In the brave new world of content marketing, it’s easy to take missteps. Here are five tactics to avoid, and how to do the right thing.

Are you practicing the internet equivalent of cold calling?

Intelligence. It’s not just for the US Government anymore. With all the data out there waiting to be sliced and diced, casting a wide net is wasted effort. Not sure about your inbox, but I wake up to over two dozen generic messages every day. Generally, these are mailing lists I signed up for, and generally,I delete without reading them. It’s just too much. With the sheer volume of incoming information most people have to handle, it’s more important than ever to differentiate yourself. The only way to get through is to get personal. Put the custom in customer.

Do you punish your customers?

Forcing people to watch or read content is the wrong tactic and it’s punitive. You do not want your brand associated with annoyance. When your ad runs on a YouTube video before content viewers came to see, you can be pretty sure the “Skip Ad” function will be activated at the first possible opportunity. Forcing yourself on prospective customers is the equivalent of being a pushy guy at a singles bar. Do they even have singles bars anymore?

What’s more important to you, reeling them in or keeping them hooked?

The majority of CMOs are still spending on advertising. Ads, placed properly on the page (above the fold), will attract a few clicks and enhance brand recognition. But once they click through to your site, what’s going to keep them there, and what’s going to keep them coming back? Never confuse clicks with loyalty. Ads only get them to the site. Content keeps them compelled.

Are you selling your product, or are you selling a solution to your customer’s problem?

You’re doing the virtual equivalent of going door to door, selling brushes, bibles or magazine subscriptions. You are doing a lot of selling, and the whole process has a slightly greasy sheen. There’s something uncomfortable about hawking products, and that’s because the conversation isn’t a conversation at all. It’s a lecture to an audience that is only sort of interested. Spending time convincing others what they need is just spinning your wheels. Move in the opposite direction. Be the listener, not the talker, find out the problem, and offer a solution.

Is there a human being behind that content?

Content generation is hard work, and soon enough you find that you just don’t have time. It’s tempting to automate your content and social media outreach. But you are missing the point. Today’s consumers can see right through automated communications, and once you’ve lost their trust, you won’t get it back. Keep it human, keep it real, and make it count.