Jay Baer is one of the top online marketers, speakers, and authors out there and I recently had a chance to sit down and talk with him about his new book “Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is All About Help Not Hype.” In his book, Jay outlines the importance of a strong strategy behind content creation, and just as importantly, the creation of useful content. Watch on to see our discussion about the “help not hype” model and Jay’s views on how to make your marketing smarter.
Arnie: I’ve got a special guest, Jay Baer, who’s got a new book out called “Youtility,’ and this is going to be a part of our monthly Hangout series. Welcome, Jay.
Jay: Hello, my friend. How are you?
Jay: Thanks very much for having me on the series, and hi to everybody at the Vertical Measures.
Arnie: Appreciate that. Absolutely. So let’s just dive right in. By the way, I don’t know if it’s going to show or not, but an awesome book.
Jay: Thank you.
Arnie: Got one.
Jay: Thank you.
Arnie: And I’ve read it cover to cover.
Jay: Oh, God bless.
Arnie: I actually finished it in a few days, and I’ve got to tell you, and I know that we’re friends and we’re going to do this interview and all that, and you sent me the book so I would read it in preparation for this, but once I started it, I really, really enjoyed it, and I just kept going. You didn’t pay me to say that, but . . .
Jay: I did not. I did not.
Arnie: It’s, you know, a pretty easy read. I wouldn’t say like it’s a novel page turner, but I kept turning the pages. There are just great examples, great methods of making your point in the case. So good job, Jay.
Jay: Thank you. Thanks very much. A couple other people have told me similar things about the book, that kind of once they got in there, it’s really easy to pull through, and there are a couple of reasons for that, I think. One is that I intentionally wrote the book so that it would be kind of consumable in one sitting. Well, like it won’t, but the idea was that, okay, look, if you’re going New York to Phoenix, right . . .
Jay: . . . you should be able to be done, right. Read this book and be done. And so I wrote it so that you could do that.
And the other thing that I think you’ll find interesting is that, you know, usually when you write a book, you then create a presentation of the book, and in this case I did the exact opposite. As you may know I had the keynote of “Youtility” done and was giving that keynote before I even wrote the book. So the book is actually structured like the keynote presentation, obviously with a lot more detail and examples, but the reason why the book has that kind of strong narrative flow to it is that it’s actually based on a presentation.
Arnie: Yeah. That’s great. Well, you know, one of these that jumped out at me and I think it’s pretty much right in the beginning where you start to talk about contrasting the phrase. You know, everybody’s says “amazing content,” or I know around here we say “engaging” or whatever the phrase is, and I don’t know that we ever in three or four years of being hopefully a pretty good content agency said “useful content.” I don’t know what page finally, but I think it’s near the beginning, and I just when I read it, I thought, oh my gosh, that is just so simple and perfect. Do you remember even how you made that little breakthrough and came up with that?
Jay: Yeah. Thanks. It’s a good question. I don’t know that there was ever really one sort of bolt of lightning. There was certainly on the title, right? I was in the shower, and I was thinking about useful marketing, and literally I was like, “Oh, utility with a Y. That’s what we should call the book.” It was just like that. Then I had a fight with the publisher because they didn’t like it, and there’s lots of crazy stuff. But luckily I won that battle. I think it’s a good title.
In terms of the premise of useful content, it wasn’t really one thing. You and I have been doing this for a long time, right, and I see a lot of companies now making content, and that’s great. It’s good for everybody. It’s good for you guys, it’s good for me, it’s good for everyone. But I don’t find people having a very strong strategic scaffolding for why that content should be created. There’s sort of like this, “Let’s make content because it is important and it will draw attention.” Well, kind of, but what I didn’t feel like we had was really a rationale for why this matters and how it builds your business. So I started talking to my clients about, well, what we need to do is not just be wacky and viral, because that’s can work temporarily, but it’s not really a strategy. It’s more like hope. But what if we instead, if we’re useful every time and we’re truly useful, that will work every time. There’s no like, “Well, this was really cool content, but it just didn’t catch fire. It takes that sort of randomness out of the equation if it’s truly useful, and that’s kind of how I got there.
