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Aaron Heffron, President, Market Connections

Aaron Heffron, President, Market Connections

From the Desk of Aaron Heffron, President Market Connections, Inc.

While many of us remember fondly as a kid hearing, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” we all need to remember, “yes, folks, there will be a federal market after COVID.” Setting aside the debate of when the “after” is a reality, it is not too soon to start thinking about how to position your company to emerge from quarantine stronger and ready for action. You can do this by developing and implementing a marketing plan that accounts for the market realities while it hedges against market uncertainty.

Here are FOUR marketing areas affected by COVID-19 you should reevaluate:

  1. Events won’t be dead forever, but you’ll need to choose which to attend and sponsor wisely. Our recent COVID related polling of the federal community highlights hesitancy to attend even the smallest of events until the first quarter of 2021. At this point, micro-sized events of under 50 people will be the most likely for federal employees to attend. As you look toward the middle to end of 2021, larger trade shows and conferences may start springing up. Ask event organizers what they are doing to “re-sell” their event. The marketing for the event will be more important than ever as federal employees try to weigh the value of attending. HINT: It’s not only a safety issue.
  2. Create a webinar strategy that is concise and informative. As remote working and travel restrictions have continued, the prevalence and dependence on webinars has grown. A 45-minute webinar packed with the most recent information, case studies, and forward-looking views is increasingly important as an effective mechanism to educate numerous federal employees at the same time. Rather than scouring online publications and websites for new information, feds are willing to schedule the time to learn both synchronously and asynchronously. Just remember, though, as our content marketing research has shown, minimize the “sell” and maximize the “tell.”
  3. Adapt your buys to the changes in media usage but hedge your bets. Later this year we will be releasing the 12th edition of the Federal Media and Marketing Study that looks at federal employee preferences for reading, listening and viewing of websites, publications, radio stations and television programming. The survey this year will be measuring habits during the pandemic and we expect to see some drastic changes. The bigger questions will be how long these changes are in place and will longer term behaviors change? Regardless, when the results are public in late October, it will be important to tailor your short-term strategy for media placement and PR to account for these changes. Do not write them off as “temporary” because the tail will be long and may reveal new pathways to the customer.
  4. Dig deeper to understand what your customer is going through. It will be important to think about how your company will be interactive with your target audience going forward. How affected have your customers and prospects been from the current circumstances? Digging deeper and identifying those specific characteristics of your target audience (including what and who they know) will be necessary, even if you’ve never done it before. Our recent development of federal personas was done with the need for more personal targeting in mind. Individual fears, concerns and values always play a bigger role when there is uncertainty in the market. In 2021 and beyond it will be important to speak to the hearts as well as the minds of the customer as they face fears and concerns that go way past their job responsibilities.

FINAL THOUGHT:

Yes, there will be a federal market in the post-COVID world. What will it exactly look like? Your guess is as good as mine. What we do know now, however, is that with some careful planning and thoughtful actions you can have your organization positioned better than your competitors as new opportunities arise.

Guest blogger: Kris Brinker, Ocean 5 Strategies

There‌ ‌is‌ ‌no‌ ‌such‌ ‌thing‌ ‌as‌ ‌doing‌ ‌business‌ ‌with‌ ‌the‌ ‌federal‌ ‌government.‌ ‌‌We‌ ‌do‌ ‌business‌ ‌with‌ ‌people—government‌ ‌decision-makers,‌ ‌federal‌ ‌humans—who‌ ‌all‌ ‌have‌ ‌goals, ‌‌fears,‌ ‌needs,‌ ‌priorities,‌ ‌and‌ ‌pain‌ ‌points.‌ ‌

The‌ ‌US‌ ‌government‌ ‌continues‌ ‌to‌ ‌offer‌ ‌opportunities‌ ‌as‌ ‌the‌ ‌largest‌ ‌public‌ ‌procurement‌ ‌marketplace.‌ ‌Just‌ ‌a‌ ‌small‌ ‌piece‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌federal‌ ‌pie‌ ‌would‌ ‌be‌ ‌a‌ ‌huge‌ ‌win.‌ ‌But,‌ ‌the‌ ‌hurdles‌ ‌and‌ ‌barriers‌ ‌government‌ ‌contractors‌ ‌need‌ ‌to‌ ‌overcome‌ ‌have‌ ‌not‌ ‌only‌ ‌changed‌ ‌but‌ ‌also‌ ‌become‌ ‌greater.‌ ‌ ‌

