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Paul RoetzerJuly 9, 20135 min read

A One-Man Trip Advisor: Taxi Mike and the Power of Youtility

The following is a guest post from Jay Baer (@jaybaer), with an excerpt from his new book.  is a hype-free social media and content strategist & speaker, and author of Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help not Hype. Jay is the founder of Convince & Convert and host of the Social Pros podcast.

Colossal shifts in how, where, and why consumers access information have made a new marketing method possible. I call this friend-of-mine awareness, and it’s predicated on the reality that companies are competing against real people for the attention of other real people. To succeed, your prospective customers must consider you a friend. And if, like their friends, you provide them real value, if you practice Youtility rather than simply offer a series of coupons and come-ons, they will reward your company with loyalty and advocacy, the same ways we reward our friends.

The smart marketer’s new way of thinking is Youtility. 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. In this climate, Youtility is not an option; it’s a necessity.

Taxi Mike and the Power of Low-Tech Youtility

Taxi Mike, and the Power of Low-Tech YoutilityYoutility isn’t solely available to larger companies. Any company, of any size, can achieve friend-of-mine awareness if they choose to do so. I figured this out while on vacation in Canada with my family in the summer of 2010. 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 Trip Advisor, 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 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.”

You Can Be Taxi Mike

One of the agencies I work with is Casacom, with offices in Montreal and Toronto. Recently, they tasked each of their employees with nominating their favorite restaurant and thing to do in each city, and published their own city guides for clients and prospects. Genius!

Youtility at Casacom

Why Isn’t Youtility Universal?

In most organizations, there are two barriers standing in the way of this new type of marketing. One is psychological, and the other is operational. On the psychological front, the truth is that the tenets of Youtility—making your company inherently useful without expecting an immediate return—is in direct opposition to the principles of marketing and business deeply ingrained in practitioners at all levels.

We’ve been trained to think that marketing activities and outcomes follow a linear progression. We’ve been told over and over that we sell more with bigger budgets and better targeting, and by perfecting the crafts of interruption and inbound marketing. Youtility is something entirely different. It requires companies to intentionally promote less at the point of consumer interaction, and in so doing build trust capital that will be redeemed down the road. Youtility turns marketing upside down, and many business people simply are not prepared to embrace a situation where the time horizon between input and export is elongated. In fact, executives advocating for this strategy often have to expend considerable internal capital to get budget approval for these initiatives — despite the fact that most Youtility executions do not require substantial resources to produce.

In most companies, creating marketing that customers want is a colossal shift from the norm. As a result, many current programs of this type represent the first time the business has tried useful marketing. Because there is no internal history with it, the operational barrier to Youtility centers on roles and responsibilities. Who should be in charge of this? Marketing? Customer Service? Some other department? Further, the execution of Youtility marketing can require expertise in areas that are unfamiliar, such as mobile application development, robust blogging, and tight social media integrations. These barriers can be broken down by planning and finding the right platform for your useful marketing.

Are you ready to embrace the colossal shift and truly become useful to your clients?


Excerpted from Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help not Hype by Jay Baer, published in late June by Portfolio/Penguin. See for other resources. Excerpt:



Paul Roetzer

Paul Roetzer is Ready North's (formerly PR 20/20) founder and senior advisor, as well as the founder and CEO of Marketing AI Institute. He is the author of Marketing Artificial Intelligence (Matt Holt Books, 2022) The Marketing Performance Blueprint (Wiley, 2014), and The Marketing Agency Blueprint (Wiley, 2012); and the creator of the Marketing AI Conference (MAICON). Full bio.