Jay Baer on How to Turn Interested Prospects into Lifelong Customers

Think having a huge Twitter following is enough to drive your marketing?

Is big media attention (social or otherwise) enough to drive the sales you need and want?

Those certainly help, but the future of a successful marketing campaign lies — in part — in becoming a “Youtility,” finding creative ways to to be unforgettably useful to your interested propects.

So says thought leader, author, and one of America’s top three social media consultants Jay Baer. He jumped on the show today to clearly explain the “Youtility” concept, and how you can put it to use in your own marketing mix.

In this episode we discuss:

  • Why you’d better be playing for the long-term
  • Why the future of marketing lies in becoming a “Youtility”
  • How “Friend of Mine Awareness” can revolutionize your marketing
  • The fatal flaw of merely creating a lot of content
  • 3 case studies in developing “Friend of Mine” awareness

Hit the flash player below to listen now:


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Please note that this transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and grammar.


Robert: You are listening to Internet Marketing for Smart People radio . I’m Robert Bruce and in this episode, I have brought to your ears thought leader, author, and one of America’s top three social media consultants, Mr. Jay Baer, to talk conversion. Specifically, conversion of your website and social network prospects into potential customers. Jay, how are you feeling today? You ready to give us the goods.

Jay: I am absolutely ready, Robert, and apparently the first and second best social media consultants were unable, so I will do the show today.

Robert: Yeah, try not to drop the ball here. You are my first choice, let’s make that very clear. Where can people find you online?

Jay: Thank you. My primary online home is convinceandconvert.com. That is my blog and consulting company and, of course, I am on Twitter @JayBaer. Like the animal but backwards.

Robert: Excellent, we’ll repeat those later for folks, but before we get into these questions for you, Jay, this show is brought to everybody out there by the Internet Marketing for Smart People course.

Over 69,000 people have signed up for our course to learn the basics of marketing their businesses and ideas on line.

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Why the future of marketing lies in becoming a “Youtility”

Robert: All right Jay, in a recent speaking engagement you pointed to three ways that we can tie our prospect’s interest to action. That was a great talk you gave. I want to ask you to first give us the big picture here, an intro to these ideas, and then I am going to grill you on those three specific ways while looking at how we can put your best strategy to use online. Can you give us an overall 10,000 foot view here of your talk?

Jay: I can. We are in an era of an invitation avalanche where every company of every size and description is competing, not only amongst themselves, but with your parents, your spouse, your best friend, and your kids, for your attention.

Every company wants you to follow them, and find them, and watch their video, and read their blog post, and get their emails and everything else and we are in a place now where the way to break through that clutter is not necessarily to do more or to do it more loudly, but to do it with relevance, to do it with context.

And that’s why we believe the future is in becoming a Youtility, being actually useful. The premise is that helpfulness trumps selling. The difference between helping and selling is only two letters, but those two letters are extraordinarily important.

Robert: So in the context of major competition and information overload, this is kind of what we are talking about, right? Not only conversion from folks that have found us, but that pre-conversion, if you will, of the potential customers out there everywhere.

Jay: Absolutely. I think it’s very much of a mid-funnel circumstance. Certainly, you have to create awareness by being present, by being useful, but this idea of being helpful, of really making question answering, and being a Youtility, a major plank of overall marketing intuitive, turns the tables on the historical customer/company imperative, right?

Since the very first caveman sold a rock to another caveman, the whole relationship between companies and customers has essentially been master and servant. Company is master, customer is servant, and companies say, “We’ve got great stuff, buy it from us. We’ve got great stuff, buy it. We’ve got great stuff, but it from us.”

How they choose to express themselves, and what medium they express themselves in, are really just details. The fundamental relationship has always been master and servant.

Now it can be much closer to peer-to-peer and the companies that are going to succeed now and in the future are the companies that really assist their customers and prospective customers in the same way that a friend would assist you.

The fatal flaw of just creating a lot of content

Robert: Let’s drill down into some specifics here that you give us. What is, first of all, “top of mind” awareness in relation to conversion and, as you say, being helpful and how is it potentially flawed?

Jay: Well top of mind awareness, of course, is the historical imperative for marketers. It’s the way we’ve done business in marketing for generations or centuries and the notion is that you have a sustained program so that when your prospective customer happens to need your service, you have been around enough. They think “Oh I need X. I remember those guys who are purveyors of X” and that you’re sustained participation triggers them to think of you first.

