Hi Kim,
    Great post about Jay Baer. He seems like a genius and could probably teach everyone a thing or two about internet marketing. Thanks for posting,

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  5. says

    As a marketer of over two decades, we had the joy of seeing such explosive change in our field. Simplicity is lost and the complexities of marketing are overwhelming. Unless, we do what I think is the most exciting and authentic part… focus on being part of the fabric of our audience’s lives.

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