Why “Useful” Beats “Amazing” Any Day of the Week in Marketing

by Marcus Sheridan

Baer_Quote

A serious question to start this post and please take a moment to really give it some thought:

Would you rather be “amazing” or “useful” with your marketing?

I think if you’d asked me this question 4 years ago, before I’d ever even head the word “blog,” I would have said “amazing” every single time. In fact, “amazing” is sexy. It’s fun to talk about. It gets the imagination moving.

And it’s also grossly unrealistic.

Really, I’m not kidding. How does a marketing department set a bar of “amazing” and know when they’ve gotten there? Is it even possible? Furthermore, is it sustainable?

But “useful”—well that’s a different story.

There is Nothing “Amazing” About the River Pools Story

For the past few years, I’ve shared the River Pools marketing story to literally thousands upon thousands of people around the world. The story has also been the subject of multiple blog articles, magazines, books, and even the New York Times.

But in every conversation I’ve had about River Pools, there is one word almost NEVER used to describe what we did: Amazing

Nope, no one says, “Marcus, what you did with River Pools was amazing!”

Instead, these are the types of comments I literally hear every day:

“My goodness, why haven’t we taken this same approach with our company??”

“This makes so much sense. Of course this is how we should be doing it!”

“We’ve been feeling this is the way to go for a long time.”

“This is so SIMPLE!”

Yep, the process of becoming a great listener, teacher, and communicator in business needn’t be complex. Customers ask you questions. They express their needs. And then you, as a business, address them.

Nope, nothing amazing about it.

But useful? Yep, absolutely.

A Different Type of Marketing: Youtility

Youtilty Book CoverThis incredibly important question of useful vs. amazing is not one that I made up. Rather, it’s one of the core premises to Jay Baer’s New York Times Best-selling book that was just released, Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is about Help not Hype

Although I may appear biased because of the fact that I wrote the foreword for this book, I sincerely believe Youtility—the concept of truly becoming “useful” as a business—will be one of the most influential business books of this decade.

Why?

Because we’ve all changed. As consumers, we see through the bull. We sniff a rat from a mile away.

This is exactly why companies can shift their marketing methodology to one of usefulness and transparency, or they can continue to live in the past and base their marketing models on interruption,  false numbers, and silly sales techniques that died with the fax machine the moment this thing called “the internet” changed all of our lives forever.

So my simple question for you is this:

Just how truly useful is your company’s marketing?

If the answer isn’t “very,” then I’d suggest you start making changes. I’d also strongly urge you to read Youtility, because it just may change your life and business forever.

And if you don’t want to spend the money for it, just take part in my little contest below and you just may win a free copy of the book, here’s how:

How To Win a FREE Copy of Youtility, Mailed from My Office to Your Doorstep

OK, so here’s the deal. In the comment section below, give me the BEST example you can of a company that is using “Youtility” in their marketing efforts. Whether it’s your local pharmacy or a national brand, describe it below. For the 5 best answers shown, I’ll personally mail you a copy of the book. And just so you know I personally sent it, you’ll see a note from me on the foreword page.

Pretty easy, huh? And if I think more than 5 deserve a book, I’ll make that happen too. So just add your comments below and if you are selected as one of the top 5, I’ll email you petitioning your mailing address.

So go on, let’s talk useful…

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{ 68 comments… read them below or add one }

Jay Baer July 8, 2013 at

Thanks so much Marcus. You are living proof that Youtility works, big time. Also, for folks that prefer audio books, note that The Sales Lion and I read this one ourselves, so you can hear our very best radio voices!

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Marcus Sheridan July 8, 2013 at

My pleasure Jay…as for my radio voice though, eek ;-)

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Iain July 10, 2013 at

I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been to read the book out loud. I know what it is like to read an article to a class. Doing a whole book must have been quite the process.

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Christel Vaenerberg July 8, 2013 at

Linux is for me the greatest proof of youtility.

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Marcus Sheridan July 8, 2013 at

Please tell us more Christel. What makes them a Youtility?

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Dan Moyle July 8, 2013 at

So I’m going to be a bit self-serving when it comes to naming a company. I joined AmeriFirst Home Mortgage almost 3 years ago to dive into inbound marketing. We’ve published more than a dozen eBooks focused on home ownership and how to make buying a home easier. We’ve published 200+ videos with tips and interviews and stories about buying a home. Our blog is full of useful tips and information about the home buying process and mortgage options. We even have a Pinterest account full of home tips from recipes to decorating, just to offer home buyers useful information. I feel like this useful vs amazing marketing philosophy works well for us, and we have the analytics to prove that works. Education is better than a commercial any day.
Great stuff Marcus. thanks for sharing!
Dan Moyle
AmeriFirst Home Mortgage

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Marcus Sheridan July 8, 2013 at

Dan, self-serve all day my friend, this was great! Seriously, I love what you’re doing at AmeriFirst and you deserve some credit for being a trailblazer in your industry.

