Are Your Customers Cut Off from the Outside World?
February 13, 2014 1 Comment
What a winter. DC is shutting down more frequently. Regular routes are impassable. The people you need to reach are unable to travel, meet face-to-face, or interact without the use of electronic or telephonic means. And those lines of communication are getting more and more overwhelmed.
Oh, I’m not talking about the current snowstorm that’s pummeling the Washington metro region (again) or the institutional government shutdown we faced in October. The storm to which I refer is equally treacherous for government marketing and sales professionals. It’s the one that keeps our prospects and customers from attending conferences, speaking at your events, accepting meeting requests, or interacting with you in a consistent, predictable, and productive way.
Washington Technology recently published its Insider Report on 2014 Trends in Government Purchasing. The report is based on an extensive survey of government officials in which they were asked about purchasing plans in areas such as cyber security, infrastructure, and mobility, as well as anticipated challenges for the coming year.
The “Challenges” are focused on an area I’ve written about in several previous blog posts: while government buyers are trying to take advantage of promising new technologies, they face more limitations on how they interact with industry, making it harder for them to find out about those very technologies.
According to the report, a high percentage of survey respondents “face limits on speaking opportunities, attendance at conferences and trade shows, and industry and charity events. The restrictions are a result of heightened concerns about potential conflicts of interest and the perception of wasting government funds to attend.”
The government buyers surveyed agree that limitations on interacting with industry are impacting their ability to learn about emerging trends and discover new products that can help them meet their business challenges.
Since GSA-gate and similar scandals, government buyers have faced more stringent limits on their involvement in educational conferences, trade shows, industry gatherings, and charity events. Half of all survey respondents for the Washington Technology report confirmed this challenge.
Marketers also find it more challenging to rely on government speakers to attract their peers to our activities. More than half of civilian agency respondents and 62 percent in defense cited limitations on speaking opportunities.
Finally, there’s a more direct impact on sales. One third of civilian respondents, and 28 percent of those in DOD, say they face difficulty in accepting meetings with technology vendors and contractors. That’s a significant issue for marketers whose lead generation goals are often measured in part by sales meetings set as a result of marketing campaigns.
So what’s a marketer to do? Here are five suggestions to help you dig out from this mess until the current situation thaws a bit:
- Get Involved with Professional Associations – The report indicates that professional organizations and associations still provide an outlet to reach the government. Only one out of five civilian respondents, and 16 percent in DOD, cited limitations in this area. AFCEA, SANS and other groups are worth exploring.
- Go Virtual – Take your events, meetings, and conversations online as much as possible. We continue to see success with smaller, more targeted Webinars that focus on specific business challenges and solutions. We’ve also launched a 24/7 virtual conference, FedCity, that allows government decision makers to access content and interact with vendors, even when they’re snowbound.
- Get Social – I wrote last week about the growing importance of social media in reaching the government community. The results of the Washington Technology report support my earlier conclusions.
- Don’t Sell…Educate – Content marketing continues to play a larger role in reaching government decision makers than ever before. Tell your prospects how your products are solving real-world challenges throughout government and industry. Our Federal Technology Insider blog is one of many vehicles that can help you place your products in context of what your customer cares about.
- Set Expectations – Make sure your sales counterparts and corporate marketing officers understand what’s going on in federal marketing, and discuss the need to differentiate your public sector marketing efforts from those on the commercial side. Hopefully the Government Sales Insider blog can help.
No matter what you do, make sure your marketing efforts are informed by a current understanding of your customer’s pain points and needs, or your messages will be lost in the endless blizzard of email and voice mail invitations. Documents like the Washington Technology Insider Report can help. It’s available at no charge for Washington Technology paid members and also covers expected technology and infrastructure purchases and more. immixGroup clients and partners can go further by engaging with our Market Intelligence team.