3 Modern Marketing Mistakes and How to Fix Them

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Traditional marketing isn’t inherently flawed, but it hasn’t evolved much despite changing technologies.

Even with so many new tools with which to convey our messages to prospective customers, especially social media like Facebook, Twitter, and beyond, few businesses are actually doing anything markedly different than they used to.

Facebook is a fancy photo scrapbook for many businesses. Twitter is often just a tiny press-release machine.

Let’s look at three common marketing mistakes and how you can fix them using the principles in my new book Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is about Help not Hype.

I present a defensible plan that will win hearts, minds, fans, and customers in a viable and repeatable way. That plan is Youtility.

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.

Problem 1: Your plan is to “be amazing” on Twitter hovering over the keyboard waiting for the next Superbowl power outage/Oreo opportunity

There are two ways for companies to succeed in this era: be “amazing” or be useful. The latter is very reliable and entirely viable.

While being amazing can work, it’s difficult to do and doesn’t produce reliable, linear results. So instead of betting all your money on “amazing,” what if you instead relied on a simple, universal method of marketing and business success — one that’s never been more important or easier to accomplish?

What if instead of trying to be amazing you just focused on being useful? What if you decided to inform, rather than promote?

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 practice Youtility.

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

Problem 2: You don’t really know what your customers want

For your marketing to be so useful that people want it and would gladly pay for it, you have to understand what your prospective customers need to make better decisions, and how you can improve their lives by providing it.

A variety of free tools from Google can help you understand customer needs, based on what people are looking for, and when.

Google Trends enables you to compare search volume patterns across location and time frame, and provides related search terms and comparative volume for them.

A long-standing favorite of the content marketing community, Google’s Keyword Tool is often used to determine which search terms to include in a paid search engine advertising campaign. Starting with one, a handful, or hundreds of seed terms, the keyword tool will then recommend a swath of alternatives and display comparative search volume and level of competition (number of existing advertisers per term).

Problem 3: You’re using social media to remind people how great your products are

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).

You can’t survive by shouting the loudest and relying solely on anachronistic interruption marketing. You can’t proclaim you’re featuring the “biggest sale ever!” every day (I’m looking at you, Macy’s) or simply rewrite a portion of your online brochure and hope that Google funnels customers to your website.

Use social media to promote your useful information first, and your company second. High volume without quality or substance can do more damage than good in social media.

The way customers gather information about companies and make purchase decisions has changed. Consumers’ time and attention have 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.

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.

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Reader Comments (34)

  1. says

    Hey Copyblogger,

    Great write up and shared on Twitter. Definitely worth the read.

    Thanms for sharing and keep up the good work.


  2. says

    Great post! Jay broke it down into simple, easy to follow solutions. A must share! Thank you for the read..

  3. says

    “You don’t know what your customers really want.” Amen to this!

    The biggest mistake is to create a business and/or blog before you know ‘who’ your customer is, or what they want.

    Tip: Besides using Google Trends and/or Google AdWords Keyword Tool, you could read blogs and comments and join forums to find out what your customer wants. You could use a surveys and polls to gather data.

    Research, research, research!

    • says

      Good ideas, Amandah. And the best way to figure it out is to actually TALK to your customers. Old Skool, I know, but it’s useful.

    • says

      Agreed! Surveys and polls (done as “Questions”) can serve double duty on Facebook. You can bring attention to your page while simultaneously learning about your customers. They take a little bit of effort, but produce big wins for everyone. (Tip: Allow customers to add their own answers to truly get inside their heads.)

  4. says

    Hi Jay,

    Listeners become leaders in the online/offline realm. Why? You only know what the “you’s” want by carefully listening to their problems and helping folks each day.

    Your strongest selling point rests on a solid foundation of persistent help. Sowing and reaping works just fine, thank you.

    Help people for free, people appreciate your gesture, and either these people – or others – pay for your product or service.

    Your pitch becomes all the more powerful if you pitch infrequently and help frequently.

    Thanks Jay!

  5. says

    Retaining some degree of flexibility is so important, yet many marketing activities fail as they aren’t adaptive.

    I love the whole concept of help instead of hype. The focus has finally shifted back to providing a good service that delivers real value, rather than putting time and energy into tricking people into believing that’s what they are getting.

    The increased value of authenticity is something I welcome.

