youtilityYou 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.

When you finish 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.

Because creating Youtility – marketing so useful, people would pay for it if asked – is often an inexpensive proposition when considered in the context of the overall marketing programs of a company, these efforts are viewed as relatively minor and thus don’t receive dedicated promotional support, even at launch.

Instead, they are promoted alongside the regular flotsam and jetsam of the brand’s communication: a link here, a mention there. This dramatically curtails exposure – counteracting the entire premise of the Youtility.

You have to market your marketing

what-knotThis concept of using marketing to promote your marketing is also the best possible case for using social media, which far too often devolves into self-referential inanities that career employees wouldn’t even care about, much less casual customers.

This frustrating scenario of brands talking, talking, talking in social media but never saying anything of value other that “we’re great, you should give us more of your money” is the epitome of social media misuse.

On the whole, which is more inherently interesting and useful, and thus more likely to be an effective marketing message? That Columbia Sportswear sells a variety of outdoor gear, or that Columbia Sportswear has a mobile app that shows you how to tie knots called “What Knot to do in the Great Outdoors?”

Remember, companies of every size, shape and description are competing pixel-for-pixel for attention with real people whom we know and love. You break through that clutter by being useful, not by shouting louder.

Keeping it relevant

It’s not about keeping it real; it’s about keeping it relevant. If your social media informs more often than it promotes, you’re on the right track.

Here’s a real example of back-to-back messages sent by interactive marketing software company ExactTarget on their Twitter channel last summer:


The first Tweet is a yawn-inducing corporate message about a new version of the company’s software, made even less germane because it’s only relevant to persons seeking a German or Brazilian Portuguese version of the software – presumably a small subset of the brand’s followers on Twitter.

But in the very next Tweet, ExactTarget gets it entirely right. Sent during the London Olympic Games, the message includes a link that, when clicked, accessed a very interesting infographic, showing which Olympic sports have the most Tweets about them, the most followers on Twitter, and several other statistical bon mots.

Does the infographic explicitly provide information about ExactTarget’s products and services? It does not. Instead it uses real-time relevancy to create interest and an inferred topical tie, as one of the company’s products is software that allows companies to monitor and engage on Twitter.


Your most important (and most often overlooked) audience

Indeed, you should use online marketing to raise awareness of the truly helpful information you’re providing to customers and prospective customers, and smart organizations like Columbia Sportswear and ExactTarget are successfully implementing those ideas.

But there is another critically important audience for your Youtility that is consistently overlooked – your employees.

If you are truly, inherently useful, the manifestation of that approach will be just as valuable to your team members as it is to customers, maybe even more so.

You know who is particularly interested in an application that shows you how to tie knots? People who work for Columbia Sportswear. Many are outdoors enthusiasts and are disproportionately likely to find themselves in a situation that calls for just the right knot.

In a world where personal relationships and social connectivity are the coin of the realm, your employees are your single greatest marketing engine.

With the exception of huge, global consumer brands like Coca-Cola, the collected social connections of your employees exceed the social connections of your company, and those employees are perfectly situated to create awareness of your helpful Youtility marketing.

This excerpt, adapted for Sparksheet, is from the New York Times best seller Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help Not Hype by Jay Baer. Used by permission.