At Wordcamp Miami I picked up some buzz about a book called “Youtility,” heard it was the latest/greatest about online marketing, read it, and was thinking about it when I had to go to Radioshack to see what I could do about a water-damaged iPhone (don’t ask). I was just about to pay way too much for a new phone, when a customer behind me, a deeply tanned 60-something guy wearing wraparound shades, a goatee and a Miami Heat ball cap, said “You know, there’s a guy in Homestead who fixes water-damaged iPhones. Just Google ‘iphone repair, Homestead’.” “Thanks!,” I replied, thinking to myself: “What a perfect Youtility demo!”

The book’s sub-title is “Why Smart Marketing Is About Help, Not Hype.” If the author, Jay Baer, had overheard us in Radioshack that day, he surely would have pointed out that while the goateed guy wasn’t selling anything, he sure was helpful. The Radioshack employee, on the other hand, had been totally focused on selling (hype), and by not mentioning any alternative to shelling out $500+ for a new phone, she missed a perfect opportunity to convert me into a grateful, loyal customer who might eventually spend more than $500 at Radioshack stores.

A key component of “youtility” is what Baer calls “radical transparency”:

“Creating customers by answering their questions is imminently viable and carries remarkable, persuasive power. Unless it inhibits ease-of-use, there is no downside to providing extraordinarily detailed information to your prospective customers. It doesn’t matter whether anyone in your industry is providing self-serve information—big companies are, and they’re training all consumers to expect it.”

Source: "Youtility" via Hubspot (2012)

Source: “Youtility” via Hubspot (2012)

General conclusion: smart, helpful Web content, as much of it as possible and affordable, is a smart investment for any company trying to build long-term, productive relationships with its customers. That’s not big news, it’s obvious, but easy to forget.  (So many of the many new, buzz-worthy new booklets about Web writing and content strategy are just lite, ‘fast-food’ versions of important points that thought leaders in both fields have been making for years – re: “youtility,” see for example, “Letting Go of the Words,” THE best book about Web writing, by Ginny Redish, published in 2007, pps. 110-113, ‘Market by Giving Useful Information.’)