Are You Following the Government’s Gift Rules?

Photo of Allan RubinMaybe it’s the summer or the result of a stronger economy, but lately it seems I’m constantly reminded of a major difference between business-to-government (B2G) and business-to-business (B2B) marketing: the gift rules and restrictions. It struck me yesterday when I received a Starbucks gift card in the mail from a B2B vendor with whom I’d never spoken or met. (Side note: I was amazed that this vendor neglected to include a business card or simple contact information so I could easily thank him/her, but that’s another story.)

My job title and (incorrect) assumption that I control a massive marketing budget have earned me unsolicited Amazon gift cards, invitations to fancy meals and sporting events, gadgets, and other blatant attempts to buy a meeting with me, all in the interest of pitching a new marketing software package or service offering.

Hey, I’m not knocking it. When I worked exclusively in B2B marketing, I did it too, and it often worked. But in B2G marketing, it’s not that simple.

Many of the marketing personnel immixGroup supports have responsibility for both public and private sector marketing, and they’re not always aware of how different the rules of the game are when marketing to the government. It takes extra work, and a new level of creativity, to get the attention of a government buyer or influencer when he or she can’t accept a gift in excess of $20. It’s especially frustrating for those marketers who have limited resources and hope to extend or replicate their B2B marketing programs within their public sector marketing strategies to save time or produce similar results.

If you find yourself in this situation, or even if you’re a government marketing pro in need of a quick refresher, you may want to check out this quick quiz from Government Executive. It asks 14 questions to gauge how well you know the rules, including perennial favorites like:

  • A federal employee cannot accept gifts of this value from one individual in a calendar year.
  • Federal employees are generally prohibited from accepting free meals. Which of the following “inconsequential items” is NOT explicitly allowable under federal statute?
  • You, the affable federal employee, have a longstanding friendship with someone that you also work with. Can you accept a gift of significant value from that friend?

That last one is a favorite of mine since many of us that live and work in the Washington, DC area are surrounded by friends and neighbors who work at the agencies we’re trying to influence.

Of greater interest is a new report published by the Congressional Research Service that summarizes the restrictions: The Receipt of Gifts by Federal Employees in the Executive Branch. I recommend you bookmark this link or print the document and keep it handy. It may be useful when your CMO or corporate marketing VP asks why nobody from the government attended your User Group session at the Palm Springs Ritz.

In case you haven’t seen it yet, check out our upcoming Government IT Sales Summit, where we’ll address other unique do’s and don’ts of marketing and selling IT to the public sector.

 

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