The‌ ‌customer‌ ‌base‌ ‌for‌ ‌government‌ ‌contractors‌ ‌is‌ ‌becoming‌ ‌harder‌ ‌and‌ ‌harder‌ ‌to‌ ‌reach‌ ‌and‌ ‌contractors‌ ‌have‌ ‌to‌ ‌do‌ ‌more‌ ‌than‌ ‌ever‌ ‌to‌ ‌break‌ ‌through.‌ ‌New‌ ‌marketing‌ ‌techniques‌ ‌and‌ ‌technologies‌ ‌must‌ ‌be‌ ‌considered‌ ‌to‌ ‌stay‌ ‌competitive.‌ ‌

According‌ ‌to‌ ‌‌respected government business ‌strategic‌ ‌advisor and‌ ‌published‌ ‌author, Judy‌ ‌Bradt‌,‌‌ ‌‌ ‌‌”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?’‌ ‌”‌ ‌

You‌ ‌need‌ ‌to‌ ‌build‌ ‌brand‌ ‌reputation‌ ‌and‌ ‌visibility‌ ‌long‌ ‌before‌ ‌the‌ ‌RFP.‌ ‌You‌ ‌also‌ ‌need‌ ‌to‌ ‌continue‌ ‌building‌ ‌those‌ ‌relationships‌ ‌with‌ ‌buyers‌ ‌and‌ ‌decision-makers‌ ‌throughout‌ ‌a‌ ‌long‌ ‌sales‌ ‌cycle.‌ ‌ ‌

Combining‌ ‌this‌ ‌with‌ ‌a‌ ‌fundamental‌ ‌shift‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌way‌ ‌people‌ ‌are‌ ‌making‌ ‌purchasing‌ ‌decisions,‌ ‌means‌ ‌you‌ ‌need‌ ‌new‌ ‌and‌ ‌innovative‌ ‌marketing‌ ‌strategies‌ ‌to‌ ‌stay‌ ‌on‌ ‌top‌ ‌and‌ ‌win‌ ‌contracts.‌ ‌

Enter‌ ‌Buyer‌ ‌Personas,‌ ‌a‌ ‌Winning‌ ‌Strategy‌ ‌

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,‌ ‌and‌ ‌customer‌ ‌acquisition‌ ‌and‌ ‌retention.‌ ‌ ‌

Federal Personas to Support Your Federal Content Marketing

Creating‌ ‌content with a‌ ‌detailed‌ ‌persona‌ ‌of‌ ‌your‌ ‌federal‌ ‌buyer‌ ‌in mind allows‌ ‌you‌ ‌to‌ go beyond agency needs and shows them you can ‌speak‌ ‌to‌ ‌their‌ ‌goals,‌ ‌needs,‌ ‌pain‌ ‌points,‌ ‌and‌ ‌fears—both‌ ‌professionally‌ ‌as‌ ‌well‌ ‌as‌ ‌personally.‌ ‌It‌ ‌allows‌ ‌you‌ ‌to‌ ‌create‌ ‌your‌ ‌educational‌ ‌materials‌ ‌and‌ ‌marketing‌ ‌messages‌ ‌from‌ ‌a‌ ‌voice‌ ‌of‌ ‌empathy,‌ ‌not‌ ‌selling.‌ ‌ ‌

“Many government decision makers want to learn about new things, while others need justifications for existing decisions, depending on their role and personality” ‌ said Aaron Heffron, president at Market Connections,‌ ‌“our past review of federal content preferences  and the differences between various individuals shows that by effectively delivering quality content that’s on-point and directly relevant, you show your commitment to being a partner, not just a vendor”‌ ‌

Past‌ ‌performance‌ ‌and‌ ‌accuracy‌ ‌of‌ ‌language‌ ‌in‌ ‌a‌ ‌bid‌ ‌are‌ ‌no‌ ‌longer‌ ‌the‌ ‌only‌ ‌keys‌ ‌to‌ ‌winning‌ ‌the‌ ‌contract‌ ‌award.‌ ‌Today,‌ ‌B2G‌ ‌companies‌ ‌must‌ ‌compete‌ ‌to‌ ‌attract‌ ‌buyers‌ ‌to‌ ‌their‌ ‌brand‌ ‌by‌ ‌providing‌ ‌compelling,‌ ‌quality content tailored to meet their specific needs, behaviors and concerns.