Now, that is a difficult proposition today because of the fractured media environment, it’s difficult to maintain that kind of broad-based awareness. You also have this tidal wave of marketing messages, so it’s harder to standout anyway, and we also have a rising suspicion of marketing messages and much more technology for consumers to tune those message out, whether it’s DVR’s or turning ads off on your browser or any number of other advances.

Robert: So traditionally this has been “spend a lot of money over a long period of time”, we look at the traditional advertising model and we know that things are changing, we know that people’s response to general advertising campaigns are changing radically, but this also applies to our sustained overall content strategy, right? I mean we’re not looking at 2005 anymore, correct?

Jay: Absolutely. I think it’s very, very difficult to say our content strategy is just to make a lot of content because everybody is making a lot of content, right. It’s not a volume game anymore. You can’t succeed just based on throwing more coal into the furnace. You have to win based on relevance and I think helpfulness.

Why is “frame of mind” awareness important?

Robert: Okay, so that’s top of mind awareness. We can see some issues with trying to gain that in this current landscape, but the second way to turn our prospective buyers into action is what you call “frame of mind” awareness. What is the difference between the two, and can you define that strategy for us?

Jay: So frame of mind awareness is really what we have come to call inbound marketing or to some degree, content marketing or the notion is that you create content, you tell stories, you provide resources, the kind of things that you do so very well at Copyblogger, and as a result when people need you, they will find you, primarily through search or now more social oriented referrers that when they need you they will seek you out.

Because you have created this great content, they will discover you at their point of need or as Google calls it The Zero Moment of Truth and that really is the inbound marketing philosophy and trust me, I’ve made part of a career out of inbound marketing as you have as well, and I’ve got no problems with inbound marketing phenomenon or philosophy, other than the fact that I think we don’t talk enough about the notion that if you only are doing inbound marketing and you only are doing frame of mind awareness you are by definition capping your upside, because you don’t create demand with inbound marketing, you fulfill demand.

You are reaching out to people who are ready, who will take the step to find you and that’s not the same as “you know what, you didn’t know you need this.” The famous quote, and I’ll paraphrase, that Steve Jobs once said,

It’s not the consumer’s job to understand what it is that they need.

Robert: Can you give us a good example of a company or individuals that are doing really great frame of mind awareness.

Jay: Oh sure, I think in our particular world, Robert, you see it all the time. Certainly, I think you guys at Copyblogger are amongst the best in the world at that particular type of program.

Hubspot is very, very good at frame of mind awareness and inbound marketing, organizations, you see a lot of B2B companies that are very good at telling their story. Eloqua, for example, is really good at the type of approach where they just put it out there when people are ready to take the next step. They have resources available to do so.

The most powerful way to convert prospects

Robert: And this leads us, finally, to discuss what you call “front of mind” awareness which, in your opinion, is the most powerful and accessible of these three ways. Can you explain this third way for us and how we can put it to good use for converting interested prospects into potential customers of our products and ideas?

Jay: Absolutely. You’ve probably seen the movie Meet the Parents where one of the recurring gags in that movie, and all of its sequels which got progressively more terrible, is the “circle of trust”. You are now in the circle of trust.

“Front of mind” awareness really operates on the same principal as a business does when it says, “What is the best possible way that we can assist our potential customers or current customers? How can we make their lives better, even if we don’t make any money at that today?”

In so doing, you build this relationship where you don’t have to market to them. You are giving them resources or information or opportunity or access that generally, unlike the Trojan horse, makes their life better as a result. The customer will keep you close to their bosom.

The customer will keep you inside their circle and when, in fact, they are ready to take the next step and buy from you or advocate on your behalf, they will do so. It is basically building friend-based relationships with your customers based on being useful. Based on being a Youtility.

“Front of mind” awareness and playing for the long-term

Robert: So how do you do this Jay? What does this actually look like and how do we accomplish this front of mind awareness?

Jay: Here is an example of a company that does this really well, and I think it’s a good example because it’s something that people understand and they’ve experienced. Geek Squad.

So some people have had great experiences with Geek Squad, others less so. That’s not really the point. Geek Squad services, of course, part of Best Buy and they make their money by fixing things. They fix things for a living, but yet they have a very robust YouTube presence where they have literally hundreds of instructional videos on how to set your DVR and swap out a hard drive, and all the things that they actually would do for a fee.

