One of my favorite books of 2013 so far is “Youtility” by Jay Baer. In the book, Jay makes a compelling argument that we have a choice.  We can make a customer for today or make one for a lifetime.   In one case, you simply sell them what they need at that moment.  

According to Jay, the other option is to provide incredibly useful information, tips, tools, and how to videos, etc., with the goal of creating a relationship that will last far beyond the original sale because they’ll keep coming back, whether they want to buy something or not.  You’re being useful, and when you do that consistently over time, you create trust.

How does this result in more sales? 

Repeat business: No one is more likely to buy something from you than someone who has already bought something. If you can stay top of mind by being helpful, it’s a much easier sale.

Word of mouth: We’re a cynical, distrustful group. When we go to buy something, we want help from our friends in identifying the best company to buy from. So we reach out to our friends on Facebook or our LinkedIn group of peers and ask. Again, you can see how being a company that believes in being helpful on a regular basis might come in handy.

Jay calls this friend-of-mine awareness (as opposed to top-of-mind awareness) and argues that if you want to keep earning market share in a congested, time-starved world, you need this level of connection with both customers and prospects.

All of that sounds awesome. I don’t know any business owners or leaders who don’t want to be trusted by their customers and prospects. But thinking it’s a good idea and actually executing the idea well are two very different things.  

Here are some of the roadblocks that you’ll need to remove before you can successfully leverage this idea.

The “can’t give it away for free” fear:  I hear this all the time and it goes something like this: “If we tell them how to fix their XYZ, then they won’t call us” or “What if our decision matrix tells them we’re not the best choice?” In both cases, the answer is yeah!!  If it’s a simple something that they can fix themselves, who do you think they’re going to call when the problem isn’t so simple? And, if your decision matrix connects them with a better choice, then you just dodged the disgruntled customer bullet.  

The “but then our competitors will see it” worry: If you think you aren’t being shopped by your competitors now, you’re crazy or they’re stupid. One of the most common services we provide to our clients is secret shopping (both our clients’ businesses and their competition). Unless you’re working with government secrets, it’s time to get over yourself and use your expertise to be helpful.

The “it takes so much time” whine: Yes, it does take time to be helpful, whether that means writing a how-to article or actually responding when someone submits a question on your website. But does it really take any more time than cold calling, answering requests for proposals or doing any of the other things you do to try to get someone’s attention?

If you can push aside these worries and whines, you might be one of the companies that can actually leverage this idea of being helpful as a way to create connections that not only generate loyalty but also word of mouth endorsements, repeat business and an overall increase in sales.

Seems worth a try, doesn’t it?