By‌ ‌first‌ ‌developing‌ ‌a‌ ‌clear‌ ‌vision‌ ‌of‌ ‌your‌ ‌federal‌ ‌persona‌, ‌you‌ ‌can‌ ‌tailor‌ ‌your‌ ‌content‌ ‌to‌ ‌meet‌ ‌their‌ ‌specific‌ ‌needs,‌ ‌behaviors,‌ ‌and‌ ‌concerns.‌ ‌Focus‌ ‌on‌ ‌your‌ ‌carefully‌ ‌refined‌ ‌buyer‌ ‌personas‌ ‌and‌ ‌produce‌ ‌the‌ ‌content‌ ‌they‌ ‌want‌ ‌to‌ ‌consume‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌format‌ ‌that‌ ‌is‌ ‌most‌ ‌appealing‌ ‌to‌ ‌them.‌ ‌For‌ ‌example,‌ ‌the‌ ‌agency‌ ‌contracting‌ ‌officers‌ ‌you‌ ‌need‌ ‌to‌ ‌influence‌ ‌might‌ ‌be‌ ‌most‌ ‌interested‌ ‌in‌ ‌information‌ ‌in‌ ‌video format, while a senior executive may prefer to read about your capabilities in the form of a white paper.‌ ‌By understanding your personas’ preferences, you can better understand‌ how to ‌personalize‌ ‌your‌ ‌content‌ ‌just‌ ‌for‌ ‌them.‌ ‌

How‌ ‌Do‌ ‌I‌ ‌Start‌ ‌Creating‌ ‌Federal‌ ‌Personas?‌ ‌

A‌ ‌good‌ ‌starting‌ ‌point‌ ‌is‌ ‌to‌ ‌take‌ ‌a‌ ‌look‌ ‌at‌ ‌your‌ ‌current‌ ‌clients‌ ‌and‌ ‌start‌ ‌to‌ ‌tell‌ ‌a‌ ‌story‌ ‌about‌ ‌their‌ ‌purchasing‌ ‌behavior,‌ ‌goals,‌ ‌challenges,‌ ‌needs,‌ ‌etc. You may even want to begin by experimenting with default personas available in some email or automated marketing platforms, then supplementing them with your own.‌ ‌Remember,‌ ‌your‌ ‌federal‌ ‌personas‌ ‌will‌ ‌be‌ ‌semi-fictional‌ ‌representations‌ ‌of‌ ‌your‌ ‌ideal‌ ‌customers‌ ‌based‌ ‌on‌ ‌qualitative‌ ‌and‌ ‌quantitative‌ ‌data‌ ‌and‌ ‌research.‌ ‌The‌ ‌strongest‌ ‌buyer‌ ‌personas‌ ‌are‌ ‌based‌ ‌on‌ ‌market‌ ‌research‌ ‌as‌ ‌well‌ ‌as‌ ‌insights‌ ‌gathered‌ ‌from‌ ‌your‌ ‌actual‌ ‌customer‌ ‌base‌ ‌(through‌ ‌surveys,‌ ‌interviews,‌ ‌etc.).‌

You‌ ‌may‌ ‌need‌ ‌as‌ ‌few‌ ‌as‌ ‌one‌ ‌or‌ ‌two‌ ‌personas,‌ ‌or‌ ‌as‌ ‌many‌ ‌as‌ ‌20,‌ ‌depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌your‌ ‌business.‌ ‌If‌ ‌you’re‌ ‌new‌ ‌to‌ ‌personas,‌ ‌start‌ ‌small—you‌ ‌can‌ ‌always‌ ‌develop‌ ‌more‌ ‌personas‌ ‌later‌ ‌if‌ ‌needed—but‌ ‌get‌ ‌started!‌ When possible, avoid reinventing the wheel and use information already in the market. Also consider personas developed by reputable independent market research and specialized federal marketing firms as a first step into your persona development. I was excited to discover that in July 2020, Market Connections will begin releasing their federal persona bundles—developed from their research and interviews of 300 federal IT decision-makers.

Purchase Market Connections Federal IT Personas bundles.

Summary

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 hurdles than ever to win contracts. Creating and implementing federal personas is a key component of a modern B2G winning strategy. Utilizing existing market research can save you time and increase the accuracy of your content development.

