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Book Review: 7 Takeaways from Jay Baer’s YOUtility


Every now and again a book comes along with the potential to change minds.  Though I pour through dozens of books every year — often “cheating” by listening to audiobooks on long drives, those that really capture my mind are far and few between.  The audiobook YOUtiliy by Jay Baer however, is certainly time well spent.

He breaks down the concepts of content marketing with a simple elegance that crystallizes why this is so important.  It’s a style he’s perfected on his blog, Convince and Convert, and it came through in this work.  His mantra of “hype free” will not disappoint.

Whether you are a novice or an expert that already knows everything, I can promise that YOUtility will give you something to think about.  And here are my 7 take-aways.

1) YOUtility is about content utility

YOUtility is marketing that is useful for the customer as opposed to useful for the business.  Whereas most companies attempt to gain attention by showcasing a product (We’re #1!!!) or on price (Buy cheap domain names!), YOUtility is about helping customers make better decisions and benefiting from that in the long run.

This is even more important now that the consumer has a greater ability to filter out hype-filled or interruption-based marketing. Technology has changed the way people interact with businesses to the extent we now much build relationships with information; content is a form currency bartered for trust.

2) Salesy-social media is wasted effort

Sales tweets are not new media marketing — it is old school marketing done in 140 characters. The “buy now” refrain that drools out in some social posts is a wasted effort because when the customer of today is ready to buy, Baer says 60 percent of the decision has already been made. Marketers have to get into that decision-making process earlier and can only do so by being truly helpful.

3) Search fulfills demand, not create it

Baer cites marketing icon Seth Godin, who said, “Small businesses don’t plant seeds, they look for the fruit that’s already grown.”  It’s a reference to the idea that too many small businesses feel they can’t shape the market so they should pick the low hanging fruit like that found with search.

However, Baer points out search is a “self-directed” activity:  we need an answer we go search for it. We already have a sense of what we’re looking for, therefore, inbound marketing only fulfills demand, it’s doesn’t create demand.

This isn’t to say search isn’t important — it most certainly is — but it meets an urgent need. This is  a conclusion on which PR pros who have studied Edward Bernays would do well to focus.

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4) Social media blurring lines other than marketing 

So much of the chatter in the marketing world is focused on our how social media has blurred lines between marketing functions. However, Baer points out it has also blurred the lines of the between our personal and corporate relationships. Facebook feeds are a prime example, where corporate interactions appear right alongside pictures from our friends, family and closest contacts.

Facebook feeds are a prime example, where corporate interactions appear right alongside pictures from our friends, family and closest contacts.  As I wrote in 2010, a Facebook fan “is inviting that organization to participate in their daily life via the news stream in a way we’ve never seen before; it is for lack of a better term, intimate.” It’s also the chance to provide YOUtility.

5) Stop trying to be amazing and start being useful

Home run marketing, such as pinning hopes that a video will go viral, is a bad idea. The standard, and sometimes the fluke, by which a video goes viral is so high or so rare, that it’s a lousy goal.  Instead of swinging for the fences and earning a whole bunch of strikeouts and maybe a home run once in a great while, aim for consistent base hits by providing content that helps customers make better decisions.

6) YOUtility is a culture shift

As marketers, we have been trained our entire careers to think that marketing is a linear activity.  When we take an action we have a Pavlovian sense we should see an immediate return. Noting an observation by HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan, Baer says many business leaders don’t see the value in the slow burn of content marketing when it’s measured against hiring a whole bunch of telesales people that can simply make phone calls.

However, Halligan says even those leaders despise those phone calls and won’t answer them either!  Whereas a sales call used to be among the first steps in the buying cycle, today, it’s among the very last and often conducted rather reluctantly.

7) This matters in every industry 

An often cited objection to content marketing is that it isn’t relevant in our space. A marketer might object by saying, “No one in my industry is doing that.”  It’s the same old race to second place.  Our industry, Baer says, isn’t a relevant objection to YOUtility.

The fact that other companies in other industries are changing their approach to one of YOUtility, is by extension changing the expectations of all consumers.  YOUtility is the minimum standard to even begin having a “conversation” with customers, prospects or “suspects” as Baer calls potential prospects.

* * *

If there’s one additional point, I’d add it’s that Baer says employees are often the most overlooked asset in social media. Certainly, this is evident in crisis communications — who better can a company rely on than it’s employees — but Baer takes it a step further.

For example, at one time companies would hire armies of typists to do the work of typing.  It was a skill and a career onto itself.  Today everyone is expected to type — or those that can’t — will find business employment incredibly challenging.  Baer thinks social media is going in this direction, whereas today, a person, or a small group of marketing or communication types manage social media communications for a company, but tomorrow, it’ll be part of the job for all employees…just like typing.

Finally, for those wondering how to take notes from an audiobook while driving — the iPhone comes with a feature to record voice memos. I took roughly eight minutes worth of voice memos for the purposes of this post, while YOUtility in audiobook format, is just shy of five hours.  If you enjoyed this post, you’ll love the book.

Need experienced B2B PR that’s embraced content marketing and utility? Here is a summary of the B2B-centeric services we offer and the best way to contact us.  And don’t miss a post! Subscribe to this blog by email here.

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