Are Your Customers Cut Off from the Outside World?

Photo of Allan Rubinby Allan Rubin, Vice President, Marketing

 What a winter. DC is shutting down more frequently. Regular routes are impassable. The people you need to reach are unable to travel, meet face-to-face, or interact without the use of electronic or telephonic means. And those lines of communication are getting more and more overwhelmed.

DCSnowOh, I’m not talking about the current snowstorm that’s pummeling the Washington metro region (again) or the institutional government shutdown we faced in October. The storm to which I refer is equally treacherous for government marketing and sales professionals. It’s the one that keeps our prospects and customers from attending conferences, speaking at your events, accepting meeting requests, or interacting with you in a consistent, predictable, and productive way.

Washington Technology recently published its Insider Report on 2014 Trends in Government Purchasing. The report is based on an extensive survey of government officials in which they were asked about purchasing plans in areas such as cyber security, infrastructure, and mobility, as well as anticipated challenges for the coming year.

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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 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.

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