Well done!

Marcus

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Jay Baer July 8, 2013 at

Great stuff Dan. Shoot me an email would you? jay@convinceandconvert.com Might want to use your story in the next edition of the book, or on my Social Pros podcast.

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Bella July 15, 2013 at

Dan,
I am buying a house right now and was LOOKING. Just thinking and ASKING the brokers in my area… do you have a blog that answers all my questions? Teach me, and most of the time you will win my business. It is awesome that you are doing that for your clients! :)

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Paul Nash July 8, 2013 at

I like Home Depot’s Youtube videos. They have saved me serious aggravation in solving all sorts of household problems. They brake repairs/fix-its into simple steps and have a nice library to select from. I seriously don’t know how I fixed anything around the house prior to Youtility-type marketing.

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Marcus Sheridan July 8, 2013 at

Paul, LOVE this example. Home Depot has taken Youtility very seriously for some time, and the results have truly paid off. Empowered homeowners= Loyal Customers

Thanks again,

Marcus

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Jay Baer July 8, 2013 at

Absolutely. I also totally love Lowe’s Vine program. Similar stuff.

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Eric Bridges July 8, 2013 at

I do social media and inbound marketing for a car dealership, and this idea of usefulness over amazing-ness is a conclusion that I came to on my own when I started here. I’ve started in on a series of blog articles on vehicle features, in the ways that I think would be the most useful for customers researching new vehicles (for example, articles like “Towing options on the 2013 Ford Escape”, “Family-friendly features of the Ford Escape”, “Fuel economy for the…” etc. The articles themselves are not exactly a thrilling read, but all of the information in them is organized so that someone looking for a particular feature can find it quickly and easily. I’ve also compiled all of the articles on each vehicle into “Shopping Guides”, which I’ve put links to from our main website.

The strategy of utility vs amazingness seems to be working so far. I’ve done little to nothing to promote the post, and apart from a very small amount of SEO done using Google Webmaster Tools’ Data Highligher, not much else to actually let people know that these articles are up on the site (I was going to wait until at least three or four complete shopping guides are ready to go before promoting it in full). Already, though, we’ve been getting three or four organic search results *daily*, from people who are searching for exactly the questions that the articles answer, and these people are actually sticking around and reading the relevant articles. I have the feeling that once these shopping guides are all done, it’s going to be not only a huge traffic driver from beyond our immediate area, but also a great research resource for our local customers.

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Jay Baer July 8, 2013 at

Auto has huge potential for Youtility, although it’s rarely executed in that industry, unfortunately. I gave a speech to 3,000 car dealer a couple months ago, and challenged them to create Youtility. Recently, Fowler Automotive in Oklahoma sent me an awesome infographic they made about what to do when you get locked out of your car. Genius!

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Cathy Boudreau July 8, 2013 at

SpartanRace.com. I love this site and their blog. Not only is it easy to look up an Event and Register, but when you first hit the site, you are immediately thrown into an “inspirational” video of people doing the race, etc. They have other inspirational videos, photos from the race and their blog that highlights athletes, workouts, etc. Also, I subscribe to a daily email for their Workout of the Day (WOD). While I rarely do the workout (because they are usually an extra slice of insanity), I read it religiously — mainly to see if I could do it and it’s realistic or if I think they’re smokin’ something. Lastly, what I love about these races (having done 2 of them and doing a 3rd in August) is that there’s a vibe of “you can do it”. They don’t falter from this messaging… hard work and dedication pays off in the race and it does for them in marketing.

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Jay Baer July 8, 2013 at

Cool! I’ll check it out.

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iGoByDoc July 8, 2013 at

Hey Marcus,

Great idea for your contest here. I like that you are asking this question, rather than just doing the good old “like this and share with 100 people” crud!

Anyway, just wanted to say I already bought Youtility for the iPad, and have been reading it over the last few days. Jay has done a great job of sharing information on how companies are taking to the next level… like Hilton and McDonalds.

The days of smoke and mirrors are over my friend.

As for useful vs. amazing, I totally agree. Let’s say this… if you are useful, amazing things will happen.

Now, go and get this book into some peoples hands. It’s a game changer. (enjoyed your forward BTW)

Doc

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Jay Baer July 8, 2013 at

Thanks so much Doc. So glad you’re liking Youtility. High five!

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Jenn Whinnem July 8, 2013 at

Tiny press release machine. Oh my God, thank you for giving me that phrase.

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John Verba July 8, 2013 at

I always get the feeling that what you’re describing as marketing in the past is just bad marketing, and Jay’s quote that you opened with seems to confirm this.

