Stop trying to be amazing online and start being useful. I donâ€™t mean this in a Trojan-horse, â€œtweet that pretends to be useful but is actually a sales pitchâ€ way. I mean a genuine, â€œhow can we actually help you?â€ way.
This is Youtility, and, quite simply, companies that practice it are followed, subscribed to, bookmarked, and kept on the home screen of mobile devices. Companies that donâ€™t… arenâ€™t. Not because they are worse companies, but because they are trying to create customer connections based on product and price, and customers are both tired of it and able to filter through it more than ever.
Youtility is marketing upside down. Instead of marketing thatâ€™s needed by companies, Youtility is marketing thatâ€™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.
But for your marketing to be so useful that people 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.
You must align what you provide your customers and prospects with what they actually need, and often in ways that transcend the transactional.
Fortunately, as knowing more about your customers has increased in importance, so have the tools available to gain that understanding. There are a variety of free (or nearly so) approaches that you can use to better understand customer needs on the way to creating Youtility.
Search engine data is the atlas for consumer understanding.
While the number of places consumers go to seek information has grown exponentially, weakening somewhat the role of search engines in the process, search engines (especially Google) stand alone in giving us the ability to mine and analyze consumer inquiry data.
A variety of free tools from Google can help you understand customer needs, based on what people are looking for, and when. Google TrendsÂ enables you to compare search volume patterns across location and time frame, and provides related search terms and comparative volume for them.
For example, imagine you were Sterling Ball from Big Poppa Smokers, an e-commerce site and online community for BBQ smoker enthusiasts (like me). Imagine you were thinking about starting a new, online forum dedicated to a method of outdoor cooking growing in popularity. An analysis of “pellet smokers” on Google Trends shows a sharp spike in searches for that term in the United States from 2008 onward.
Digging deeper, Google Trends shows that Texas and California have disproportionate high incidences of search volume for “pellet smokers,” and that “pellet grills smokers” and “traeger smokers” (a popular brand) are related queries used by searchers.
An even simpler tool is to use Google Suggest to better understand how consumers see your products and services. Type a company or product name into Google and see what Google “suggests” as possible searches. Typing in “Charmin” for example, finds these suggestions: “charmin coupons,” “charmin mega roll,” and “charmin toilet paper” as well as something called “charming charlie.”
This information is updated instantly and is useful for understanding who consumers think your competitors are, and how you stack up. “Type in your company or product name, then put the word ‘vs.’ in and take your hands off the keyboard,” recommends Google’s Jim Lacinski. “Because marketing managers always think they know what the evoked set or the competitive set is because, ‘We’ve done 20 focus groups all across the country…’ Well, that’s cool but let’s see what Google says based on actual queries that people are actually comparing you against,” he says.