The Government Marketing Shutdown

Photo of Allan Rubinby Allan Rubin, Vice President, Marketing

As the government shutdown continues into its second week, the effects for government marketers are coming into sharper focus. Over the past week and a half we’ve seen real-world examples of how this is impacting marketing plans across the industry. These include:

  • Trade Shows – As expected, these are either being postponed (like GEOINT 2013 Symposium and NextGov Prime) or cancelled altogether. GEOINT organizers noted that the recently-passed “Pay Our Military Act” allowed most Defense Department personnel to return to their jobs alongside the excepted personnel who were still working. However, it also included language making it impossible for personnel to travel (except in direct support of operational forces) or attend events.
  • Other Events – We’re seeing the cancellations and postponements extended beyond trade shows to include tabletop events, single-vendor events, user groups and others.
  • Date Conflicts – As event dates shift to the right, many are encroaching on other events planned for the same time periods, which will cannibalize attendance and increase competition for eyeballs (even within the same organization in some cases).
  • Promotion of Future Activities – Even if your webinar or event is supposed to take place in November or later, you still need several weeks of runway to promote it. Many Feds can’t check email or answer their phones, and those that aren’t furloughed likely have other priorities on which to focus. Don’t forget to review your promotional plans and adjust accordingly, especially as we creep closer to the holidays.
  • Government Speakers – Getting travel approval was difficult enough already. In addition to that headache, many Public Affairs offices aren’t open to approve speaker participation for upcoming or future events. Even if your likely speakers are still on the job and have approval, they’re likely unable to speak anyway as that won’t be considered an “essential” function.
  • Messaging – Try getting a word in edgewise with PR, social media, and content marketing…all anyone wants to talk about is the shutdown, which crowds out every other message we’re putting out there. Once your prospects return to the office, they’ll be focused on catching up on several weeks of work that were missed. Getting their attention will be more challenging than ever, and it’s likely to take more time and effort.
  • Paid Media – Many print, radio, and online ad campaigns are already running and can’t be undone.
  • Sales Follow-up – One silver lining with the shutdown’s timing is that not many marketing campaigns take place in September. However, for those with longer sales follow-up cycles, it will be harder to reach recent attendees to try to pour names into your pipeline and document ROI.

We don’t yet know how long this will continue, so what’s a marketer to do? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Focus on DoD First – Not everyone is there, and those that are may not be interested in talking right now, but civilian agencies will be hit harder and take longer to dig out when they return.
  2. Contact Event Organizers and Speakers – Make sure you understand how the shutdown is impacting those events for which you’ve made a commitment, how promotional plans will be adjusted, whether speakers are still planning to participate, and what recourse you have if things don’t progress as planned.
  3. Adjust Your Plans – Analyze your annual campaign calendar, upcoming email blasts, and budget, all with an eye towards minimizing lost value or creating campaign overlap/conflict in the coming months.
  4. Clean House – It’s always difficult to take the time to close out old campaigns, perform list maintenance, and summarize the results of what you completed last month. Catch up on best practice articles, see what the competition has been up to, and join those social media groups you haven’t had time to think about. Now might be your chance.
  5. Engage with Channel Partners and Systems Integrators – Many of them have extra time on their hands right now, so it’s a great time to reach out and build relationships. Update them on your new products, value proposition changes, competitive differentiators, changes to marketing plans, etc.
  6. Do Your Homework – Any down time you may experience today can be used to make tomorrow’s activities more effective. If you subscribe to GovWin IQ or a similar service, do some research now to ensure your upcoming plans are as targeted and relevant as possible. If you’re an immixGroup client, make sure you tune in to watch our upcoming FY14 Market Intelligence Budget Briefings, and use the information to build and review territory plans with your sales team.

During times like these, communities like ours need to pull together. Please post your own ideas or thoughts on how we as government marketers can all get through this man-made crisis and emerge stronger when our customers re-open their doors.

One Response to The Government Marketing Shutdown

  1. Timely post, Allan.

    We’re also advising clients to initiate content creation efforts on evergreen topics related to information/network security, cloud-based solutions and virtualization. Plus, now is the ideal time to evaluate emerging channels to reach key government and integrator audiences. Federal Technology Insider (http://www.federaltechnologyinsider.com) is an example.

    Once government executives reengage, a company will be well prepared to launch marketing, promotional and sales campaigns.

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