The businesses that get success from the content marketing approach act like good citizens. All those things your parents told you when you were growing up - think of others, be helpful, stop being annoying, don't interrupt, be generous, smile, work together, say `thank you' - are the values and attributes of good content marketers. Good behaviour is good behaviour wherever you are. They were right, damn it.

Yet for some reason, when we're marketing or communicating, particularly on the web, it's easy to overlook this. And it's very easy to get it wrong online. Because the web is so unimaginably large it's easy to forget that we're dealing with real people.

But the online world is not so different from real life. How do you feel when you go to a party and get stuck with the person who keeps talking about themselves, and their marvellous career and their fabulous children? A bit bored, we'd guess. And how do you feel when you meet someone at the party who is interested in you, who asks you questions, and is obviously listening to what you say? You're far less likely to slink off to the kitchen at the earliest opportunity if you're talking to someone who shows a genuine interest.

The purpose of marketing is to build good relationships - to get people to know, like and trust you, and think of you when the time comes to buy. (You don't need laser eye surgery to see this.) Once you've gained your audience's trust and they grow to see you as a helpful resource, they will choose to take the next step in your sales cycle. Build relationships first with valuable content and you earn the right to sell, when the time is right.

With these human values in mind we have a new marketing mantra to guide you and help you strike the right tone with your marketing.

Help don't sell, talk don't yell, show don't tell.

This is the essence of all good marketing today. Let us explain.

Help don't sell

Make this your approach if you want to make an impact online (and off). Remember the web is where we go for answers, and we're all sick and tired of being sold to. If you help, people will like you more, that's the long and short of it.

It takes discipline and focus not to `sell' with your content. But the more you help and the less you try to sell the more you will sell. The better a business understands its customers, and the harder it tries to help them with their challenges, the more successful that business becomes.

Talk don't yell

The web is a social place. We try and avoid people who scream self-promotion and never listen, but we all like people who demonstrate empathy and connect with us.

Show don't tell

And there's no point in creating a website that says `We are great.' Far better, and far more effective, to demonstrate your greatness through your actions. Do great stuff, and be judged by that.

Harness your resources on behalf of your customers to create something genuinely useful for them. You have to trust that if you get this right, then your business needs will also be met.