The conversation around content marketing continues to grow louder. Content marketing isn’t new for some folks, but it is growing in prestige and importance as more marketers realize that so much of the good work they do is pointless if there isn’t great content to back it up, to engage the audience and create trust before the sale.

A recent survey by Outbrain shows that every single brand manager and agency executive they polled (really, 100 percent) says they are utilizing content marketing. Some of these folks are obviously stretching the definition – calling the TV ads you create “content marketing” seems a little silly. In our minds, true content marketing has an outward-facing, journalistic element to it; it does not include writing press releases about your latest product.

In the Outbrain survey, most marketers say they are using content marketing to fill the top of the sales funnel, utilizing content – and measuring it – by how it increases social media engagement and brand awareness.

But we would argue that content marketing isn’t just about raising brand awareness and filling the top of the sales process. In fact, more than most marketing strategies, content marketing has the power to nurture prospects as they move through the funnel, towards the point of sale.

Journalistic content has the power to build trust between an organization and its potential customers – those prospects can learn a lot about you by the content you deliver. Well-done content demonstrates your industry expertise. It proves that you’re committed to helping your prospects understand the latest trends. It builds trust.

And in 2012, trust always comes before the sale.