I was at a conference a few years ago, and this is where I first sort of started thinking about this concept, and their founder, Robert Johnson, was speaking and there was a question from the audience, they said, “Robert let me get this straight, you guys are in the fixing business?” and he said, “yes.” “But yet you’ve got all these videos that show people how to fix stuff without you. How does that make business sense?”

And he said something; it was dead on and very funny. He said, “Well our best customers are the people that think they can fix it themselves.” Which is probably me, right? I would say, “Yeah sure I can do that.” Then I make it three times worse, but the idea is that yes, maybe they will show you how to do it, maybe they will be helpful enough to show you how to DIY this.

But eventually you are going to get out of your depth either on that project on a project down the road, at which point who are you going to call? Are you going to call somebody randomly that you discovered on Google or are you going to call the guys who you just watched their logo in the corner of a 14-minute instructional video?

It’s “the long game”. Being useful and being a Youtility in social media and content marketing is all about the long game. It’s all about the lag-putt not the tap-in, and the smart companies are those that understand it’s about getting customers eventually, not getting customers today .

Too many people in social media and content marketing are all about the quick close and you have to understand that you have to go to dinner first and then a movie.

The “bikini concept”; how much should you give away?

Robert: I heard Brian and Sonia talking recently about what’s been called the bikini concept. You can give 90-95% of your product, service, or information away and people will then gladly pay for that final 5-10%.

Brian was talking specifically about how he has seen folks with great success, essentially giving their clients the road map to complete whatever it is they need to complete, like you say, the instructional videos from Geek Squad, same idea, but the issue is that they are still going to hire you or enough folks will hire you because what they are paying for and what they really want is the execution of whatever it is even if you give them all the answers.

They are paying for the execution, they either don’t want to do it, can’t do it, or just don’t have the time. They will pay for the execution.

Jay: Having a shopping list doesn’t make you a chef. It’s not the same thing. In fact, that exact topic is what myself and Joe Pulizzi from the Content Marketing Institute are presenting at South by Southwest this weekend, it’s a session called “How far do you open the kimono?”

Does giving away thought leadership, cannibalize your ability to generate customers? And that idea of, especially as a professional services firm, “we shouldn’t tell people what we know because then they won’t need to you to hire us”? I think that’s just flat crap.

If you know so little that you can encapsulate your entire expertise in a free content give-a-way then you probably need to know more first. Think about what you just talked about in the open, you guys are giving away 20 plus action packed information rich emails, no strings attached. That doesn’t mean that people won’t necessarily need your services down the road, it just means that you are showing them how useful you really can be.

Robert: So front of mind awareness in a nutshell, and correct me if I am wrong, is being insanely generous with your expertise and what you know, related specifically to this product or service that you provide.

“Front of mind” awareness case studies

Jay: Not necessarily, not necessarily, and I think actually some of the best Youtility programs are those that are only tangentially related to what it is that you are actually trying to offer. For example, Hilton Hotels has an amazing program called Hilton Suggests on Twitter, it’s @HiltonSuggests.

The way that they do it is that they have their concierge staff and a number of their different hotels across America, and possibly Canada as well, monitor Twitter in real time. When people have questions that they can answer, they will leap into those conversations just because they can be useful.

The legend goes, and this was just two or three months ago I believe, somebody was in one of their markets, Buffalo or something like that, and they had a sick dog and just put on Twitter, “Oh my dog is really sick and I need to find a vet.” And the concierge staff in the hotel is like, “I know a great vet at 13th and Jay, take him over there he is fantastic.” He takes the dog over there, dog’s life is saved, and the guy goes back on Twitter and goes, “I cannot believe that Hilton Hotels just helped me save my dog’s life.”

That’s the notion of Youtility, it’s giving a gift of knowledge without an expected return, and that return will come back eventually four-fold.

Robert: Okay, this is outside the scope of what we are talking about here, a little bit, but humor me if you will. Do these concepts circle back around and also bring people into the “top of the funnel”?

Jay: I think they certainly can, especially, as we just talked about in the Hilton circumstance, if some of the ways you are helpful are not necessarily strictly aligned with your core service. It does help widen the top of your funnel.

Robert: That guy is going to talk to all of his friends, he’s going to spread it around on his little or big website, whatever he has but certainly spread the word about what Hilton did for his dog.

Jay: Absolutely. He is not necessarily a travel writer, and his friends aren’t necessarily looking to book a hotel today, but they will eventually. That’s why it’s all about the long game.

