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Guest post from Jay Baer

2013 will be the death of “viral” as a marketing strategy. Despite the success of Old Spice, Honey Badger, Gangnam Style and other outliers, brands will recognize that swinging for the fences breeds strikeouts, and is wholly unpredictable and unreliable.

In 2013, brands will eschew the strategy of hope and embrace a new strategy of help, and in so doing will usher in a new era that diminishes promotion in favor of information.

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According to research conducted by Google, in 2010 consumers needed 5.3 sources of information before making a purchase. In 2011, just one year later, they needed 10.4 sources. In just 12 months, the amount of information needed to pull the buying trigger doubled. Why? Are we less decisive? More risk adverse? No. We need more information because we HAVE more information. From blogs to podcasts to review websites to Facebook and beyond, prospective customers are floating in a sea of data, and brands will begin to aggressively wage this war of information in 2013.

Simultaneous shifts in how, why, and how much information customers consume have fundamentally altered the success formula for modern business. Brands can’t survive by shouting the loudest and relying solely on anachronistic, interruption marketing, or even wacky, videos that you pray will go viral. They can’t send an email every day proclaiming that you’re featuring the “biggest sale ever!” They can’t simply rewrite a portion of the online brochure and hope that Google funnels customers to the website.

Customers are more curious and more suspicious than ever. The only way to succeed in that environment is to tilt the marketing objective from selling to helping.

If you sell something, you make a customer today. If you help someone, you may create a customer for life. Brands will take cues from Hilton Hotels, McDonald’s Canada, Clorox, Columbia Sportswear and many, many others that have realized that the key to success is to stop being a salesman and start becoming a YOUtility.

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YOUtility is marketing so useful people would pay for it. If brands do that – if they make their marketing inherently, truly, astoundingly useful – their customers will do their marketing for them. They’ll sell more by selling less.

That’s my prediction for 2013. Brands will focus on making their marketing indispensible.

~Jay Baer is a marketing strategist, speaker, and author. He’s president of the consultancy Convince & Convert, which helps major companies and their agencies accelerate the success of their social media and content marketing. He’s host of the weekly Social Pros podcast, and co-author of The NOW Revolution: 7 Shifts to Make Your Business Faster, Smarter, and More Social. Jay has a new book in the works for 2013.

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