You and "Youtility" – the Jay Baer Interview

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Jay Baer Youtility

Jay Baer is a busy man. From his social media strategy blog Convince and Convert to his consulting gigs with Fortune 500 companies, to lectures and co-authoring The Now Revolution: 7 Shifts To Make Business Faster, Smarter, & More Social,  he is one of the foremost experts in the marketing field. His latest book Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is about Help Not Hype discusses an important shift in marketing and branding mentality. He recently sat down with the Nao blog to discuss the importance of Youtility, what companies are doing it right, and how technology shapes marketing: 

YB: When did you start noticing and coining the terms and ideas that  make up “Youtility”?
Jay Baer: Looking back, I’ve tried to live the principle of “being useful” forever. I noticed it as a trend a couple years ago, and first talked about the concept at Content Marketing World in September, 2011.

YB: In your research for this book, what companies stood out or surprised you in how useful they were to consumers? McDonald’s use of youtility especially stood out for me. 
JB: Yes, McDonald’s Canada is an amazing example of transparency and answering customer questions. I also love what Hilton does with their @HiltonSuggests program on Twitter. I’m a big fan of the Vanderbilt CoachSmart lightning locator mobile app, too. But I also really like some of the small business examples in the book, because Youtility can be deployed by any company.

YB: Blog posts are free and most apps hover around 99 cents. How important to Youtility is the idea of free or low cost? 
JB: It’s not critical. Most of the apps featured in the book are free. But Youtility as 100% free is less important that the notion of providing truly, useful information to customers and prospective customers that transcends the transactional: information that is relevant, but not necessarily about your products and services, per se.

YB: The biggest hurdle for companies not incorporating ideas of Youtility is that it is a long term process and difficult to measure. As I said earlier, McDonald’s usefulness was very surprising coming. Are large corporations coming around to the idea? 
JB: Absolutely. SAP is doing it. IBM is doing it. Salesforce is doing it. Hilton is a big company. And in terms of measuring Youtility it’s not hard, it’s complicated. That’s not the same thing. It’s totally doable, which is why a big chunk of the book is devoted to measurement advice and strategies.

YB: Marketing is becoming more and more location based. Yet there are privacy issues, especially with the recent revelations of NSA collecting data. Will there be a wall consumers hit where they say “no more data tracking”, even at the expense of useful information?
JB: No. There is no magic “I’ve had enough” wall. It’s 100% about relevancy, and always will be. If consumers benefit from privacy invasion, they will continue to accept and adopt those outcomes. Facebook invades privacy in ways that were unimaginable 10 years ago. But we put up with it because it’s become indispensable in terms of connecting with our friends and family. The same is true with NSA, actually. Yes, there’s been an outcry, but not that big of an outcry because that program “keeps us safe” and thus is “worth it” – according to those who defend it.

YB: Being useful means different things depending on a company’s size and place. For a large corporation, transparency is the key issue. For a small business, it’s showing expertise to stand out. Are there industries where youtility works better or is more effective? 
JB: I wouldn’t say that’s entirely true, but indeed, the transparency vs. expertise breakdown is common today. I don’t know that there are industries where Youtility is more effective, but there are definitely industries where Youtility is more critical, and those are the B2B categories where customers have to mull a lot of factors before making a decision. If you’re in B2B and you think you’re providing enough information online, you’re not.

YB: Youtility is a company wide cultural shift. If it isn’t already, is Youtility a skill that companies are looking for, and that job applicants should begin to hone? 
JB: Terrific question. It’s starting to be a factor in some jobs, yes. We’re seeing more companies hire former journalists to become internal reporters and content aggregators/creators. Those skill sets are valuable in the deployment of Youtility.

YB: For my final question, I’m going to ask you to look into the crystal ball. You wrote how trust is now information based as opposed to people based. Where do you see the next iteration of Youtility and usefulness? Take something like Google Glass, for instance. What do you see as the next game changing technology that will shape the relationship between consumer and business?
JB: I think you nailed it. Of the three facets of Youtility discussed in the book: (self-serve information, radical transparency, and real-tim relevancy) the one that will be most impacted by the future is real-time relevancy. Using big data, location, and a bunch of other information, smart companies will be able to provide extremely useful information at a massively customized level. It’s on-the-spot marketing (like what Oreo has done on Twitter and Instagram) but at the 1:1 level. Exciting opportunity!!

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