#021: New York Times Best Seller Jay Baer on Help Not Hype

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Episode 21 is dedicated to the Infant Jesus. Merry Christmas!

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Jay Baer Youtility Interview Transcript

James Hahn II: Joining The Tribe on the podcast today is Jay Baer. Jay is a renowned marketing strategist, speaker, and New York Times best-selling author who travels the world convincing business people to make their company’s more valuable by focusing on help, not hype.

He is the President of the social media and content marketing consultancy Convince & Convert. A digital marketing pioneer, Jay has consulted with more than 700 companies since 1994, including Caterpillar, Nike, Visit California, Allstate, Petco, Columbia Software and 30 other Fortune 500 companies.

The creator of five multi-million-dollar companies, Jay’s Convince & Convert blog is ranked as the #1 content marketing resource and he’s the host of the popular weekly Social Pros Podcast. Subscribe to that one, folks. He’s also an active venture capitalists and technology advisor.

His book “Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help not Hype” debuted at #3 on the New York Times best seller list, and was a #1 Amazon best seller. Jay is also the co-author of The Now Revolution, a best-selling book about social media’s impact on businesses of all sizes and types. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much Jay Baer for joining us on the podcast today.

Jay Baer: Thanks James, fantastic to be here. I appreciate you having me on the show. Hello to everybody out there.

James Hahn II: Yes, so everybody out there is probably very familiar with your name by now because I am a huge advocate and evangelist of the way of the Youtility. And so let’s dig in right there because think I might even have a copy to give out around here. Although nobody’s getting my T-shirt. That’s an original.

Jay Baer: That’s a limited edition. We only made like 100 of those.

James Hahn II: Exactly, so nobody gets those. I think I might eve have couple of those, so I’ll look around. But explain to us the whole concept of Youtility.

Jay Baer: You know James, a few years ago was looking around, and I’ve been in marketing for 25 years now and I started to realize that the old ways of doing marketing. The classic interruption-style marketing where we find a target audience and we insert our messages into their attention, it just wasn’t working as well as it used to.

If you look at TV ratings. You look at newspaper. You look at terrestrial radio. All the ways we use to reach people, direct mail, all the ways we used to reach people just don’t work as well as they used to. There’s a lot of rationale behind that. It’s consumer behavior shift, it’s mobile technology, etc. But I thought there’s got to be an easier way.

I started to see examples of companies, small companies and large companies and everywhere in between, starting to just be helpful. To just try and not be amazing but just be truly and inherently useful. And so I started to see examples of this and I stitched it together as a framework which has become Youtility, which is spelled with a Y, Y-O-U-tility.

And the definition of Youtility, as you know and other folks listening will in just a second, the definition of Youtility is quite simple. A Youtility is marketing so useful that people would pay for it. It’s marketing with so much intrinsic and inherent value that if you went to somebody and said, “Hey would you kick in a couple dollars to receive this?” They’d say, “Yeah you know what, I actually would kick in a couple dollars to receive that.”

James, it’s marketing that people actually want to receive, instead of what we’ve been doing for approximately 1,000 years. Which is creating marketing that people simply tolerate. And there’s a big difference between those two. But all companies can, and in my estimation should, create the kind of marketing that meets that standard.

James Hahn II: What are some examples from the Fortune 500 level that we can talk about? Because as you know I have a lot of different types of people that listen. We have a lot of people in the audience that are are more small independent operators. And then all the way up to some of the largest companies in the industry.

Translating that over to some of them, Caterpillar especially, more blue collar. What are some of the best practices from some of those enterprise-level clients that you’ve worked with?

Jay Baer: I’ll give you three that are in the book actually, that way when you all go out and buy the book after this interview you’ll be like “Hey, I remember that case study when Jay was on James’ show.” It makes a fantastic holiday gift.

One of my favorite examples, and I talk about it all the time because I think it really encapsulates the ‘give first get later’ nature of Youtility, is from Hilton Hotels. You know this example, James. Hilton has a program on Twitter called Hilton Suggests, it’s @HiltonSuggests. They started this program very humbly. They just took volunteers, literally volunteers, from a dozen or so hotels from around the US and said, “Look, we know you have a job already. You might be in food and beverage or concierge or front desk or whatever. But in your spare time we’d like you to just pay attention to Twitter. And if you find an opportunity to help, just help.” So, kind of end of instruction manual.

