6 ways to transition to the new administration

Allan Rubin 65x85transitionBy Allan Rubin, vice president of marketing for Arrow ECS North America

The election is over, but uncertainty about the future of Washington still looms. Despite high-level picks already announced by the new President-elect, no one really knows the makeup of the future administration.

This creates some big questions for the IT industry: Who will stay and who will go in government, and how do technology companies navigate the transition? It’s tricky, but there’s a lot of opportunity (and risk) for us during this brief window. It’s a question your executives at corporate are probably asking you about already.

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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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Is Content King in B2G Marketing? (Part 1)

photo_Allan-Rubin_65x85

Content may be king in the world of business-to-business (B2B) marketing, but getting it produced, distributed, and consumed can be a royal pain for marketers. As I prepare to lead a panel discussion on business-to-government (B2G) content marketing and social media at the upcoming Government IT Sales Summit, I’ve started digging into how marketers are using these tools to reach their customers and influence sales. So I wanted to gather some data on content marketing to see if it’s really worth the effort.

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Catching Fire: Social Media

Photo of Allan Rubin by Allan Rubin, Vice President, Marketing

Think social media hasn’t caught on in government? Think again.

A February 5 article on NextGov notes that approximately 70 social networking sites are now approved for government use. You can see a list of those sites here. Another recent NextGov article discusses how “social media doesn’t just mean Facebook anymore.” It cites Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube as the most popular social media sites for federal agencies, “with nearly all major federal agencies using all three sites.”

Social MediaMuch of this activity revolves around using social media for constituent outreach. But I believe it also demonstrates a level of comfort with, and reliance on, social media that wasn’t there a few years ago. Witness the number of blogs that have popped up to challenge the traditional trade media’s control of the government reader’s mindshare. FedTech catalogs the 50 Must-Read Federal IT Blogs, and I’m sure that just scratches the surface.

Why is this important to government contractors? Your customers are people, too, and they want to be entertained and informed like anyone else. They are increasingly using social media for their own business purposes. They’re exchanging ideas and information to solve their business challenges. They’re trying to keep up with the market and the latest developments. They’re watching what their peers do and listening to what they say. And they’re forming opinions based on what they see online — before they ever talk to you.

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The LinkedIn Factor

photo_Allan-Rubin_65x85by Allan Rubin, Vice President, Marketing

I’ve been a long-time devotee of LinkedIn. I crossed the publicly-posted 500+ connection benchmark years ago, and I’m involved in a number of groups as time allows. But I don’t hold a candle to LinkedIn power user Mark Amtower.

Mark posted a compelling article, “Is Your CEO Afraid of LinkedIn?,” on WashingtonTechnology.com yesterday in which he made the case for why LinkedIn needs to be a key part of your B2G marketing arsenal. He called out how LinkedIn can be used for:

  • Prospecting for new business
  • Account penetration
  • Defining and defending a niche competitive advantage
  • Expanding your network
  • Getting on (and staying on) the radar of influencers in your market niche

If you’re reading this post, the chances are pretty good you found out about it via one of my LinkedIn posts. Month after month, we’re seeing LinkedIn generate an increasingly larger share of traffic to the immixGroup Web site and to this blog.

Mark is right to point out the importance of social media in reaching government audiences, particularly in light of the “interesting times” in which we find ourselves,” due to:

  • Radically reduced budgets
  • Travel restrictions for all feds
  • Restrictions on feds attending events
  • LPTA, FSSI and other procurement “innovations”

We’ve heard directly from high-level government IT executives how these issues are changing the way they consume information and learn about new solutions. More and more, they are turning to each other to request recommendations and insights on products that can solve their business problems. Mark referenced a Forrester study that confirms that point: 58 percent of decision makers turn to social networks to learn from trusted peers.

While you’re not too likely to find a CTO posting a pseudo RFI in a social media group, you can follow key individuals and see what they’re talking about in peer groups on LinkedIn, GovLoop, MeriTalk, and others. Remember that top executives often rely on influencers in the trenches to bubble up new ideas and commercial technology solutions. And you can increase your influence by being part of the discussions that are happening every day. The key is not to spam the message boards, but to listen, share good quality content (not marketing fluff), and track what’s being talked about—and by whom. Stalkers will not be successful, but contributors can build relationships and learn what their customers really care about.

Beyond just being there, you also need to commit to social media as a marketing investment. It requires a solid plan, a continued focus on metrics, and — this is a big one — training to make sure your sales reps know how to use tools like LinkedIn to their advantage.

Social media is becoming a larger part of the immixGroup marketing portfolio each month. I hope it’s part of yours.

Three Secrets of Social Media

photo_Allan-Rubin_65x85by Allan Rubin, Vice President, Marketing

Happy New Year!

With 2013 and a fresh crop of resolutions upon us, it’s probably safe to assume there’s something about social media on your to-do list for the year. Most of the federal marketers with whom I’ve spoken recently are still searching for the secret sauce of social media. How much do I need to do? How do I measure results? How can I align social media activities to support my organization’s federal sales efforts?

I don’t have any easy answers, but there are some simple guidelines you should follow as you look to ramp up your social media activities this year.

As 2012 came to a close, we invited Marc Hausman of Strategic Communications Group to speak with some of our clients about how they can use social media more effectively to communicate with their channel partners and customers. When he’s not doing stand-up comedy, Marc runs an agency focused on social media as a sales enablement tool. He provided us with some great food for thought.

According to Marc, social media is simply a channel to reach a targeted audience in a cost-effective manner. While often used for branding and awareness, it also can be effective at the top of the sales funnel, to nurture and cultivate leads, and to accelerate deal capture.

Marc sees social media as a compelling medium to influence government employees. That’s because unlike their commercial counterparts, who treat best practices like proprietary trade secrets, public sector employees are motivated to share information and best practices more publicly. They often go online to compare challenges and seek out solutions from their peers. As a result, the public sector has been an early adopter of social media (for research on this, check out Market Connections).

Social media will not replace sales. You still need to pick up the phone, engage with customers, and get to know them. But social media can help you identify those with whom you should speak, and what they care about, based on the digital footprints they’ve left online. They have formed communities around common interests, and they are more empowered to seek out and share information than ever before. Your customers will tell you what they think, and what they need, based on where they spend their time online. You can address their concerns, and win their trust, by sharing content and information that helps them meet their missions and solve their problems.

When doing so, keep three things in mind:

  1. Define your goals. Do you want to increase leads at the top of the funnel? Motivate channel partners to offer your solution instead of another? How will you measure success? Answering these questions will help you determine where to engage, how often, and with what type of content.
  2. Be where your customers (and partners) are. Define your target audience and key contacts, and find them online. Look for communities of interest that are likely to attract them, and establish a presence there: GovLoop, MeriTalk, and LinkedIn are great places to start. (Side note: Mark Amtower is a huge LinkedIn evangelist with great info to get you started.)
  3. Be a publisher. Nobody wants to be sold, but everyone wants content. If you can produce your own content, that’s great. If not, share information from other places. It’s OK to re-purpose blog posts, articles, etc. as long as they are relevant and focused on solutions and the application of technology (not your product features). Use social media to associate your name, and your company, as influencers. Once you become a source of insight and information, you’re more likely to get requests from people to help solve their problems. That’s when the sales process kicks in.

immixGroup is getting more involved with social media all the time. To learn how, contact your immixGroup senior account manager or reach out to me at allan_rubin@immixgroup.com. You can also get useful social media tips by following Marc Hausman‘s blog.

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