In today’s austere budget climate, the value of targeted and research-driven marketing communications has never been more vital for government contractors. From ensuring that your messages reach the right government decision makers to testing brand messages, now is the right time for contractors to invest in marketing strategies that provide the most return-on-investment (ROI).
FedPulse had the unique opportunity of speaking with Alisa Valudes Whyte, Senior Partner and Chief Operating Officer (COO) at marketing/PR firm Merritt Group, about the value of research-driven marketing communications for government contractors.
FedPulse: Tell us about Merritt Group.
Valudes Whyte: Merritt Group is a mid-sized boutique agency that focuses on strategic communications for both the government and commercial sectors. We have been around for 15 years with offices in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Our agency also works with a number of government agencies and contractors, as well as companies in technology, healthcare and energy. In terms of government contractors, we have worked with Booz Allen Hamilton, CACI, Unisys, LexisNexis Government Solutions, MAXIMUS and Microsoft Public Sector, as well as many others.
FedPulse: Tell us about your offerings for the government contracting community.
Valudes Whyte: We do everything across the marketing communications spectrum, which includes strategy, content marketing, PR, messaging, creative, interactive design, Web, social media, events, mobile, video, lead generation and collateral design. For the government contracting community, we offer, and have provided, the full gamut of marketing communications services.
FedPulse: With the government shutdown behind us—and sequestration living on—what more can contractors do to differentiate themselves through marketing communications?
Valudes Whyte: Now more than ever, contractors need to differentiate themselves in ways to help them fully stand out in the crowd. It is much harder now for contractors to drive revenue. As such, we are seeing more clients putting an extra emphasis on marketing and content strategies to build thought leadership in support of business development. We are also seeing a marketing emphasis on high-growth government areas like cloud, cybersecurity, big data and health reform.
We are also helping contractors to develop new and innovative ways for telling their stories, and making sure that their messages are being heard. For example, many contractors are breaking out of the traditional marketing mold and shifting their focus to more modern communications strategies — including greater visualization with the use of video and infographics, as well as interactive collaterals that reside on the web or on mobile devices.
FedPulse: Why is research so important for any marketing communications strategy?
Valudes Whyte: That is a great question. We make sure that all of our communications efforts are fully grounded in research. Whether it is earned media, owned media or paid advertising and sponsorships, contractors need to know where they can fully target and influence potential buyers – whether through the press, on their own web properties, through innovative marketing materials, paid search, or even in sponsored media or events.
Research is also vital for shaping and testing messages and making sure they fully resonate with the intended audience, as well as for competitive analysis. In addition, research also supports the marketing strategy and provides insight into the marketing channels that will have the greatest impact in reaching prospects. While research requires an upfront investment, the ROI is much greater as it guides how dollars are spent and provides a method for measuring efforts and strategies over time.
FedPulse: Tell us about reaching new influencers?
Valudes Whyte: We use research to determine who the true influencers are in the marketplace. Reporters used to be the main influencers, but social media has really changed the landscape. Today you have a host of thought leaders across the government, industry and academia that have enormous followings on blogs and platforms like Twitter. The world of influencers has expanded tremendously, and strategies have to adapt to engage and build relationships with these individuals. They key is to determine who is leading the critical discussions, the best marketing channels for reaching them, and delivering content that is useful, timely, and interesting.
FedPulse: Anything else to add?
Valudes Whyte: I would like to add that the only certainty in today’s government contracting arena is uncertainty. As such, it has never been more important to make sure that your messages stand out and that all marketing efforts stay tightly aligned to sales and revenue goals.
We would like to thank Alisa for taking the time to speak with us. To learn more about Merritt Group, click here.