12 Most Useful Ways to Create Successful Marketing Relationships

12 Most Useful Ways to Create Successful Marketing Relationships

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

If you create marketing that people genuinely want, you can dispense with the “shock,” “awe,” and “viral” and focus on solving problems, answering questions, and creating long-lasting customer relationships by doing so. Your company is being forced to compete for your customers’ attention against those customers’ family members and best friends. If you’re useful enough, and if you commit to inform rather than promote, customers will reward you with trust and loyalty.

I’d like to share some of my top tips for smart marketing with something I call “Youtility:”

1. Be helpful

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

2. Ask questions

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

3. Listen on social media channels

Nothing reveals real-time customer queries like social media. In my book, The NOW Revolution, I wrote about the “anyone know” phenomenon in social media, particularly Twitter. Every second of every day, consumers are seeking answers and solutions, often phrasing those queries as “Anyone know…” Go to Twitter and type “Anyone know” into the search box right now, and you’ll see a river of inquiry flowing by.

In practice, that type of research is better suited for companies looking to provide solutions at the point of need, which is one form of “Youtility” (@HiltonSuggests does this, for instance). However, for most companies looking to make their marketing more useful, examining social chatter more broadly will be a better way to surface consumer desires. Most mid-sized and larger companies, especially those in business-to-consumer environments, use social media “listening” and analysis tools on a regular basis.

4. Practice radical transparency

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

5. Engage with purpose

The way customers gather information about companies and make purchase decisions has changed. Consumers’ time and attention has never been more scarce, and their suspicion of lazy interruption marketing has never been more acute. In this climate, “Youtility” is not an option; it’s necessary.

6. Don’t expect an immediate return on your marketing

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

7. Use social media wisely

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

8. Be trustworthy

“Trust has never been more important as a corporate asset, and it needs to be managed for people to believe the information you’re putting out,” says Amy Treanor, Executive Vice President of Edelman Square, the division of the firm responsible for the Trust Barometer. “To really be a trusted enterprise,” Treanor says, “you need to focus on the more societal and engagement activities: transparency, employee engagement, listening to your customers, and putting them ahead of profits.”

9. Involve your employees in your social media marketing

Being useful must be part of your company DNA. Involving a wide variety of employees not only makes it easier to create and maintain helpful information, it also increases effectiveness because they bring credibility that centralized, official communication doesn’t have.

10. Market your marketing

You know what happens when most companies launch a new, branded mobile application or other content-rich marketing program intended to effectively combine information and promotion? Nothing. You’ve heard the saying, “If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” The same logic works in these scenarios: “If you create Youtility and don’t tell anyone about it, does it even exist?”

When you launch the app, or commence blogging, or begin answering questions, you have not reached the finish line; you have reached the starting line. Too many businesses break out the champagne just because something new was created. Remember, “Youtility” is all about being useful, which literally means “full of use.”

11. Real time relevancy

Using geolocation and other specific circumstances to become massively useful at particular moments in the life of the customer, and then fading into the background until the next opportunity to help arises.

12. Create a customer for life

You know that expression, “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime”? Well, the same is true for marketing: If you sell something, you make a customer today; if you help someone, you make a customer for life.

I call this “Youtility.” Not “utility,” because a utility is a faceless commodity. “Youtility” is marketing upside down. Instead of marketing that’s needed by companies, it is marketing that’s wanted by customers — massively useful information, provided for free, that creates long term trust and kinship between your company and your customers.

The difference between helping and selling is just two letters. But those two letters now make all the difference.

What companies have you found to be helpful in the social world? Have you rewarded them with your attention and possibly business because of it?

Excerpted from “Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help not Hype” by Jay Baer, published in late June by Portfolio/Penguin. See YoutilityBook.com for other resources.

Featured image courtesy of manyfires licensed via Creative Commons.

Jay Baer


Jay Baer is a social media and content consultant and speaker. His blog is ranked the #1 content marketing blog by Junta42, and the #3 social media blog by Social Media Examiner. He’s the co-author of the leading social business book The NOW Revolution: 7 Shifts to Make Your Business Faster, Smarter, and More Social and his latest book Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is about HELP not HYPE. He’s @jaybaer on Twitter and is on Facebook.

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This is my favorite line:  Being useful must be part of your company DNA! 


This is my favorite line:  Being useful must be part of your company DNA! And I think it's implied in this but another piece is ....... don't hesitate to address the negative. It is companies who have responded to my complaints immediately who have kept my business and favor ..... they didn't shy away from a problem....we all know problems happen.  Companies who get big social media props from me: "Comcast Bill" at Comcast Cares, Zappos (fun interactions/make me want to come back!), KonicaMinolta (immediate response to being tagged re: a problem), Energy Bits. Great post!