Marketing for People Who Hate Marketing: A Better Strategy

funny sign
image courtesy of **viv**

I haven’t exactly kept my distaste for marketing a secret. In an email to Penelope Trunk, I described myself as “a marketer who hates marketing.” It’s true—it’s a terrible fit for me.

Well, most of it. But we’ll get to that…

Even if you don’t actually work in a marketing position, you’re quite likely marketing if you’re part of modern working society. If you’re not marketing your company’s stuff, you’re marketing your own stuff. Or, you’re marketing yourself to an employer. In some way, we’re all doing it.

And a lot of us despise it.

Why We Hate It

I think my own loathing of the practice can be boiled down to two main issues, which I’d be willing to bet most marketing haters can relate to.

1. It Feels Shady

At least most of it does, right? It feels so WRONG to me. It feels like trickery. And it makes me feel so dirty that I’m good at it. I can use certain words, deliver a message in a specific way, display content in a psychologically appealing fashion—I can get you to take the action I want.

Gross, who am I?

I hate that I’m influencing buying decisions like this. I feel like I’m effing with you. And I don’t want to eff with you, friend. I want you to know the facts and have all the information, and purchase (or not) at will, with no prompting from me.

2. It Feels Unnatural

I don’t set out to deceive people in my everyday life. I’m, like, the most honest girl ever. I almost can’t not be honest. Most marketing efforts run counter to my natural preferences for disseminating truth, and for helping people (not getting them to buy my shit).

I also don’t really try to stand out. I’m not shy or anything, but I’m not looking for attention, which is exactly what I feel like I’m doing when I’m marketing. It feels jarring against my M.O.

Why We Need to Stop Hating It

Let’s assume you have something worthy of others’ investment. Something that really is great (like yourself) or that really will help people or make them happier. Now, people don’t magically know you exist, or that your company/product/service/website does. That’s the gist of it, ya know? If you build it, they won’t necessarily come—you have to tell them about it.

And there’s so much noise out there—so many marketing messages competing for our attention—that unless your goal is to fail, you have to find a way to capture some of that attention and let people know about you and your offer.

Allow Me to Make Your Day By Saying This: Inbound Marketing

We get to stop screwing people, you guys!

The inbound marketing philosophy can be simplified this way: instead of pushing your message on people, you’re pulling them in. And a big part of pulling them in is providing super-valuable content (a.k.a content marketing)blog posts, how-to guides, checklists, whatever. You’re being helpful, and they’re coming to you as a resource, and then they trust you, and then they buy your stuff, which is good stuff because you’re a good person… IT’S SO BEAUTIFUL.

Write applicable articles. Develop handy whitepapers and reports. Be useful and generous on social media. Give your people the information and guidance they’re looking for, and the selling will take care of itself.

This is good marketing. This is effective marketing.

This is marketing we can stop hating.



How do you feel about marketing? Have you tried any inbound marketing tactics?

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Your thoughts?
  1. Sarah says:

    Maybe I’m soulless, but I tend to like the challenge and thrill that is marketing without full on lying to someone. I am a people shapeshifter, and tend to change my tone of voice, interests, etc. depending on who I’m speaking to. I’m not lying or being someone I’m not, just playing up certain parts of myself at that specific time. Granted, I have never worked in a full on marketing position, so I may very well develop the hate when I get there…

    • Cassie says:

      I think you just described the ideal personality for marketing. I wonder…in your marketing experiences, have you had to promote something you didn’t see value in yourself? I think that’s what my issue boils down to–THAT’S what makes me feel like I’m selling my soul, encouraging you to spend money or waste time on something I think is only good for my company, not you.

  2. Austin says:

    i started out disagreeing with the first half of your article but agree with the second. marketing or selling your product, service, or self shouldn’t ever feel shady or dirty if you are truly passionate about what you are doing. you may come across people that are not interested in what you have to offer, but your passion and sincerity alone usually warrants some respect. if you continually run into issues with the people you are marketing to, change your audience, not your product.

    i completely agree about content marketing. in a recent study, blogs proved to outrank consumer influence higher than social networks. the smaller community feel that a blog provides creates more trust in what the author is saying. jason fried(author and co founder of talks in one of his books, Rework, how blogging is an excellent way to attract relevant users to your site.

    • Cassie says:

      Austin, I think you bring up something that is SO key: “if you are truly passionate about what you are doing.” I think ultimately, that’s the underlying cause of my (and others’) issue with marketing–all of my marketing experiences have been for products or services I don’t totally believe in, and certainly am not passionate about. You’re right in your observation that if the passion is there, it shouldn’t feel shady or dirty. When I market this blog, I don’t feel that way about marketing. I rather enjoy it, in fact.

      And hell yes for content marketing. I was introduced to it about a year and a half ago, and I remember describing it as “the stuff that actually matters” in terms of the work an online marketer could do. As you’ve noted, experts see the value–I’m trying to get individuals and small businesses to, too.

  3. Chris says:

    Marketing has been extremely tough for me lately. I have a site up and my wife and I are pouring ourselves into it, but it always just seems like we’re shouting into the wind. I get the idea of marketing generally, but I really don’t understand how to implement it yet. I’m heading over to Copyblogger now to see what they say about Content Marketing; it sounds really interesting.

    • Cassie says:

      “shouting into the wind”–yes. Me, too. I think this is particularly true for a website/online business. Have you read Renaissance Business by Emilie Wapnick over at Puttylike? She has some great “growth strategy” ideas in the ebook. The entire publication is fantastic and worthy every penny!

      Also, I think you will love what you find about content marketing. It’s a very INFJ-friendly way of attracting attention. 🙂

  4. Norman says:

    I have a love/hate relationship with marketing: I love to hate it. Part of the problem is everything related to selling is seen as marketing: the obtrusive TV/Cable/Web ad, the person working the floor at a retailer desperately trying to put food on the table, the smarmy git selling knives/cars etc. A marketing person trying to get me to buy into one of his seminars asked me my opinion of marketing … so I told him. He immediately declared “I don’t understand people who don’t like sales! What do they think is on TV?” I said: I don’t watch TV, when I did I left the room for drinks etc. when ads came on, I use an adblocker on most sites, most radio ads are white noise, and billboards are similar-visual white noise.” He told me I was mediocre and illustrated most of what is wrong with US economy.

    I encourage to put some time into thinking how you market to me: the marketing cynic. Because I believe that describes many of us in your targeted market (whatever the targeted market is).

    • Cassie says:

      A “marketing cynic”–yep, me too. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve studied a marketing channel or its messages only to look up and think, seriously? This really works? People really buy this shit? No way. And that’s precisely why I stand behind inbound marketing. You get the leads you’re looking for by providing value and truly helping people. It’s a win-win.

      As to what you’ve encouraged us to think about, I’d tell myself and other marketers to continuously ask the following questions: 1) How can I help more? 2) How can I give more? Run with the answers and let the leads and sales happen, as they undoubtedly will.

  5. Erin says:

    OMG — were you and I separated at birth? I’m a copywriter/content developer and feel the EXACT same way as you do. I tend to have an allergic reaction towards most overt marketing because it’s usually so goddamned skeevy and awful. And I feel guilty because I happen to be pretty good at it.

    But being awesome and providing people with all sorts of fabulous and valuable content they love, so they’re inspired to learn more about you and support your business? THAT is the bomb.

    (I don’t work with companies that are obviously only out to make a buck anymore — life is way too short.)

    • Cassie Sanchez says:

      Erin yayyyyyyy!!!!!! Yay yay yay for you and your approach to content marketing! Happy we’ve connected. 🙂

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