I think all that’s really happened is that, in the past, bad marketers would do self-focused “muti-use” brochures and lifeless direct response and the like, and get it to their prospects and no one would read it or respond, and the effort would be curtailed and almost no one would know it was ever made. All the ineffective marketing done by really bad firms for clients who didn’t know any better was pretty much invisible… exactly as one would expect, right?

Now, though, websites and blogs that talk about all the “impressive” things a company likes about itself are created, go up online and never go away. Then other writers and designers mimic what they see over and over online with no real knowledge of whether it worked or not. Just the fact that everyone does it is all the justification they need to do it the same way.

But top direct response writers have always said, “It’s not how you say it, it’s what you say”… meaning when you parse all the clever words (and “award-winning creativity”) down to the actual meat of the message, it has to be clearly stating how the company ACTUALLY HELPS… ideally in ways that set its offerings apart from its competitors.

As much as we might all want to pat ourselves on the back and say we’re now up-to-speed with these new, more informed consumers who are more aware, more demanding and who have a new appreciation for openness and sincerity, those of us who’ve been in the business more than a few years can look back at the truly professional creative directors we’ve known, and other marketing mentors, and remember moments like…

The creative staff of a big downtown agency is standing around in the morning talking about the hilarious beer commercials that were on during the big sports event that weekend, and they can all repeat the punchlines word-for-word. And then the old-school creative director walks by and says, “And who can tell me which beer the spots were for?”

And what he hears back are three or more different guesses, and no real certainty. :) So, yeah, for many, many years, even multinational brewers spending millions on network TV done by big agencies have been saying things about their products that consumers could have seen through… if they’d ever seen the messages in any significant way at all. The majority of the messages WERE “transparent,” but in a “look right at them and not see them” kind of way.

That’s not the old way of doing things. That’s just the bad way that never did work. And proper targeting is not the new way. It’s just the way that’s always worked, and that’s always represented a tiny proportion of all the messages done by all the companies and agencies out there.

If there’s one pool company out there with a 900+ page blog that’s basically a wikipedia of pool-buying FAQs, then there’s one pool company that looks singularly obsessive about being helpful. And it’s also the one pool company that’s acting very different from the other 99.9% of pool companies. So, yes, it appears to WANT TO HELP in a way all the others don’t.

That kind of HELP has always beaten hype. And the folks that help more do work harder and smarter than, and out-compete, the rest. They do what most of their competitors will never do, and their prospects see the difference.

And that’s not really anything new, either. Though it’s never been so clear to us how truly rare such an ultra-competitive, results-focused approach really is… and how few people will try it even when results like yours are right in front of them to emulate, step by step.

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Jay Baer July 8, 2013 at

Excellent comment John. And you’re partially right. But there are other changes afoot that make Youtility different and necessary now. Fractured media landscape. Social media. Always-on Internet access via mobile device. Rise of asynchronous communication vs. synchronous. Shifts in the role of sales vs. marketing. There’s a lot more to Youtility than just “be helpful” but that’s the core thesis, of course.

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John Verba July 10, 2013 at

Jay. I thought about your reply a lot, and then happened to be searching for a dentist yesterday, and looking for guidance in understanding HMOs and insurance reimbursement, and I also got a ton of unexpected knowledge, courtesy of user reviews, about how many practices out there seem to be doing unnecessary and shoddy work. It’s not many, but those that do it do enough of it that the angry negative feedback rolls in like a wave. And yet those place can have 6-month waits, so that suggests not every consumer is checking out reviews, or perhaps they have different priorities (price, mostly) affecting their purchasing decisions.

In like manner, the exceptional dentists appear exceptional in every review and in their own content. The appearance is consistent. Every impression they make is as we would expect… down, usually, to the name on their sheepskins. (They attended schools whose names suggest, to most in Northern Virginia, high quality preparation.)

I would respectfully suggest that any discerning review of a range of suppliers of B2C and B2B products or services will quickly show you that EVERY QUALITY OF COMPANY could conceivably employ an efficient mix of diverse media, social media and mobile, over time or in real time, and present a powerful and convincing image of…

… (1) being clueless about meeting their prospect’s needs, bad at connecting, and lousy in the area of performance (but cheap! :D) ; OR (2) being an average solution perfect for the folks who just want to find someone who can do the job (the kind who don’t mind a 3/5-star rating if the price is right or they’re right down the street and ready to get to work); OR (3) being outstanding in ways so obvious that everyone seems to see it almost immediately (which is also not everyone’s cup of tea, because some people are quite proud to be “just regular folks.”)

It could be argued that (1) and (3) are all about being helpful to folks who (1) only have $39 to spend on a cleaning and check-up , or (3) want a Harvard grad to explain their every option and help them make very informed decisions about their treatment options… and that both these groups are very helpful to very different markets…

… whereas the (2) group could use the entire mix of media quite efficiently to show all sorts of people that all they know is that they are a dentist, and dentists do helpful, dentist-like things, so they and every other dentist out there will be out here when you need, you know, a dentist.

