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You need to write (and market) like a human to get results (+ examples)

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You need to write (and market) like a human to get results (examples)

OK, before we dig into this topic, we need to take a step back for a moment and agree that if you’re here reading this, you’re a good human trying to do good things. 

And what I mean by that is, it doesn’t matter if you’re a marketer or a business owner or some sort of subject matter expert within a company. If you’re here ready to have this conversation, I am going to assume you’re a good human with well-intentioned ambitions to be of genuine service to the people you serve through your brand.

That distinction is essential, because you are either looking to be of true service to your audience or you’re not. You’re either looking to simplify the complex, or you’re looking to pull a fast one that looks like you’re trying to be helpful on the surface.

If you fall into that second camp, I cannot help you.

Now, with that bit of housekeeping out of the way, let’s talk about writing content like a human. Because I've spent the past few months experimenting with being more human and more authentic in my own content, and the results have blown me away. So much so, that I felt the need to smash the pause button on your regular HubSpot programming to talk about it.

πŸ”Ž Related: It's time for a New Year's revolution, resolutions are for the birds

Is creating content like a human easy? Nope, definitely not at first. But trust me, if you go out of your way to show up like an actual, honest-to-goodness human being in your company's content, you will be surprised how powerful the results will be. (And not just in a "warm and fuzzy" feeling way; to be human in your marketing is to be profitable.)

Your buyers want you to be human

Look, "building trust" as a battle cry for marketers and business owners isn't new. It's a punchline that predates the pandemic by decades. If you want to make it easy for people to buy from you, you need to make it easy for people to trust you. 

πŸ”Ž Related: What does great content actually look like? (HubHeroes Podcast)

On top of that, let's talk about how the word "authenticity" has been overused to the point where I often find myself cringing when someone brings it up. 

However, that doesn't change the fact that your buyers have been ramping up their demands for you to be more human, more authentic, more transparent. And this is something the pandemic only accelerated:

Also, if you think you only need to scratch this humanity itch once to satisfy your buyers (or you want to be very careful how much you dip your toe in this pool), remember that it takes between five and seven touch points for a buyer to remember your brand

Moreover, consumers (and employees) overwhelmingly agree that a consistent brand experience is very important; and how you show up (human or sterilized corporate robot) is part of that brand experience.

What does it mean to create content like a human?

Often, when I see people try to be more human in their content, they go about it the entirely wrong way. For example, "I need to add some personality to this blog on pricing, maybe I can throw a joke or two in there."

Sure, sometimes "being more human" in your content means you may throw in a few dad jokes if you're like me. But being funny isn't your goal when you're trying to be an authentic human being who fosters trust as easily as you breathe. 

Instead, this is what being a human in your content really means:

  • You go out of your way to simplify the complex, making it easy for your target audience to understand what the heck it is that you're talking about. 
  • You don't focus on generating revenue as your primary goal when you sit down to write that blog or shoot that video. Instead, you put all of your brainpower behind achieving one goal β€” being as helpful and as thorough as possible in answering the question in front of you for your audience, so they will feel genuinely served and empowered with knowledge.
  • You talk and act like you, the person they will interact with and meet should they choose to do business with you. You don't pretend to be someone you're not. 
  • You go out of your way to make your audience feel seen, heard, and understood with whatever challenges they may be facing right now. You might even share your own experiences that illuminate they're certainly not alone in how they're feeling, and there is someone who can (and wants) to genuinely help them. 

Part of me wants to say, "That's pretty much all there is to it!" But checking off those four boxes is easier said than done, even with the best of intentions as an individual content creator or a business owner setting the tone for your organization.

Many of us struggle because we're afraid

Even if you do show up to work every day like I do with a genuine desire to serve and help others, imposter syndrome is a tough beast to totally knock out. You want to be open and honest and helpful and human, but what if that gets rejected? What if someone tells you you're wrong?

πŸ”Ž Related: How to write a blog post outline (tips + examples)

When you write in a way that hides part of your humanity β€” you know with a little more "polished professionalism" that is much more stiff and sterile than how you really show up β€” it's like wearing a suit of armor that protects you from the world.

That way, if someone doesn't like a piece of content you created, your heart and soul weren't poured into it. When someone shoots it down publicly, their words are not an indictment of you. 

Of course, your fear may go deeper than that.

You don't know how you should show up

You may fear that you don't really know how to show up as a whole-ass human, full of contradictions. 

This is something I've struggled with a lot as a human and as a professional throughout my career. I've been a bouncer. I've taught people how to ride horses and wear cowboy hats like the best of them. A week rarely goes by without me randomly busting out with a freestyle rap during a call or podcast recording.

I'm a father. I'm a man of faith. I'm a speaker. I'm a HubHero. I'm a man who loves dope, colorful hoodies and hats, as well as a fantastic cigar. I could go on and on. 

My point is I don't fit neatly into a one-dimensional personality type or arbitrary grouping of interests. I struggled with that for a really long time.

For years, I would only show up embodying only parts of this spectrum of who I am, totally dependent on who I was in front of. Today, I just let it all ride. Because this is who George B. Thomas is, folks! There's no sense in hiding it, because it's what makes me ... well, me! 

The same goes for you.

You are not a walking contradiction, you are a whole-ass human β€” just like everyone else on this planet. You can show up just as you are, because the people you're trying to reach (even in the B2B space) are whole-ass humans, too.

"What's in this for me? What do I get out of this?"

I can't go on without also addressing the elephant in the room. In some cases, maybe you're not afraid at all. Instead, there's a chance that you (or others you know) walk into a work with this mindset each day.