That’s what they do. This program is now in hundreds of hotels all over the world. And Hilton just strategically eavesdrops. They use social listening tools and when people say something on Twitter about a restaurant or “Hey, I’m looking for a place to go,” or whatever. The classic story in the book is a guy from Tennessee had just moved to I believe it was Memphis or Nashville, I can’t remember. I think it was Memphis. His dog was sick and he just tweeted out there, not to Hilton, certainly. Not to anyone. He just sort of tweeted into the wind, “Hey my dog is sick. I’m new to town what should I do?” And Hilton saw that and said “Hey there’s a great vet. I take my own dog there. It’s over there on 13th and Q.” He took the dog over there and the dog was fine. And then afterwards he was like, “Wow, I can’t believe that Hilton Hotels just helped me find a vet that was kind of unexpected and amazing.”

Does that benefit Hilton today? Did that put him in a room tonight? Did that get him into their restaurant? No. Not at all. But, eventually that guy is going to be on vacation. And he’s going to need to make a hotel selection. And at that point who was he going to think of first? Well, hopefully Hilton. Because they helped him when he needed help. And importantly, they did so without expectation of immediate return.

They understand that the benefit to them may come eventually. And the magic word in modern business is “eventually”. You have to be okay with being rewarded of eventually. We’re so caught up in trying to generate results in 10 minutes that we lose sight of the fact that most of our customer relationships are built over the long haul.

You have a consulting company, right? You have a podcast and a consulting company. Is your expectation that somebody listens to first 30 seconds of the podcast and they go to your website and say, ” James, please help me. Here’s some money.” No! It doesn’t work like that.

James Hahn II: Definitely not. No, definitely not. That is a really great point in terms of this industry of oil and gas. That’s one thing this industry knows how to do extraordinarily well is to build relationships. But we only typically think about it in terms of building relationships offline. And in my estimation, by thinking in terms of only building relationships offline, you’re naturally going to. I just said this to an operator I was just talking to right before we got on. Even if you go out to dinner with a prospective investor every night of the year, you’re only gonna meet 365 people in a year.

Jay Baer: Right, well said.

James Hahn II: Whereas the internet is going to give us that leverage to be able to build relationships at scale. I think that right there is the Hilton example. Tying that in with relationship is something that’s perfect for the oil and gas industry because we already know how to build really great relationships offline. It’s translating that and helping us understand that we can do it online and leveraged very well.

Jay Baer: Let me give you an example of another big company that understands Youtility really well. One of the key tenets of Youtility is not just to help, but also to be transparent. That in an era where everybody’s carrying a smartphone around, the truth always comes out. Right? The truth always comes out. It doesn’t matter if you’re in oil and gas. Or your playing football or baseball, or you’re in politics. We’re in an era where the truth always comes out.

A lot of companies are starting to understand that maybe the best way to operate in an environment like that is to just be radically transparent, right? To just say “Hey, we don’t have anything to hide.” Look at Domino’s for example. I don’t think Domino’s is listening, so I can tell the story. Domino’s pizza, everybody knows Domino’s pizza. Their entire corporate positioning statement right now. I’m going to tell you their whole playbook, are you ready? Their entire strategy is this, “Our pizza used to suck. Now, not so much. Right? That’s basically their whole strategy.

Ever since they shifted to that positioning of “our pizza used to be terrible and now it’s better” they’ve had nine consecutive quarters of increasing stock price. Last quarter they went up two a half points, Pizza Hut down a point and a half. It’s the power of radical transparency. They do it really well.

Here’s a company that is a really controversial. In a way that some oil and gas companies are, Monsanto. Monsanto always has people trying to tear them down for GMO’s and a lot other issues. They have a program on their website which they borrowed from McDonald’s, which is a company that I chronicle in the book, where you can ask Monsanto any question you want about anything related to their business around seeds, around GMO’s. And they’ll answer it right there on their website. It’s radical transparency. It’s like a living town hall right on their website. It’s pretty remarkable.

James Hahn II: I just interviewed Marcus Sheridan for our New Year’s Eve podcast, you’re going to be on here on Christmas Eve, just yesterday. We were talking about that whole notion of they ask, you answer that he has. That plays right into that in a very open way at the enterprise level. Which is having people that have pushed back or concerns or anything like that, and being able to answer those almost in real time.