So yes, we may have new ways to show the reality of what our companies have to offer, but the reality is still either YES we know which segment of prospects we help most and why and how to tell those prospects exactly that, or NO, we’re part of that big hump of options in the middle that’s happy to “help” everyone who comes in the door, because as far as we know, we’re just as good as most of our competitors at just about everything we all do. :)

AND we all, in that large group, lack a clear understanding of how unhelpful that offering is to the best, most loyal customers of the groups that somehow “get all the work.”

John

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Jay Baer July 11, 2013 at

No question about it. Two key truths embedded in the circumstances you describe. First, social media and content marketing typically help the rich get richer, and rightfully so. If you’re a good company, this lets you double-down. And second, the companies that “get it” are like that because what they really get is us, and our needs.

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Keith Robbins July 11, 2013 at

Right on! The companies that ‘get it’, get us and our needs. Specifically, they ‘get it’ in the operation of their own businesses. But when they attempt to market themselves, it seems to me that many great companies just ‘talk about themselves’ instead of keeping that same consumer focus on getting us. To me, that’s what this ‘useful’ dialog is all about. With YouTube, for example, I tell people that the ‘you’ in YouTube is not YOU. It’s us. Don’t tell us how amazing you are, just give us the information we are searching for. That is how we’ll find out that your company ‘gets it’. Thank you Jay and Marcus!

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Mike Martel July 8, 2013 at

Actually, I am surprised that this is even a question. After all, isn’t it always about results. Marketing has to have results. Without being useful, I would imagine that results would low if not non-existent.

Let’s stop chasing new, flashy and start chasing useful, effective.

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Jay Baer July 8, 2013 at

I wish that were true. Old Spice is widely hailed as one of the best advertising/marketing approaches of the last 5 years. But was it useful? Not in the least.

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Steve Susina July 8, 2013 at

Marcus,

I’ll give you two best examples–one national/one local. And while maybe its a bit unfair to provide examples using companies that primarily market to other marketers, at the same time they are less able to get away with “amazing” content that doesn’t add value.

On a national basis are the marketing automation providers collectively–Eloqua, Marketo, Hubspot, etc.. They all–in their own company voice–do a good job providing educational and useful content that helps the marketer. Whether its Marketo’s “Definitive Guides”, Eloqua’s “Chart of the Week”, Hubspot’s tools for small businesses and agencies, these firms provide helpful content for today’s marketer looking to keep up with emerging trends. Does some of their content step over the “helpful” boundary into merely “amazing” territory? Sure. But on balance, I’ve maintained subscriptions to all these firms’ lists and blogs because they provide helpful information on a weekly basis.

A local firm I’d cite as an example is Orbit Media Studios in Chicago through their efforts to help marketers get better at content creation. They’re a web development firm–not looking to get business by writing or editing the next white paper or blog post. However, their co-founder, Andy Crestodina does an outstanding job helping marketers and content creators understand the link between their words, and they underlying web technology. He a frequent presenter to Chicago-area marketing events and has helped me become better at everything from keyword selection, SEO, guest posting, Google Authorship and dozens of other ideas that really help.

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Jay Baer July 11, 2013 at

No doubt the marketing automation guys are at the top of the class. I’ll check out Orbit. Thanks!

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Mark July 8, 2013 at

From the library of my four year-old daughter, Thomas (the Tank Engine) and Friends are all special in their own way. As such, their main functions are in every way to be useful. It is the greatest of compliments to be called ‘useful’!

The creators never really used ‘amazing’ or ‘dynamic’ as adjectives for the trains, but the word ‘useful’ played a huge role in their dialog between characters.

I think we as parents know we have amazing children, no doubt. However, I think we want our kids to also be useful: to themselves, to us as parents and guardians, and to society as a whole.

From the business world and certainly two companies that I feel are all about help and less about hype: JetBlue and Southwest Airlines. From the time I’ve called to make reservations to the time I deplane, I feel like I was being given useful and helpful service.

It is my estimation that usefulness is the root of all we do and strive for in providing service to our customers. Helpfulness is the route we take to get there.

(Also, I shall label both you and Jay as the Gary Owens’ (you may need to Google him) of the Marketing airwaves! Though Jay looks a bit more like him!)

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Jay Baer July 11, 2013 at

Oh man. I totally forgot about Thomas the Tank Engine, but years ago my daughter went through her own very immersive and expensive embrace of that story line. YES! Being useful was the highest compliment in that train yard. Damn, I wish I would have remembered that. I would have put it in the book. Second edition!

One the Jet Blue and SWA side, I might quibble and say that their success is rooted more in customer experience than in Youtility. But that’s splitting hairs a bit.

