Interview with Jay Baer on his NY Times Best Seller, Youtility

We've always been big fans of Jay Baer, president of Convince and Convert, and all-around smart guy when it come to all things social, content and measurable. So we were excited to read his new book, New York Times best seller, Youtility.  Youtility is all about useful marketing that helps, not sells. It's the future of marketing, and we loved that his book covered so many of the very same principles that many of our customers use when crafting relevant, engaging experiences that provide intrinsic value. So we called up Jay and asked him to let us pick his brain more on the topic of Youtility. Here's what he had to say. 

ion: Hope you had a great weekend, Jay. Thank you so much for giving us the opportunity to interview you. We’ve read Youtility and are already seeing changes in the way we think about marketing in our own offices. So let’s start with something simple. What does Youtility mean and what led to the premise of the book?

Jay Baer: “Youtility is marketing so useful, people would pay for it if you asked them to do so. It's marketing with intrinsic value. It's marketing that people actually WANT. I first started thinking about it a few years ago when in Banff, Alberta and found the example of Taxi Mike, a cab driver who produces a quarterly guide to the restaurants/bars in the region.”

ion: We loved the Taxi Mike example! What a great idea of Youtility. We have seen that you have made a big play on the word utility and transforming it into YOUtility. For you, what is the difference between the two and why is the “YOU” so important in marketing?

Jay Baer: “From a company/corporate standpoint, there's probably no difference. From a personal and human standpoint, there's a big difference. Because ultimately, being useful isn't JUST a marketing strategy, it's a mission and a way to live your life. Also, on a more specific level, it's much easier to track mentions of Youtilty vs. utility!”

ion: Very true! In the first section of the book, you talk about how brands need to be useful, not amazing. Do you feel that there should be a balance of the two? What do you think it takes to be successfully at both?

Jay Baer: “Trying to be "viral" and trying to be "amazing" isn't a strategy, it's hope. It's trying to catch lightning in a bottle. Sometimes you can do it, but usually you can't. You see the folly of this approach constantly now in the "real-time marketing" world. You can't only do useful marketing, that's true. But that's only because it's difficult to get enough distribution and scale with purely useful marketing.”

ion: You mapped out the three different levels of how marketers engage and want to be seen by consumers: top-of-mind, frame-of-mind, and friend-of-mine. With such outlets as Twitter and Facebook, do you feel that friend-of-mine becoming more and more the deciding factor for many consumers? How does Youtility help?

Jay Baer: “No question this is true. The notion of your personal life and your professional life being separate is almost laughable now. We spend time with and trust our friends. To succeed, companies need to be useful and trustworthy in the same ways that our friends are useful and trustworthy.”

ion: We definitely saw that need for trust in some of the illustrations shown! There’s no doubt that trust is important for the business. Your story of Taxi Mike and Marcus’s story in the forward both show that it doesn’t take a lot to bring Youtility to your brand. What are some other ways you’ve seen brands transform using Youtility with little financial help?

Jay Baer: “I'm not sure I completely agree. You can indeed do Youtility without a tremendous amount of capital investment, but the time required can be significant. Marcus Sheridan and his partners wrote 1,000 blog posts. Most of them were written late at night and on weekends. That's not free.”

ion: That’s a really good point and so often we forget about the substantial soft costs of the effort invested. It takes the drive of all the people involved to successfully provide Youtility. In part two, you mention how important it is to win the zero moment of truth, that moment of research and consideration before entering the actual sales funnel. With all the noise surrounding us, how can a brand make sure that they are part of that consideration, ZMOT instant?

Jay Baer: “People are hyper-researching everything now because they have access to so much information via always-on Internet access. Brands must supply more and more information and provide it in a self-serve fashion.”

ion: You talk about involving multiple employees in the company to be a part of Youtility and that often regular employees’ opinions are trusted more than CEOs. How important is it to get employees involved and what are some of the best ways to do this?

Jay Baer: “Ultimately, it's hugely important. Everyone in your company - literally everyone - has knowledge that could benefit customers and prospects. You need to set that knowledge free. The best way to get started is to create a pilot program that includes a handful of non-marketing employees. Then scale from there once you work out the kinks.”

ion: That is great advice! A pain point that you talked about is how the executive level can embrace this Youtility, even if it may be pointing the consumer elsewhere and not directly to your brand. How would you recommend a marketer drive the exec level to embrace Youtility?

Jay Baer: “In my experience, it's impossible for marketers to drive execs anywhere; that's why they are execs. Youtility isn't just a marketing approach, it's a mindset and a cultural initiative. Some companies simply are not ready to trust their customers enough to use marketing that informs rather than marketing that promotes. That's okay. It's called an adoption curve for a reason.”

ion: One thing I found interesting is your take on how to measure Youtlity. We talked about the exec level embracing it, but for that to happen, there must be some proof or measurement there. You talk about some of the metrics that matter. Can you go into those a bit?

Jay Baer: “There are four categories of metrics: consumption metrics; sharing/engagement metrics; lead generation metrics; and sales metrics. You may not be able to measure all of them, but you better be measuring some of them. The key is to figure our your measurement narrative BEFORE you start, not afterwards.”

ion: That's so true for any marketing initiative! Youtility is an ongoing process. Do you believe that this idea of top down marketing is going to be the way forward for all brands? To you, is this the evolution of customer service?

Jay Baer: “Customer service is already rooted in helpfulness, so I don't see this as much of an evolution on that front. For marketers, the notion that you can add real value and still reap rewards eventually runs counter to much of the conventional wisdom. But every day I see more and more and more examples of Youtility in practice. The concept will be (and is) being proven to work.”

ion: Thank you, Jay! There’s no guess as to why Youtility became a best seller. Thank you for interviewing with us and we look forward to reading more from you!