On Tailoring Content Marketing to Target Agencies
Following the Content Marketing Review release, we reached out to our strategic partner, Government Marketing University’s expert COO and co-founder, Stephanie Geiger to share some tactical advice for content creation for government marketers looking to reach audiences with agency-based marketing.
Watch the interview video or read the Q&A below for more details.
AH: Greetings everybody and welcome to the latest update after our Content Marketing Review (here just a couple of weeks ago), my name is Aaron Heffron and I am the president of MC and we’ve been doing these video follow-ups with some leading marketers around the industry to give us a little color and context about the research we did recently, hopefully many of you already listened in to that presentation, and today I welcome Stephanie Geiger who is COO and cofounder of Government Marketing University. Welcome, Stephanie.
SG: Thanks, Aaron. Hey, how are you?
AH: Doing just fine. So, thank you for joining. Government Marketing University has been a partner of ours, for I can’t even remember how long now… it’s been many years.
SG: Almost since the beginning.
AH: Almost since the beginning, yes. It’s great. You guys do a lot of great things out for the marketing community within the public sector. Before we get started, can you tell me a little bit about what Government Marketing University is doing?
SG: Sure, yeah. So, we’re basically a marketplace of knowledge. What we’ve been doing since we launched back in 2015 is to bring together a place where we have all sorts of different experts from across the public sector, industry, current and former government, thought leaders, media – all sorts of folks from across the community – in order to really help provide education, training, and opportunities to network and connect with individuals and peers.
We’ve specifically been partnering with Market Connections since we got launched to help to bring surveys and focus groups and other valuable information and gathering different types of content and statistics for our marketers to really help them and empower them throughout their entire career and journey within the government marketing space. We have a couple of things coming up together. We’re excited to launch our visionary series that’s going to be coming to market soon. We’re going to be interviewing some various experts within the industry and bringing some snippets of educational content for our marketers.
AH: Yeah, I look forward to those. Those are great conversations we had with some senior marketers in the space. I’m excited about that coming out. But one of the things I know that has come up in those conversations has been the idea of account or agency-based marketing as it’s sometimes called. Tell me how that connects to the content marketing, how do those go hand and glove with each other?
SG: Sure, so I think a lot of marketers freak out when they think, “How can I do agency-based marketing when it comes to content? I’m going to have to have 15 different pieces right, so I can market to each of the various agencies and their specific missions that I’m trying to craft messages to.” But the way that I approach agency-based marketing is, if you have smaller budgets, limited bandwidth, really zero in on one or two agencies that you feel that might be a little bit lower hanging fruit, you feel might be able to make some initial traction in, and instead of creating multiple assets, start to pick one that can serve as kind of a multi-purpose asset.
So, think about a one-minute white paper, that you can flip out some potential snippets to use on social media or you’re tagging those key influencers or decision-makers within that agency, or maybe do a podcast, right? Where you can pull out some of that content and flip it into a blog post. Capitalizing on that time you have with your internal subject matter experts to elicit that information, all those great juicy nuggets, and then being able to use that in a multi-purpose way, I feel like it’s really the best use of your time in order to start making headway. Start small and then make impact and figure out how you can continue to grow that. Repeatable process-driven marketing is always a great way to approach agency-based marketing.
AH: So, you’re saying, “Create this repository or pool of information, and rather than recreating that pool of information for each agency you want to go after, you’re cherry-picking within that?” Am I accurately laying that out?
SG: Yeah, absolutely. So, if you’re focusing on one particular agency (right?), getting to know them, really zeroing in on them… instead of trying to do agency-based marketing across five to seven targets (right?), zero in on one to two and create that repository that you can draw from in order to make sure you’re creating those customized assets.
AH: That’s interesting. We hear a lot, and that bears out in the Content Marketing Review, that the long-form written content is invaluable to them. Everything is in one place – you have everything there. You’re talking (a little bit), kind of shorter form content. So, what are those couple things you need to think about in that shorter form content that can still have some impact?
SG: I think, with any of this, we know that there are still audiences that like that longer-form content. So, it’s really understanding the consumption needs and mapping to those, as far as the type of content we push out – I think, like a technical role (right?), who always wants a 4-6 page white paper, but then somebody from a business perspective, where maybe an infographic or these one-minute white papers like I talked about, which are kind of a hybrid between some technical specs that you see in a white paper and a more of an “infographic-y” feel with some statistics – so we like to zero in on the opportunity of mapping the need and the content piece.
So, not just writing a long-form piece of content because you think it’s going to sound great, and your subject matter expert was really happy to share those delicious insights with you but figuring out what it is that is going to actually help ensure that the piece gets read. And we know historically that shorter form content is starting to become much more prominent because of COVID and shorter attention spans. So, as you’re looking for ways to draw the attention, find ways to have teaser copy as you’re posting it out on your social media or find ways to create something that might have traditionally been in a longer form, that can be represented in maybe a more of a graphical or shorter form capacity.
