Government Contractor Marketing—2 Winning Strategies
What Portion of $665 Billion Would Make Your B2G Company a Success?
An infographic from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) examines the more than $665 billion spent on the Fiscal Year 2020 government contracts. This is a YOY increase of over $70 billion.
The federal marketplace can be difficult to navigate. The customer base for government contractors and public sector IT is becoming harder and harder to reach. To secure a foothold new marketing techniques and technologies must be employed in order to stay competitive.
Judy Bradt, a respected strategic advisor on government business and published author,“Many GovCons use databases to look for their next opportunity and can waste THOUSANDS of dollars and hours chasing work. That’s ‘Opportunity Illusion.’ Instead of asking, ‘What can I bid?’, winners focus on the right question: ‘Who’s my buyer?’”
There is a fundamental shift in the way people are now making purchasing decisions. To increase your chances of winning contracts, you will need new and innovative marketing strategies. This starts with building brand reputation and visibility long before the RFP. It continues with building upon those relationships with buyers and decision-makers throughout the long sales cycle.
Here are 2 Winning Strategies to increase your federal sales.
Winning Strategy #1: Inbound Marketing
The inbound methodology is a response to a fundamental shift in consumer behavior. The majority of consumers—with government agencies being one of the largest—have already made their purchasing decision prior to contacting any potential vendors.
Contracting officers typically rely upon their own experience, personal influences, and online research when making decisions regarding risk mitigation, brand reputation, and visibility. This means your potential customers have already decided what they want—and who they want to work with—before you even know they are interested.
Federal Buyer Personas
Developing federal buyer personas is a fundamental building block of the inbound methodology. These buyer personas are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers based on qualitative and quantitative data and research.
Creating and having a deep understanding of your buyer persona(s) is critical to content creation, sales follow-up, product development, customer acquisition, and customer retention.
Personas Respond to the Shift in Buyer Behavior
Decision-makers today are accustomed to self-educating. They have mastered online researching and make the majority of their purchasing decisions online. They expect to quickly and easily find information and content that speaks to their concerns, answers their questions, and directs them toward the best solutions to their challenges.
How Can Federal Personas Increase Win Rates?
Creating a detailed persona of your federal buyer allows you to understand their goals, needs, pain points, and fears—both professionally as well as personally. It allows you to then create educational materials and marketing messages from a voice of empathy, not selling.
According to Market Connections, “When creating marketing content for a government buyer of products, services or emerging technologies, federal and state and local decision-makers want to be educated and not sold to,” based on their 2019 Content Marketing Review: Federal & Beyond. They also state that “Content should help them make informed decisions and have minimal sales messages.”
They went on to reiterate in their March 2021 Questions Every Federal Marketer Should Ask Before A Campaign Launch, “knowing your customer will increase the ROI on any marketing effort.”
High Quality Content
B2G companies can no longer rely on past performance and accuracy of language in a bid to win a new contract award. Today, B2G companies must provide compelling, quality, educational materials, thought leadership, and high visibility of capabilities to attract customers to their brand. This is generically referred to as “content” and must be readily available online.
- White papers
- Case studies
- Podcasts ,etc.
This is the critical information that today’s Federal contracting officers are searching for.
Visibility and Reputation
It will take time to create visibility and build your company’s reputation through the content you produce. Understanding what is most appealing to your carefully refined buyer personas will help you create content – in the format they prefer – that is in alignment with your company’s abilities and your consumer’s needs.
Once a consumer (referred to as such because they consume your content) is attracted to your content, the next step is to convert them into leads by capturing their contact information. This opens new and more personalized marketing opportunities in the form of emails and other communications.
Federal decision-makers consume online content!
According to studies by Market Connections:
- 44% download content from vendors they work with
- 60% rely on research like white-papers
- Over 1/3 are willing to spend 1 hour+ reading work-related ebooks
- 25% will incorporate online content into RFPs/RFIs
- 73% will download and share online content with colleagues and supervisors
Inbound marketing can be a manual process (typical for smaller companies) or an automated process through the use of marketing automation software. While marketing automation is a relatively new concept for many B2G companies the ones who learn how to utilize its powerful potential first will have an advantage over their competitors.