 

Kris‌ ‌Brinker‌‌ ‌is‌ ‌co-founder‌ ‌of‌ ‌‌Ocean‌ ‌5‌ ‌Strategies‌. ‌With‌ ‌a‌ ‌track‌ ‌record‌ ‌of‌ ‌helping‌ ‌their‌ ‌customers‌ ‌grow‌ ‌their‌ ‌businesses, Kris and the Ocean 5 team specialize in award-winning website design, SEO, content marketing, and related digital marketing services.‌ ‌Connect‌ ‌with‌ ‌Kris‌ ‌on‌ ‌‌LinkedIn‌.‌ ‌

Ocean‌ ‌5‌‌ ‌provides‌ ‌marketing plans, strategies, and‌ ‌programs‌ ‌that‌ ‌generate‌ ‌more‌ ‌highly‌ ‌qualified‌ ‌leads,‌ ‌more‌ ‌closed‌ ‌contracts,‌ ‌and‌ increased ‌profit.‌ ‌Ocean‌ ‌5‌ clients‌ ‌have‌ ‌enjoyed‌ ‌benefits‌ ‌such‌ ‌as‌ ‌500%‌ ‌ROI,‌ ‌600%‌ ‌increase‌ ‌in‌ ‌client‌ ‌acquisition,‌ ‌218%‌ ‌increase‌ ‌in‌ ‌profit,‌ ‌and‌ ‌216%‌ ‌increase‌ ‌in‌ ‌conversion‌ ‌rates.‌ You can find more information at Ocean5Strategies.com

 

Guest Blogger: Chris Parente, StoryTech Consulting

If you want to successfully market a product or service, you need to understand everything you can about who your targeted decision-makers are and what they care about. A way to increase your understanding is the development of marketing personas.

Per Wikipedia, “a persona in user-design and marketing is a fictional character created to represent a user type that might use a site, brand, or product in a similar way.” The definition goes on to say that “in most cases, personas are synthesized from data collected from interviews with users.” The “garbage in, garbage out” rule applies – personas are only as good as the research used to create them.

Recently I attended the Federal IT (FIT) Persona Study – A Deeper Look into Your Federal Customer. It was a virtual event put on by Market Connections with support from their marketing partners, Professional Services Council and Government Marketing University. Market Connections has been doing B2B and B2G research for over 20 years, providing actionable intelligence to support marketing and business outreach strategies. They are probably best known in B2G circles for their annual analysis of the media consumption habits of government decision-makers, a must read for government marketers.

Market Connections interviewed over 300 federal IT decision-makers, both inside and outside the beltway. There were also additional in-depth interviews with key federal personnel to round out multiple personas detailing personal and professional preferences. Spoiler alert – there is no single federal IT persona that covers all decision-makers.

As part of the overview presentation, two of the ten available federal personas were shared with registered attendees, a program manager working for the Veterans Administration out of Texas, and an IT specialist in D.C. working for the Department of Health and Human Services. These are valuable for government marketers, whether as a foundation to build upon or as a “sanity check” to compare to their own federal personas.

Some overall results that caught my eye:

  • What inspires them – The top two responses were feeling they are making an important contribution and doing their part for the mission.
  • Top professional challenges – Nearly half cited slow bureaucracy, followed by one-third stating needing to do more with less budget.
  • Who they have confidence in for technical decisions – Two-thirds trust their team members, however, ONLY 16 PERCENT trust contractors/vendors! Caveat emptor indeed!

Within the two federal personas shared, key differences were seen, for example their motivation to learn about IT:

  • The IT specialist valued being viewed as the internal expert.
  • The program manager felt technology changes quickly.

In addition, differences were found in how they preferred to learn, communicate, and gather information; challenges they faced in their roles; what they sought most from vendors they worked with; among others.

After the survey presentation there was a panel discussion moderated by Aaron Heffron, president of Market Connections. The panelists were Christina Morrison, Federal Solutions Director at the cybersecurity provider Proofpoint and Tom Nagle, Managing Partner at the management and marketing consultancy Statler Nagle LLC.

Christina talked about using personas during her time at HP, and how people naturally want to buy from people they like. She made the point that personas are important no matter the size of your budget, and that they fit perfectly into an account-based marketing (ABM) approach that unites sales and marketing objectives.

Tom cautioned marketers against thinking that buying decisions are entirely rational. He told the audience that personas were an effective way to “market to the whole human.” He also said that personas support framing your messaging as storytelling, which is a prerequisite for success. (Amen Tom!)

The presentation and video of the results readout can be purchased here. Early in July, Market Connections will release their federal persona bundles developed from the research. These will cover additional decision-makers and influencers in IT purchasing from the CIO to the procurement professional at both defense and civilian agencies.

Understanding your target market is a never-ending process. Personas based on quality market research help immensely.

 

Chris Parente is the founder of StoryTech Consulting LLC. He has over 20 years of experience in IT communications, working for organizations such as the Cellular Telecommunications Internet Association (CTIA), Advertising.com and VeriSign.  From 2005 to 2014 he served as Managing Director and Partner at Strategic Communications Group. StoryTech Consulting has helped clients such as VMware, FireEye, Leidos, Ruckus Networks and Government Executive Media Group meet their content marketing objectives. For more information visit https://storytechconsulting.com/

Marketing Teams

Our latest blog post “Beyond the C-level Suite” emphasized  the importance of marketing to both federal IT decision-makers and influencers at agencies in different ways. Detailed personas for each federal influencer, from senior executive to procurement staff to end user can crystalize your approach and give you guidance as to the unique personal and professional challenges that can influence how and why they make decisions. In part one of this series, we’ll focus on how marketing teams can use federal personas to guide their strategy.