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Mark July 11, 2013 at

Second Edition, indeed!
The customer experience is an important part of and a great outcome of helpful (‘You’sful’) Marketing. That’s why the Marketing, Customer Care, and all departments need to seemlessly team together to deliver that experience (customer-facing or behind the scenes.)

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Joshua Ness July 8, 2013 at

One of my favorites is the GQ Rules video series. Their magazine is great at showcasing fashion and where to buy it, but sometimes it’s just way too expensive. The GQ Rules series shows you how to wear different types of clothing and gives tips and advice for how to stay current. Seeking out these videos with seasonal updates helps keep GQ at top of mind for me, and therefore helps their advertisers. It’s a brilliant way for GQ to keep customers engaged and focused even after they’ve read the monthly magazine.

BTW, love the blog. Long-time reader, first-time commenter. I’m the one-man marketing team for an event technology company, and many of your tips and case studies apply directly to my industry. Please keep up the good work!

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Jay Baer July 11, 2013 at

Very cool example. I want to check that out. Thanks for the idea!

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Jason Diller July 8, 2013 at

unbounce cranks amazing content and webinars…even if you don’t use their software, their blog is a goldmine.

I have prob. learned more from this blog than any other, however…

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Jay Baer July 11, 2013 at

No doubt. I’ve learned a lot from Unbounce, too. Great example.

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Mike Kawula July 8, 2013 at

Nice Marcus & Jay – This is awesome. Loved Jay’s interview recently with Jaime Tardy at Eventual Millionaire discussing the book. I actually forwarded it to a huge Freelance Site looking to grow saying they should listen and follow what Hilton does – huge opportunity.

We have a local restaurant that is SO Useful. Restaurants open & close all the time in our beach community and this ones in a terrible location. Here’s what they do so well, every event in the area or cause they’re active. Hurricane Sandy they did food banks, local child with Cancer – they’re raising money. They are EVERYWHERE in the community & at every event. They’re also not just writing a check like some SMB’s would, but the roll up their sleeves and really participate. Guess what Restaurant always has a wait in the local area?

You guys Rock & Hope the Summer is Going Great! Cheers with Tequila ~ Mike

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Jay Baer July 9, 2013 at

Thanks very much Mike. What’s the name of that restaurant?

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Mike Kawula July 9, 2013 at

Mud City Crabhouse http://mudcitycrabhouse.com/ Dinner on me if ever visiting the Jersey Shore!

Cheers ~ Mike
P.S. – Great interview also with Mike Stelzner on Social Media Examiner, really enjoyed it.

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Glen Kohlenberg July 8, 2013 at

Guys I loved the new book. I could not put it down until I read the complete book. See, I sell condominium carports in Florida. Marcus and the River Pools story got me going several years back. Like there is hardly anyone or traffic wanting to buy condominium carports! But I kept on writing on my blog now with 80 articles started a YouTube Channel and I was not trying to get traffic to my site all I was doing was working to educate my client once I found one.

So I would send them to my site for the photos, articles and now video. The sales started to come in one at a time and I would get more work off the jobs completed. That was a long-long process it felt like because like Marcus it was 2008 and because I sold to the retired clients know one wanted to build carports because the stock market was in the tank.

But I stayed with it and little by little it started coming back. In June I closed my largest carport project ever $1,500.000. As I read your book so many things hit home with me and how many times I was so close to given up.

Everyone should read your book and I gave my copy to my boss to help him understand why I kept going and if he just reads Marcus forward in the book I believe it says it all.

Thanks to both of you, Glen

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Jay Baer July 9, 2013 at

Congratulations Glen! Really excited for you!

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Chris Picanzo July 8, 2013 at

I’m gonna go out on a limb here but I’d say the company with the most YouTility would be Youtube There is a company that is almost based on helping people be it for searching on how to fix a car or what the lyrics are for a particular song. Therefore very well utilized site for fixing problems people encounter..
Thanks for the post and I hope you like my answer ;) I could use a book like that! :)

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Jay Baer July 11, 2013 at

Good point! Might be a little different in their case because they monetize directly as they help (via ads), but a sound example.

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Paul Nash July 8, 2013 at

This is a great thread! I’m going to review all of these examples as I’m always on the look-out for impactful content marketing. And I’m going to offer up one more: If you’re a guitar player, or an aspiring guitar player, or if you’re 40 and still have the guitar you bought when you were 16, under the ill-conceived hypothesis that it would advance a mission to meet girls, and now serves, albeit admirably but mostly as a coat rack, you might find Youtility through the Youtube videos and/or website of a teacher in California named Marty Schwartz. I’ve never met him, but I’ve reviewed countless online lessons over the years when I’ve had my fleeting moments of inspiration. Nothing fancy here, but thoughtful, generous “content” that I’ve recommended many times, not as a marketer, but as an admirer and music lover.