Note: Inbound marketing is one term coined by Brian Halligan, founder of HubSpot—the popular inbound marketing automation platform. Other companies in the marketing automation space include Marketo, Pardot, Eloqua, SharpSpring, and Keap. Other terms you will hear associated with inbound marketing are “content marketing,” “non-interruptive marketing,” or “permission-based marketing.”
Winning Strategy #2: Website Performance – Engagement
Website Engagement – Overview
Website engagement is measured by the time spent on your website, the number of pages visited, and bounce rate (the percentage of visitors who come to your website and leave without looking at another page). All three metrics can be found in your website analytics.
The concept of engagement is simple. The art and science of improving these performance statistics, however, can be quite complex. It is the combined effect of the following critical factors:
Good website navigation will provide the visitor with opportunities to hang out and read more. It will present other related topics, which could lead to clicks onto new pages, directly affecting the pages visited measure.
Content—written text, pictures, graphics, video, etc.—all contribute to engagement. After all, no one hangs around long on a website that is not useful or entertaining.
An engaging website requires thought and planning. Who are you trying to engage with? What are they interested in? Can they quickly get to the information they desire? Is there a clear path to the next interesting article or past performance criteria? Today’s human attention span will not tolerate uninteresting or disorganized information. If a visitor cannot find what they are looking for in seconds, they will go to the site of a competitor to get their answer. Questions to ask when created content:
- Who are you trying to engage with?
- What are they interested in?
- Can they quickly get the information they desire?
- Is there a clear path to the next interesting article or past performance criteria?
Websites have many design features that allow information to be presented in creative and engaging ways—image rotators, pop-ups (love ‘em or hate ‘em, if done well they work!), online chat, etc. They all have a role to play in website engagement.
However, and this is a big one, you cannot compromise your website speed in order to show that hero video that seems so important or a series of images in a rotator that takes precious seconds to load. This brings us to our next point.
The time it takes your website to load is critical. If it’s over 3 seconds, you have a problem. If it is more than 8 seconds…your website is done. You can test the speed of your current website using tools such as this one at pingdom.
According to statista, mobile devices account for more than 50% of web traffic worldwide and have since 2017. The array of devices and displays available is staggering and seems to change annually. Your website UX/UI will need to be tested for all of them.
Your marketing team will need to keep a diligent watch on Google and where they are going when planning your content marketing strategy, SEO roadmap, and website development. Many companies will need to consider a mobile-first approach. Responsive websites are now a minimum barrier to entry. Success will mean providing great content across all devices.
In May 2020, Google announced changes that put increased importance on website design and its influence on search engine optimization (SEO). You may need to update your website to comply with the latest requirements. Read more about this important announcement.
Website Engagement – Summary
Website engagement is the combined effect of website design, website content, and an understanding of the website features that are available to guide the visitor’s experience. Engagement is measured in terms of time on your site, page views, and bounce rate. These can be found in your (Google) analytics. If you have designed your website using the features your target personas respond to, and have provided the content they are looking for, speaking in their language the analytics will reveal your success.
With hundreds of billions of federal contract dollars to compete for, a fundamental shift in the way people are now making purchasing decisions, and continually changing technology, companies that market to government agencies have more obstacles to navigate than ever before to win new contracts.
B2G companies need to embrace new techniques such as inbound marketing, marketing automation, and paying diligent attention to mobile-friendly, responsive design and mobile-first approaches to website design and development.
Government Contractor Marketing for B2G Companies
The bad news: Government contracting competition is steep, contracting officer attention spans are short, and B2G marketing teams have to stay on top of continually creating high-quality content to be presented in formats for rapidly changing technologies.
The good news: There are plenty of federal contracts out there to win. With great inbound marketing strategies and content, the contract officers you are targeting will keep you top-of-mind as subject matter experts. Marketing automation tools can help propel your company towards success and elevate you over your competitors.
You can read more about Preparing Your GovCon Company Now for Great Opportunities Coming.
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Kris Brinker is co-founder of Ocean 5 Strategies, providing continuous improvement of sales and marketing performance with plans, strategies, and programs that deliver results, and a track record of helping their customers grow their businesses.
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