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What is custom content and why does it need to be part of your 2023 marketing plan?

by Susan Rose, Senior Director of Insights and Content

As part of a company that produces every type of content, we find “content” means different things to different people, and some new definition pops up every single day. This can make determining the right content mix to meet your business goals a bit of a challenge.

At GovExec, we talk about editorial content, sales content, and custom content. All types of content are an important part of a marketing strategy. Deciding which one to use in any given situation depends on what your expectations and needs are.

Fortunately, we have some research to help you figure that one out as you start working on your 2023 marketing plan. But first, what is custom content?

What custom content is NOT

It is important to know what it is NOT before diving into what it is. Custom content is neither editorial nor sales content. 

Editorial content is designed to inform or entertain. It is what we call “newsworthy” because it tends to be about something happening in the moment, like coverage of a vote in Congress or the war in Ukraine. Editorial content is about what is happening on the ground. 

Sales content, on the other hand, is created for the explicit purpose of generating sales. That means it will talk about how a specific product or a specific service is going to work for a public sector agency: what it’s going to do and why the client needs to purchase it. It will not be a broader discussion about the technology; it’s going to be about something very tangible. 

Since that seems like the majority of content you see daily, what is custom content then? 

What Custom Content is

Custom content is the practice of marketing via content a business funds or sponsors. Editorial content does not have any sponsor and sales content is all sponsor.

When a company underwrites a custom content piece, we work with them to determine the topic and what the audience needs to know or learn. Custom content is relevant and valuable to the audience, and as such helps build trust. 

In general, custom content will be based on research. We will dig into studies and reports, or look at industry wide trends. The result will be an unbiased story about what the data means. This content relies on the knowledge of subject matter experts as well as reputable research sources. 

Custom content includes native articles, research reports, webinars, podcasts, and videos. When you see something on our GovExec properties that says “sponsored by,” that means it is custom content and a company paid to create it. They helped determine the topic and the educational focus. They have NOT determined what we say because if the research doesn’t back up a specific point of view, we are not going to publish it. Our reputation is on the line. Custom content simply means the company had some influence in topic and direction, and therefore the piece is not pure editorial. 

Why do you need to add Custom Content to your 2023 marketing plan?

Custom content is about building that trusted adviser relationship that your team wants to have with your public sector customers. Everything we do is geared toward that.

Why is this so important?

Glad you asked.

Market Connections conducts a variety of studies that look at public sector marketing and trends. Data from our three most recent studies come to the same conclusion: custom content resonates with your audience. 

That is ultimately why you need to use it.

In the Market Connections Content Marketing Review, we asked public sector decision makers what kind of content they find most valuable overall. What this data shows is that the public sector values a range of content types. 

When we remove editorial and sales content from the mix, you’ll see that custom content types are valuable to the audience—particularly fed and sled audiences.

A little background: We chose 14 different content types because these are all part of the public sector marketing mix. 

The figure shows that overall, the public sector audience finds all of them valuable, and therefore are all a really good part of your content mix. Remember that. 

But what this also shows is that when you remove editorial and sales content from the mix (which is what we’ve covered up) is that of the 14 content types, 10 are custom content. 

Research Reports are highly regarded as valuable content, followed by white papers, and articles. Does that mean you need to spend all of your budget on research? Not necessarily. It depends on your budget and your annual goals. And while your audience really likes reports and white papers, you’ll notice that webinars still have a very high percentage of value to the audience. 

What does a custom content mix look like in action? 

That’s a great question that only you can answer based on your marketing budget, initiatives, and company goals. This figure of the buyer’s journey illustrates where various types of content have impact along the journey. It’s important to address the audience at the various stages of the journey.

We suggest a mix of ebooks, webinars, articles, video, podcast, white papers, and so on–really anything from the list in the figure. 

What we definitely suggest is getting the most out of the content you create. Repurpose, repurpose, repurpose. 

Say you commission some custom research, you can get a research report, a white paper, a few articles, a webinar, a podcast, and more out of it. That will give you the most bang for your marketing dollar. 

Need some help? Contact your GovExec sales rep to discuss a program to fit your needs. Or, contact me–I love talking content strategy! (srose@govexec.com)

Revisiting the Leading Brands 2021 Panel Discussion

Jonathan Sanders, Director, Research, GovExec

In the B2G space, there are few things more important than understanding your brand — it is the story you tell without ever walking into a room. It is the reaction someone has when they see your company mentioned online. It is the feeling they have when they see your company’s name on the sponsors and exhibitors page of an event.

Most importantly, it is what runs through the mind of agency leadership when they see your company has submitted a bid for a large-scale contract. Without a well defined brand, you don’t own that narrative. Internally, your team may have a strong grasp of your company’s positioning and offerings, but thousands of government decision makers, Service members, and the general public may have an entirely different view of your company.

