8 Tips to Create Content That Doesn’t Feel Like Marketing

Content Freaking Marketing by MKTR.AI

Marketing your business without being pushy, invasive, and downright annoying can seem impossible. But it’s not. In fact, it’s pretty straightforward.

In this article, I’m going to walk you through 8 tips you can use to create engaging content that doesn’t feel like marketing.

Although the forward nature of outbound marketing certainly has its place in today’s business landscape, inbound marketing has taken the reigns as the way people want to be marketed.

Let’s preface this article with a few quick tips for what not to do:

Don’t just blast your tone-deaf message at anyone and everyone. I say again, don’t blast your contextless, self-promoting, annoying pitch at everyone.

We’ve all met that person, the one who talks incessantly about their achievements, salary, whatever thin veneer of nonsense they use to conflate themselves. The habitual one-uppers of the world tend to have their messages fall on deaf ears.

Marketing can be the same way. If you just blast a blatant sales pitch at anyone and everyone, without their best interest in mind, you’re going to lose people. LinkedIn spammers – I’m talking to you!

Marketing shouldn’t be so much about you. Your marketing should be about your customer and their future state of being, wants, needs, motivations, goals and what they can do to realize them.

So what? How does this help you?

In this article, I’m going to give you 8 tips to help you create content that draws people to your business without feeling too salesy. It’s about marketing without feeling, sounding, or looking like marketing.

What is content?

Firstly, let’s address a large misconception in business. Content is not just text. Content is not just a blog or article.

Content is video, visuals (see our custom sketches throughout this post), infographics, slide-decks, charts, graphs, diagrams, podcasts, interactive websites, quizzes, calculators, widgets, micro-apps, and more. Our friend, Kevin Indig breaks down the concept quite well in his article 10 Factors that make great content great.

Got it. Content can take various forms, depending on the type of business and needs of the content consumer.

So now that we have a shared understanding of what constitutes content, let’s talk about content marketing.

What on Earth Is Content Marketing?!?

What is content marketing? By MKTR.AI

The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.

You can find content marketing all over the place, but I’d like to show you some of the more interesting examples.

Makeup companies absolutely crush content marketing. If you want to see content marketing at its best, check out this do-it-yourself Smokey eye makeup tutorial.

You don’t have to wear makeup to marvel at the ability of these cosmetic companies to kick butt at content marketing. Here’s how they do it:

  1. Offer free tutorials on YouTube.
  2. In the video tutorial, the presenter teaches viewers how to apply makeup so that it looks professionally done.
  3. Throughout the video, the makeup applied is all from the company that owns the account. (In this case, Maybelline)

You can use the same strategy to build your business. Not only is it effective in building trust, generating quality leads, and increasing sales, it is also a strategy that any business can apply and benefit from.

The best marketing doesn’t come across as marketing, it feels like someone is helping you…. Because that’s exactly what they’re doing. Crazy, I know.

Seriously, let’s think about it.

Our company, MKTR.AI is a marketing agency and consultancy at its core. We’re writing this content to share information to help you along, but in the process, you’re realizing that we’re awesome and at some point in the future you may want to work with us or even share our content with other people who might.


Content. Freaking. Marketing.

Content Freaking Marketing Cartoon by MKTR.AI

Now let’s get down to the 8 tips to create content that doesn’t feel like marketing.

1. Make storytelling part of your content marketing

Image of an open book labeled storytelling for content marketing by MKTR.AI

Can you accurately narrate the whole plot of your favorite novel or movie? Of course you can.

Better yet, do you remember every little detail of the funniest story in your high school days? Of course you do.

Why do you remember these stories? It’s because we all love great stories especially the ones that impacted us the most. (It also has a lot to do with neuroscience, but we’ll talk about that in a minute.)

See where I’m going with this?

Storytelling is a large factor in engaging your readers. Audiences are often drawn to the narrative; a story that draws attention and captivates them.

Storytelling can be an excellent tool to make your brand’s personality shine in a way that doesn’t feel like marketing.

In fact, the personal connection we feel when hearing a story isn’t just theoretical; it’s backed by some interesting neuroscience. Our brain actually can’t tell the difference between hearing a story and experiencing it. Because of that personal connection, we become deeply and emotionally attached.

Imagine that, a deeply engaged consumer… sounds like every businessperson’s dream… because it is.

