All digital marketing should do one of three things: Inform, entertain or inspire.

It’s easy to forget this simple precept and fall into the habit of turning every piece of collateral into a thinly-veiled sales pitch. The resulting content is forced, uninspired and, most importantly, ineffective.

If your goal is to be a more inspired marketer in the year ahead, you’ve come to the right place. These digital marketing quotes are meaningful enough to shake you out of your deepest marketing malaise.

Interruptive advertising is dead. Long live content marketing. Nearly 40 percent of adult internet users have ad blocks, according to Forrester. Given the choice, you and everyone you know would probably remove most ads from your life forever. I mean, how many times have you been scrolling through the news and accidentally opened a banner ad?

A great content marketing strategy is built on the premise that the people ask the questions in a search engine, and your brand answers them with digital media. If you do a good job of presenting your audience with information they care about, they’ll come to you.

As Tom Fishburne, founder and CEO of Marketoonist once said, “The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing.”

It feels like a really useful white paper, an informative infographic, a practical how-to video, or an inspirational blog post.

Imagination is the cheapest resource in the marketer’s toolbox.

Yes, data-driven campaigns are critical to success in the age of digital transformation. What keywords are performing well? What pages are ranking for those keywords? Is your content attracting strong leads? If not, what content is, and why? These are all crucial to delivering the right content at just the right time.

But quality isn’t just added upstream in the form of numbers and data. When you sit down in the final mile to create content based on the data, you need to add original value to make your delivery unique. This is the difference between someone who creates content and someone who merely assembles it.

Remember, your audience knows lazy work when they see it. Most of what they hear may as well be white noise. Give them something vibrant and insightful to remember.

Before you tell a lead that your product does X, Y and Z, you need to build context for why they should care. Otherwise, you’re giving them the last line of a story they never read, throwing a punchline at them without a setup, jumping to the prestige before the pledge or the turn (for you magic aficionados out there).

Sure, your products and services are important. They’re the best! But you need to give your target audience a reason to care.

How do you make them care? With a really good story that … get ready for it … informs, entertains or inspires.

The marketing story is a hero’s journey about how a prospective customer overcame some challenge (inefficiency, manual processes, dark wizards) and grew its revenue or output along the way with the help of your brand. You play, at best, a supporting role.

And yes, content can certainly be used to tell your brand’s story, and help people understand what you’re about. But Handley’s quote here is a powerful reminder that your marketing campaigns need to be customer-centric. Focus on what the customer needs to hear and avoid getting too hung up on what you want to say.

It’s also an obvious nod to the power of case studies and customer testimonial. The best heroes are in some way relatable to the reader. A business prospect is intrigued when they see their own problem in the customer experience, and they’re inspired when they see the customer solve that problem.

Tell the customer’s story – or let them tell their own story – to gain a captive audience.

Social media marketing isn’t there for content promotion and talking at your followers. It’s there for starting conversations.

Launch user-generated content campaigns. Tag other businesses in your social media posts to get people chiming in on issues that are important to your brand. Each reference to your business in a tweet, Facebook post, or Instagram comment is invaluable exposure to someone else’s social network.

Also, remember that everyone wants to feel heard. Scan your social networks to find opportunities to share other people’s content. It’s the digital equivalent of going in the other room and saying “Sally just told me the funniest joke …” knowing that Sally will return the favor in your finest moments.

And try to respond to comments and posts quickly. Like the good, reshare the great, thoughtfully address the bad.

Now go and mingle with the world.

The only thing you want a lot of in email marketing is contacts, data and conversions. Presuming contacts open your email, they’ll almost certainly move on the second they’re met with a big block of text.

The sweet spot, according to Boomerang, is between 50 and 125 words. Emails at this length see a response rate of a little over 50 percent.

Maybe this quote is more pragmatic than inspirational, but considering email marketing is the most profitable form of content marketing, Munz’s words of wisdom are pretty darn important.

As the great William Faulkner suggested, sometimes you have to kill your darlings (nix non-essential turns of phrase you like). Email marketing is an exercise in this, and the payoff is a greater conversation rate.

Geneticists have the gene, biologists have the atom, digital marketers have content. Every possible medium that you use in a digital marketing strategy – blog posts, press releases, infographics, videos, images, banner ads, downloadable assets, emails, landing pages – is content.

Success depends on your ability to create the right content, for the right audience, on the right channel and at the right time. Clearly, there’s a lot of things you need to get just right.

But the fact remains, you can’t build a marketing strategy without content anymore than you can create a sandwich without atoms.

Carl Sagan once said “if you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” Content is the digital universe.

If you want to create a content marketing strategy, you’re going to need content. Keep that in mind as you put your budget together for the new fiscal year.

In other words, good content is revenue waiting in the wings.

More to the point, your brand’s content is how you build credibility with your target audience. People will remember you if they like what you’re saying. They’ll begin to associate your brand with value well before you ever get a BDR on the phone with them. In exchange for more of that value (e.g., in the form of a gated asset), you might request the lead’s email. Why do you think they call it “collateral”?

Consumers and/or businesses are out there that have the need and the money to buy what you’re selling. Digital marketing is how you get them to come to you, and how you lure them deeper into your sales funnel.

You content create a precedent upon which to build a relationship. That relationship is fueled by the fact that they trust your expertise. That trust is an inroad to a conversation about your products and services.

Enter revenue.

Customers are people, too. And as people, they have real people feelings that inform the decisions they make – that includes whether they buy your products or a competitor’s.

The common but very wrong assumption in marketing (especially B2B) is that you need to demonstrate cost-effectiveness, efficiency, results, and a million and one other very tangible things above all else.

But the goal of good marketing is to convey a sense of value to the reader. Heck, Apple has literally become the most profitable brand in the world. I would hardly call a $1,000 phone “value” but it’s oozing with the essence of it. Why? Marketing.

There are so many ways to make jargon-free connections with your target audience. It can be an emotional tug at the heartstrings. It can be an appeal toward individualism (a la Apple).

Make contextual connections, and the value of your brand will become the apple of your customer’s eye.

When you sit down to create content, you should ask yourself “how do I turn this into something that I like and appreciate?” Because if you don’t actually like or connect with it, your audience won’t.

Being creative and really giving it your all is risky, yes. But the first step to differentiating your brand is to do something different.

It’s a tall order, putting that much energy into everything you do. But your readers will know the difference and so will you.

Albert Einstein once said: “Creativity is intelligence having fun.”

Go out there and show your IQ a good time.

Dominick Sorrentino is a senior writer in Chicago. He's a wordsmith who endeavors to use language, story-telling and creativity to solve problems. He enjoys pizza, the musical styling of A Tribe Called Quest, traveling, a good conversation and, of course, putting pen to paper.