    Nice article Jay, shared a bazilion times by me :)

  6. says

    The greatest virtues are those which are most useful to other persons.

    Great reminder that people don’t want to be sold and really don’t care that much about you. They actually only care about their own needs. If we can fill those needs, we become a trusted source that they will come back to again and again and again…

  7. says

    I bought the book on Friday, and so far I’m disappointed.

    I love the premise, and the citation of studies are helpful. Matter fact, I shared some of what I learned at work already.

    The frustrating parts of the book are the claims that inside sales (telemarketing) and advertising no longer work.

    I have one client that runs promotions on the radio and they know for sure it moves inventory.

    Met with a b2b client today who gets low quality leads on the web yet his sales team smiles and dials their way to big fish contracts.

    In the real marketing world I have to prove that Youtility can support and improve advertising and sales. If I believed everything Jay wrote I’d be laughed out of my office

  8. says

    Jay I have to admit this was a really good post. I definitely believe giving value is the long term solution to increasing revenue. I guess we are still trying to figure out when do we hold back on entertaining and add more educating. In some of my campaigns if I concentrated on educating I seem to lose people with the details. With to much information people start to act like zombies followed by checking out and clicking to the next page. But…. I love the post… You are absolutely correct on this one.

  9. says

    I love the point youtility in this post. Thanks Jay for bringing up this point, i am sure if marketers are able to take care of this factor, they will go long way in winning customers.

  10. Tina says

    Thanks! There are several things I like about this approach but, above all, that we are positioned to be experts offering help and instruction, and that it’s not expensive marketing to position ourselves this way.

  11. Archan Mehta says

    This is an interesting post that resonated with me: thanks for your contribution here and keep up the good work.

    However, not all writing needs to focus on the customer; nor does it necessarily have to satisfy the needs of customers.

    You can start a blog or website just for the love of writing even without market research. A lot of people have done just that: they have discovered that customers will follow you eventually if you can demonstrate passion and provided you have a regular posting schedule.

    I have read several blogs and/or website that follow this cardinal principle.
    An exclusive focus only on customer makes you sound like a sleazy salesman rather than a creator. That’s a risk we don’t want to take. Cheers.

  12. Maarten Raaijmakers says

    Are you sure Facebook and Twitter are ready as a serious marketing tool like you’re suggesting? Or do you think that both platforms need a little maturing before what you describe sky-rockets?

  13. Brian Aldridge says

    Jay: I am a bit tardy in writing this – but well done! Your approach is more sane (I tire of the shouting louder stuff) and more respectful. I might not have a lot of time reading an email, but if it’s written in a dignified manner, I might actually read on! All the best to you.

  14. says

    “Unimaginative marketers attempt to stand out with message frequency, or by exchanging bribes for attention”. Damn it, I was just about to try that!!

    Me and the wife have just bought a puppy so I was thinking of trying something along the lines of “Like my page or the puppy gets it!”… an idea I (not surprisingly) got from good ol’ copyblogger! I jest, of course!

    Great stuff as always. Thanks Jay.

    • says

      Made me laugh! My freshman year in high school I ran for student council with things like that. “Cookie monster loves cookies and Rochelle, vote for Rochelle!” “Barbie says, be a doll, vote for Rochelle!” “Mr. T pities the fool that don’t vote for Rochelle!” and on and on and on. So you’re saying I can’t do that again? Bummer. It worked all those years ago, why not now? 😉

  15. says

    I think being useful is the best goal for any marketing effort…and for any product, for that matter, Jay. And if your efforts are useful enough maybe customers will find it amazing. Who can tell? What you should not do, I think, is be amazing but forget to be useful. Maybe it’s just me, but I think making your efforts indispensable is the most important thing. So nice to see this post shared on the BizSugar community, by the way.

  16. says

    I think too many marketers cling to the old notion of PUSHing their company and products to their customers. What they really need it let the customers PULL themselves. With the rise in information availability and customer activism the old style marketing no longer works. You can only do this by creating great products and customer value.

  17. says

    Great post, Jay! This is right in line with my feelings regarding what the strategy of blogging should be. I’ll be sharing this one. Thanks!

  18. says

    Thanks so much for this post. I especially like #2. I was unaware of the tools available through Google that can track and suggest elements that can draw target audiences. Well worth the read.

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