Jay Baer: Yeah, I mean it’s not easy. I’m not suggesting that this is a piece of cake, especially in a big company. Monsanto’s got to get all the lawyers in a room. And all the PR people in a room. And all the internet people in a room. And be able to put together some real process and some real governance policies to make this happen. But you know what? They’ve put the time and the effort and the dollars to make it happen.

Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do it. And it is hard. None of this is a piece of cake. But it makes a big difference. They’re an organization that needs to have people think differently about them and this is one of the ways about doing that, so I think it’s pretty interesting.

Another big company example that I’ve talked about the past is from Clorox. Clorox, big provider of stain removal, etc. The multi-billion dollar company. Clorox has a mobile application called “The Stain Helper” app. This is one of the forms of Youtility that’s really important called “real-time relevancy”. Where what you’re trying to be is the best possible information solution in a particular set of circumstances. Not just an okay solution like, “Hey, we’ve got this crappy infographic. Thanks very much”. But the best possible solution.

They did this through a very robust mobile app. What you do if you have this app on your phone, and I highly recommend it especially for business travelers. You spill something on yourself what happens, right? You’re covered in gravy, or mud, or blood, or ballpoint pen or whatever. You just turn on the app you say what you’re covered in and what you’re wearing, and it tells you what to do about it. Pretty awesome. Should I use club soda on this? Should I use, you know, whatever.

Well, here’s the interesting thing. Talking about process and governance. In the development of this process they said, “Hey we should build this”. They had two big fights really. Kind of arguments within the organization. The first question that they asked one another was, “Hey, should Clorox always be the answer?” Every time somebody put something the app. Blood, mud, ballpoint pen, gravy. Should it always say “Use Clorox”. Because after all we are trying to sell Clorox here, right? Ultimately, this is marketing.

Some smart people, some wise people on the team said, “Well yeah, but here’s the thing. We’re not always the best solution.” And apparently if you put Clorox on butter something terrible happens. I don’t know exactly what, but don’t try that at home. It turns out they’re not always the best solution. As somebody on their team said, “The other thing is if we’re always the solution, doesn’t it change the way this whole thing is perceived? From a Youtility that people actually want to use to essentially a very complicated brochure?” So it isn’t like that. If you use that app today, they’re not always the solution. Sometimes it is club soda. Sometimes it is something else.

And then the second big fight they had internally, being a consumer product was, “Well, hey, shouldn’t there be a coupon in this?” Shouldn’t you be able to use this app and then pull up a barcode, show it to the checker at check out at your local grocery store and get a dollar off a jug of Clorox? And somebody said, “Well, yeah, that would be useful because we could track the efficacy of this and put actual ROI against it.” But, again, if in the middle of this thing a big coupon popped up, doesn’t it change the fundamental way that this is perceived from a useful thing that Clorox just put to help everybody, to a very complicated coupon?” They held the line on that as well. Today there isn’t a coupon in the middle of it. And those kind of decisions are not easy, right?

Look, Youtility is of course a marketing framework. That’s what the book is about, that’s what this whole thesis is about. But more than anything else, it is a cultural framework. It requires real courage—courage—to do marketing like this. Some companies have that courage, and others simply do not.

James Hahn II: It’s a good time for me to slip in a Jim Rohn quote, as I always must. Which is that if you have a heck of a lot of courage and a dollar in your pocket, you’re going to do alright.

Looking at these ideas that you’ve given us, I’m just thinking about them in terms of oilfield companies. Because I can hear the people listening in on in iTunes and Stitcher and all those other places I encourage you to go and subscribe and rate and so forth. I can hear them saying, “Well, that’s Clorox. How does that translate?”

One idea that just came to mind while you are talking is, for instance, an oilfield services company. Something as large as Halliburton or Schlumberger. They are out there in the oilfield running into all kinds of issues all of the time. With different rocks that they’re trying to drill through. With different bit issues that they’re having and things like that. And one thing that is really ingrained in this industry is the sort of secret sauce, secrecy, cards tight to the chest type of the thing because everyone’s afraid that the next guy’s going to steal their business.