Arnie: Yeah, and I think it applies. I’ve actually been kind of walking around the offices starting Thursday, Friday of last week, and talking, trying to get useful in everybody’s minds. And even to the point of if you’re going to leave a blog comment somewhere, right?
Arnie: I mean, was that useful? It’s just a great checkpoint.
Jay: Good, thank you. Thank you.
Arnie: So I have a few questions for you too. I have a couple of notes here I’m looking at. So in Chapter Two, I thought the frame of mind awareness is pretty good. So do you mind taking a couple of minutes and telling the audience, the listeners what you mean by that?
Jay: Yeah. So in the book I kind of break down three types of marketing. The first, of course, is top of mind awareness, which has been around literally for centuries. Right? I mean, that’s like Pompeii Day. It’s like, “Hey, we’ve got pomegranates,” or whatever the hell they sold there. Olives, they definitely had olives.
Arnie: Oh, I’m sure you’re right.
Jay: Yeah, we’ve got olives. We’re your olive specialists. When you need olives, we’re your guys.
The second form is a lot of what you guys do at Vertical Measures, is what we now call inbound marketing or search marketing, and I call it in the book “frame of mind awareness.” It’s because when you are in the frame of mind that you’re interested in making a purchase, then you go and search. The search mechanism connects you to potential vendors. But look, I’m a big inbound marketing proponent. Obviously, you are as well. You wrote a fantastic book about it. It’s made me a lot of money, and made you even more money.
But here’s the thing, inbound marketing or frame of mind awareness is super important, but it’s not the whole enchilada. Right? You can’t build your entire business 100% on inbound, because inbound doesn’t create demand. It fulfills demand. Nobody goes to Google and says, “Hey, I want to buy something. I don’t really care what. Just surprise me. Just surprise me. Whatever you want, flowers, socks, a boat, whatever you want.” So by the time you search, you’re already in the mindset of making a purchase, and that doesn’t make inbound marketing or frame of mind awareness unimportant. It’s incredibly important. But it reaches people who are already slightly into the funnel. I believe that you need to do a little more than that to really build your business.
Arnie: Yeah. Totally agree. Totally agree. So moving on, the Hilton suggests example; I heard it in your presentation, of course, and read about it in the book. I love it. I think that’s just awesome, and kudos to the people at Hilton. But one thing that we get asked all the time when we’re engaging with a new client or maybe even when I’m doing a workshop or speaking or whatever is: “This all sounds really, really good, but I’m having a really hard time convincing my management, the C Suite, whatever.” So when I was reading the Hilton thing, I even thought, and I know you touch on it a little bit, but I thought, man, that’s a pretty tough one to put an ROI around to get the approvals to move forward with that.
Jay: It is.
Arnie: So I’m sure you’ve been asked the same question. Do you have any rock-solid answers that we can implement tomorrow?
Jay: We talk a lot about measurement in the book. The whole last part is about measurement and tracking of Youtility. That particular example, Hilton Suggests, where they have a Twitter program that just listens proactively on Twitter. They do the sort of strategic eavesdropping thing, and when they can find ways to help people, they just do that, even if they’re not a customer. In fact, the significant majority of the people they interact with are not currently staying at a Hilton property. The example we use the book is Hilton helps somebody find a vet, and their dog is healthy, which is obviously outside their core mission. But the idea, of course, Arnie, is that that person is then going to be like, “Wow, man, Hilton went out of their way to help me when they had no benefit. I didn’t make any money. They weren’t going to make any money, but that was pretty cool of them.” The next time you’re ready to book a hotel, you’ll be like, “Hey, those guys are awesome. I should give my business to them. That’s the premise, and I think it certainly makes sense on the surface.
How do you measure that is possible, but tricky. You would need to use a fairly robust social media listening software program that also allows you to keep track of your engagements. So things that really are good at the social sale side of it, so Radian6 is pretty good at that. Argyle Social is very good at that. That’s my preferred platform. HubSpot has that built in now with their HootSuite integration, which allows you to keep track of, oh, we had an interaction with this person in the past. Then you tie that into your reservations database, and you can say, “Okay, here’s what we know their email address is, and we had this interaction with them, and they eventually became a customer or increased their frequency based on mining of Hilton Rewards points and those kinds of things.”