Originating in the consumer market, personas used for B2G will differ in their area of emphasis and approach. While B2C companies focus exclusively on their target customer, B2G marketers must blend the influences of the agency culture with the preferences and habits of the individual. To date, most B2G marketers have focused heavily on the unique aspects of agency culture and processes. We believe that on top of this marketing strategy, it is important to understand the personal motivators and opinions of specific decision-makers and influencers within the agency that is purchasing your product or service.

If you have already made the investment in creating unique federal customer personas, the journey has just begun. There are several next steps to get the best out of your efforts.

Share, Share, Share!

Sharing federal personasFederal personas are only effective if you are sharing them across your company, from leadership to marketing and communication teams to sales teams. Educate up and down your organization to consider how each persona plays a part in decision-making. To ensure all teams are considering personas in their sales and marketing efforts, post your personas in visible locations and discuss them frequently in cross-team meetings to incorporate the individual natures of each decision-maker into your company culture.

For Marketing Teams:

Plan your content to be rooted in the agency mission but tailored for specific individuals. This includes adjusting for topic, tone, depth and distribution. You would not market the same way to an executive as you would to an end-user. Their priorities, backgrounds and values may be different. Some may value being viewed as an expert in their jobs, while others value the security that their job provides them.

Furthermore, a tech-savvy end-user, may prefer to watch a video or webinar to learn more about new technologies while a program manager or senior executive may prefer to read about new trends and technologies in a white paper. What is their preference for learning mediums? How do they prefer to receive information?

In addition to the learning style differences, key influencers and decision-makers may prefer different ways to access information. Across the board, marketers understand the importance of SEO, but are you considering other channels for marketing to different federal personas? While one individual may prefer to directly go to a vendor website or video, others may prefer to get information from associations, industry publications or events.

In addition to preferences, use tools like the Federal Media & Marketing Study to understand what publications and websites they’re going to already in order to focus your media and advertising efforts there.

Learn More About Federal Personas:

Purchase the overview report and corresponding video readout:

Federal IT (FIT) Personas Study: A Deeper Look into Your Government Customer

The FIT Personas bundles will be available for purchase soon and will be found on the same page as the overview report.

The Importance of Influencer Personas for the Win

How many times have you sat around a table, planning your next campaign and someone says, “We should just target CTOs, CISOs or CIOs – they make the final decision…”? We’re often faced with the same statement by public sector marketers who are looking to find out specifically what agency plans are and the likelihood their company would be short-listed for an upcoming opportunity. Are senior executives the only type of federal persona to consider for the win?

One Can Say “Yes,” But Many Can Say “No”

federal personasWhen prodded further about their marketing plans, the goals stretch far beyond just getting in front of a specific CTO, but rather to increase the overall likelihood their company will make the final consideration list for specific contracts or broader multi-agency contracts. Based on this, we employ a research plan that identifies not only the likes and dislikes of the C-level executive, but more importantly, the general disposition of all those at the agency who, in some manner, participate in the product and vendor selection process. These are the influencers that can say “no” before your company ever reaches final consideration.

As part of our 2020 efforts to inform the public sector marketing community, we have been constructing descriptive personas to help guide marketing strategy, language and execution. The chief executive is not the only federal persona at the agency you should rely on if you want to influence decision-making towards your product or service. To truly understand your agency’s challenges and priorities, you must expand your reach to include decision-makers AND key influencers.

Understanding the perspectives of decision makers and influencers throughout the agency is especially critical for federal IT purchasing. In addition to executives, key influencers for major purchasing decisions can range from a procurement specialist to a program manager or even an end user. Within a single agency or contract, the different players around the table have varying priorities, challenges and pain points that need to be overcome, and your marketing efforts need to reflect this.

Role of Personas in Your Federal Marketing

When creating marketing materials to engage key influencers, marketers need to consider the varying personality styles and preferences, sometimes more than levels of expertise or technical skills. How do they prefer to communicate? Where do they seek more information? What do they value in a contractor? Would you market to someone in an IT role the same way you would market to a procurement specialist? Once you have a good understanding of the similarities and differences of each individual, you can use this information to ground your marketing efforts to ensure you are marketing towards their personalities and preferences.

