Lemme guess: Your marketing team convinced you that content marketing is the path forward for your company, and now you’re struggling. Website traffic hasn’t budged. Social engagement remains flat. And, most importantly, you’re not seeing a positive impact in sales.

So, clearly, content marketing doesn’t work, right?

Not so fast.

The concept of content marketing has been proven to work. We’ve seen it ourselves here at Scribewise – when a prospective client has consumed our content over time and realized we know what we’re talking about, they often call us. And then it’s a very advanced conversation. Because we’ve already established trust, there’s no proving left to be done; we’re really just talking to see if and how we can work together efficiently.

But that isn’t the way most companies approach what they think is content marketing. If all of your content consists of promotional sell sheets and webinars that are really just sales pitches, of course no one’s paying attention. You’ve leapt to the bottom of the sales funnel, but you haven’t proven anything to the prospect yet; why should they believe anything you say?

The problem may very well be your marketing department. All their professional lives, they’ve been touting the products and services of their employers. It’s what they’ve learned. It’s what they’ve seen work. But now, the customer is in charge of the buyer’s journey, and she really doesn’t want to hear you talk about how awesome you are. She’s looking for help with what she’s working on, and you’re not helping so much as you’re selling. Bad message. The traditional marketer’s old muscle memory is a hard habit to break, but if your team doesn’t break it your content marketing is never going to succeed.

So, what should that story be?

The idea of content marketing is to tell a story that your audience agrees with. However, if it ‘s the same story everyone else is telling, you won’t be differentiated. In fact, you probably won’t even be noticed.

Importantly, it doesn’t have to be a flowery suck-up everything-is-awesome story. After all, if everything is rosy, why do they need to hire your company? One approach that can work is to take a page from challenger sales – don’t coddle prospects so they feel good about themselves. Push them towards action.

The sweet spot is to build trust while challenging the current state. It’s important to be provocative if you want to change behavior, but you need to be able to back up your argument with facts, examples and testimonials. Remember this mantra – build trust, challenge the status quo.

This is going to be uncomfortable for a lot of marketing teams; for decades, they’ve been approaching their job the same way. Just because they’ve decided to call it “content marketing” doesn’t mean they’re doing anything all that differently from what they did before.

But the same old approach is going to crush your business. We’re all living and operating in dynamic times. If you’re comfortable, you’re probably falling behind (even if you don’t know it yet).