By Monica Mayk Parham, Director of Marketing, Market Connections, Inc.
For many years, government contractors relied on events and trade shows to connect with their federal customers. These events provided highly valuable face-to-face time for enhancing existing relationships, as well as for help in procuring new contracts.
This is all about to change in 2013. According a recent Market Connections poll, 38% of government employees plan to attend fewer educational and trade events in 2013 than last year.
It’s not surprising that the expected decrease is due to budget and travel restrictions. In addition, just over one-third of respondents reported management will not allow them to attend events in 2013. However, some government workers plan to attend about the same number of events (27%), and a few plan to attend more (5%).
Though for government contractors, all hope is not lost – there will be venues for connecting with government customers. Of the 400 government workers we polled, 58% prefer smaller, content-specific events over large trade shows with multiple vendors.
Many of the respondents are thinking local, with seven in ten more likely to attend events that are close to home (69%) or hosted by a trade association (72%), as opposed to traveling to events that require a hotel (29%) or are hosted by a corporate entity (25%).
Poll participants said they primarily attend industry, educational and trade events to both stay abreast of new technologies (61%) and learn about emerging technologies (47%). Just over a third (27%) attend events to network with government peers, but only 16% attend events to network with industry peers or see product and service demonstrations.
And, overwhelmingly, federal workers still prefer live events to webinars and online trade shows (80% vs. 18%).
Based on this data, government contractors should consider participating in or hosting smaller, more content-specific events closer to home. Face-to-face educational events that do not focus on trying to sell something, yet help government decision-makers stay on top of new and emerging technologies, are bound to generate a more positive response from federal decision-makers than sales-focused events.
As always, content is king. Thought-leadership, traditional marketing communications or social media outreach can be alternative solutions for reaching government customers if you cannot get that quality face time at events — especially if your content is current, educational and relevant to their needs and challenges.