Is Content King in B2G Marketing? (Part 2)

Photo of Allan RubinAs I discussed in my last blog post, new research from Starfleet Media summarizes the importance of content, social media, and sales/marketing collaboration in the business-to-business (B2B) marketing world. What conclusions can business-to-government (B2G) marketers draw from these stats? Do government audiences consume content in the same ways as B2B buyers? What types of content work well in the B2G world, and how can we measure their effectiveness?

I’ll dive much deeper on these topics on November 20 at the Government IT Sales Summit. Until then, consider the following facts.

Market Research firm Market Connections surveyed 3,700 government employees and found that federal employees are more likely to seek out information online, with government decision-makers accessing information in increasingly complex and fragmented ways. In reviewing a summary of their 2014 Federal Media and Marketing Study, these data points jumped out at me:

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6 Marketing Secrets from C-level Government Leaders

photo_Allan-Rubin_65x85by Allan Rubin, Vice President, Marketing

Government marketers don’t often get the opportunity to hear directly from the people we’re trying to influence. Sure, we attend conferences and events and listen to the feds talking to one another in moderated discussions, keynotes, and chalk talks. But it’s rare to hear them giving advice to marketers on the best ways to get our messages through to them.

That’s what happened on October 18 at the GovMark Council’s “Selling to Uncle Sam” event. Steve O’Keeffe led the “Connecting with Government” panel which featured three speakers from the audience we try to reach every day:

  • Simon Szykman, CIO, Department of Commerce
  • Keith Trippie, Executive Director, Office of the CIO, Enterprise System Development Office, Department of Homeland Security
  • Dr. Michael Valivullah, CTO, USDA, NASS

After describing their technology and business priorities, the panelists gave us helpful hints on what they click, open, attend, interact with, listen to, forward, and ignore. I heard six key themes emerge for marketers:

1) Do Your Homework

The panel said this multiple times in different ways: “I don’t have time to educate you on my business issues. Do your research in advance, learn what my specific problems are, and be prepared to tell me how you’re going to solve them.” If you haven’t figured that out before you send an invitation, fill their in-box, or pick up the phone, you’re likely to be dismissed. (Shameless plug: immixGroup clients can use our Market Intelligence organization to make this easier).

2) Make your Communication Relevant

Many marketing and sales initiatives begin with broad assumptions and one-size-fits-all messaging about a generic solution. They’re ignored, and it doesn’t take long for you to end up in the spam folder. To paraphrase one panelist, “just because a technology solution is important doesn’t mean it’s a priority for me.” If you’ve done your homework (see #1 above), use that knowledge to ensure your message cuts through the clutter by targeting it to the specific agency or program with which your prospect is involved, using language that addresses their needs.

3) Less is More

All panelists lamented the volume of email, invitations, white papers, and other solicitations they receive. When they do engage, they want to know right up front how you’re going to help them, and they won’t give you much time to get to the point. Keith Trippie used the example of Twitter’s Vine, which allows people to send videos up to six seconds in length, and suggested marketers think about creative ways to hit the high points very quickly. He also added “send me less and I’ll open more of what you send.” Pushing out too many messages too frequently can be the kiss of death.

4) Don’t Focus on the C-Level

Many of our internal stakeholders judge the success of our marketing activities based on the number of C-level executives that participate. I asked the C-level panel point-blank if that was the wrong expectation, and the answer was just as clear: you’re targeting the wrong people. Simon Szykman stressed that CIOs focus on policy and strategy and leave the task of selecting specific technologies to others in their organizations. He thanked me for raising the question and suggested we tell our counterparts in sales that we heard directly from the CIOs that they are the wrong target audience. Instead, we should engage with the people below them that they trust to make technology recommendations.

5) Gain Their Trust

Dr. Michael Valivullah cited the importance of helping your customer solve their problems even if you don’t sell the solution. Leverage your contacts and industry knowledge to point your customer in the right direction, and you’ll earn their trust in the process. Doing so, he said, will make the customer more likely to turn to your business when the opportunity arises, which can yield sales over the long run.

6) Go Mobile

There’s nothing new about the need to transition some traditional media efforts to digital marketing initiatives, but we heard repeatedly about the government’s increasing reliance on mobile devices. Make sure your emails, Web site, videos, and other digital initiatives are mobile-friendly so you’re in step with your customers as they unchain themselves from their desktops and laptops.

Sometimes we have to stand back from our day-to-day activities and remember what our customers and prospects want. If you were there, and you’d like to add anything I missed, please share your thoughts!

New Data on How to Reach Government Customers

bphoto_Allan-Rubin_65x85y Allan Rubin, Vice President, Marketing

As today’s government shutdown clearly illustrates, it’s hard to get anything done when two parties are so far apart in their beliefs. Could the same communication breakdown be occurring between government marketers and our prospective customers?

At some point (hopefully soon), they’ll be back at their desks browsing the Web, opening our email on mobile devices, and maybe venturing out of the office once or twice a year to meet with industry face-to-face (assuming they’ve been given the proper hall pass). If we want to capture their attention, we have to follow their lead.

I was recently invited to review and comment on the results of an original research study by Market Connections and Boscobel Marketing Communications:

Connecting with Government Customers in an Era of Event and Travel Restrictions

The study identifies how government employees plan to obtain the information and training they used to receive from live events. Its aim is to give contractors current insights into their target customer base that will help them refocus their efforts to reach government prospects.

I’ve written extensively about the challenges we’ve encountered with live events over the past 18 months, and the study provides data that supports our concerns. It also gives recommendations on what to do about it.

An interesting part of the study highlights a potential gulf between the way we want to market to the government and how our customers want to find information. It’s summarized in the graphic below.

Different Opinions

This data held a few surprises for me:

  • It’s easy to see that contractors have shied away from print advertising in trade publications just from picking one up, but interesting that customers still rate them so highly;
  • Only 21 percent of contractors surveyed think government will get information and training online. Really? There’s this cool new thing called the Internet…
  • Apparently, we in the contracting community think prospects are much more interested in talking to us directly than they appear to be.

There are plenty of other nuggets in here that make it a worthwhile read. I hope you’ll check out the study!

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