This is essential in the PR business, when you’re trying to get the word out and get “ink” in your local paper or industry magazine. You can’t just write a sales pitch or bit of brochure-style copy. If you want journalists to pick up your story, you actually have to tell a story.
Same goes for marketing. Even though your company owns the medium, the same editorial standards apply: you need to give the audience something helpful or interesting, something completely opposite of a “hard sell.”
The acid test for this comes from Harry Beckwith’s brilliant book, Selling the Invisible. Beckwith suggests you sit down and write a sales pitch about your company — why someone should work with you, what makes you great, what makes you unique. According to Beckwith, this exercise should be easy. If it’s not, you should stop focusing on marketing (or PR) and start focusing on creating a better service (or better stories).
In other words: stop thinking about marketing as a way to “convince” consumers that you’re great, and instead use it as a tool to illuminate the greatness that’s already there. Show, don’t sell.