Government Contractor marketing is going digital—will your company lead, follow, or lag behind?
With 87% of federal decision-makers using search engines to research products and services,1 the transition from traditional marketing to digital marketing is already the norm. This digital transformation has also accelerated during the COVID pandemic as business development teams were refused entry to buildings and face-to-face meetings were replaced by video calls.
Now that every business person is fully trained on the use of Zoom and Teams, communication with government decision-makers is likely to remain digital. And, even the most traditional of government contractors are coming to the conclusion that government buyers are online and therefore the company website does matter.
Improving Government Contractor Marketing
In the following article we will discuss how the transition to digital can help you:
- Get found by Federal buyers prior to the RFP stage
- Get on the shortlist faster with new buyers & agencies
- Get Federal buyers calling YOU
- Build credibility with risk-averse buyers
- Unseat your competition
Since government buyers and influencers are increasingly relying on their own online research, your website has become one of your most important assets. Website design and website content in combination can lead government decision-makers to you, help build a relationship, and solve their acquisition challenges.
6 Key Areas for Website Design
To answer these three questions:
- What are the critical elements of a successful website?
- How can your website stand out among your competitors?
- How will your decision-makers find you and find the information they are looking for?
We will focus on the following 6 key areas for website design and development:
- Professional image/branding
- Website design and development essentials
- Converting unknown visitors into leads
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Professional Image/Branding for Websites
Your website can be your #1 marketing asset, speaking for you when you can’t. It should communicate your brand and be the central hub of your digital marketing program.
Whether you proactively drive people to your website or they find it through online search engines, your website is the public face of your company. Your website is visible to the entire world—literally.
Your brand and brand values need to be incorporated into the website design. The goal is to get government decision-makers to recognize your company and recognize that you can solve their problems. And it has to happen FAST—you have about 5 seconds to grab visitors’ attention and keep them engaged.
A professional image can also be about avoiding negative messaging, for example, a security risk notification. SSL certificates are designed to protect information that is transferred on your websites (for example, a form fill) and should be part of every website. Though security seems like an obvious website essential, it should be noted that if your site fails to have an SSL certificate or contains malware, Google can attach a warning. A surefire way to lose credibility.
Website Design and Development Essentials
According to Government Contracting Officers, the number one resource for market research, decision making, and vendor comparison is your website.1
Since these are the people who determine whether you win their business, it’s vital they find the information they are looking for with as minimal effort as possible—or they will move on to the next contractor.
To stand out from your competitors you will need to provide an excellent user experience which is a combination of design and technical website development. To press the point home, Google has established website performance metrics to quantify “user experience” in their 2021 release of Core Web Vitals (CWV).
Learn more about CWV in this article: Website Design to Play Bigger Role in SEO-Latest Google Update.
Here are the things to think about:
- Load Time – Speed matters. Google recommends a load speed threshold of two seconds but aims for under a half-second.
- Mobile-Friendly – Google is so focused on the mobile experience it has adopted a mobile-first policy. Your mobile site will determine where your website appears in Google’s search results.
- Design and Navigation – The layout of your page needs to be logical and intuitive.
- Structure – The most important and/or most requested information should be the most accessible.
- Predictability – The buttons on your page need to provide your visitors with the information they expect.
- Pop-Ups – Not all pop-ups are created equal. Intrusive ones can be anything (banners, overlays) that can block any part of a mobile landing page.
Interested to know how your website is performing? Get a Free Website Assessment
Converting Unknown Visitors Into Leads
While you are providing critical information to your potential buyers, it’s the perfect time to collect some too. Incorporating landing pages into your website provides you with insight as to who is looking at you and what they are looking at.
A landing page is a web page with a specific purpose—it offers some highly valuable content for the visitors and asks them to fill out a form to get it. Landing pages, therefore, reveal opportunities/leads which can turn into sales.
Some opportunities for landing pages include educational materials in the form of free guides or invitations to webinars and other events.
A common saying in the marketing world is “Content is King”. Here’s why:
Government Decision-Maker Expectations
Websites have evolved from just an online brochure into the primary source of information about your company—its history, executive team, partnerships, products, and services. Government buyers, in particular, have a list of information they expect to see.
Websites Support Business Development
Your website is an online extension of your business development team—working 24/7. It can take your prospective client through the buyer’s journey—nurturing, educating, and guiding them—towards closing the deal.
Your decision-makers are already consuming online content. Provide them with the information they came looking for—information about your products and information including white papers, blog articles, links to webinars, etc. You can differentiate yourself by showing you understand the buyer’s journey—from identifying their problem, to determining a solution, to choosing the best contractor for the award.