My question for you today is: are you tracking that narrative?

The Leading Brands study offers a succinct view into the question of brand positioning and tracking. Now in its 8th year, Leading Brands is the largest government decision-makers study capturing the priorities and perceptions of buying teams across Civilian agencies, the Department of Defense (DoD), and state and local government (SLG) entities.

In short, Leading Brands allows your team to look under the hood of your brand. It provides a critical analysis of your customers and non-customers, how your company is perceived against its competitors, and market strengths and weaknesses. The goal: to accelerate sales, guide partnership development, and define go to market strategies.

Leading Brands is a great tool to measure your company’s brand and perception over time from key public sector individuals. But it is just the starting point to unlock your company’s overall potential. In May 2022, GovExec’s Insights & Research Group released the 2022 Leading Brands study with help from some long-time colleagues and leaders in the public sector. The study release event included a star-studded panel discussion consisting of Tim Hartman (CEO, GovExec), Tricia Davis-Muffett (Director, Global Public Sector Marketing, Google Cloud), Pamela Merritt (Managing Director, Federal Marketing and Communications, Accenture Federal Services), and Oliver Nutt (Vice President of Marketing, GDIT).

The panel of public sector leaders highlighted the efforts to drive brand awareness in the market and guide overall brand evolution while navigating a turbulent, crowded market. With a dynamic market whose needs are constantly evolving, it is increasingly important to note not only where your brand is, but where your brand will ultimately go. In order to peel back some of the key takeaways from this discussion, the Insights & Research Group is pleased to walk you through what our experts had to say.

The Importance of Studying One’s Brand

The importance of studying one’s brand cannot be overstated. If you are committing to regularly measuring your brand and competitors in the marketplace, you already have a lot in common with the largest companies serving the public sector. If you are not, you run the risk of not knowing how you are perceived, which can impact the company’s ability to win contracts.

When our panelists were asked how they went about measuring their brand, Leading Brands came first. Serving as a great benchmark, the study permits you to do research on incredibly specific market areas, whether it be how you are perceived across multiple public sector verticals, customer vs. non-customer information, or your brand’s association with leading concepts such as Cyber, Digital Transformation, AI, and Cloud, and more. This informative tool allows your team to zero in on a full-spectrum viewpoint of how they are broadly viewed across the public sector — knowledge the panelists value.

While it is massively important to know how your customers feel and interact with your brand, it is equally important to have insight as to how those inside your company view the company, too.

Tim Hartman, GovExec’s CEO said “Your brand only really exists in the hearts and minds of your employees and customers. People who are familiar with your brand, or have a relationship with your brand, really are what are driving the brand the most.”  

GDIT’s Oliver Nutt noted that internal conversations with employees are a great tool for understanding the internal brand perception. 

Accenture’s Pamela Merritt had one of my favorite insights during this discussion. She said that to measure a dynamic market, you need a dynamic market measuring tool and strategy. Underpinned by constant change, the public sector market is one that needs to be frequently studied and measured, which is exactly what Google Cloud’s Tricia Davis-Muffett and team are doing. “We’re doing more rapid measurement on a regular basis.” Studying and measuring one’s brand is a critical first step in developing go-to-market strategies that resonate with the broader public sector, but it is the first of many. 

Aligning to the Core Brand

Another critical topic in the B2G space the panel discussed is that of alignment to the core values. Identifying and maintaining a set of core brand values and ideals and intentionally adhering to them in every move within the market is a necessity—this is what brings the brand to life. 

All of the public sector agencies have one thing in common: People run them; ordinary people who have their own perceived notion of your brand. When you continuously align the company to its core brand values, it will be easier to understand how the people may view you in the marketplace. If your core brand values are inconsistent, it becomes difficult for individuals to understand what you stand for. 

One of the most ancient axioms, “You’re only as good as your word,” feels just right in this discussion. If your company is not being intentional with its core brand values in the moves you make across the marketplace, those paying attention will begin to have doubts about your brand. This is particularly true for the public sector market that faces a barrage of new trends and buzzwords daily. With an ever-increasing scope of new widgets and tech trends, being able to authentically harness the energy of a particular marketing moment in a way that translates positively for your brand, yet celebrates and rings true to your core branding, is no easy task.

Merritt said: “If you want to move the needle on something, you need the entire company to be all in.” The closer you are able to align your company’s core values with the brand, you don’t only win from a brand performance perspective in the broader market, but you also win from an employee perspective. As Hartman noted, with a brand only existing in the hearts and minds of your employees and customers, who would be a better steward to go out to the market and share in the brand’s alignment to its core values? This panel is steadfast that going to market without knowledge of, or alignment to, the core brand is a recipe for disaster. 

“If you want to move the needle on something, you need the entire company to be all in.”

