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!

Two Upcoming Events for Federal Marketers

by Allan Rubin, Vice President, Marketing

It’s rare for conference organizers, associations, media outlets, or other thought leaders to host events that are specifically targeted at the federal marketer. It’s even less common to find two of them scheduled within a few weeks of one another. But that’s exactly what’s happening right now, so I wanted to make sure my colleagues in the public sector marketing community don’t miss out on these great opportunities to learn from their peers.

On June 21, the Government Marketing Forum will present the results of the recent Market Connections 2012 Government Contractor Study. The event, Best BD and Marketing Practices of Winning Government Contractors, will be held on June 21 from 6:00 to 8:30 pm at the Marriott Tysons Corner. immixGroup is a sponsor of this event, and both Steve Charles and I have helped this organization’s steering committee in the past. We’ve come to expect great things from Market Connections and their survey work, and this event should be no exception. You can register here: https://www.governmentmarketingforum.org/.

On July 12, the GovMark Council hosts its annual awards ceremony and executive luncheon at its own event, What’s Hot in Federal IT Marketing. The event is held at 2941 Restaurant from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm. I was honored to be selected as a judge on the awards panel this year, and I can tell you there are some really creative, interesting, and effective marketing campaigns being presented. Categories include Best Awareness/Educational Program, Best Event Program, Best Digital Program, Best Lead Generation Program, and more. In addition, the Council will share and discuss the results of its own research, Selling to Uncle Sam: The 2012 Federal IT Marketing Investment Study, which reveals the top trends in federal marketing tactics and spending. Register here: www.govmarkcouncil.org/event071212.asp.

With so many changes taking place in the public sector marketing environment, I think it’s important for us to keep on top of the latest information, share best practices with our peers, and adjust our strategies accordingly. Attending one, or both, of these events will help you do just that.

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