Youtility Book Review – How Genuinely Useful Brands Win Online

youtility - book review

Uh… Youtility totally torpedoed me into another dimension.

If there’s one thing I did not expect form a business book, it’s that it would be such a page-turner, as if I was reading Matrix and Godfather rolled into one.

You know the feeling when you come across something so groundbreaking that you find yourself standing while reading, thinking how this cosmos of ours is a fascinating place and so full of possibilities? That you can’t wait to start applying the stuff you’re reading about, then and there?

Well that’s one of those books.

Youtility shows you how the power has shifted from the companies to consumers, and how customer service and sheer usefulness can help any company develop a long term business.

It tells you exactly how you can become such a company, by listening to consumer needs and having your products and services bought almost without selling.

Tons of case studies, examples and data that you’ll hardly be able to digest in one sitting, but all extremely revealing and useful.

If you’re a small business, or an entrepreneur, or a huge business… you can not afford to miss this book.

Who is Jay Baer?

Jay Baer is a business/social media/consulting/speaking superstar.

Through the influential blog of his company, Convince and Convert, he disseminates knowledge and know-how that is followed by masses and looked upon by competition.

He consulted with more than 700 corporations and organisations, and has a flourishing speaking career – attendants get inspired, they laugh a lot, but they leave deep in thought (sometimes for days).

He is a New York Times best seller, having penned (or rather, typed) this Youtility masterpiece, together with two more books in the Youtility series (for real estate professionals and accountants!), as well as the upcoming Hug Your Haters.

His combination of wit, no-hype style, hard data and experience from working with vast number of diverse clients makes the world pay attention when he speaks. Or writes.

What is Youtility all about?

To me, this book is a thriller.

It starts with the foreword by Marcus Sheridan, the guy whose pool installation business was on the brink of disaster in 2008 when the financial crisis hit.

The way he explains how he then did not cry or become an alcoholic, but instead devoured the internet and created a blog where he answered every single question a potential customer might ask in its pages, saving its business from bankruptcy and catapulting it back into success… the foreword already was an action-packed adventure.

But then Jay takes over and from the first word you are consumed with fascinating stuff:

  1. You as a business are competing not only with your competition, but with your customer’s Facebook or Twitter feed. You’re competing with their friends, their family, their music, their entertainment for their attention.
  2. From 2010 to 2011 the number of sources an average consumer checks out before making a purchase doubled, from 5.3 to 10.4! This means that the whole process of purchasing has shifted. Companies used sales people to explain and sell the product. Now consumers find out everything about the product, and at the very end contact (quite reluctantly) the sales person, ready to buy.
  3. That means companies should be wise to provide tons and tons of helpful information and resources to the public, because they better be sure their potential customers are reading everything they can about them and their products. If you don’t provide all the helpful info they want and need, the customer will go to your competitor who does.
  4. The grand conclusion stemming from this is that you as a business must be genuinely useful. Must honestly be willing to help your audience, be interested in their success, in the solution of their problems. You must develop trust by helping them many times before you can expect them to buy something from you. But they will buy, indeed.
  5. You can become useful by providing self serve information (like Mr. Sheridan above, answering all the questions your audience might ask), or by being extremely transparent (McDonalds Canada is explained in detail, with their program where customers can ask them absolutely anything they want, even some really probing questions about their products), or by being timely (providing updated information at the right time).

If you’re reading this, and you are a small business, I hope you see the potential here. By being useful to your audience you can put up a good fight with huge corporations who are slow to respond and are crippled by their red tape.

There are so many case studies and examples to quote here, such as McDonalds Canada’s Q&A system, Charmin’s super useful app, Taxi Mike in Banff, Canada and many others.

However, the Youtility does not stop there. It doesn’t just give you the What. It gives you the How, too.

It goes into great detail on how you can use search engine queries, social media listening, customer surveys and other techniques to find out exactly what your target market wants, what are its pain points, and how you can effectively use all this info to become the master of usefulness to your customers.

What I like about Youtility

Jay Baer could have easily bragged with his knowledge amassed through working with 100s of clients, depict a truly fascinating change in consumer-business relationship as he did, and leave you to figure out how in the world you are going to respond to this massive shift.

But he masterfully provides details and blueprints on how to exactly answer to all these challenges. With screenshots, examples, case studies and detailed explanations he tells you just what you need to do to reap the rewards.

Do you want to provide all the self serve information, or be extremely transparent, or want to provide timely crucial info to your clients? Youtility will help you and show you how to do this.

He says that you should actively market your greatness to your audience by promoting your helpful content through all available channels. This is where his famous quote comes into play: “Content is fire. Social media is gasoline.”

It’s quite remarkable that the explanation of such a seismic shift in the business world is combined with the practical blueprints of what you need to do embrace it.


Is there anything that could have been a bit better?

Honestly, I found it impossible to find anything that could have been a bit better in this book.

It has helped me so much to understand how the business world has changed, and has confirmed some peculiar phenomena which you could only fleetingly see happen somewhere on social networks, but then you thought to yourself “I must be imagining stuff”.

I come back to it very often, and every time I do I see a new angle, or figure out a new piece of the puzzle. But it’s a process, I have no illusions there. πŸ™‚


I guess it’s obvious that I would highly recommend you to get this book as soon as you can.

It will help you understand the rather complex world we now live in, the one where social media is interlinked with your business, where you competitors mix within your Twitter feed with your friends, where business news are followed by fuzzy cats.

And in the midst of all of that, you are trying to sell something.

It will also provide you with the exact strategies you need to undertake to take advantage of this massive shift in human behavior and develop your business in the best possible way – be useful and you won’t ever have to sell anything, people will be drawn to you naturally.

Groundbreaking, fascinating stuff!

Have you read this book? Share your thoughts.

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