Shutdown Shuts Down Defense Conferences

Photo of Allan Rubinby Allan Rubin, Vice President, Marketing

I wish I’d seen this story before I submitted a blog post yesterday about the impact of the shutdown on government marketers. If the topic interests you, check out this article in Defense News:

US Government Shutdown Hampers Attendance at Defense Conferences

The article includes a discussion of the likely impact on the upcoming AUSA Conference:

“If the shutdown continues in the coming weeks, it could affect attendance at a number of major trade shows.

 The Association of the United States Army’s annual conference in Washington — an event that typically attracts more than 25,000 people — is less than two weeks away. The conference is boasting more than 700 Army and industry exhibitors “using 500,000 square feet of exhibit space.”

The Army continues to plan for the annual meeting pending a final decision from service Secretary John McHugh on whether soldiers stationed outside the Washington-area will be allowed to attend.

Most temporary-duty travel has been canceled or suspended since the government shut down Oct. 1, and a number of soldiers, including some who are scheduled to speak, have expressed to Army Times uncertainty and confusion about whether they will be able to travel to the meeting.”

More Event Cancellations + Something to Share with the Corporate Office

photo_Allan-Rubin_65x85by Allan Rubin, Vice President, Marketing

First, here’s some news on continued government event cancellations. Word on the street is that GFIRST 2013 will not take place this year “due to all of the budgetary/travel restrictions.” Scheduled from August 25 to 30, the Government Forum of Incident Response and Security Teams (GFIRST) “is a group of technical and tactical practitioners from incident response and security response teams responsible for securing government information technology systems and providing private sector support.” There’s no official posting yet, but expect one soon. That’s too bad, as this has been a successful event for many of our clients in the past. Hopefully it will be again in the future.

Even Fredericksburg can’t escape the bloodbath.  According to the event manager, “due to the severity of the fiscal climate within DoD and the associated policies that now govern and constrain professional events such as XC4, the 2013 Expeditionary C4 Users’ Conference scheduled to occur from August 6 to 8 at the Fredericksburg Expo and Convention Center in Fredericksburg, Virginia is cancelled.”

Mark Amtower asked me if I’m keeping a list of cancellations. Unfortunately I can’t type that fast.

On a brighter note, my last blog post covered the Top 10 Tips we’ve encountered at immixGroup as we’ve dealt with changes in the federal event marketing landscape. Our friends at Market Connections responded with a great infographic that summarizes the current government event landscape. Even though I added that to my last article after-the-fact, I thought it was useful enough to warrant a new post so it wouldn’t get missed.

Many of our clients share their concerns (OK, frustrations) that the “folks back at corporate” don’t always understand the inner workings of the federal government and the unique marketing challenges that come with it. It occurred to me that this is a great tool to share with them. In a minute or less you can communicate some of the issues you have to deal with as you plan your government marketing strategies, budgets, media spend, and more.

So here it is:

Government_Events_for_Contractors

In fact, we’ve heard from many clients that they use our Government Sales Insider blog, our Public Sector Business Alert newsletter, and our market intelligence briefings to help keep corporate up to date on information that affects their federal sales and marketing plans (and, yes, budgets). I hope you’re taking advantage of these free resources to do the same.

Reloading Your Federal Marketing Toolbox

photo_Allan-Rubin_65x85by Allan Rubin, Vice President, Marketing

My mother likes to complain that my father takes tools from the toolbox and doesn’t replace them, leaving her with a handful of nails and no hammer to drive them. Frustrating, right?

Marketers trying to attract the attention of government buyers face a similar dilemma: tools are getting taken from our tool kits and not replaced. Since my last posting about government event cancellations, we’ve heard of at least two more: the Department of Homeland Security’s 6th Annual Industry Day and DIA’s Defense Intelligence Worldwide will not take place.

Traditional media sources continue to struggle, with editors and reporters being downsized and print magazines continuing to consolidate. The impact of Sequestration cuts on major contractors and systems integrators is unlikely to help this trend as marketing budgets will surely be hit.

Those of us who are active in lead generation (via phone campaigns, email blasts, and events) will surely see conversion rates take a hit as furloughs kick in. What’s the best day or time to call or email someone if they’re not working that day? Will ongoing furloughs, downsizing, and political fights over giving a meager 0.5 percent pay raise break their spirits and drive them out?

Today’s blog post in FedConnects raised a few interesting questions. Among them:

How will government address the need for civil servants and military and intelligence workers to stay abreast of new technologies, innovate and collaborate in order to increase efficiencies and ensure productivity?  As part of President Obama’s Open Government Initiative, we are supposed to be operating under an open government mandate that encourages less siloing, more sharing of services and innovations.