But to your point on radical transparency, I could only imagine what it would do for a company like Halliburton or Schlumberger or somebody like that who put out a Youtility-type app for oilfield engineers and geologists that talked about some of the best practices that they’ve come across in these different shale plays there that the coming across throughout the United States. The pushback would naturally be, “Well, if we give them that information then they’re not going to need us.” You know better than anyone that’s not the case. Can you give us, can you speak to that a little bit? In terms of, “Well, if we just give it away, oh my goodness no one will want to hire us.”

Jay Baer: Well, first of all, there really isn’t any secret sauce. I think the presence of the secret sauce is probably either the first or the second biggest lie in business. To think that you genuinely have something that nobody else has ever thought about? You’ve got customers who have worked with you and your competition. You’ve got employees who have worked with you and your competition. There really isn’t as much secret sauce we think.

And the second thing is just because you’re creating Youtility and giving away knowledge doesn’t mean that somebody can reverse engineer that and then go do it. What I like to say is a list of ingredients doesn’t make somebody a chef. It’s not the same thing.

What you’re trying to do is give away information snacks to sell knowledge meals. It’s not taking everything you know and give it away in a format that they could actually do it themselves, or that it does give away what you might have is proprietary. But it’s giving away a taste of what you know so that it is actually valuable. Or, giving away something that isn’t necessarily what you know. Some of the best Youtilities out there are those that transcend the transaction. That aren’t necessarily about your company per se, but are about things of interest to your customers.

James Hahn II: On that point of interest to the customers that translates back to the first point you’re making about the Hilton and the social listening that they’re doing. That would be another way I could see people saying, “Well, how does that translate?” And while we’re talking I just did a very simple Twitter search. I just typed in “oil drilling”. One of the first things that comes up, “Comstock to suspend oil drilling in Eagleford, Tuscaloosa Marine Shale in 2015”. And it says due to low oil prices.

That means that a heck of a lot of acreage just opened up in those two different plays. And if your oilfield services company, or an operator, that’s very valuable information to you. By having that at your fingertips, that gives you an extra touch point. A reason to go out and be helpful, and send it to someone in your contact list that says, “Hey, this just happened. Thought it might be of interest.” To your point not, necessarily trying to make the sale, but being helpful. And that’s just one simple Twitter search that I did in what, less than 10 seconds while we were talking.

Jay Baer: Being the conduit of information is just as important, if not more so, than being the creator of information. We tend to think that it doesn’t have value if we didn’t make it with our own hands, and that’s a shortsighted way of looking at it.

James Hahn II: Absolutely so content curation for me and my business, it’s amazing how the number of Tweets that I have ties directly to the number of opt-ins on the email list. But, tying it back to this whole notion of enterprise-level Youtility, we talked about it in terms of not esoteric, but sort of from a philosophical standpoint. Practically what does this look like? Is it the marketing team’s initiative? Who is involved in Youtility?

Jay Baer: Well, because it really is a cultural imperative typically executives have to be involved. Certainly marketing has to be involved because they usually do the front-line execution of the Youtility. And in many cases sales and customer service, customer support, operations are involved. Because when the Youtility is based in information, as many of them are. Those are the groups that actually have that information. They’re the ones that are out there talking to customers all the time.

So, if you’re gonna create a mobile application on what to do about various stains, the marketing guys probably don’t have that expertise. Somebody in opps, R&D, or something like that has that information. While marketing might be the tip of the spear, it takes a lot of other people from other parts of the organization to really get this off the ground.

James Hahn II: And is it typically, what are some patterns that you see in the clients that you’re working with that are indicative of a successful rollout of a Youtility? I guess, first and foremost as you’ve mentioned a couple times be really enculturation and getting everybody to buy-in.

Jay Baer: There’s a couple markers for that. One is understanding that this is a process, not a project. That you can’t just say, “Hey, we made this cool blog” or “we made this infographic” or “we published an e-book” or “we made a video…Okay were done now.” You’re never finished with this kind of marketing because as soon as you’ve created something that your customers want they’re going to want something else. Or need information about something else. Or your competition changes the way they handle things, and so you have some other kind of opportunity. So, understanding that this is a long-term play I think is one success variable.