Now that’s how you would do it. Do they actually do that? No, they don’t.
Jay: Because in the big scheme of Hilton, that program, as much as I like it and you like it and other people who have read the book like it, it’s so infinitesimally small compared to the rest of their marketing, it’s literally not worth the time it would take to track it.
Arnie: I was just going to say that. Yeah.
Jay: This is a little bit flip, and obviously I do a lot of social media and content metrics and scoreboarding for people as a consultant, but literally, sometimes you have to ask yourself the question: What’s the ROI of figuring out the ROI? Right?
Jay: If it takes you longer to track it than it does to actually do it, maybe you should just stipulate to the fact that this is a good idea.
Arnie: Yeah, I know, and actually I feel exactly the same. I look at some reports or get reports and sometimes I say, “We’re producing a report for the sake of producing a report. Is anyone actually going to act, read this report, and then act on this data? And if not, let’s quit producing the report.”
Jay: Yeah. Now, there are certainly other forms of utility that are easier to track. Blogging for example, right? So if you’re using even a good WordPress plugin or certainly something like HubSpot or whatever to power your blogging, you can most definitely, especially in a B2B circumstance, determine what the impact of that blog was on downstream purchase. Right? You’ve just got to smart about it.
Jay: The intention, right? So you can have the infographic, or a video or an e-book, a lot of content pieces that are consumed you can tie back to business, especially in B2B. But one of the things that I find, and I’m sure you see this all the time, is that companies create programs like this or they build utilities, but they don’t create it with inherent trackability. They don’t have trackable links. They don’t keep the trail warm the whole time. Then at the end of the program, “Well, how much money did we make?” I’m like, “I don’t know. You didn’t use a trackable link. What do . . . shall I put on my wizard hat and just like say, 37%. I’m like I don’t know.” So what I always tell people is like, “Look, if you want to track stuff, you’ve got to do something trackable,” which sounds obvious, but it’s not, because a lot of people want you to like magically create a report. “Well, don’t you have that software?” There’s no like ROI software. That doesn’t really exist. Right? So it’s sort of a pet peeve.
Arnie: All right. I just wanted to push a button.
Jay: Yeah. Right. It’s like, “Tell me how much money I made.
Arnie: Well, I found a lot of this interesting, but one other thing that came up a little bit later in the book was about how the roles of sales and marketing are changing, and I know that has happened here. When people look at and ask me about our sales staff here, and when I tell them the real truth, that we basically have one person bringing in on the front end. We have account managers that handle it once it’s here, but from a traditional sales model they just shake their heads. So are you seeing that kind of a . . . obviously, you must be seeing that trend. But are you seeing it a lot?
Jay: Because it’s all self-serve information, right? So everybody has heard the saying that the customers don’t want to see the sausage being made. Everybody’s familiar with that phrase. But they do now. They do want to see the sausage being made. There’s a lot of trends here. Some of it’s smartphones. Some of it’s high speed Internet access being universal. Some of it’s just we’re all pressed for time. I’ve got a stat in the book that shows that phone calls are going way down, and texting is going way up. Well, that’s symptomatic of a larger issue, which is that we don’t do this very often. We don’t do the synchronous communication very often, where you and I are in the same place, having the same . . . why? It’s a pain in the ass. Our schedules have to be aligned for us to do this. It’s much easier, infinitely easier for you to just send me a message and I send you a message back, whether that’s on email, Google+, or Pinterest, it doesn’t matter. It’s irrelevant, right?
Jay: But this is hard, and so everybody who’s watching this has purposely at some point not filled out a contact us form even though they’re interested, because they didn’t want to be hassled. They didn’t want to get that email or that phone call from a sales rep, because then they have to react to it, and it messes up their own schedule. So what we’re seeing now is that people are kicking the informational tires like never before. Your customers are secret shopping you to death, and only when they get to the point that they can’t get any other questions answered on their own, that’s when they reach out and say, “Hey, damn it. All right, fine, I’ll talk to a sales rep, because I’ve just got to go the last mile. I can’t do the last mile on my own.”
