When it comes to selecting products and services, buyers today are much better informed than they were 10 years ago. Social networks, peer groups, company websites and industry analysts arm prospects with more than enough data to help them through the research and evaluation phase of the buying cycle, or the “hidden” phase. As they enter the formal phase of the buying cycle, buyers usually know which problems they are trying to solve, are acquainted with an available solution and have a good idea of the solution’s cost.

This means that a qualified prospect may be well into the hidden phase of the cycle by the time they reach you. As a result, you must find ways to engage with the prospect earlier in the buying cycle and out-educate your competition during the hidden phase. Best-in-class companies are investing in content-based marketing to ensure they are engaging with buyers during the hidden part of the cycle.

In a recent Aberdeen Group report, 58 percent of marketing executives indicated they were investing in content creation, while only 6 percent indicated that content creation was not on their agenda. Developing meaningful content is time consuming, and many companies fail to produce the right materials because they don’t make an adequate commitment of time and money.

Consider implementing a content-based marketing program so you are not already at a disadvantage by the time buyers enter the formal phase of the buying cycle.

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Dan Hudson is the co-founder and president of 3forward and has a B2B sales and sales leadership background of more than 30 years. He can be reached at dan.hudson@3forward.com.