Review: Youtility – why smart marketing is about help not hype by Jay Baer

Youtility 2This review first ran in the July 2 edition of The Hamilton Spectator. When I tweeted I was reviewing Youtility and giving a shout-out to @Hiltonsuggests, I got a tweet back from Hilton Worldwide within 5 minutes. Give it a try.

Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help Not Hype

By Jay Baer



While staying at the Magnolia Hotel in downtown Dallas, @LTHouston sends out a tweet asking if there are any good restaurants nearby.

@Hiltonsuggests replies and recommends two restaurants within walking distance.

But here’s the thing. The Magnolia Hotel isn’t a Hilton property.

Melanie J with the Twitter handle @RockstarExtreme tweets “anybody know who’s hiring in Orlando for professional positions at this time? Seems like it’s at a standstill.”

@Hiltonsuggests could have ignored the tweet or suggested Melanie J’s @RockstarExtreme handle might be hampering her job search. But instead @Hiltonsuggests gives Melanie J a link to

So why is Hilton Worldwide giving real-time recommendations to people who aren’t staying at their hotels or looking for a room at the inn?

The company is playing the long game, rewriting the marketing playbook and winning over customers at a time when trust in business is on the wane.

@Hiltonsuggests is a pilot project running in 25 cities around the world. In each city, hotel managers recruit employees to listen and help on Twitter. About half are from concierges. Most have little if any prior social media experience.

Hilton Worldwide’s social media director says her company’s biggest opportunities come from helping people such as @LTHouston who are staying at a competitor’s property. Hilton is providing a level of service and responsiveness that prospective customers likely aren’t getting from their current hotels.

@LTHouston is now wondering why his hotel didn’t tweet dinner recommendations and wishing he’d stayed at a Hilton. And if Melanie J lands a job after checking out, where do you think she’s staying for her first big-city vacation? Today’s tweets could become tomorrow’s bookings.

Hilton Worldwide is practicing what marketing consultant and author Jay Baer calls Youtility. “Youtility is massively useful information, provided for free, that creates long-term trust and kinship between your company and your customers.”

Youtility allows you to sell more by selling less. As Baer points out, if you sell something, you make a customer today. If you help someone, you make a customer for life. “The difference between helping and selling is just two letters. But those two letters now make all the difference.”

Most businesses have a choice. Amaze your customers. Or help your customers be amazing.

The second option is a safer bet and it’s where Youtility comes into play, says Baer. Instead of trying to be amazing, focus on being useful. Inform rather than promote. Forgo the coupons and come-ons and instead add real value that fosters trust and kinship with time-starved customers who are tuning out and turned off by traditional marketing and advertising.

“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. You can’t simply rewrite a portion of your online brochure and hope that Google funnels customers to your website.”

Like Hilton Worldwide, Phoenix Children’s Hospital is one of those organizations that creates marketing that people actually want, seek out and would happily pay for if asked. The hospital’s created a free and award-winning app that helps parents find the right car seats for their kids. The app, available on iTunes, makes already available information easily accessible and understandable for overwhelmed parents who are staring at rows and rows of car seats with their smartphones in hand.

Baer credits Phoenix Children’s Hospital for utilizing Youtility to deepen bonds, break through the squall of marketing noise and forge friend of mind awareness with families and donors.

Youtility doesn’t have to be high-tech. In Banff, Taxi Mike puts out a where-to-eat quarterly dining guide that ranks, rates and sorts the ski town’s restaurants. Along with posting the guide online, Taxi Mike drops off hundreds of photocopied guides at every restaurant, hotel, bar and tourist trap.

As Baer notes, after spending the night polishing the brass rails at bars and pubs recommended by Taxi Mike, who are you hailing after last call for a ride back to your chalet?

Not only does Youtility build trust and loyalty. It grows your salesforce exponentially. “If you’re interesting and useful and helpful, your customers and prospects will do more of your marketing for you, helping your company work less arduously and expensively on interruption marketing in its various guises.”

Drawing on real-world examples, Baer shows how to figure out what your customers want to know and then how to best get that value-added information into their hands. Baer practices what he preaches with a book that’s all help and no hype. It’s a book that will inspire you to ask how your business can genuinely help your current and future customers.

Published by

Jay Robb

I've reviewed more than 500 business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999 and worked in public relations since 1993.

2 thoughts on “Review: Youtility – why smart marketing is about help not hype by Jay Baer”

    1. It was an inspiring read & a well-written book. Has me thinking about what we could do at work to help the folks we serve be amazing.

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