Buyers are increasingly more interested in self-education before contacting a business development person—which is good news, provided it is YOUR website where they can get that critical information.
The first time a government agency or decision-maker connects with you could be through your website. Their experience could be the difference between getting added to a shortlist of contractors and being eliminated as a potential supplier.
You have an opportunity to earn your buyer’s trust and build a lasting relationship through your website’s content. Provide them with compelling, quality educational materials, capabilities, and thought leadership.
Federal Business Set-Asides
Your website should provide a clear description of your products and services. If a Government Buyer is looking for a vendor and they can’t find what they are looking for on your website they are moving on.
This is particularly important for government contractors that qualify for set-asides. Agencies are actively looking to send business your way but have a limited amount of time to research qualified vendors. It’s your job to make their life easier.
Build Trust, Educate and Help Shape RFIs/RFPs
I’ll repeat…You have an opportunity to earn your buyer’s trust and build a lasting relationship through your website’s content. Provide them with compelling, quality educational materials, capabilities, and thought leadership.
According to studies by government marketing research experts, Market Connections
- 44% of Federal decision-makers download content from vendors they work with
- Over 1/3 are willing to spend 1 hour+ reading work-related e-books
- 25% will incorporate online content into RFPs/RFI
- 73% will download and share online content with colleagues and supervisors
Google explains, “While all of the components of page experience are important, we will prioritize pages with the best information overall, even if some aspects of page experience are subpar. A good page experience doesn’t override having great, relevant content.”
Successful messaging addresses your target audience’s concerns, challenges, and pain points while clearly articulating your company’s solutions. Fully illustrating how you add value will help get a Google prioritization.
Remember, as our friend Judy Bradt of Summit Insight so eloquently stated, “There is no such thing as doing business with the federal government. You do business with people, with needs, fears, and priorities not found in a database.”
Messaging For Government Contractors
Not to be confused with content, messaging is the core information that you want to share with your Government decision-makers. It’s a foundation for your brand and should be incorporated into content.
The more focused your messaging, the more effective it will be. The focus should be on the people you are trying to influence (a.k.a. persona) and it needs to be modified based on your persona’s stage in their buyer’s journey. For example, the message you provide to someone who is reading an article for the first time is different from the messaging included in an RFP.
Messaging can be developed as a project through a marketing messaging workshop—which resolves a common gap in Government Contractor websites.
Search Engine Optimization
You’ve laid out relevant and critical information your buyers want/need in an easy-to-find format. You’ve demonstrated that you understand your client’s challenges and that you are in the best position to solve them. But none of that matters if your buyers and influencers never find your website.
This is where search engine optimization (SEO) comes into the equation. SEO is the process of improving the quality and quantity of website traffic from organic search. And we all want more of that! After all, an increase in quality traffic can lead to an increase in quality contract awards.
“Organic search” means that someone typed their inquiry into a Search Engine (most likely Google) and selected a website from the list that came up on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). This is a different channel from traffic gained from paid advertising, special media, email, etc.
According to Federal market research experts, Market Connections, “82% of Federal decision-makers rated search engines as their top-rated sources for research.”
As of March 2021, more than 5.27 billion web pages have been indexed, with Google processing more than 3.5 billion searches every day. With over 250 different criteria used by search engines to rank websites, how do you get found over your competition?
When constructing your website, the developers will focus on making it easy for search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing) to understand how the site is structured. They will also structure each page to include important pages titles, URLs, H tags, and meta descriptions—all of which help get you found.
Updating and adding additional content to your website sends signals to the search engines that your site is active. It signals that the site provides up-to-date and helpful information.
Backlinks (links from other websites to yours) demonstrate to Google that your site is a credible source of information.
Understanding and utilizing keyword research will be critical to the success of an SEO program. It’s vital that your SEO team keep up-to-date on shifting search engine algorithms. The payoff will be increased quality traffic.
The goal is to increase contract awards…to increase your win rate…to be the first ones on the minds of Federal buyers prior to the RFP…to get on the shortlist faster…to get your buyers calling YOU.
In order to do so, you must first gain visibility with your Federal decision-makers. You can cover more ground digitally with a professional website focused on image and branding—and faster—than you can with in-person meetings. While your competition is waiting to secure that meeting, you can already be in front of your buyers and influencers with the information they are looking for.
Demonstrating you understand your decision maker’s challenges and laying out your solution in an easy to find, easy to understand format builds credibility and can move you to the short-list of candidates.
Working with an experienced digital marketing and SEO expert can help you increase that win rate faster. Ocean 5 Strategies has a successful track record providing both digital marketing and SEO to GovCon clients in Washington DC and across the U.S.
For More Information
1. According to the federal marketing research company, Market Connections
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