BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

Help Not Hype ...

I love prizes, and who doesn't? I won this book by being one of the first 200 people to register for the “Content is Fire, Social Media is Gasoline” webinar hosted by the good folks over at Wildfire (which was quite interesting) … although, given the subject matter, I suspect I would have eventually wheedled a review copy out of the publisher.

Overly attentive readers of this space will recall that I reviewed Jay Baer's previous book here a while back, and, if anything, Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is about Help Not Hype is more in my wheelhouse, given the amount of blog copy and web content I crank out! On this point, his choice of Marcus Sheridan to write the Foreword was brilliant … Sheridan was a pool installer who got hit hard by the economy-in-the-toilet phase that kicked in back in 2008 (and for some of us has never gotten any better), and had to figure out a way to somehow pull in new business, so turned to the Internet to search out marketing ideas. Of course, he found out a lot about blogging, in-bound marketing, content marketing, and social media, but the point of difference is that he pivoted his experience into a generalization:
      What I discovered … is that consumers of all types expect to find answers on the Internet now, and companies that can best provide that information garner trust and sales and loyalty. Success flows to organizations that inform, not organizations that promote.

      My new plan … was simple, I decided to act like a swimming pool consumer, instead of a swimming pool installer. I applied this methodology in two ways that changed my company and my life.
      First, I brainstormed every single question I'd ever received from a prospect or customer … this list quickly grew to hundreds of questions. Then I answered every single one of those questions with its own blog post, adding hundreds of new pages to my website in the process.
Hundreds of pages. I can't tell you how many times I've been told by “sales guys” that you don't give the customer a lot of information, but here is a guy who flooded his prospects with info and turned around his business. He also found that if a customer read 30 pages on the site before a face-to-face sales appointment, the closing rate was around 80% … in a niche where the average close is only around 10%. That's the difference that “Youtility” makes – you become useful to the customer, and they trust your expertise, and you get the business. Sweet.

Baer takes stories like this and seeks to make a “system” out of it … talking about “Top-of-Mind” awareness vs. “Frame-of-Mind” awareness, vs. “Friend-of-Mine” awareness … where the latter is the more effective, and giving the example of the social media program Hilton runs which is focused on being helpful to travelers, without any specific promo involved for their properties, among several other widely varied examples. Of course, implementing this sort of program is hard in most corporate settings:
On the psychological front, the truth is that the tenets of Youtility – making your company inherently useful without expecting an immediate return – is in direct opposition to the principles of marketing and business deeply ingrained in practitioners at all levels. … Youtility turns marketing upside down, and many businesspeople simply are not prepared … In most companies, creating marketing that customers want is a colossal shift from the norm.
Baer lists “three facets of Youtility”, but notes that all three are rarely in every program, but there's got to be at least one of:
  • Self-Serve Information

  • Radical Transparency

  • Real-Time Relevancy
There is some fascinating data in here … when talking about the “zero moment of truth” (that instant when you hop online to research the option you're thinking about going with) he reports that Google says in 84% of cases this shapes the final decision … and in 2010 the number of sources needed to decide was 5.3, while one year later in 2011 that figure jumped to 10.4 – a doubling of “data needs”. Baer argues that we reached a tipping point this year, when 57% of Americans had smart phones (nearly twice the 31% of 2011), so “It's worth taking the time to research {even} low-cost, disposable goods, because the friction and hassle of doing so has dropped almost to zero.”

Interestingly, much of the new “self-service” information gathering is no longer person-to-person … actually contacting a person for info is the last resort (if videos and/or well done FAQs are available), and a study showed that consumers won't even identify themselves as a sales prospect until they'd independently completed 60% of the purchase decision … heck, over the past few years the use of smartphones to phone people has dropped more than 10% while the volume of text messages has increased around 40%.

In terms of “radical transparency”, the companies succeeding here are opening up levels of info that would have horrified those a generation back … an example covered here is an amusement park that has prices for everything, from snack shop menus to gift store items, all spelled out on their web site so visitors can plan out their spending in detail well in advance … another is the McDonalds Canada program of answering (in public) any questions about their food – in the first 7 months they'd answered 12,000 (out of 19,000) questions submitted. Here too, more is better … “companies with 101 to 200 pages generate 2.5 times more leads than those with 50 or fewer pages” on their web sites, and “companies that blog 15 or more times a month get 5 times more traffic than those that don't blog” … certainly a great argument for pumping out content!

As to “real-time relevancy”, current trend lines show that the number of folks relying on mobile computing will surpass those on the desktop sometime in 2014, and Gartner forecasts mobile app downloads nearly doubling each year through 2016! Baer notes: “Within a generation every customer and prospective customer of every company in every developed nation will have never known a world without the ability to access information at any time through a mobile device.”

The last section of the book is “six blueprints to create Youtility”, which has a chapter each on the following:
  1. Identify Customer Needs

  2. Map Customer Needs to Useful Marketing

  3. Market Your Marketing

  4. Insource Youtility

  5. Make Youtility a Process, Not a Project

  6. Keeping Score
These start with paying attention to your social media chatter, and web analytics, and making an effort to get meaningful feedback from your current and prospective customers. Next you have to figure out how to be useful to your customers … an example given here is of a knot-tying app developed by Columbia Sportswear, whose outdoor-loving customers may well have need of knots, but don't need to be beaten over the head with promos for the latest jacket. Of course, nobody's going to use the app if they don't hear about it, so pushing one's Youtility efforts via all communications channels is important … you're telling folks that you've got something to help them. Baer insists that helping has to become part of every company culture: “You need to insource your Youtility program because just about every employee has useful knowledge locked in their head.” … and making that accessible makes it useful. This also has to be a long-term course … what your customers want and need today will probably be eclipsed by something new in a year's time, so the process needs to be on-going. And, finally, you need to have goals, milestones, and metrics in place that are able to tell you how you're doing.

I really enjoyed reading Youtility and have already floated suggestions based on it to various clients and associates for their projects. This just came out last month, so should be out in your local brick-and-mortar bookshop that carries business titles, but of course the on-line guys have it at a discount (and the new/used vendors have “new” copies for less than half of cover) if you want to go that way. Good stuff here … very timely and useful!

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Tags: book review

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