The other one is to actually market your marketing, which we talk about a lot with our big clients. Making sure that if somebody’s going to go to the trouble to create something like a mobile app or a blog or a video series. That people actually know that that exists. Which sounds patently obvious, but I see many, many examples in my own consulting practice working with big organizations where there’s really great stuff that’s made. But it doesn’t get any traffic or it doesn’t generate any impact because they just didn’t tell anybody about it.

The third piece I think is to understand that the most important audience for Youtility is sitting next to you. Your employees, especially sales, are the most important audience for Youtility. Market it from the inside out. If your people who work for you aren’t excited about it, if they’re not interested in it. If they don’t think it’s awesome. Then people on the outside of your organization definitely won’t think it’s awesome. So, get people who work for you on board first and then move outwards from there. I’d say those three things are important to keep in mind.

James Hahn II: Being someone that’s been in sales for 16 years now, somehow. 16 years and a lot of pieces of hair ago, I would say salespeople love this. Because you’re just giving them a whole new set of tools to use in their sales process. And that’s pretty much all us sales guys are looking for is ways to move people through the funnel. Maybe we could wrap on that and talk about how this is the type of initiative that even though it’s the long view, it can really shorten your sales cycle.

Jay Baer: Well, especially because we’re in an era where were customers want to educate themselves. This notion of self-serve information is really, really important. I’m sure Marcus will talk about that on the show as well. That increasingly you win business and you create information. Or you create relationships, I should say, with information first, and face-to-face second. Nobody wants to get on the phone. Nobody wants to have a meeting until they are ready to do that. And you get ready by digesting information on your own. So the fastest way, actually. And this seems paradoxical. But, the fastest way to get somebody from prospect to customer is to give them enough information so that they can take themselves from prospect to customer. The hardest way, the slowest way, and certainly the most expensive way is to force them from prospect to customer through a whole series of face-to-face interactions or telephone calls.

James Hahn II: That is something in this industry, I guess everything’s bigger in Texas, and everything’s bigger in the oil bidness. Customer acquisition cost can be through the roof when you’re your flying your sales team all over the country and they’re having all of these face-to-face meetings that are really preliminary question asking sessions that, like you said, you can get them 60-70% of the way closed and help to reduce that customer acquisition costs simply in the fact that they don’t need as many meetings.

Jay Baer: Oh, absolutely. Every time you pick up that phone or put together a meeting it’s an expensive proposition. And having to line up your schedule with a prospect’s schedule just slows everything down. We all see it. Think about right now around the holidays. It’s impossible to get meeting scheduled. If they can educate themselves using information that you have provided it makes it a lot faster and a lot more efficient.

That’s why on the marketing side you see a lot of Software As A Service companies who sell big deals be really, really aggressive about Youtility and self-serve information. A lot of them are our customers. Guys like Salesforce.com, Oracle, and folks like that, Microsoft, that we work with.

They’re all producing tons and tons and tons and tons and tons of information because their philosophy is if the prospect has to call us we have failed. We haven’t succeeded. That’s the exact opposite of how most businesses think. Most businesses think, “What can we do to get a phone call?” What those guys think is, “What can we do to make sure they never have to call us?” The only thing the phone call is for to make sure everybody’s cool with the contract terms.

James Hahn II: Well, it’s going to take us a few years to get there, but I’m going to carry that torch in this industry.

Jay Baer: No doubt!

James Hahn II: And thank you for spending the time with us today to share a little bit about how we can get there as an industry. Because, as we have discussed, we are a bit behind. But we do have some bleeding edge, early adopters. And certainly the members of The Tribe that tune into the podcast are on that bleeding edge and adopting things at a very fast rate.

If people wanted to learn how to adopt Youtility and learn more about Convince & Convert and so forth, where would you send them?

Jay Baer: You can go to YoutilityBook.com, which is the website for the book. The book is available in all the places and all the ways that books are available. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Google Play Store, audiobook, read by me, etc., etc. So the book is very easy to get.

More information about me, and our business, and the things that we do you can find at Convinceandconvert.com. We have 8 blog posts a week all about this kind of stuff, a daily email, 3 podcast now. A lot of stuff going on. So, no shortage of Youtility coming out from us either.

James Hahn II: Well that’s fantastic and this is going to air as I said on Christmas Eve, so Merry Christmas, Jay.

Jay Baer: Merry Christmas to you and everybody out there listening, I hope you have a fantastic and safe, joyful holiday season and a prosperous New Year.

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