2. Provide more value for free

Free content lead magnet cartoon by MKTR.AI

Who doesn’t love free stuff? To maximize the effect of your content marketing, you should give away as much value as you can justify.

We’re talking articles, downloadable guides (like Office Libations’ healthy office snack guide), software (like ubersuggest), advice (AMAs, webinars, etc), and your time. I’m not telling you to give everything away, I’m telling you to incorporate giving away something to build goodwill with your future customers.

Make your free content valuable so that people cannot wait to see what your paid products and services look like.

Providing more valuable content for free such as tutorials, blogs, videos, e-books, and software can create a strong relationship between potential consumers and your business.

Providing free valuable content plays on the behavioral economic principle of gratitude and indebtedness. Different studies showed that gratitude served as a more reliable and stronger predictor of favorable reciprocal behavior compared to satisfaction with customer experience.

Wait, what? Gratitude has a stronger effect on purchasing behavior than customer experience?

Yep. Or, yes… to an extent. Let’s not get too far off track here. The fact that it’s even close is enough to make gratitude something you should consider when building your marketing strategy.

Astonishing, isn’t it?

Moreover, you will be able to increase the visibility of your brand and effectively position your business expertise and authority in that particular market. You should earn their trust first, before asking someone to become a customer. This way, it could generate traffic to your site to improve lead generation and opens a channel of communication through social shares and comments.

So what’s the takeaway?

Be generous!

3. Do something different, new, and exciting

blah blah blah boring content sucks by MKTR.AI

Sticking out in a sea of sameness is hard and mediocrity is the enemy of effective marketing. Modern consumers avoid boredom like it’s the plague, so don’t be boring.

Unfortunately, that alone probably isn’t enough. What can you do to stand out?

Like I said above, provide some value, don’t hard-sell, don’t be boring, and be creative. Find a unique or interesting way to deliver your content. Maybe that’s in the tone and voice of your writing. Maybe that’s through awesome sketches ;p. Maybe that’s through making a fun game people play on your site that’s related to teaching them about your business.

So, your content marketing should exude an exciting vibe to attract potential customers. Ditch the boring and old way of selling and promoting your brand.

Let’s dig a little deeper…

Starting with your content headlines

If you’re writing an article or blog you need a catchy headline. Without a decent headline, the rest won’t matter.

CoSchedule has an awesome Headline Analyzer we strongly suggest checking out. By the way, this tool is an excellent example of content marketing. CoSchedule gives away free usage of this software tool to attract people to their website and in order to build relationships with possible future customers.

Screenshot of coschedule's headline analyzer tool
Screenshot from https://coschedule.com/headline-analyzer

Create visual content

You should spice up your content by providing effective visuals. It will power up your communications, boost engagement, and spark up your social media.

Our brains not only process visuals faster, but they retain and transmit much more information when it’s delivered visually.

4. Don’t hard-sell your audience

Hear me out as I blast you with my tone deaf sales pitch. By MKTR.AI

To put it simply, don’t hard-sell your product or service.

A hard sell is an advertisement or campaign that uses a more direct, forceful, and overt sales message. Hard selling is a sign that your business doesn’t completely know its customers and it can be counterproductive.

You might end up targeting the wrong market segment and that can frustrate consumers or lead to angry social commentators. We don’t want that to happen.

In order for you to create content that doesn’t feel like marketing, you should build your content around a takeaway for the audience. Start with your customer in mind. Attempt to understand their pain points and look to provide quick wins for them.

5. Pay close attention to the audience’s interest

Pay attention to your target market's interests with segmentation, by MKTR.AI

“The first rule of blogging is: know your audience. After all, if you don’t know who your ideal customer is, there’s no way you can appeal to them. Knowledge of your target audience is a step towards creating custom blog posts for them.”

Neil Patel

As I’ve said over and over, blogging isn’t the only form of content, but Neil Patel’s point holds. Know your audience. Once you know your audience and their needs, wants, expectations, and motivations, developing content for them gets exponentially easier.

Knowing what people want, need, and expect is more than half the battle. But you still need to deliver.

So how do you do that?

Take your wisdom and put it to use by helping your content consumers improve their state of being. Maybe that’s through humorous content. Maybe it’s with some form of entertainment, or maybe it’s by helping them solve something bothering them.

Whatever you produce, your goal should be to build strong relationships with your audience.