Successful government marketers understand that their efforts may need to be multi-faceted and approaches may need to vary. While one signature is required for that multi-million (and even billion) dollar contract, there may be a dozen people behind the scenes that are helping to make the final decision. In federal IT, where mission rules, stakes are high and contracts are huge, having an in-depth understanding of the complex cast of characters that guide the final decision leads to successful marketing to those key players, which in turn can help lead to that win.

Learn More

Join our virtual event: Federal IT Persona Study: Deeper Insight into Your Federal Customer
Thursday, June 11, 2020, 2-3:30 PM EDT

Our last blog post “Increased Screen Time Equals More Time with Public Sector Decision-Makers” focused on taking advantage of increased screen time by providing your government customer with content that educates and informs. The next step is to place your content where your customer is already going.

Before placing content on other media channels, take stock of your own corporate site. Approximately 7 out of 10 public sector decision-makers believe that corporate websites are an effective online source for information. If your customer were to visit your corporate site, or preferably a federally focused microsite, is the content they are looking for available and easily accessible? Is your site easily navigable? How far would your customers have to dig to find information around resources they are looking for? Is your site and its contents search engine optimized?

What Online Channels Do They Go to for Content?

Where to place content

From 2019 Content Marketing Review

According to our recent Content Marketing Review, three-quarters of both federal and state and local decision-makers find government-focused online communities and government-related news websites (e.g., GovLoop, Governing, Government Executive or Federal News Network) effective for delivering content to educate and inform their work-related buying process.

We are also hearing from top government-focused publications that increased screen time has driven up the number of visitors to their sites and subscriptions to their e-newsletters. With this in mind, sponsored content or advertising across highly trafficked online sites should be part of your strategy, if budget allows. If it doesn’t allow right now, work with your subject matter experts and other thought leaders in your organization to develop content attractive to these publications. Earned media can often be more effective than paid media.

To make data-based decisions on where to focus your media purchasing budgets, consider sources like the Federal Media & Marketing Study (FMMS) that allow you to strategically match your company’s target audiences with the publications and sites they most frequent. Spending, matched with strategic market information, can maximize your impact.

Learn more about FMMS audience-based reports available for purchase

Now Is the Time to Educate Your Government Customer

In our last blog post, Webinars in Place of In-Person Events – A New Normal?, we shared insights about public sector webinar preferences to help marketers refocus their marketing dollars from live events and conferences to virtual events. However, webinars may only be the tip of the virtual iceberg.

With more public sector employees teleworking and with travel and in-person events on hold, marketers can expect a spike in online traffic. It’s time to use this increased screen time to be a partner to your customer. Digital platforms allow for greater, self-directed education opportunities on ways to address new, or redirected, agency priorities and missions. Being a source of high-quality information has always been one of the best ways to build a strong, long-term relationship with your customer.

What Is Needed to Deepen Your Relationship with Your Customer

Over the years, our surveys have consistently noted that white papers, research reports and case studies are among the type of content most valued by federal and state and local decision-makers. The best designed of these assets, typically, have one thing in common: they educate the customer without feeling salesy.

It’s not always easy to figure out what you should or should not include in these content pieces. Our Content Marketing Review revealed that public sector decision-makers want data and research to support the content, examples of past performance and product specifications. Fancy visual contents, insights from industry thought leaders and content tailored to their vertical were less critical to the success of good content. 

For detailed charts of top features across key marketing assets, download the presentation.

With the increased screen time your customers are experiencing, if you haven’t already, now might be a great time to create or update your marketing content to educate your customer while they have less “out of office” distractions and more screen time.

 

 

WiTConnect State of Technology in Healthcare IT

WiTConnect: State of Technology in Healthcare IT Panel

Women in Technology recently hosted their quarterly WiTConnect event focused on the state of technology in healthcare. This event focused on the top challenges faced in the Healthcare IT industry by bringing a panel of industry experts to share their experiences. Predominantly focused on the public sector, the following panelists shared the priorities, challenges and innovations being seen from both sides of the industry as they look for solutions and work together to improve citizen and agency experience:

  • Stacie Alboum, Deputy Director, Center for Information Technology (CIT), National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • Maheen Mirza, Director, Dell Technologies, Federal Healthcare
  • Genevieve Morris, Founder, Integral Health Strategies (IHS)
  • Patty Obermaier, Vice President, US Health & Life Sciences Organization, Microsoft

Overall Challenges

The imbalance of supply (a trained healthcare workforce) and demand (greater need for services) is a top challenge facing the industry. According to Patty Obermaier from Microsoft, the population of those aged over 60 will more than double by 2050 and there will be a shortage of 14 million healthcare workers by 2030. While the right technology can help meet some of the demand, it can’t replace people. Multiple panelists agreed that a strong workforce development effort must take place within this field while healthcare IT technologies continue to catch up.