— Pamela Merritt, Managing Director, Accenture Federal Services

Continuous Presence in the Market 

Once your team has thoroughly studied your brand inside and out and has developed a strategy to move intentionally in the market that is aligned with your core brand values, a critical next step is to foster a continuous presence in the market overall. 

When we say a continuing presence, we are not advocating for a response to each new trend or focus area, as there will be many. Rather, it’s understanding that different sectors have varying needs. Davis Muffett noted how important story-telling in the SLG space is. She said the SLG market wants to see something that is repeatable—a prospect in Kings County wants to know how this piece of technology solved the exact same problem for Los Angeles County. This is an incredibly powerful way to resonate with that audience. Sure there may be some differing elements, but what worked for one large county may be repeatable at another. 

Conversely, every Federal agency is different. Their technical sets, organization structure, buying capability is all different, making each sale custom. It’s imperative to help them find their own vision rather than telling a story of how your brand helped a different agency through a similar solution. 

Granted, these two small examples oversimplify the massive task vested with B2G marketers— each subsection in the public sector community has their own needs, their own challenges, their own opinion of your brand. That core brand has to be able to meet these unique needs in order to remain competitive. 

Don’t Chase the Shiny

Keeping an ear to the ground on what’s going on in the market is a must for any marketing team in the B2G space, but that does not mean jumping on every new trend, tempting as that may be. The public sector space is rife with technologies, trends, and solutions that can be transformative for all levels of government. The ever popular trend of digital transformation lay dormant for much of the beginning of the 21st century, but springboarded off of the back of the Covid-19 pandemic, and is now the common lexicon for most large-scale modernization efforts. 

But if your brand doesn’t do digital transformation, it is disingenuous to use the term when it couldn’t be further from what your brand does. Does familiarity with a certain trend make your company more viable, and more familiar to the customer?  

Being intentional and transparent in the market is a powerful brand tool. Focusing on your brand promise and core values will pay dividends for you and your customer base. Not giving into the noise can ensure your brand’s messaging isn’t lost in today, or tomorrow’s trend. Too often brands reach to be current with trends or offerings that are not aligned with their value proposition, and in those moments they run the risk of alienating their current customers and reducing favorability in the coming years. Listen to the markets, identify the relevant services you provide, understand how they coincide with the core values, how they fold into today’s trends to solidify your offering. 

When it comes to something new in the public sector, make sure your brand isn’t chasing the shiny just to remain current because you may just lose what originally made you shine. 

The Bottom Line…

The importance of brand measuring and tracking cannot be overstated. Our panel of experts agree that if you are unfamiliar with how your brand is perceived, you may be missing out on massive opportunities to sway perception, create positive outcomes, and most importantly, winning contracts. 

GovExec’s Insights & Research Group is your go to source for brand measuring and tracking. Whether Leading Brands, or a custom brand tracking tool, we are here to help guide all of your brand perception and tracking needs.

Questions? Find out more by contacting jsanders@govexec.com or research@govexec.com

Market Connections released the Federal IT (FIT) Buyer Journey at Government Marketing University’s GAIN 2022 event last week. The main takeaway for federal marketers, sales and solutions teams looking to influence their customers throughout the journey is to inform, inform, inform.

While different stakeholders come in and out throughout the entire journey from beginning (or needs identification stage) through end (vendor selection), the need remains the same. From the CIO through the end-user, all major stakeholders in the federal buyer journey need information to help educate them about your products and solutions in order to build trust.

Federal Buyer Journey

From the 2022 Federal IT (FIT) Buyer Journey © Market Connections 2022

The question is, what information are they looking for, where are they looking for it, and when do they need it. Each stakeholder has a different level of understanding of the technology, the challenges, agency needs, and the benefits your products or services provide. They also have different priorities of what is important for vendor selection.

For example, a senior executive like a CIO who may come in and out of the process at different stages is likely looking for bigger picture information about how your product/service is relevant to the agency. Meanwhile a procurement manager who plays a key role throughout the journey may be more focused on the cost, value, and return on investment. An IT manager who also plays a key role throughout the process may be more focused on how your product or service can help them overcome hurdles, create efficiencies, or serve technological needs.

Understanding who to engage and what information to provide through each of the step of the federal buyer journey is key in earning their trust.

Understand what they want

The FIT Buyer Journey provides insights into the type of information buyers want and where they go for this information. But it isn’t the complete picture.

The FIT Buyer Journey is a companion study to the FIT Persona Study we conducted in 2020. In that research, we dove deep into who government buyers are, regardless of their role. We looked at what motivates them and keeps them awake at night. That information combined with what we know about the buyer’s journey will help you map out a strategy to give them the information they want.

The FIT Buyer Journey presentation from the GAIN conference is available for download. The FIT Persona study is available for purchase. You can find both when you click this link.

