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book excerpt

Excerpted with permission from Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help not Hype (Portfolio/Penguin) © 2013 by Jay Baer.

You know that expression "If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime?" Well, the same is true for marketing: If you sell something, you make a customer today; if you help someone, you make a customer for life. I call this Youtility. Not "utility," because a utility is a faceless commodity. Youtility is marketing upside down. Instead of marketing that's needed by companies, Youtility is marketing that'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.

The difference between helping and selling is just two letters. But those two letters now make all the difference.

The beauty of useful marketing is that it isn't just for larger companies. Smaller companies and just one man can create useful marketing. I'd like to share the story of Taxi Mike and how he used the power of low-tech Youtility to make a difference in his business.

Banff, Alberta, is a ski town. Nestled in the soaring Canadian Rockies, it glistens with bars, restaurants, and tourists galore. There are, of course, many, many taxi drivers in Banff, but there's one taxi driver who absolutely understands the power of Youtility. That's Taxi Mike (who also does web design and computer repair).

Four times per year Taxi Mike puts together the Taxi Mike Dining Guide: Where to Eat in Banff. If you're a local or a frequent visitor, you might think to visit the website. But for tourists, your encounter with Taxi Mike will likely be via a very simple, 8.5-by-11-inch piece of bright yellow paper, printed on both sides.

Taxi Mike updates his guide every quarter with his latest recommendations for best sports bar, hottest nightclub, best place for cheap drinks, and more than a dozen other categories. Taxi Mike makes a few hundred copies, folds them into thirds like a rack brochure, and delivers them to every restaurant, hotel, bar, or tourist establishment in the area. You'll see them on counters all around Banff, and if you don't see one in a particular place, just ask. They have them behind the bar, guaranteed. Proprietors want to hand them out because Mike's information is accurate, and just about every place is listed in Taxi Mike's guide somewhere.

He categorizes. He sorts. He recommends. Taxi Mike is a one-man Yelp, but he's not a social network: He's just a guy. And he puts it all together for nearly free – he inserts just a few ads each edition. The "Where to Eat Guide" is such a hit that Taxi Mike even has groupies, and signs autographs for passengers on occasion.

At the end of a night in Banff, when you've been to six or eight of these places and you think, "Wow, I really should get a cab home," are you going to walk out on the corner and just raise your hand? No. You're going to reach into your pocket and see the crumpled up, bright-yellow piece of paper that has the map of downtown you've been looking at all night and see "Taxi Mike: 760-1052."

What Taxi Mike created is Youtility: marketing that's wanted by his customers. Taxi Mike's Dining Guide to Banff is massively useful information, provided for free, that creates long-term trust and kinship. Can you recreate this model with your customers? Absolutely.