In addition, a data explosion has also happened in this field. According to Obermaier, “There are four thousand new medical publications showing up on PubMed every day and knowledge of the medical field doubles every 73 days.” Genevieve Morris, founder of IHS and author of multiple policies, also noted a significant increase in the amount of data being exchanged within the medical community. She likened it to, “turning on a faucet… a fire hydrant really… and expecting physicians to weed through that data in real time while their patient is sitting in front of them. Realistically that’s not going to happen, things will get missed and adverse events will occur.”

Finally, in a digital age, patients are also digital consumers with their own needs. Their health care expectations are likening to their expectations for all consumer interactions. When they walk into any health institution, they expect that institution to have all their records available and be able to pay for interactions the same way they pay across other markets, for example, with apps such as Venmo. For many reasons, these expectations cannot currently be met.

Key Public Sector Challenges

Healthcare IT in the public sector brings its own unique challenges. These include:

  • Highly regulated federal environment
  • Complex procurement and budgets
  • Working and maintaining legacy IT systems

Stacie Alboum, Deputy Director at the Center for Information Technology at NIH, shared that, beyond those challenges, her agency faces a high level of complexity and range of services including a vast array of institutes and centers each focused on their own mission. Alboum’s agency is tasked with being efficient and effective in providing tools and services that provide a high-speed network to perform research; a suite of communication collaboration capabilities able to support hundreds of thousands of meetings and interactions; and high performance computing capabilities to conduct large scale data analyses in a variety of scientific fields to all 44K staff members and thousands of external collaborators.

Meeting the demands of all centers and institutes is only one piece of the complex needs of many public sector healthcare IT professionals. Like many other agencies, those in healthcare IT are spending a majority of their capital expenditure budgets (roughly 80%) on operating and maintaining legacy IT systems. To modernize IT, agencies are finding innovative ways to work with and learn from industry. Because certain vehicles are not in place, agencies are looking at using Other Transaction Authorities (OTAs) in order to help them get products, pilots and proof of concepts to market much faster. They have been open to private/public partnership to learn from industry and to are willing to talk to industry to hear what they are doing to see how they can also take advantage of it.

Looking Forward

AI and machine learning tools are also being developed by industry to help with the collection and exchange of data, the shortage of qualified workers and the streamlining of administrative processes. One example is a prototype being released by Microsoft that includes a tool that listens to and transcribes interactions between doctors and their patients, allowing practitioners to focus more on their patients and less on note-taking.

Additional tools may help practitioners weed through and pull the data they need when they need it. To help with data exchange and interoperability, Morris noted her work on the Trust Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA). The goal of TEFCA is to make all health information networks across the country talk to and share data with each other. This will mitigate the need for healthcare systems to join multiple networks in order to share data.

Information blocking regulations underway may also help minimize the hoarding of data. Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) APIs could help with the exchange of electronic health records. The goal is not to commoditize the data exchange, but to allow vendors to make money on the services you can run on top of that data.

A Word of Warning

Technology may help provide more efficient and effective solutions for many challenges being faced in the industry, but those in healthcare IT need to remember not to lose track of the problems they are trying to solve.

An exclusive focus on the “technology” part of healthcare IT causes many to fall into the trap of thinking the latest technology will solve all interoperability problems, leading them to over-complicate seemingly simple problems in order to provide new technological solutions. Many folks focus on, as one panelist put it, “the shiny new thing.” Whether that’s AI, machine learning, FHIR APIs, or other technology, you must make sure not to lack underpinning infrastructures necessary to the technology work.

And as companies look to promote technology solutions to their customers, they need to understand that those working in healthcare have been burned by technology companies in the past and may hesitate or be open to new concepts. This includes the fact that some problems do not require technological solutions at all. While we are in an era of convenience and technology, in some cases, an actual face-to-face or manual solution may prove best.

Want to Learn More?

Panelists provided a few resources for more information about healthcare IT.

2019 FMMS Healthcare Pro ReportInterested in the media habits of federal healthcare professionals? Market Connections has created a new Federal Media & Marketing sub-report for this market. Purchase here.

 

Image courtesy of Lockheed Martin website

Congratulations to our friends at Lockheed Martin for their recent Department of Defense contract win to support and sustain the F-35 Lightning II combat jet fleet through 2020.

