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#Icon14 Post 3: Jay Baer, and the Courage to Be Useful

Let’s face it.

The work we do in small businesses is hard. You work. You serve. You grind. You try. You fail. All with the expectation that a return will come.

When it comes it is the most beautiful and fulfilling place to be. The sense of purpose and accomplishment makes all the struggle worth it.

But what about when nothing comes? What about when you put so much into your work, and then nothing happens. Nobody cares. Nobody responds.

I think we all have days like that. I did last week. It wasn’t an especially hard day, just another day where it felt like the results weren’t there to match the work I put in.

It can be exhausting.


I drove home after the day and arrived at my house, which is right next to a massive cornfield in the plains of Central Illinois.

Pulling into my driveway, the farmer was out in the field at about 6 p.m. in his tractor just putting in work.

I paused to watch. It was quiet and still. He was diligent and confident of what he was doing, but he was absolutely seeing no return or results from the time he was putting in.

He had to have the discipline followed by patience and a little faith that the work would pay off.

It was a great reminder that we can’t be motivated purely by instant results, but to do great work for the sake of doing great work.

This picture reminded me of Jay Baer’s talk on the first day of #Icon14, the Infusionsoft conference for small businesses.

“Everybody wants to be a hunter,” Baer said. “Nobody wants to be a farmer.”


Baer, the author of Youtility, shared the importance of creating content and marketing that is useful and valuable for others.

And the key to creating value for others is to genuinely care about what is best for them. If we create value for others but are only focused on ourselves and what we get in return, our giving is empty and insincere.

And ultimately the gains will be faster, but shorter. They won’t last and they won’t reap a big harvest.
We’ll be hunters, not farmers.

“Sell and you will have a customer today.” Baer said. “Help and you will have a customer for life.”

And to be useful you have to ask questions. You have to find out what people are really looking for and help them find it.

Youtility with Bookkeeping?

We have learned this in promoting our accounting services. We tell people all the time, “You need to have your financials in order. You need to have proper bookkeeping.”

But we’ve found a lot of times that people don’t care about that.

It doesn’t matter to them.

It’s when we started asking questions about what they care about that we’ve actually been able to provide the useful information they need.

Yes, they need proper bookkeeping, but that’s not the point. For each industry, the needs are different. For a small law firm, they are looking to save time, have transparency over what is happening and be able to have confidence about a trust accounting audit.

Our marketing team didn’t even know about trust accounting until we started asking more questions.

As small business marketers it’s our job to ask questions and hear people’s stories. When we know their stories we found out what they are passionate about and what they really want.

When we know what they really want, we can be helpful. We don’t sell to them, we help them with whatever solution fits.

And when you are able to be helpful, you’ll find dedicated passionate customers.

Three Types of Youtility

Baer shared three ways we can provide useful content to our audience.

1. Self-Serve Information

If you are not creating content either by writing or video, then I’m sorry but I don’t think Baer’s session would have provided much help for you.
He recommends using your website to communicate answers to any question a visitor could ever ask.

A practical application would be to think through the questions you are typically asked. What are the objections prospects have to your product or service?

Think of the top 3-5 and write blog posts answering those questions. Then you’ll have helpful information they can find on their own.

2. Radical Transparency

In the age of information, the reality is the truth will always come out. There is no point in trying to put yourself out there as something you are not, because, people will find out.

And Baer believes you can use this to your advantage.

“Trust is the prism through which all business success must pass,” Baer said. “Trust is built through radical transparency.”
Don’t try to be perfect. We don’t believe you. And we don’t trust perfect.

Be authentic and transparent. Then you’ll be unique and will create more genuine connections.

3. Real-Time Relevancy

As I sort through all my #Icon14 notes, I’ll come back a lot to the importance of going narrow, so I won’t get into it much at this point.

But that’s essentially what Baer points out here. To be useful and relevant you have to KNOW who I am.

You have to speak my language and know what I’m concerned with.

If you are trying to be useful to everybody, you’ll probably be useful to nobody because you’ll be too broad and therefore irrelevant.


“Have the courage to be useful,” Baer said powerfully as he encouraged the audience to provide marketing good enough that people would be willing to pay for it.

Additionally, it takes courage to go narrow. It takes courage to cut off options for the sake of truly investing in someone or something.

It takes courage to be a farmer. It takes a lot of courage to keep the plow moving forward every day, knowing that the harvest will come someday down the line.

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