8 Ways to Win at Marketing by Being Useful

Marketers are competing in a vast sea of messages from other companies, friends and family of their clients and prospective clients. Today’s marketers need to be smart and be HELPFUL with their social media marketing and not bombard a sales message over and over again.

8 Ways to Win at Marketing by Being Useful In my new book “Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is about Help not Hype” the premise is that if you create marketing that people genuinely want, you can dispense with the “shock,” “awe,” and “viral” and focus on solving problems, answering questions, and creating long-lasting customer relationships by doing so.

Your company is being forced to compete for your customers’ attention against those customers’ family members and best friends. If you’re useful enough, and if you commit to inform rather than promote, customers will reward you with trust and loyalty.
I’d like to share some of my top tips for smart marketing with Youtility:

1. Be a resource

Today’s consumers besieged with every company of every type, size, and description jostling for attention, making pleas to friend, follow, subscribe, read, watch, and click. Unimaginative marketers attempt to stand out with message frequency, or by exchanging bribes for attention (resulting in an explosion of Facebook contests and giveaways, among other tactics).
But sending messages too often can have unintended consequences. Instead, be helpful and provide information that people need such as directions

2. Be inquisitive

You have to understand what your prospective customers need to make better decisions, and how you can improve their lives by providing it. The best way to understand customer needs is to ask real customers. You have to understand not just what your customers need, but how and where they prefer to access information.

3. Be a listener

Nothing reveals real-time customer queries like social media. In my first book, The NOW Revolution, I wrote about the “anyone know” phenomenon in social media, particularly Twitter. Every second of every day consumers are seeking answers and solutions, often phrasing those queries as “Anyone know . . .” Go to Twitter and type “Anyone know” into the search box right now, and you’ll see a river of inquiry flowing by.
In practice, that type of research is better suited for companies looking to provide solutions at the point of need, which is one form of Youtility (@HiltonSuggests does this, for instance). However, for most companies looking to make their marketing more useful, examining social chatter more broadly will be a better way to surface consumer desires.

4. Be radically transparent

Provide online answers to nearly every question a customer could conceivably ask—before they think to ask it.

5. Be patient

That doesn’t mean it will, or should, take you multiple years to start seeing a return on your useful marketing, but recognize that you are planting seeds that will bloom in time, not necessarily overnight.

6. Be wise

To succeed, your prospective customers must consider you a friend. And if, like their friends, you provide them real value, if you practice Youtility rather than simply offer a series of coupons and come-ons, they will reward your company with loyalty and advocacy, the same ways we reward our friends.

7. Be trustworthy

“Trust has never been more important as a corporate asset, and it needs to be managed for people to believe the information you’re putting out,” says Amy Treanor, executive vice president of Edelman Square, the division of the firm responsible for the annual Trust Barometer.

“To really be a trusted enterprise,” Treanor says, “you need to focus on the more societal and engagement activities: transparency, employee engagement, listening to your customers, and putting them ahead of profits.”

8. Market your marketing

You know what happens when most companies launch a new, branded mobile application or other content-rich marketing program intended to effectively combine information and promotion? Nothing. You’ve heard the saying “If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

The same logic works in these scenarios: “If you create Youtility and don’t tell anyone about it, does it even exist?”
When you launch the app, or commence blogging, or begin answering questions, you have not reached the finish line; you have reached the starting line. Too many businesses break out the champagne just because something new was created. Remember, Youtility is all about being useful, which literally means “full of use.”

Do these and you’ll create a customer for life

You know that expression “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime”? Well, the same is true for marketing: If you sell something, you make a customer today; if you help someone, you make a customer for life.
I call this Youtility. Not “utility,” because a utility is a faceless commodity. Youtility is marketing upside down. Instead of marketing that’s needed by companies, Youtility is marketing that’s wanted by customers. Youtility is massively useful information, provided for free, that creates long term trust and kinship between your company and your customers
The difference between helping and selling is just two letters. But those two letters now make all the difference.

Inspired by the New York Times best sellerYoutility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help not Hype by Jay Baer. See YoutilityBook.com for other resources.

Youtility Excerpt:

Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help not Hype – Exclusive Free Excerpt from Jay Baer

Youtility Trailer:


Guest author:  is a hype-free social media and content strategist & speaker, and author of the New York Times best selling business bookYoutility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help not Hype. Jay is the founder of  Convince and Convert  and host of the Social Pros podcast


Image by Shutterstock


  • venkyiyer58

    Point No. 8 is not very clear – it leaves me somewhat confused about what is actually being said there.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/ jaybaer

      Sorry about that. The issue is that many times when a company creates a blog or white paper or video or mobile app or whatever it fails because they don’t sufficiently promote the THING because they are spending all of their time promoting the company itself.

      • venkyiyer58

        Got it. Thank you.

  • Aleks George

    Great post. I’d add, be ready to leave – because if the people you’re dealing with are being disrespectful, everything else falls down anyway.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/ jaybaer

      Excellent point Aleks.

  • http://www.praverb.net/ Praverb

    “Market your Marketing”

    I love this tip. A lot of marketers refrain from talking about what they are marketing. Some think that it is bragging or very arrogant. If you create value you should talk about it. Makes a lot of sense to me. Great guest blog from Jay Baer.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/ jaybaer

      Thanks very much. Indeed, the marketing your marketing part is so often overlooked.

      • http://www.praverb.net/ Praverb

        Thank you for responding.

  • Erin Singh

    Hi Jay, I enjoyed reading your guest post. Very few people like to share information with others, especially if they won’t profit from it.

    On a different note, you might want to double check your hyperlink YoutilityBook.com located in this section of your post:

    Do these and you’ll create a customer for life…

    See YoutilityBook.com for other resources. This is located above your Youtility Excerpt and Slideshare.

    Your YoutilityBook.com hyperlink sends me here:



    Page Not Found

    The page you are looking for is not here.

    Try a search or use the navigation to find the page or…

    Return Home


    For those people who do not have a company/organization and work e-mail how are they supposed to fill out your form when you have made these fields a requirement by having an asterisk next to them?

    Have a great weekend. :)

  • Samantha Studebaker-Carl

    Thanks for the tips Jay!

    I really like how you talk about being a resource.

    When I had my pet salon, I found this to be very effective.
    My clients knew they could turn to me if they needed to know something about how to best care for their pet.
    We were always focused on educating the clients,
    and they in turn were very loyal.

    I think one of the biggest things businesses struggle with is how to provide
    helpful information online when they have a offline business.

    Your tip about answering every question your clients could possibly ask
    is an excellent way to get those creative juices flowing in order to get an idea of what resources a business should be providing online.


  • Tim Ludy

    Great article on content marketing! Most businesses don’t realize how much information they know about their business that would be valuable for clients and prospects. Simply answering questions and being helpful is the best way to draw people in.