A few months ago I had the pleasure of hearing social media expert Jay Baer speak at a conference in Sydney. Jay has been named one of America’s top 3 social media consultants and there is a lot to like about what he has to say. In particular his latest book Youtility: Why Smart Companies are Helping Not Selling, which became a New York Times best seller, has some simple but profound advice. In a nut shell Jay is advocating that businesses become obsessive about ‘helping’ customers rather than selling to customers. He suggests that if a business can create a valued and meaningful relationship with potential customers by providing them with timely and useful information there will be a higher probability of a sale being consummated.
Jay makes the indisputable observation that in the world of social, businesses are now forced to compete for attention against customers’ family and friends. There is a full on assault taking place for everyone’s attention and to win through you have to be relevant.
In 2010, the average consumer needed 5.3 sources of information before making a purchase decision. Just one year later, in 2011, Google found that the average consumer needed 10.4 sources of information. We need more pieces of information to make a decision because we have more pieces of information to make a decision. If you’re not providing the information your prospective customers need to make a decision, they’re going to find it somewhere else, and possibly from your key competitor.
Jay Baer makes the point that in today’s, world we talk to a real person as a last resort, not as a first step . We go out of our way not to be contacted, not to be hassled, particularly in a B2B context. We need to therefore better understand how our target customers resource their purchase decisions. Likewise we need to look for ways to provide help in areas that compliment the experience customers are seeking to have fulfilled. In terms of Youtility Baer offers the following suggestions:
1. Find out what your customers need
2. Provide self-serve information (make it an empowering and hassle free experience)
3. Answer every question possible (don’t make assumptions about what your potential customer knows)
4. Create utility for people when they need it (timeliness and usage occasion accessibility critical)
5. Map the needs into a relevant Youtility programs (apps, articles, blog posts, videos, e-books, print books, events – whatever form that makes the most sense to your customers)
6. Market Your Marketing (pointless having really useful information if no one knows it is available)
Do it right and you will be operating at both a functional and emotional level with customers who by definition are seeking a specific product or service provider relationship.
Finally, what Baer is advocating with his concept of Youtility is a call action for businesses to transform many social media strategies from being purely noise to being relevant and meaningful.