Why "Helping" Is the New "Selling" for Businesses

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.—When companies make an effort to help their customers and provide a true utility, the results can be reflected in revenue.

During a presentation today at InfusionCon, Infusionsoft's annual user conference, Jay Baer, author of The NOW Revolution and president of social media and content strategy firm Convince & Convert, said that companies that focus on providing a "Youtility" to customers will be the ones that succeed.

Citing statistics from a Google study, Baer said that in 2010, the average consumer sought information from 5.3 sources before making a purchase. A year later, the number had increased to 10.4 sources. This indicated to Baer that "we need more information because we have more information" at arm's reach due to mobile devices and social media. This means the bar has been set high and customers expect companies to provide them with insightful and actionable information.

"Historically, we created relationships and loyalty with people, but now we're creating relationships and loyalty with information," Baer said, which is having a "huge impact on sales." The Marketing Leadership Council found that customers come into contact with sales reps after 60 percent of a B2B purchase decision has already been made.

Companies must provide a utility and platform for their purpose, which can be but is not limited to social media outreach, video, mobile app development, and content marketing. To begin to compete with consumers' fragmented attention, companies must supply a steady flow of information to build credibility with customers, he argued.

One company that has experimented with a strategy to "help" rather than "sell" is Hilton Worldwide, which offers social media fans and followers useful information that, at times, has nothing to do with its brand or hotels, Baer said. Through its Hilton Suggests program, anyone who is looking for a travel suggestion can get a restaurant recommendation or the like from a dedicated team of Hilton representatives. This type of marketing can help reinforce in a customer's or prospective customer's mind that this is a brand they can trust, which Baer said is a key strategy for success.

Another example of a company that embodies Baer's notion of "Youtility" is grocery chain Meijer, which deployed a mobile app, developed by Point Inside, that helps shoppers find the groceries they're looking for on an interactive store map. Meijer subsequently found that shoppers who used the app had 10 percent higher shopping basket volumes than those who didn't. The catalyst was eliminating the stress from the experience and providing real-time relevancy, Baer said.


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