AH: I’ve heard from some of our clients that some of the most effective content they have isn’t necessarily have a lot of bells and whistles to it, it’s that it’s as targeted to that particular answering to that particular question as they can, because they’re seeking that information. It could just be a guy or a woman with a whiteboard behind them sketching something out, but it’s exactly asking their question. So, it’s important to really know what those questions are and what the needs are out there.
SG: Absolutely. Use cases are great (right?) because you can create a couple of use cases that map to your core values and capabilities that can be a multi-agency mechanism and support. So, if you think you have something that you can apply widely across civilian agencies, we’ll come up with that use case and find some different types of consumable opportunities for that (right?). You can have a short video like you mentioned, you can have a podcast Q&A, have some versatility (right?) in the types of content that will still allow you to reach that diverse influencer and decision-maker audience.
AH: So, keeping this short and to the point – make it consumer-friendly, as we’re talking about – last parting words… What’s one bit of tactical advice that you would give folks as they’re looking at their content plan or trying to figure out how to get their content, what’s that one tactical takeaway you can give?
SG: Well, I mean… I think… not to keep going back to COVID, but if COVID has taught us anything it’s to be agile. Work to identify those key milestones or goals within your content marketing strategy but then allow for some flexibility to be able to map to what’s going on in the market. You think about the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) or the new executive order on cybersecurity. You need to allow some flexibility so you can respond and allow yourself some opportunity for timely responses. So that you’re ensuring that you have your core pieces intact every year, but you have some flexibility to be responsive and timely in a market.
AH: Well, that’s good advice, being agile and flexible. You can never go wrong in having that for you. So, thank you to Stephanie. Thanks for taking the time today, appreciate it. I hope you enjoy the rest of your day and get out into the sunshine today. So, it’s wonderful having you as a partner and glad to have you today.
SG: Appreciate you, thank you!
ABOUT THE CONTENT MARKETING REVIEW
Our biennial study surveys government IT decision-makers to understand what types of marketing assets they find most useful and influential during the buying process, what information the content should contain, and where they are going to look for content. Over the years, the audience has expanded from federal decision-makers to include the full gamut of the public sector market, including state and local and education.
Whether it’s blogs, white papers, videos, podcasts, or reports: public sector decision-makers turn to thought-leading sources like these to inform their buying decisions, learn about new technologies, and gauge vendors. Results from our study provide insights followed by best practices for public sector marketers looking to create content marketing to reach and influence their target FED and SLED customers and prospects.
In our last blog post, Should You Reconsider Your 2021 Federal Media Strategy in Light of COVID?, we touched on how to use agency-based marketing (ABM) for media purchasing when space in general federal publications are limited.
Federal marketers are oftentimes challenged with tight budgets and high expectations to produce strong ROIs. Simply, they are expected to do a lot with very little. Agency-based marketing when paired with investments in advertising and other broad marketing strategies can provide a boost to the expected return on investment.
What is one way to maximize a small budget? Effectively connect with the preferences of your TARGET audience with a strong understanding of what makes them tick day to day.
Using Personas to Connect
There are many ways of developing personas, depending on your needs and resources. A good place to start is your own Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool and your client-facing teams. If you need deeper insights your tool cannot provide or have been surprised by conflicting comments from your teams, you may want to consider third-party research. Using personas helps you drill down on your customers’ preferences and develop a focused strategy tailored specifically to them.
For federal marketers, that can mean a focus on agency type, agency-specific, geographical, or product/service categories. Understanding your customer on a deeper level can help you speak to their personal and professional goals and challenges. For example, if you are targeting an IT end-user, you may focus on educating about more technical features because of their desire to be an expert in their agency, whereas if you were marketing to a procurement specialist, you would want to focus on cost-savings because of their pride in being prompt and efficient. In the same vein, one may prefer to watch a webinar, while another prefers to read a white paper due to their personal learning preferences.
Learn more about Market Connections’ Federal IT Personas.
Consider “Where” They Are Already Going
In addition to content creation, you may want to consider where and how you are advertising or sharing your content. Whether it’s because space is at a premium in some of the more general federal publications, or you are focusing on more niche publications based on your particular audience, understanding where your audience is going for news and information can help get the right eyeballs on your content and drive agency decision-makers to your site.
Ad placement is only one lever you can use and is often most effective to build awareness. If you are having difficulty closing sales among those who know you, consider delivering information and messages through other popular channels among your target audience. They may have a preference for a certain social media platform. They may use certain streaming services to reach specific news programs or tune into radio stations throughout the day. Of those media channels, are there geo-locating advertising opportunities you may want to explore to reach your prospects?
Selecting correctly from your customer’s media buffet of online publications, print publications, social media sites, TV, radio or streaming services can eliminate some of the “guesswork” and improve the ROI on your marketing investment.
Learn more using our annual Federal Media & Marketing Study.
Consider diving a little deeper and consider more targeted marketing as part of your overall federal marketing strategy. Beyond creating tailored content that is relevant to your specific audience, also consider the format and placement of that content. Federal marketers have many tools available that can pair nicely with internal intelligence to help make educated decisions about their company’s federal marketing investments.