Thinker in Residence: A Q&A with Jay Baer

Sally Haldorson

June 26, 2013


If you go out of your way to be useful, to give, to help and to assist, you position yourself as a trusted resource in the lives of many who know you. ~Jay Baer

If you go out of your way to be useful, to give, to help and to assist, you position yourself as a trusted resource in the lives of many who know you.

~Jay Baer

Q: 'Youtility' is all about being useful rather than just 'amazing.' What are some ways these are different from each other, so readers can notice who's being what? JB: Marketing has never been harder. Businesses are being forced to compete for attention against our closest friends and family members, via social media. In that hyper-competitive environment, there are only two way to break through. By being "amazing" or by being useful. But "just go be amazing" isn't particularly good advice. It's more hope than strategy. Being useful....truly, inherently useful is viable, achievable and successful. A study by the Wharton School of Business of 7,000 New York Times articles found useful articles were 30% more likely to appear on the website's "most emailed" list. Q: Marketing as 'helping others' might involve a change in business process, structure, etc. How might companies adapt to this new way of working so that everything still gets done? JB: Youtility - marketing so useful people would pay for it is asked - doesn't so much require a business process change as a mindset change. Companies must transcend the transactional and find ways to improve the lives of their customers and prospects that may not involve that company's products and services, per se. For example, Columbia Sportswear has an outstanding mobile app called "What Knot to Do in the Great Outdoors" that shows consumers how to tie knots. But Columbia doesn't sell rope. Instead, they've given themselves permission to make the story bigger, and assist their customers in ways that are tangential, yet still related, to their brand. Q. What are some ways that technology/the internet allows companies to be helpful to customers? JB: Monitoring in real-time to find opportunities to assist is one form of Youtility. Hilton Worldwide does this with their @HiltonSuggests program on Twitter, where Hilton staff strategically eavesdrops and reaches out to provide proactive help to travelers. Certainly, mobile applications can be terrifically useful. One of my favorites is the CoachSmart app from Monroe Carrell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, which is a life-saving lightning detector, served up on smartphones. Q. You mention 'invitation overload' in the book. What are some other issues the internet can cause companies and how can they spot these before they get too involved or waste time? JB: Certainly, as has been in the news lately with the woebegone Amy's Baking Company in Arizona, the fact that customer service is now a spectator sport is a major change for business. I talked about that phenomenon a lot in my first book, The NOW Revolution (written with Amber Naslund). Q. What can individuals learn from the principles of Youtitliy? How can these lessons help them in their careers? JB: The principle of Youtility, while positioned as a business and marketing approach in the book, is very much applicable to all at the individual level. If you go out of your way to be useful, to give, to help and to assist, you position yourself as a trusted resource in the lives of many who know you. Whether it's personal or professional you have to stop thinking about everything as an immediate quid pro quo. More farming, less hunting. That's the lesson.
Jay Baer is a hype-free digital marketing strategist, speaker, and author. He founded Convince & Convert in 2008 where he oversees big picture ideas for corporate clients, helps agency customers understand and profit from social and digital services, and spreads the gospel of social and content acceleration with dozens of speaking engagements annually. Jay has consulted with more than 700 companies on digital marketing since 1994, including Caterpillar, Nike, California Travel & Tourism Commission, Billabong, and 29 of the Fortune 500. He was named one of America's top social media consultants by Fast Company magazine, and the Convince and Convert blog is ranked as the world's #1 content marketing resource. He's co-author of The NOW Revolution, 7 Shifts to Make Your Business Faster, Smarter, and More Social (Wiley, 2011) a leading book on social business. His new book, Youtility is now available.
Revisit yesterday's introduction to Jay Baer and our take on his new book, Youtility. Check in with us tomorrow as we conclude our Thinker in Residence series on Jay Baer with his thoughts "On Business and Books."

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