The definition of Youtility: usefulness and relationships

Robert: And stories like that will stick in the mind forever. Let’s talk finally Jay about Youtility. You mentioned it earlier and peppered it throughout our conversation here, but you have a different definition for this word and even a spelling that you came up with, can you define Youtility as you mean it and spell it for us.

Jay: Yes. Youtility. The notion is making yourself and/or your company radically useful, radically helpful, and realizing that this is much more about forming relationships than it is about harvesting opportunities.

One of my favorite examples of Youtility is a guy, his name is Taxi Mike, and he lives Banff, Alberta up in Canada, and it’s a very, very heavy tourist area up in Banff, lots of skiing and things like that. There are tons and tons of cab drivers in Banff and so what Mike does to stand out is that he produces this thing called Taxi Mike’s Dining Guide and all it is, is an 8 x 11, tri-fold from FedEx Kinkos on bright yellow paper and it’s just a map.

On the back is different recommendations about the best BBQ restaurants, best places to eat with kids, best outdoor patios, best fireplaces, that kind of thing. It’s really down and dirty and it’s clearly a one-man operation, but it’s all over town. It’s small enough that you can just throw it in your pocket, and at the end of the night when you are like “wow, I probably shouldn’t be driving home, I need a cab” you reach into your pocket and it says “Taxi Mike” and a big phone number on there. He is literally leading with the usefulness. His entire business is about the usefulness, the fact that he drives a cab is almost immaterial, it takes a backseat to being a Youtility.

Building long-term business with a marketing mix

Robert: I think my favorite part of this whole conversation is the idea of the long game and you’ve mentioned it several times. But we get so frustrated, especially if we’re just starting out. I can imagine folks out there either just starting in a business or struggling in a business they’ve had for some time and they are looking at this and they are thinking “Youtility”. They are thinking of all of this great content that they need to create, but also that they need to make something happen now.

Certainly, some things can happen more rapidly than others when we employ some of these strategies, but this is a long game, this is not in any way related to get rich quick. Can you say anything to the idea of patience?

Jay: Yes. I think that how I would address that is, while I think these programs are powerful and all of the ones that I mentioned are successful, it’s by no means, with the possible exception of Taxi Mike, the only marketing that these organizations are doing.

Geek Squad does a lot of marketing in addition to useful YouTube videos. Hilton Hotels does a lot of marketing in addition to Hilton Suggests. So this is a piece of the puzzle, this is not the puzzle.

If you think “we’re just going to be massively helpful and that’s going to be everything that we do”, that’s going to be tough. You have to realize that this is a funnel play, right? You’ve got to have top of the funnel things which might be top of mind awareness, you’ve got to have mid-funnel things which primarily is the frame of mind awareness, inbound marketing that we talked about and then I think you need to have a front of mind awareness, this type of Youtility oriented program which is going to pay dividends in the long-term.

The other things can pay dividends shorter term, and you need to interlace these things together to have a really affective program.

That’s why it’s called a “marketing mix”, not a marketing idea.

Robert: Any final words on this Jay?

How can you benefit people in their day-to-day lives?

Jay: I think companies need to sit down with a real clear head and it’s better if you get customers in the room and say “What are all the challenges that you have? Just tell us the challenges.” Then figure out where you can be helpful.

I think that there is a real opportunity for companies to perform a Youtility audit in their organization and say “Look, even if it’s not our core business,” like the Hilton example, “even if it’s not our core business, what do we have and what do we know that can benefit our customers and prospective customers, ideally in real time?”

Not enough customers are consulted about that and too many companies say “Well let’s start with the action, we want people to download this white paper and walk it back.” Yes, of course you do, but more than that, what do you know that people actually can use in their day to day life? Sitting down and kind of thinking through that can help lead you to a path of Youtility.

Robert: Alright Jay, let’s wrap this thing. We mentioned it at the beginning of the show, but where can people find more of you online?

Jay: My blog is convinceandconvert.com, the number one content marketing blog in the world according to Junta42, and I’m on Twitter at @JayBaer. Feel free to grab my book, The Now Revolution, one of the leading books on social business design.

Robert: Great, I will link all of that up in the show notes, for those of you listening, and thank you all for listening to our show. If you like what’s happening around here and you want to keep it moving along, one of the best ways to support us is to jump over to Click here to download the mp3 | 28.9 MB | 24:01

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    About the Author: Robert Bruce is Copyblogger Media’s Chief Copywriter and Resident Recluse.