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Utility: Your Next Content Litmus Test

Great content serves up value, right? Whether you’re crafting a first-class white paper and infographic or a simple social media post, the content you create is supposed to deliver some type of value to its intended audience.

But at Content Marketing World, keynote speaker Jay Baer took the concept of value to a whole, new level. The idea he floated was that content needs to deliver high utility or what he calls “Youtility”, which (for the sake of transparency) is also the name of his book.

Marketing Strategy

The question Jay posed was this: Is your marketing or PR content so good that people would pay for it? You read that right. Your content needs to be so useful and so valuable that people would be willing to plunk down a couple of bucks for it, even though you have no intention of ever asking them to do so.

The rationale is that in an age of content overload you’re not just competing against your competition, you’re competing against everything – posts from Facebook friends, viral YouTube videos, essentially any and every piece of shiny content that can capture your audience’s attention.

If you create utility, your customers will keep you close; if you don’t, you run the very real risk of fading into the background and eventually falling completely off their content radar. Specifically, Jay talked about three kinds of utility:

1. Self-Serve Information

Relationships are forged with information. By providing utility-rich content, you eliminate customers’ questions – an important goal because unanswered questions produce friction and friction makes it impossible to close sales. With the latest research showing that a typical B2B buyer is 70 percent of the way to making a purchase decision before he contacts a sales rep, it’s in your company’s best interest to leverage useful content early in the sales cycle.

2. Radical Transparency

The truth is out there and like it or not, it’s impossible to hide it in the digital universe. According to Jay, trust is the prism through which all business success must pass, and the best way to create trust is to admit your brand’s shortcomings. Sound painful? It doesn’t have to be – especially if you start using your content to teach and educate your customers, even if it requires you to admit your failures.

3. Real-Time Relevancy

Brands and marketers are under constant pressure to be useful in all possible contexts. But in the marketplace, it’s better to be extremely useful in one or two contexts than kind of useful across a range of contexts. That means finding ways to use your content to solve your customers’ most important problem(s) rather than searching high and low for problems around your product.

Sometimes the quest for utility may lead you to offer content that has nothing to do with the products you sell, but provides real value to your customers. Although it might seem counter-intuitive, the payoff is that your content can be more meaningful, more trusted and ultimately, more profitable than some of the run-of-the-mill content you’re creating now.