How can true transparency and efficiency be achieved if government is restricting collaboration and opportunities for government leaders and industry to share ideas and work on problems?

If your organization relies on you to create demand in the public sector, it’s time focus on finding new tools to supplement the old ones. Will virtual events play a role as live conferences drop like flies? What role will associations play in educating our customers? How about social media driven information sources like GovLoop and Federal Technology Insider? I think it’s time to work some of these into your public sector marketing budgets, in addition to the targeted, local, and low-key events that were highlighted in Market Connections’ recent study.

Speaking of tools, we have a few that can help you make sense of Sequestration and the ongoing budget mess. Our Sequestration Resource Guide provides our take on how to deal with the pending cuts and also points you to market intelligence resources that can help. In addition, we’ve already had hundreds of IT sales and marketing professionals register for our upcoming webinar on Sequestration and the Federal Budget.

With so many tools vanishing these days, make sure you re-evaluate and take advantage of the ones that are left.

More Cancellations for Government Events

photo_Allan-Rubin_65x85by Allan Rubin, Vice President, Marketing

My wife may disagree with this, but I take no great joy in saying “I told you so.”

It’s no secret that events targeting government employees have fallen on tough times. We’ve used this space repeatedly to encourage immixGroup clients and channel partners to re-evaluate their event marketing plans. Unfortunately, we’re seeing more and more examples to prove this re-evaluation is necessary.

We learned today that the DoD Cybercrime Conference has been “postponed” with the following message as an explanation:

“Based on DoD’s budgetary uncertainty, The Defense Cyber Crime Center (DC3) has been given direction to reduce the government expenditure rate. Therefore, DC3 and Technology Forums have reluctantly come to the decision that we will not be holding our annual DoD Cyber Crime Conference in 2013. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate everyone’s efforts and support.”

This came on the heels of this message which we received on January 15:

“In response to DoD and DON guidance, the DON IT Conference, West Coast 2013 has been cancelled. The conference was scheduled for Jan. 28-30, 2013, at the San Diego Convention Center.”

In mid-December we received this notification of an event postponement. Is this a precursor to another shutdown?

“As a result of much deliberation, as well as guidance from the Army, AFCEA International has reached the decision to move TechNet Tucson to Augusta/Fort Gordon, GA.  The event will be renamed TechNet Augusta, and take place September 10-12, 2013 at the Marriott at the Convention Center.”

While I can’t yet confirm this, we’ve heard rumors that many of the AFCEA conferences may be cancelled this year. We hope that’s not the case but it’s worth watching.

The drop in demand for government event attendance was clear in the recent data put out by Market Connections. This confirmed what most of us already feared:

“With shrinking budgets and fewer resources to support mission goals, federal government decision makers and influencers plan on attending fewer events this year. According to a recent poll by Market Connections, Inc., a leading government market research firm, 38% of government employees plan to attend fewer educational and trade events in FY2013 compared to FY2012.

The main reasons for the expected decrease in event attendance are budget and travel restrictions (78% and 58%, respectively). Just over one-third (36%) of respondents also report management will not allow them to attend events in FY2013. However, some government workers plan to attend about the same number of events (27%), and a few plan to attend more (5%).”

Market Connections notes a few silver linings in the data (summarized here). Most federal workers still prefer live events to webinars. They still see value in attending events to learn about new technologies in addition to networking. The key is to make sure your events align with the preferences of your target audience:

“Of the 400 government workers we polled, 58% prefer smaller, content-specific events over large trade shows with multiple vendors. Many of the respondents are thinking local, with seven in ten more likely to attend events that are close to home (69%) or hosted by a trade association (72%), as opposed to traveling to events that require a hotel (29%) or are hosted by a corporate entity (25%).”

So when your sales team or corporate office asks you to set up that glitzy product demo at the Ritz to attract 100 federal CIOs, you may have some bubbles to burst.

We’ve been proactive over the past 18 months to re-align our marketing programs to stay in front of these changes. If you’re an immixGroup client, contact your senior account manager or email me at allan_rubin@immixgroup.com to learn more.

UPDATE: As if on cue, I just got this message only a few hours after this blog post went live:

“Due to U.S. Department of Defense evolving budget directives and its current fiscal constraints, DISA has notified AFCEA International that DISA has cancelled its “Expanded Forecast to Industry” conference scheduled for 14-15 August 2013.  Senior DISA leaders are hopeful they will be able to resume the conference with AFCEA in FY14.”

%d bloggers like this: