All too often government contractors focus their human and financial resources on business development efforts while unintentionally ignoring the impact that brand perceptions and marketing also make on the bottom line. To maximize opportunities and position in the government market, it is critical to achieve and nurture balance and integration between sales and marketing. Think of your brand as the essential artery that connects these two important functions.
That artery is seriously constricted without a current and fact-based understanding of how your brand is perceived in the market. This is why leading government contractors rely on brand research—also called Attitude, Awareness and Usage (AAU) research. Such studies help both marketers and business development professionals to:
- Benchmark your reputation and perceptions among key targets, and measure any changes over time
- Determine the importance of and level of agreement with key attributes/factors
- Assess your market position relative to your competitors on key attributes/factors
Simply put, brand studies reveal gaps in market understanding and acceptance of your brand, and help create much more effective marketing, sales and communications programs. So how does this matter in the real world? Perhaps you consider your company to be a thought leader. A customized AA&U study will let you know the degree to which your customers or prospects also consider you a thought leader in a given area, and how important your thought leadership is in their decision to hire you.
In addition, brand research can identify your target audience’s top-of-mind providers of specific services and solutions, and the key sources of information they use when researching and assessing contractors. Brand research can identify viable channels for advertising, media relations, and webinars, to name a few.
Market Connections has conducted many brand studies that have helped contractors discover brewing perception issues, improve their image, and even relate more effectively to lawmakers on Capitol Hill. For example, a brand study we recently completed for a large federal integrator revealed:
- A lack of brand understanding and acceptance within a particular customer segment: The client was approaching all of its customer segments in the same fashion and needed to customize messaging and communications to ensure resonance with specific audiences.
- They found more purchasing influencers than they had assumed: The research showed that personnel from almost all levels of the customer organizations can and do influence purchasing decisions, not just the official “approvers” who sign off on the paperwork. This key finding called for expanded sales and marketing efforts to ensure the right messages were reaching all relevant audiences with sufficient frequency.
- More negative opinions of the client among a key segment of influencers: This finding provided critical insights on potentially damaging misperceptions – and their drivers – that needed to be addressed proactively and strategically. As a result, the client determined a different way to approach and engage with these key influencers; and a follow up study revealed that actions has a positive impact with perceptions of the integrator improving significantly.
For another client, a brand study revealed confusion among federal government and commercial decision makers on the value proposition for a new technical service. This finding underscored the need to name and talk about the new service using specific and jargon-free terminology in order to avoid misinterpretation. The client followed these principles and launched the “jargon-free” service earlier this year.
For another government contractor, Market Connections completed large AAU studies of the civilian, defense, and security market segments. One surprise finding was that the market – customers and prospects alike across all agency types – did not view the company as a technology expert. This led to follow-on focus groups to delve deeper into how a technology expert is defined and the most effective means of communicating this desired position to the marketplace. The client used the findings to fine-tune their marketing messages and campaigns. A follow-up survey found higher awareness, and increased recognition of the client’s technical expertise.
The appropriate methodology for brand studies – quantitative, qualitative, or a hybrid – is based on the study objectives, audience sizes, types of available lists and geographic considerations, to name a few.