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Jay Baer July 11, 2013 at

Great example. Want another amazingly helpful Youtube video? Check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YnBF6bv4Oe4&feature=youtu.be

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Andrea T.H.W. July 9, 2013 at

How much I wish those guys at Google would read this book and the paragraph above about transparency and usefulness.

I surely agree that being useful is eons better than being amazing, the problem is how many customers-readers-surfers can spot the difference. I mean that the world is full of people who not only likes Facebook but still thinks Google is a search engine and not an AdWords pushing machine.

Talking about search engines probably the one which fits more the Youtility concept, as I’ve understood it, is DuckDuckGo; they started from scratch and year after year they are getting bigger even without participating to the Prism thing as for them privacy is at the first place for real. And they don’t sell anything for success, especially their souls.

They provide a service, honest and transparent and if more people would use it the webuniverse would surely be a better place.

Unfortunately boasting and flashing colors still works which is why a lot still use them. But as you say Marcus every day people is getting wiser, after getting burnt probably, and self-applied experts of traffic, making money, copywriting, getting followers and such find it more difficult to scam people reselling more or less the same old stuff.

One purple cow on the marketing side is the owner of EnchantingMarketing who beside having a great website full of very good information has just released an ebook on writing better web copy. Imho it’s an example of Youtility, a great example.

It’s less than 60 pages, costs around 3 bucks and there are no affiliate links inside, can you believe it? It’s extremely well organized and the concepts flow effortlessly from one to another written in a way that sticks. I mean that you can’t read it till the end and not absorb something useful.

No boasting, no reinvented things just useful stuff. It’s not an amazing book but extremely useful. Other marketers would have watered the same info and created a crash course on web copy for 100 dollars, or webinars, or whatever. Instead for the price of a good Starbucks’ coffee you can learn 90 percent of what matters on writing efficently not only for the web but in general too.

If someone likes meat without bones and fluff.

To me these are the two best examples, or at least the first two, of Youtility which came to my mind, beside The Sales Lion of course.

Who knows, I might even win the book, unfortunately I’m based in Italy which is a bit on the other side of the ocean. :)

Fabulous post Marcus, and I’m pretty sure that Youtility is fabulous too. Both the concept and the book. :D

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Jay Baer July 11, 2013 at

Don’t worry, we’ll send you a book to Italy if you win!

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Sheryl Kurland July 9, 2013 at

Marcus, you have succeeded at pounding the concept of YOUtility into my brain! I have stewed over and done a lot of research in the past few months because I work in a highly competitive category of “relationship advice expert.” There’s a gazillion “gurus” out there. Yes, yes, yes…to rise to the cream of the crop and be the BEST in this saturated field requires being USEFUL…and thus I recently launched my YouTube channel. I’m going to deliver one short video a week, each with a tip, off-the-beaten-path relationship advice that you can instantly use. You’re my role model that staying steady and focusing on YOUtility to others is the pathway to success. So, in a few years, maybe you could pose the “Who’s the BEST?” question again!

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Jay Baer July 11, 2013 at

Perfect Sheryl. You’re a farmer, not a hunter. And that’s the way to succeed with Youtility.

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Jason Mulholland July 9, 2013 at

Hey Marcus,

It was about December of 2010 when I started using the email platform called Ace of Sales. At that time, I was very new and very green to email marketing. And the thing that I love most about ace of sales was not its ease-of-use or exceptional (amazing) appearance, but the fact that they offered so much to everyone for free.

There was a free webinar almost weekly webinar showing you not necessarily how to use the email platform, but how to use email marketing. From general one off emails to email newsletters, and even divergences off into the personal branding field. I absolutely loved it, and from everything I saw online at the time, all the other users did as well. Their blog was consistent, and value packed with tips and how-tos. It was amazing – I felt like I knew the developer of the tool personally. Because all of this was coming from him, in his voice.

So the platform at that time was great for newbies such as myself. Very easy-to-use and packed full of information so that I could quickly learn in this new field.

Unfortunately, over the past 12 to 18 months, the focus of the ace of sales platform has shifted. The free webinars are no longer, as they have been replaced with paid webinars. The platform is lagging behind not only in its education compared to its early days, but also in its usefulness. There are other platforms that are much more functional and useful for the email marketer.

The shift is sad really.

But to answer your question, if I could travel back in time to late 2010 and 2011, Ace of Sales was absolutely killing it in my perspective in regards to Youtility. They were very useful back in the day. :-)

Have a killer Tuesday bro,

Jason

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Jay Baer July 11, 2013 at

Interesting. I thought I knew every email platform out there! I’ll check those guys out.

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Jason Mulholland July 11, 2013 at

Jay, you’ll find that they are a personal Branding platform. Which includes email, social networks, and a CRM. Their emails still look fantastic!

