SD#35 | Non-Smarmy Marketing that Wins

#copywriting #humility #marketing advertising Mar 27, 2023

Read Time: 6.0 minutes


The audience is never listening to what you are saying. They are listening for what it means for them. 

  Phillip Khan-Panni | Author, Stand and Deliver


What’s the Tip?

The secret to non-smarmy marketing that wins is deceptively simple: focus on your customer. In this piece, we'll show you how to convert that simple secret to non-smarmy marketing into a strategic advantage by adopting a customer-first mindset driven by Humility, Empathy, and Generosity.

All three traits are essential underpinnings of our day-to-day business which is storytelling training and coaching. All three also happen to be central parts of a book we wrote several years ago called, Win With Decency.


How Do You Use It?

Focusing on your customer is one thing, but actually doing it is another. So, what has to happen or change in your business to make your customer the true focus of everything you do? How exactly do you make your customer the hero? Here's where Humility, Empathy, and Generosity come into play.


The humility part begins with the following mind shift: When it comes to marketing, it's not about you — it's about your customer.


Empathy is how you put that mind shift into action. It begins with understanding the world from your customer's point of view, not your own. Empathy allows you to move from promoting just the features of your product and what it can do - to promoting the benefits of your product and what it can do for your customer. 


You've got to give to get. It's not complicated. Giving away content or part of your product (or service) to prospects or customers is key to eliminating your customer's risk and removing friction from an eventual purchase. But whatever you're giving away must provide some genuine value for your customers.


What are Some Examples?

Enough with the abstract stuff, let's get to some action items that will help you right away!

Actionable Humility:

Humility allows you to reorient your marketing from yourself to your customer. So, what does that look like? To put humility into action, make this one change in your copy. Replace instances of “I/We/Us” with “You/Your/Yours” and adjust accordingly. 

When you make this change in pronouns, your copy and your conversations stop being about your brand and start being about your customer. It's inescapable. To be clear, there will be places where this change is a forced fit and won't work. The key is changing your mindset and making small improvements.

Actionable Empathy:

Empathy allows you to dig deeper in your customer's world, so you can speak from your customer's pain points in your marketing through storytelling and copywriting. Doing this means moving from talking about product features to delving into its benefits. But even that will only get you so far. Go one step beyond the first benefit that comes to mind and challenge yourself to come up with what we call, “the benefit of the benefit.”

We’ve created a PDF for you with 10 examples that will walk you through the benefit of the benefit approach. You can find it here.

The deeper you delve into your customer's world, the richer your copy will be that will help sell your product. 

Actionable Generosity:

Generosity means creating and then giving away content loaded with value - from LinkedIn posts and carousels to Twitter threads to eBooks. High-quality, free content helps you establish authority in your niche, fosters credibility and trust, and removes risk, not only in the short term but even as your customer moves along his or her customer journey and nears a first purchase.

Of course, the ultimate test of generosity in the form of risk removal is to make a strong money-back guarantee a central part of your offer.

Something like this: in the first 7 days of buying our X, if you're not completely satisfied with your purchase, we'll give you a full refund, no questions asked. And you get to keep the product.


What's the Benefit to You?

The biggest benefit of focusing on your customer is better business that you can be proud of.



  1. To win in non-smarmy marketing, focus on your customer by adopting a customer-first mindset driven by Humility, Empathy, and Generosity.
  2. To put humility into action, replace instances of "I/We/Us" with "You/Your/Yours" in your copy to make your conversations about your customer instead of your brand.
  3. To put empathy into action, delve deeper into your customer's world to speak from their pain points in your marketing through storytelling and copywriting.
  4. To put generosity into action, create and give away high-quality content to establish authority in your niche, foster credibility and trust, and remove risk for your customer.
  5. The ultimate benefit of focusing on your customer is better business that you can be proud of.

P.S. Interested learning more about non-smarmy marketing, we've joined our good friend, Sophie Lechner, and her upcoming LinkedIn initiative called the Marketing Mutiny Community Project. Click on the link to hone your marketing chops without feeling smarmy about it. 

We hope you've found this issue of StoryDirect useful! Remember to forward it to a friend!

New Workshop: Craft Your Personal Narrative: Master Your Answer to "Tell Me About Yourself"

Are you interviewing and want to feel confident answering one of the most commonly asked questions, "tell me about yourself"? This question can be a real minefield - and your response can go really well, or really wrong. We'll teach you a storytelling framework to help you nail your response.

Explore the Workshop