What that means is that salespeople used to be responsible for cultivating relationships and then closing deals. Now it’s pretty much just closing deals, because the relationship has been cultivated by the person on their own, on their keyboard. I gave a speech the other day to a big conference of car dealers; like 3,000 guys who own car dealerships. You want to talk about an industry where this is manifestly true. People walk into a car dealership every day and actually, literally know more about the car than the guy trying to sell them the car.
So at that point, what is the role of the salesperson? It’s basically to write the paperwork, because the deal is done. It’s already done. What’s not done, right? So if you’re not answering every customer question with content on your own site and beyond, you are missing out on customers you didn’t even know you had a chance at.
Jay: We put all this emphasis on lead gen, but most of the actual potential customers are below the waterline. You don’t even see them, because they haven’t raised their hand yet. They’ve never filled out a form.
Arnie: Yeah, and I am actually speaking at a boat dealer conference in a couple of months, and I’ll try to remember to use that.
Jay: Are you trading it out for a boat?
Arnie: What’s that?
Jay: Trading it out for a boat? I’ll speak for free, but I want a yacht.
Arnie: Right, exactly.
Jay: It can be called be the SS Vertical Measures.
Arnie: I haven’t actually worked that in yet, but I will. But I want to work in your waterline example.
Jay: There you go. please Feel free.
Arnie: So all right, moving on. So my last actual question about the book is under the six blueprints to create Youtility, you’re talking about, of course, asking customers what they want to do. Marcus Sheridan has, of course, got some famous examples of that with the Pool Store, and I pitch that everywhere I speak. It’s just one of the . . . in fact, we just did it here. At Vertical Measures, we went around and asked all 30; whatever we have, 33 people, “What questions are you being asked by our clients or prospects every day?” What’s that?
Jay: Well done.
Arnie: Yeah. The list is amazing. We’ve been doing this. This is the second time we did it, and the list is still amazing. So anyway, I was wondering if you might just care to explain these six steps. You probably don’t want to go into too much detail, but I thought maybe we’d end with that.
Jay: Sure. You bet. So the six blueprints for creating Youtility in your own company are these.
The first is to understand what it is that your customers need. A big part about Youtility – and I’m going to digress here just for a little bit – but a big part about Youtility is to give yourself permission to make the story bigger. One of the examples we use in the book is Columbia Sportswear. So they make outdoor jackets and pants. They make gear, right?
Jay: So they have a mobile app called what not to do in the greater outdoors, KNOT, and it shows you how to tie knots. It gives you animated demos on how to tie knots. And that’s pretty cool. If you’re camping or hanging off the side of a cliff, that’s pretty useful. If you’re on a Google hangout, less so. But what I liked best about that example, Arnie, is not that it’s a cool app, although it is. It’s that Columbia Sportswear doesn’t sell rope. They don’t sell rope.
Jay: So the obvious play for them would have been let’s make a mobile app that helps you pick the right jacket. But that’s also the least interesting play, right? So the best utilities are those that transcend the transactional, that insert you into the lives of your customers in ways that are not necessarily about your products and services per se. Because of all the things you could create, of all the stories you could tell, of all the utilities you could build, the ones that are about your products and services per se are the least interesting, not the most interesting.
So the first thing you’ve got to do is understand your customers’ lives in ways that you probably don’t today. When you understand their lives, you can find ways to get involved in their lives in ways that are relevant and interesting, and, yes, helpful, and that’s how you come up with sort of your initial potential topics for utility.
In Phoenix, as you know, the Phoenix Children’s Hospital has a mobile app which is a car seat helper app, which helps you pick out the right car seat. Well, they don’t sell car seats. Right? They’re not in the car seat business necessarily, but they’re in the keeping kids healthy and safe business. Right? So they figured out that young parents can’t figure out how to buy a car seat, because you go to the store to buy a car seat, and it looks like the cereal aisle, and they’re like, “Oh, we can solve that problem.”