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Oliver Nam July 9, 2013 at

Hi Marcus,

I just read your article from a friend of mine. He’s helping me with my website and online presence. I heard about “Youtility” and thought I definitely need to read this book…or better yet, get me into contact with you. I have no idea what the book entails for me and my business, but Im guessing only positives.

Ive been a personal trainer for 12 years now. I was in a franchise gym for 10 years as one of the top 5% performers in sales and sessions rendered…now in Jan 2013 I took the leap of faith and went out on my own. Im sub-leasing a training facility and now doing my own marketing, accounting, charity and community outreach so my business can grow. I consistently read John Maxwell, Carnegie, Jim Rohn and others, but “Youtility” will be a bit different, I think. Im curious and intrigued what the book can do for my business, but more importantly how I can reach and effect others. With the help of people I hire for marketing and the such, it will be great to have insight from your perspective, as well as Mr. Baer.

Please dont get me wrong, I dont mind buying the book myself, but a note by you in the foreward section is pretty cool. Im a big basketball fan, so if I got Lebron James’ autograph on a ball, I think I would be in the gym and play a little harder, thats all.

Anyhow, thanks for the above article and insight. I appreciate the advice you give to people like me.

Oliver Nam

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Pippa Leigh July 10, 2013 at

Great post. It seems a lot of the time people just do things for the sake of it, maybe to “feels” productive. I think they need to ask themselves that first question!

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Keith Robbins July 10, 2013 at

Marcus:

The search results on YouTube provide empirical evidence that useful beats amazing. For example, almost any hotel you search for on YouTube, the top search results will be amateur UGC by hotel guests showing panoramic views of their rooms and random shots of the lobby and other things they liked about the hotel. Many hotels have also created and uploaded videos but you will almost never see them at the top of search results. The hotels are going for ‘amazing’ in their videos. Unfortunately, the consumers are looking for useful.

Frequently, the hotels that go for ‘amazing’ end up with ‘unbelievable’ as in ‘not believable’. They bring in professional photographers with lighting and props that create photos that ‘smell like a rat’ to use your phrase. That ends up hurting their performance in search results even further.

Youtility beats amazing. The YouTube algorithm proves it.

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John Verba July 10, 2013 at

This really intrigued me so I tried searching for Marriott, Sheraton and Hilton (the names, no URLs) and found their own content filling each first page. So I tried Greenbrier. Same result. So I want with Best Western. Then Best Western Grand Canyon. Still no UGC that I could see. Certainly nothing prominent. So I tried “hotel in Bedford, PA, and then, yes, I found tripadvisor type sites, with customer reviews. Didn’t see any photos after a couple clicks.

What am I doing wrong? Thanks. Eager to find what you’re describing.

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Keith Robbins July 11, 2013 at

I am using the term UGC to describe all third party content. I generally don’t use the term UGC myself but to the hotels I am talking to, any video that appears above their own in search results is frustrating. And that includes travel blogger reviews since the videos are not professionally shot and edited even though the review might be positive.

Of the examples you provided, The Greenbrier is the best exception. But, The Greenbrier is producing ‘useful’ content, particularly the video that shows you how to select a room. Their account indicates that they also have some YouTube savvy.

The search for ‘best western grand canyon’ does not produce any videos by Best Western on the the first page of results. So that is a good example of the point I was making. But, Best Western may not be as concerned about that as a luxury hotel brand that is trying to drive a much tighter brand image.

Re ‘hotel in bedford pa’, that is a top of sales funnel search term. The data from videos I have tested indicates that search traffic on YouTube is bottom of sales funnel. In other words, the viewer has already been to TripAdvisor and other sites doing research. They search names of hotels from a short list of properties they discovered. Here is an example:

If you search ‘enchantment resort’ and ‘sedona arizona resort’, the same video comes up as the #1 result. I produced that video and the viewer data shows that all of the traffic came from ‘enchantment resort’+derivatives. Or search ‘chicago hotels’ and notice how low the view counts of the top search results are (vs. other Chicago hotels). If you contacted the content owner, they would tell you the views came from searches for the hotel name.

Re Sheraton, Marriott: The same bottom of funnel explanation applies. However, that brings up another point. YouTube is probably more important for independents like Enchantment Resort and The Greenbrier than it is for chains because rewards programs drive a sales funnel that ends before a consumer would do YouTube research.

Thanks for the heads up on Greenbrier. That’s a pretty good example of ‘useful’ for hotels. Particularly since I am mostly concerned with the luxury end of the hotel universe.

Is this helpful? I can send you some specific links of good and bad content but I don’t want to name names here.

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Keith Robbins July 11, 2013 at

All of the search results referred to above are YouTube search results, not Google search results.