For whatever reason, you're less concerned about the needs of who you serve or how you can help them. You're more focused on questions like:

  • "What KPIs do I need to hit to get that raise or keep my job?"
  • "What box do I need to check to get the gold star?"
  • "What are the things I need to do to look out for No. 1 (i.e., me)?"

Look, if this sounds familiar to you, I'm not passing judgment. I've been there, and I know first-hand this mindset can be one rooted in self-preservation, especially in an economy like this one. 

However, if you're going into work (and, as a result, every piece of content you create) with a ME-FIRST mentality, your audience will be able to sense it even if only on a subconscious level. You won't broadcast that you're the resource they've been looking for who can genuinely help them. 

Sure, they might think you're an expert, but you'll telegraph to them that you're only here for you ... and they'll always come second.


Seriously, don't be this guy. They can sense it.

Aside from the fact that coming off as an informational gatekeeper who's just trying to make a quick buck is an efficient way to turn-off your ideal buyers, there's another reason why embracing your humanity in content is essential. 

An example of human content in action

Natalie Franke is a small business advocate, author, speaker, and the chief evangelist for Honeybook, a clientflow platform for small businesses. Recently, she published an article that ... the first time I read it, I thought to myself:

"Holy sh**."  

Screen Shot 2023-02-06 at 12.47.00 PMEven if you've never heard the word "clientflow" before, you have to read this.

When you're evangelizing a category that you want to own β€” in her (and Honeybook's) case, clientflow is that category β€” it's crazy easy to fall into the trap of being purely informational and leaning on the business case for what you're talking about, rather than the human one. 

But often what we champion in our thought leadership is very personal to us, in some way. And Natalie went there.

She took a strong stance on how time is the most precious resource we all have as humans, and that undergoing surgery to remove a brain tumor years ago completely changed how she viewed the time vs. money argument:

Screen Shot 2023-02-06 at 12.52.53 PMSeriously, have you clicked through to read it yet?

Then, she contextualized what lost time can look like for all of us in our business in a way that ... man, it got me right in the feels, I'll tell ya:

Screen Shot 2023-02-06 at 12.58.10 PMIn addition to simply being a powerful piece of writing, Natalie also underscores something we must all keep in mind when we get human in our content. 

Sometimes, what you say may be polarizing (and that's a good thing)

At the very least, you might make a few folks uncomfortable. That's not a bad thing, though, because when you're a true catalyst for growth and change, you know that meaningful change requires moving through some measure of discomfort. 

That means you'll find that doing what's right by your audience (and the greater good) in a piece of content requires you to not pull your punches: 

  • Maybe you're simply resetting what is important for your audience, because they've become distracted chasing the wrong goals. 
  • Maybe you're illuminating a tough truth because the lie we're telling ourselves is now doing way more harm than good.
  • Maybe you're pointing to the elephant in the room no one wants to talk about, because we're only going to continue to chase our tails and fail to solve the real problems we have by not doing so.

You get my point.

Whatever that moment of discomfort is, you shouldn't avoid creating it. It's necessary, and even if it's a bitter pill for someone to swallow at first, the right people will be thankful you did. The right people will say, "Yikes! That was a lot, but wow ... this level of honesty is refreshing. This is what I really needed."

Yes, being human gets πŸ’° results

I'll admit that what inspired this article is an experience I had with my own content not too long ago. I wrote an article about my beef with the idea of New Year's resolutions, and what it really takes to create meaningful, lasting changes in your life:

Screen Shot 2023-02-06 at 1.10.08 PMRead the full article.

Unlike Natalie's piece (which was tied to a business objective), my article had absolutely nothing to do with HubSpot or the services I offer. Goal-setting and implementing lasting changes is simply I feel crazy passionate about, and I was hopeful that my audience might feel the same way.

So, with zero regard for engagement metrics or generating revenue, I poured my heart and soul into that piece. Then, I shared it in an email to my subscribers, and went about my day. 

Within 45 minutes of being published, that article had $12,000 in new revenue directly attributed to it. 

It's also the email I got the most replies to.

Again, I wasn't trying to make money. It was a piece from the heart, because I fundamentally believe the mindset you approach goal-setting makes a huge difference in what success you see in life, personally or professionally. 

But I will also say I don't hold onto my humanity until the right moment strikes. In fact, I try to infuse my real personality into every single piece of content I create β€” from job descriptions to HubSpot workflow tutorials. And if you've listened to any episodes of the HubHeroes Podcast, you know I never hold anything back there.

Now, it's your turn

Look, putting yourself out there (for business or in your personal life) isn't easy. Also, I can bet more than a few of you looked at the examples I shared and thought:

"Those are nice, George, but that won't work for me or my industry."

Hey, I'm not saying you're wrong. However, I'm also not saying you need to copy how Natalie and I approached our respective topics to the letter. 

Quite the opposite! 

How you show up as a whole-ass human in your content is going to be dependent on who you are as a unique human, your individual style, the personal stories you tell over and over again when talking to prospects one-on-one, or your deep and meaningful "why" behind the work you do.

Heck, your version of this might simply look like you demonstrating sincere empathy and caring for the people you're trying to help:

"I know you're here for a lead gen strategy, but I also know that what you're not telling me is how nervous you are that your job might be on the line if you don't solve this problem in front of you. We see you, we've got you. You're no longer alone."

That right there is being human. 

Us marketers love to talk about "trust" being the name of the game, when it comes to the long-term success of the business you want to grow (or at least keep healthy). But right now, marketers and sales folks are near the top of the list of the least trustworthy professions ... only behind telemarketers, congress, and business executives. 

The only way to break through is to be wholly human, in whatever way is authentic to you. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but your bottom line will thank you in the long run.

SEO Content Strategy Pillar