So that’s the first step is doing research, keyword mining, social chatter mining, interviewing your customers, all that kind of stuff to get a sense for what they really need. That’s the first step.
The second step is to, when you have those needs figured out, determe how you’re going to execute it. This is the kind of stuff that you guys are so good at. So if the customer need is I need to make a better car seat decision, well, you could build a lot of different kinds of utility to solve that problem. You could do a blog, do a video blog. You could do Tumblr. You could do Vine. You could do an infographic, do an e-book. You could do an event. There are a lot of different things you could do. They did a mobile app because actually where you really need that information most is in the store.
Jay: In the store, like, here’s the car seat, so that’s why they did it as a mobile app. But you could do any of those.
The third thing is to market your marketing. So once you have this new utility built, building a marketing plan around that, and that’s something I know you know a lot of companies are really bad at. They’re like, “Infographic is done. Yeah.” Then they all have beers, and then nobody ever downloads the infographic because they never marketed it. Right? They treat . . .
Arnie: It should have gone viral.
Jay: Right, because it exists. Just because it exists. Like somehow the magic website elves are going to find it. So you have to have a marketing plan for your marketing assets, which is a big mental change for a lot of people.
The fourth thing we talked about a minute ago, which is to in source your utility, so you make utility a skill, not a job. Every single person in your company, and I love how you guys are doing this, every single person in your company has knowledge that your customers can benefit from. So as a marketer, your job is to unlock that knowledge and set it free. Every person, right? So this idea that one person writes the blog is the stupidest thing ever. Everybody should be writing the blog, or whatever it is you’re doing.
And then the fifth blueprint is that utility is never finished. You can’t be like, “Well, we’re going to be done by May. All done now.” Customers’ needs change and competition changes and technology changes. Questions, you get new questions, like you said. So you’ve got to keep this train rolling.
And the last one is to measure it. Right?
Jay: To have some sort of metrics framework so that when somebody says, “Hey, Arnie, we’re spending a lot of money on e-books, like how do we justify that,” you actually have a story to tell. Whether it’s a distinct ROI story or not depends on a lot of factors, but if you can’t track ROI per se, you sure as hell can track some other things, and you should.
Arnie: Yeah. Perfect. Well, and you’re right, it’s continuous. I mean, if you plan on being in business in the future, then this is a continuous process, until you plan on not being in business. But yeah, great.
Jay: But it’s hard, because a lot of people, especially traditional marketers who’ve done a lot of advertising, still think about campaigns. It’s a campaign mentality, because this is going to be done in this quarter. It doesn’t work like that. You could have parts of it done, but you’ve got to keep rolling.
Arnie: Yeah, absolutely. All right. Well, I hate to stop this. I’m having a ball. But we do have to keep some time limit in mind here. So I’m going to have to wrap it up.
Jay: That’s right. You better go do some more work.
Arnie: Yeah. Well, I could avoid that too and talk to you all day. So anyway, listen, I want to thank you a lot for your time, really Jay. I really appreciate it. I know right now it probably can’t be any busier for you, and I wish you lots of luck and success for the book. By the way, everybody who is watching or listening or however it is you’re seeing this, maybe reading the transcript, I do really encourage you to go out and get a copy of “Youtility.” It is a very useful book.
Jay: Thank you.
Arnie: So do that for my friend, Jay, and Jay we’ll see you on the road somewhere. In fact, you know what, before we end, I don’t know if you remember. You and I bumped into each other in the airport. Actually you were heading on vacation. I was still working. You were talking about the concept for the book. Man, I don’t know when that was, a year and a half to whatever it was. I noticed it has changed quite a bit from what we talked about in the airport, and all for the better, man. A really good job.
Jay: Thank you. Thanks so much. I appreciate it. Thank you. It’s been a long road, but I’m really, really happy with how it came out, and thank you so much for your support and the kind words. It means a lot to me.
Arnie: Absolutely. All right. We’ll see you somewhere on the road, and we’re signing off.
Jay: See you later.
Arnie: Thanks a lot everybody.
Jay: Stay cool.