Customer segmentation is a great way to separate your customers in groups so you can better serve each group (or segment). Learn more about customer segmentation with our Introductory Guide to Customer Segmentation.

AND if you’re technically inclined, you HAVE to read our Technical Guide to Customer Segmentation.

Empathy mapping & customer journey mapping are also great ways to build an understanding of your market and then develop a strategy to meet their needs. Once again, Kevin Indig wrote about this an awesome article which discusses how to build great content by understanding user intent.

Bonus, totally awesome, sub-tip — we can call it “5a”:

You can create more brand recall by tying in emotion to your content. Using power words is a great way to influence readers’ emotion.

6. Write in a conversational tone

Cartoon image of two boys talking in a conversational tone by MKTR.AI

Have you ever had a conversation with a friend and lost track of time? I’m sure you have. We all have.

Why does that happen? It happens because we’re engaged, we’re connected., we’re comfortable. These are all the things we want out of our relationships with our content consumers.

Your audience is far more likely to relate to and engage with content that is conversational in nature. But remember, conversation with a friend is a two-way street. Don’t only focus on the things you want to express, genuinely connect with your audience.

Furthermore, be sure to express your point of view with passion, like you would with friends. Conversing with a friend requires emotion. One of the most compelling emotions to use in your content is joy.

All emotions will create some sort of connection with your audience if properly executed, but joy is by far the best one to implement into your strategy. And yes it’s true, Good times with your friends are mostly unforgettable.

So what does this mean?

It means that you should always include empathy, real-life experiences, quality stories, or even humor. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

“At the end of the day, it’s good to mix emotions into your content marketing. You want your prospects to make a connection and remember you. Don’t be afraid to show some personality in your content. Otherwise, you may be perceived as boring and forgettable.”

Alanna Jackson

7. Be as creative as possible

Creative content creation cartoon by MKTR.AI

In order to create engaging content that doesn’t feel like marketing, you need to be creative or unique in one of the following ways:

  • Delivery – tone, voice, or writing style
  • Visual content development
  • Add specific and unique insights, or perspective (hopefully with data)
  • Distribution method or channel
  • Connection with your community, tribe, niche market

That may sound daunting, but it isn’t that difficult. Be yourself and let your personality shine through.

But how do you do that???

Well, if you like drawing as I do, you can sketch cool little images throughout your content. If you have a quirky sense of humor, let your quirkiness out. If you have a captive audience interested in your topic, take advantage of your access to a unique channel.

What if you don’t have any of those things?

You can go with the old fashion research. Run an experiment or test. Gather data. Analyze it and share your results.

Or you could create a widget or micro-app to share with people for free. If you can’t code but have a few hundred dollars laying around, you can always hire someone off UpWork to build your app for you.

The bottom line = there are plenty of interesting ways you can create content that doesn’t feel like marketing. It just takes a little bit of effort.

8. Delight your target audience

content community and audience cartoon by MKTR.AI

If you’ve made it this far, (I’m not talking about you, you skimmer!) you’re aware of the connection theme. Connecting with your audience is integral to the effectiveness of your marketing strategy.

In order to connect with your audience, you need to understand who they are. By knowing your audience, you can deduce what to produce for them, based on where they are in their customer journey. (See #5 on this list if you’ve already forgotten)

You should focus more on producing entertaining, educational, insightful, or useful content to your content users. Sending a genuine thank you email, or letter can be as impactful as promoting your business. Therefore, you need to package your content differently for each audience or segment.

By providing the right content, in the right place, at the right time, you delight your audience.

Sounds easy enough, right?

Do you have any tips to make content that does not feel like marketing? Share them in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

Want to dive deeper into what goes into effective content marketing?

MKTR.AI is here to help you through this journey and provide you with an immense competitive advantage in marketing. We’re an action-oriented team of marketers, developers, and entrepreneurs. We value delivery and growth above all else.

  1. One of the most common misconceptions about “content marketing” is that simply by publishing blog posts, your business will magically take off & you’ll be besieged by armies of eager prospective customers clamoring for whatever you sell. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. Smart content marketers don’t just produce excellent content, but also know how to measure the results of their efforts.

    Whatever you want your “content” to do, it’s crucial that you evaluate the performance of your content using analytics & other data-driven approaches – otherwise you could be wasting your time & money on content that isn’t doing anything for your business.

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