aaron heffron

Aaron Heffron, President, Market Connections

Aaron Heffron, President, Market Connections

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

In a recent The Curious Task podcast, Dr. Sandra Peart, Dean and E. Claiborne Robins Distinguished Professor at the Jepson School of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond (Go Spiders!) discussed the life and philosophy of John Stuart Mill. As an economics nerd myself, I found the discussion fascinating as she and host, Alex Aragona, detailed the key principles on which Mill wrote. A review of issues around liberty and utilitarian decision-making abounded. But what I was particularly taken with was Mill’s concept of how you can determine whether one choice is better than another. Enter the “competent judges.”

As marketers, our job is to help make the decision easier for our customers. We spend countless hours and dollars making the case as to why our company’s products or services are a better choice. When faced with two options, we want them to choose us every time.

Market Connections partners with our clients to help identify those in their target market who are more likely to lean one way or another, understand the elements of the product or service that are important to them, and the perceptions and experience they have with various companies. We conduct surveys, run focus groups, and conduct in-depth interviews all in an attempt to mine those hidden diamonds of the decision-making process that will make their product or service more appealing.

While hearing from just your customers or prospects is great, the opinions we value most are what Mill termed the “competent judges,” those who have direct experience with both options available to them. By bringing together those individuals with direct experience, you as a marketer can hear straight from the horse’s mouth as to what worked and what didn’t. You are not relying on perceptions, assumptions, or hearsay; but rather, you are measuring the room, so to speak, and getting a clear view of where your brand stands.

While not always easy to find, these judges are a key gateway to a path forward for you and your sales team. To support these efforts, Market Connections has spent the last decade building a panel of thousands of public sector influencers and decision-makers that we reach out to on a regular basis. Working across civilian and defense agencies, these individuals have had exposure to scores of contractors, vendors, and products. We have been leveraging these “competent judges” for insights for years, creating studies and reports that support your efforts and strategies.

Contact me if you want to discuss leveraging our “competent judges” for your specific market needs.


Marketing IT Offerings: Ensure your messaging is on target with helping government improve performance, customer experience and operational costs.

Market IT Service Offerings Traditional commercial tactics do not always translate seamlessly into the public sector market. Aligning your message to your customer’s mission needs and outcomes, marketing to multiple agency stakeholders (from technologists to procurement professionals) and transitioning your position from vendor to partner/educator can significantly improve the strength of your marketing and messaging to this niche market.

Lou Anne Brossman and Steve Watkins from Government Marketing University interview marketing executives Liz Anthony (ViON Corporation), Aaron Heffron (Market Connections) and Milo Speranzo (Dell EMC) about effectively marketing IT service offerings in the public sector. This discussion provides fellow government marketers insights and best practices for the evolving government IT landscape.

Key highlights:

  1. Your marketing collateral should showcase BOTH your services AND your product offerings.
  2. Federal marketing is evolving from product to solution focus. Your marketing should focus on how you can help your customers meet their mission, not their bottom line.
  3. Educating your customer is essential to solution marketing (and selling.) Help them understand all aspects of the solution to their current problems, and review solutions to the problems they haven’t even realized they have yet.
  4. Newer “As A Service” models require multiple messages. Multiple audiences play a role including technologists, compliance and procurement professionals.
  5. Do not treat the government as its own vertical, but as a robust economy with its own verticals. Customize your marketing to different verticals within the public sector economy you are going for (state, local, federal, agency).
  6. If you are new to government or vertical, leverage any name brand equity you may have in the commercial space, across other verticals or even other products to get a leg up in the market. It’s not completely necessary to run away from your established commercial roots.
  7. Consider the future buyers in the public sector audience and how they gather information – generational turnover in leadership positions requires a trusted partner to help guide them.
  8. With so many events and media outlets in the public sector space, be strategic on where you spend valuable time, energy and resources. Triangulate where your customer and their mission aligns with your offerings and solutions and place your focus there.
  9. Look at opportunities to partner with associations and volunteer opportunities in areas of focus for your government customers.
  10. Utilize great free resources such as fbo.gov, performance.gov, fpds.gov and other government sites.

Listen to the full podcast. (Podcast length: 52 minutes)

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