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Carmen Rane Hudson July 10, 2013 at

I’ve seen too many great answers here to want to enter the contest, but I will be buying the book. I’ve just written “Useful beats amazing!” on a sticky note and stuck it on my desk. I’ve always tried to provide useful stuff but I’ve been down on myself lately for not being more “amazing!” Now I can just get back to focusing on what matters.

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Melanie Rose July 10, 2013 at

Yeah, the gig is up. And it’s really a good thing. I remember when I first began on the path of IM, I would read stuff by the so called gurus and think “Really? I have to be that guy”? bummer. Seems phony and kitchsy. I am really glad we’ve come into an age of transparency. Feels expansive. Those other methods always felt contracting to me, like what small person would use those techniques. Thanks for the article and free e-book!

Mel

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Mariska Bone July 11, 2013 at

Through this blog I have a lot of information.
Thanks for the great information, keep up the good work!

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Michael July 12, 2013 at

This reminds me of people asking “how do you make boring industries sexy?” when trying to market them. An answer I liked was that it doesn’t need to be sexy, you need to understand what consumers in that industry are looking for. What do they value? That’s what matters. Useful is definitely better than amazing.

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Krista Kotrla July 14, 2013 at

Big CONGRATULATIONS to Jay on Youtility’s launch and early success! I loved learning something unique from each example shared in the book as well as the six blueprints (especially chapter 10).

Okay, to answer your question about another example of Youtility… I nominate emeals for being so dang useful that people pay for it. For any busy human being who hates meal planning for the week and coming up with the grocery list while also sticking to a budget (and a special diet), emeals is for you. Seriously, for $5/month they email me the list of easy dinners for the entire week, plus the grocery list already categorized by section in the grocery store. They even have a variety of meal plans to choose from so you can stick to your diet whether it is Paleo, Gluten Free, Low Carb, Slow Cooker, Simple Gourmet or Portion Control. I sound like a stinkin’ commercial because they are so useful that I pay for their service AND I tell other busy professionals about them all the time.

Plus, I kinda love their “WHY” >> http://www.emeals.com/about/our-story.php

Speaking of things that I kinda love, your forward in the book ROCKS. Especially the call to action in the end, “this book isn’t about changing your marketing, it’s about changing your mindset.” Believe it.

The future of great brands is servant leadership.

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Bella July 15, 2013 at

Help v Hype.
We are constantly doing this is my pet sitting and pet sitting business coaching company. In fact, Josh and I have started a SEO Masterclass for pet sitters around the world where we teach them how to write HELPFUL content on their blog. It has been amazing! Marcus, originally lit the fire under Josh and I’s butt but now… we have passed that heat onto pet sitters. We have sitters in Ireland, USA, Canada all taking the teachings of Marcus and the concepts of Youtility to their websites!

How to find pet sitters
How to walk dogs
Why overnight services are important for pets
How to cool your pets off in the summer
How to keep them safe on 4th of July
What car is best for your pets
What restaurants are pet friendly.
Doing video blogs with veterinarians
Travel tips for pet parents
How to find an adoption pet
….and so much more.

We are answering all the questions people ask us AND getting amazing responses. People need the answers and we have really set ourself apart from the competition in an educational way. It has even changed the way I purchase. My first question is, do you have a blog that answers a lot of the questions I have? I would rather read than ask all the questions.

I can’t wait to read this book. A pet sitter in Ireland, Kate, is already reading it! Going to get my copy now.

Thank you to Marcus and Jay for all that you do! I love being motivated by you guys!

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Krista Kotrla July 15, 2013 at

I thought of another perfect example of Youtility! >> http://care.com

And even more Youtility goodness – A co-worker was researching a new refrigerator purchase the other day and guess whose article helped answer their questions?!? Yep, Yale Appliance. Don’t tell Steve. He may get a big head. :-)

And lastly, I’m a tiny bit proud of Block Imaging’s “youtility” culture. It is important for brands to realize their “youtility” can’t start and stop in their marketing. Like you said, it is a mindset. It is in the micro interactions and the people that back up the marketing messages…. Not just the CEO. Not just the marketing department. Every. Single. Person.

Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnd, that’s enough of a rant from me.

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Marcus Sheridan July 22, 2013 at

#YoureAwesomeGirl :-)

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Brian Rich July 16, 2013 at

Youtility is a useful book! I just finished reading it and I’m so glad I did.

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Jordan J. Caron August 7, 2013 at

Marcus,

Sadly I have to admit that I was putting buying this book off. My shelf is littered with some many great books. But I’m a sucker a knowledge and keep buying more.

That’s why I was holding out on Jay’s book. As you can guess, I’ve now been convinced that I need to buy this book. Because it makes totally sense. Businesses don’t need to be amazing. They simply need to be useful. It’s pretty simple stuff like you say.

Thanks for adding this to my must read list. Now to think of two more books, well one as I should grab Mitch’s latest.

Cheers

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Jaap October 7, 2013 at

Good Article! Thank u

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