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[Review] YOUtility


Can businesses be helpful without getting paid? After all, they are created to make money by selling a product or a service to a customer.

Well, Jay Baer, author of “Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is about Help Not Hype“, seems to think so. And if you read his book, you’re likely to agree with him too.

I first blogged about Jay’s notion of helpful marketing last year after hearing his engaging podcast on Copyblogger Radio. Since then, he has expanded his ideas into a full-fledged book covering both the theoretical and practical dimensions of what he labels as “Youtility”.

In Jay’s words, Youtility is useful marketing from the perspective of customers. It is “massively useful information, provided for free, that creates long-term trust and kinship between your company and your customers”. As highlighted in my earlier post, it looks at how we should evolve from securing top-of-mind awareness (eg mass media ads) to frame-of-mind (e.g. Google searches) and ultimately friend-of-mine (e.g. recommendations by friends) awareness.

To achieve Youtility, one should consider three different facets:

1) Self-Serve Information – Customers prefer to help themselves to information prior to purchase rather than talk to a sales person. In fact, shoppers in 2011 need 10.4 pieces of information before making a purchase – a doubling of the 5.3 sources of information consulted in 2010 prior to buying something.

2) Radical Transparency – Answering customer questions in an open, comprehensive and detailed manner helps one to gain the hearts and minds of customers. The more you provide, the better. Companies with websites of 101 to 200 pages can generate two-and-a-half times more leads than those with 50 or less pages.

3) Real-Time Relevancy – With the “app-ification” of the world, customers crave real-time information. This can be served through mobile friendly content and apps, especially in Asia with some 2.9 billion mobile subscriptions (compared to 969 million in the Americas).

Once these three principles are considered, Jay introduces us to six blueprints for businesses to create Youtility. They are:

1. Identifying Customer Needs.

Using various online and offline tools to determine what customers need to eliminate their pain points. These can be anything from search engine results, social sentiment analysis, web analytics, survey results, focus groups to behavioral studies.

2. Mapping Customer Needs to Useful Marketing.

Discerning what the best channel and mode of delivering useful content would be. These should consider the time, place and form in which customers best prefer to consume such content, as well as the balance between singular and multiple platforms.

3. Marketing Your Marketing.

To ensure that one’s Youtility platform is findable, one should seek ways to increase its visibility. Traditional ways include promoting one’s link on emails, websites, advertisements, and stores, as well as engaging one’s employees to be advocate. If content is fire, social media is gasoline.

4. Insourcing Youtility.

Usefulness should be a part of a company’s DNA, and this involves including a wide variety of employees to assist in creating such content. These can be done either circumstantially (on a need-be basis), voluntarily, with assistance (training and coaching), or by mandate (where it becomes part of the job).

5. Making Youtility a Process, Not a Project.

Considered a long-haul strategy, Youtility needs to be woven into the culture, policies and practices of the company. Doing so ensures that the firm is able to keep up with changing customer needs, shifts in technology and emerging superior ideas.

6. Keeping Score.

Finally, one should develop a way to effectively measure how Youtility assists in driving business performance. Here, consumption metrics (eg downloads, views), advocacy and sharing metrics (shares, likes, retweets), lead-generation metrics (filling up an online form), and sales metrics come into play. Using a simple example, we’re also taught how we can calculate the ROI of Youtility.

To solidify his assertions, Jay provides numerous wonderful stories of companies which have successfully embraced the tenets of Youtility. They include:

– Clorox with its myStain application which helps consumers to get rid of inconvenient stains wherever they are;

– Phoenix Children’s Hospital and their Car Seat Helper app;

– Greg Ng’s Freezer Burns – a video blog dedicated to reviewing frozen foods in the US; and

– Meijer’s Find-It app which allows shoppers to find products anywhere in the store using indoor mapping technology. You can actually find a similar technology here in Singapore with Y-Find technologies.

Perhaps the most memorable story came from Marcus Sheridan of River Pools and Spas who wrote the forward for the book. Sharing how he overcame grave financial challenges in his fiberglass swimming pool business, Marcus sought to answer all the possible questions which potential customers may have and detailed them all in his website. This allowed him to achieve a massive US$4.5 million in swimming pool sales in 2011 with just US$20,000 in advertising, compared to US$4 million in sales in 2007 with US$250,000 in advertising.

Written in a highly readable prose that you can’t help nodding your head over, “Youtility” provides simple yet refreshing ideas in a world swarmed with marketing gurus instructing us to “change the world” and be awesome without an inkling of gritty reality. Long time readers of my blog would know that I love the idea of “giving to get” marketing and to be generous without a fault. In summary, a highly recommended book for anybody keen to embrace the new age of marketing in the social age.

Before you go, do also check out Jay’s blog where he regularly dishes out lots of useful marketing advice.


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