Awarded annually, this contract provides a range of improvements to Lockheed Martin’s repair and maintenance network. It will pay for advanced engineering work, fleetwide data analytics, pilot and maintainer training, supply chain management resources, and the services of industry sustainment experts at air bases and depots.

“The F-35 continues to deliver exceptional capabilities to the field, and this contract ensures F-35s are mission ready to meet warfighter needs,” said Greg Ulmer, the Lockheed Martin vice president who serves as general manager of the F-35 program. “The joint government and industry team continues to make significant progress improving readiness rates and reducing sustainment costs. In 2020, we are confident F-35 sustainment costs will be equal to or less than legacy jets.”

Work under the $1.9 billion contract will take place in Texas, Florida, South Carolina, California and the United Kingdom.

research supports federal marketingDo you have the information you need to create and justify your marketing strategy for the upcoming year? The “right” information can take many forms, including customer feedback, prospects’ spending plans, agencies’ strategic direction, and the important factors for key decision-makers and influencers. Limited budgets and tight timelines can often hamstring the most well-thought-out plans for information gathering. Market Connections has worked with dozens of public sector contractors over the years to get them the right information at the right time. Whether it’s maximizing the use of free resources or commissioning custom research, here is what we have learned works best in different situations.

Free Resources

As many know, the BEST part of selling to a government customer is that their past spending history is often open for all to see. By way of publicly available data, one can see where agencies have historically spent their money and with whom. This is incredibly helpful in identifying partners, gauging the competitive landscape, or making a “go/no-go” decision on an upcoming opportunity.

With a little elbow grease and a working knowledge of the federal procurement process, government contractors who are looking to find information about upcoming contracts and opportunities can find information on https://beta.sam.gov/ (formerly FedBizOpps.org or fbo.org). This site, run by GSA, is a great starting point to find contract opportunities. You can search for opportunities by keyword, solicitation ID, or by the name of a federal organization. You can then use a wide variety of filters to narrow results.

For more historical information, such as past contract winners, number of contract actions and historical spending since FY2004, details can be found on Federal Procurement Data System (https://www.fpds.gov/). Market Connections works intimately with this data to help measure the size of the overall market, make determinations of go-to market strategies, and track the growth and viability of partners and competitors.

Syndicated or Multi-Client Studies

A wide variety of organizations and companies release overview data regarding the federal marketplace or specific agencies of product/service categories. Usually available for a small fee, these studies and reviews can provide a glimpse into strategic plans and the direction of buying, as well as offer insights into habits and behaviors of the market in general. Something to keep in mind, however, that while this information is available to you for a smaller fee, it is also available to your competitors.

Bloomberg Government and Government Executive Media Group offer overarching studies to understand how, at a high level, contractors are perceived in the federal marketplace. BGov200 and Leading Brands can provide a glimpse of the top contractors in the market, leveraging the knowledge within the specific companies and direct contacts with buyers and federal employees.

In addition, Professional Services Council (PSC) conducts a yearly assessment and estimate of federal spending every October based on an extensive network of interviews with government officials, congressional staff, private analysts and government contractors. PSC’s Annual Vision Federal Market Forecast develops budget estimates for defense and civilian agencies overall, as well as, specific breakdowns for individual agencies ranging from the Department of Agriculture to NASA.

For best practices in federal marketing, Market Connections provides our own annual and biennial studies such as Federal Government Contractor Study which looks at the best practices of federal marketing and business development professionals; Federal Media & Marketing Study which focuses on the media habits of federal audiences; and the Content Marketing Review studies which content marketing methods are best received by federal IT decision-makers. Presented at in-person networking events, this data provides insights to help with contractors with federal market strategy development.

Custom Research

General information about your audience may not be enough. Your product or service may be in a niche-category or very specific, your target audience unique, or you have some thoughts and insights that you believe can set you apart from your competitors. If this is the case, it is worth the investment to commission some custom research specific to your needs.

Oftentimes our clients need more detailed information to help make smart business decisions, especially when new product launches or large advertising investments are on the line. Whether they are seeking to position themselves for a specific contract, ensure customer satisfaction, develop or test specific messages, or to gain a better understanding of how they are perceived against a specific set of competitors, our custom research can provide data and insights directly from the federal audience contractors are serving.

Market Connections has over 25 years of experience in reaching these specific audiences, gathering a strong database of federal decision-makers from all areas of the government. Whether seeking insights from the general audience, specific to an agency or purchase category, Market Connections third-party research is a trusted resource among federal professionals and the contractors who serve them.

Learn more about custom research Market Connections provides to aid government contractors with their business development and market planning.

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