What is Youtility About?
Youtility is not about social media, it’s about marketing.
Today’s consumers are staring at an invitation avalanche, with every company asking for likes, follows, clicks, and attention. This is on top of all the legacy advertising that envelops us like a straitjacket. There are only two ways for companies to break through in an environment that is unprecedented in its competitiveness and cacophony. They can be “amazing” or they can be useful. Instead of betting all your money on “amazing,” what if you instead relied on a simple, universal method of marketing and business success — one that’s never been more important or easier to accomplish?
What if instead of trying to be amazing you just focused on being useful? What if you decided to inform, rather than promote? You know that expression “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime”? Well, the same is true for marketing.
What if instead of trying to be amazing you just focused on being useful?
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Jay Baer, founder of Convince and Convert and author of Youtility, coined this upside down approach to marketing. 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.
The difference between helping and selling is just two letters. But those are the most important letters in modern business. Youtility shows you why, and how.
The Youtility book was published in 20213 by Penguin/Portfolio, the same team behind Seth Godin’s The Icarus Deception, John Jantsch’s The Referral Engine and Chris Brogan/Julien Smith’s The Impact Equation. The amazing and inspirational Marcus Sheridan wrote a stellar foreword for the book, and it includes commentary from Ann Handley, CC Chapman, Lee Odden, Avinash Kaushik and many more, as well as dozens of case studies from Google, Hubspot, Hilton, Clorox, Columbia Sportswear, ExactTarget and lots of others, including small companies doing Youtility right.
The last third of the book includes a 6 step process for creating Youtility, and Jay also puts in a quick reference guide to help readers who want to refer back to the key themes and principles over time.
Check out Jay Bear’s specialized Youtility books, too:
Now, let’s gain further insight through the lens of 2021 with Jay:
Why is Youtility still just as critical today as it was in 2013?
I would argue it’s not just as critical, it’s MORE critical. Because one of the big changes since then is that everybody is now surrounded by even more marketing messages. In fact, Forrester research predicted marketing messages would increase 40% in 2021 over 2020, a 40% increase in marketing messages in one year. It doesn’t matter how old you are or where you live. Everybody feels like marketers are squeezing them to buy something. The Youtility book is set to ultimately defeat the hype. Today, more than ever before, the right way to get on the consumer’s radar is to give them something of value and build trust that eventually will convert some percentage of those prospective customers to buy from you down the road.
How did you come up with the concept of youtility?
There was a lot of talk in those days when inbound marketing sort of first became a thing. I thought it was great and I believed it and understood it. The problem was that most people were saying that they were already doing inbound marketing. In reality, they were just making brochures in different formats that were pieces of content written all about their company.
Listing features and benefits of what you sell isn’t useful to customers, unless they are very much in the middle of the purchase consideration funnel. What I observed having talked to Convince and Convert clients and other people in the field is that it’s not so much the tactical execution of inbound marketing that was the problem, it’s what’s the value proposition of the content itself.
I started thinking: What’s the thing that has to be true? You have to be useful to be successful. One day I was standing in the shower and the idea of utility with a Y-O-U just kind of popped in my head. That’s when I sort of coined the term “Youtility” and here we are.
The difference between helping and selling is just two letters.
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What are marketers still not getting right when it comes to youtility?
I think part of it is this idea that somehow volume of marketing equals successful marketing. Going back to the stat from Forrester: a 40% increase in marketing messages. That doesn’t happen if less people believe that sending more messages will equal more dollars. You see it every year in the fourth quarter, right? We started getting emails every 10 seconds from e-commerce companies trying to get us to buy something on Black Monday or Cyber Friday or whatever. It’s out of control.
Activity is not a success metric and volume of messages is not likely to have a material impact on your effectiveness other than perhaps a negative impact on your effectiveness. I think marketers are not comfortable enough to say less.
Furthermore, marketers do not have enough patience. This is partially not their fault. It’s the fault of their bosses or their boss’s boss who ask, “Hey, how much money did we make this week?” and “How many clicks did we generate in the last 10 seconds?” and so on.
What advice do you have for them on how to get better and create better youtility?
The reality is that most relationships between companies and customers either happen almost instantaneously. You see an Instagram ad for some cool gadget you didn’t know existed, then click “buy”. There is no funnel at that point, right? It becomes a “gum at the checkout line” form of marketing. It went from awareness to conversion in lickety-split. That’s the first option, but it doesn’t happen very often and has to be a particular product mix. Targeting has to be good, etc.
The second way that people buy is over time. They become aware then they consider their options and they compare the two alternatives. They think about it a little bit and then they buy in along the way. They’re consuming content, engaging in word of mouth, and looking at recommendations and reviews from others. It takes a long time to create a customer and most marketers don’t give it enough time.
When marketers don’t give it enough time, they don’t feel comfortable enough to give away content or things of value without having some sort of commercial tie back to it. They don’t want to provide value unless they get value in return. This turns into a long form requiring data to access the valuable content. It’s gated. You have to fill out this form in order to get the eBook or attend the webinar.
The youtility approach is the opposite. It says, “You don’t have to give us anything. We just want you to enjoy this research. Enjoy this webinar. And by the way, after the fact, if there’s something else that you want from us that we can help with, let us know and we’ll send you it then.” Gating after the fact, instead of in front, would be the more youtility-friendly approach.
If you sell something, you make a customer today; if you help someone, you make a customer for life.
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What’s your all time favorite piece of youtility?
I don’t know my all time favorite, but the really recent one which I love is the Barilla pasta one. I am the target audience for that. I can actually cook a bit, but I am always a little befuddled by pasta and how long to keep the pasta in the water based on the different kind of pasta shape and all that. You don’t want to mess up your pasta, right?
Barilla put together Spotify playlists and there’s a playlist called Best Song Penne, Top Hits Spaghetti, etc. As you boil the water for your pasta, you listen to the songs on that particular playlist and as soon as the last song is over you take it out of the water and your pasta is perfect. To me that is a genius all timer youtility!
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