By Susan Rose, Senior Director, Insights & Content

I’ve been creating research-based thought leadership for the public sector for almost 20 years. Yet until fairly recently, it was unusual to connect each asset to the buyer’s journey. Or rather, unusual to actively talk about the buyer’s journey.

Over the years, nearly 100% of the assets I’ve created have been targeted to users who are just becoming aware of a problem. That makes sense because that is a sweet spot in the buyer’s journey where businesses can have an impact on creating solutions.

Isn’t that enough? The short answer is no.

I’ve seen my clients miss opportunities to engage with other influencers by focusing all their attention on one audience (users) in one stage of the journey (need).

While we can create valuable and interesting content focused on educating an audience about a specific topic, audiences have different needs depending on who they are and where they are in the journey when they interact with the content.

B2G Buyer's JourneyAn end user who needs a piece of technology to work in order to support the mission has different interests than a contracting officer who is putting together an RFP. They do not need the same information.

The graphic shows a very simplified public sector buyer’s journey and where you have the opportunity to impact the buying decision. There are three general types of buyers in the public sector: the person who will use the product/service, the program manager, and the contracting officer. Each of these buyers is critical to the process, and each has different questions about what they’re buying.

What are those questions? Rather than guess, Market Connections decided to conduct a survey of federal buyers. We’re going to the source to find out how they navigate the buyer’s journey. We’ll be sharing the results at Government Marketing University’s GAIN conference on June 8th (click here for more information).

Until then, simply thinking about what stage of the buyer’s journey the target audience is in at the moment they will interact with the asset will help you create content that has more impact… and leads to more sales.

 

B2G marketers often reach out to us for data and insights on how to strengthen their business proposition, get in front of their customers and help their sales team with lead generation. As a market research company, we conduct interviews, focus groups and surveys to help our government contracting customers refine their strategies for a stronger return on investment.

 

Who Are You Targeting?

Questions in B2G MarketingThe first request we usually get is “I only want to hear from the C-suite,” with the assumption that these individuals are THE key drivers of any procurement.

Our follow up question is, who sits around the boardroom table influencing those (C-suite) decisions? Who is writing the recommendation memo? Chief officers do not make decisions in a vacuum, but instead surround themselves with their staff to help understand the challenges of their work, gather feedback on their perceptions and experiences with vendors and provide recommendations and/shortlist prospective contractors. The Federal IT Personas Study focuses on those folks around the table with top execs who influence and advise throughout the procurement process.

Have you identified those trusted advisors and influencers and targeted them as well? Do you understand their motivations and preferences? A procurement officer’s issues will differ vastly than a technical expert’s or a program manager’s. Understanding what is important in their decision-making, what motivates them at work, how they prefer to get information, etc., can help you develop the right strategy that educates, influences and creates trust with your targets.

 

What Information Are You Providing?

Once you have identified WHO you want to talk to, the next step is WHAT you want to provide them with. What works with corporate or B2C audiences does not necessarily translate in the public sector market.

First, your content needs to educate your audience. The Content Marketing Review revealed that across the public sector landscape, IT influencers and decision makers are hungry for content containing data and research, as well as examples of past experiences and case studies.  Whether federal, state and local, or education, research reports, white papers, case studies and product demos top the list of types of content. Regardless of whether they are starting to develop their requirements or finalizing their selection of vendor, understanding what your audience is looking for can help you become a trusted vendor.

Narrowing down the WHAT helps focus your resources and budget dollars. What content gives you the most bang for your buck? Where will you get the biggest ROI? Having those insights, your content creation strategy becomes easier to assemble and you can focus on the next question.

 

Where Is Your Audience Going for Information?

The final piece of the puzzle for public sector marketers once they’ve created great content is WHERE to place it. We remind our clients that creating great content is not a one and done scenario. One needs to share that content with their audiences where they already are, including speaking opportunities at events, webinars, in earned and sponsored media, social media, or other platforms.

Going where your customer already is, prompts the questions, “Where are they going for information, what sources do they trust, and how can you get and stay in front of them?”

Instead of throwing spaghetti on the wall and hoping it will stick, this information is already out there for you. The Federal Media & Marketing Study looks at the media consumption and marketing tactics preferred among federal audiences. It takes into consideration all types of media including print, online, television, radio, and other channels such as social media, podcasts, events and webinars. Based on a survey to thousands of federal respondents, the database provides findings that can be drilled down to detailed agency types, agencies, product categories, role at the agency, location or other demographics.

 

Final Thought

With answers to the questions “WHO, WHAT and WHERE,” B2G marketers can create a strategy for understanding their target audiences and provide them the information they are looking for in the places they are looking for it.  Syndicated studies from Market Connections or further investments in custom research can provide those answers and insights for agency or target-based marketing, a small investment that can increase the ROI of everyone’s marketing efforts.

Want to learn more about research in the public sector? Contact us.

For more information about the following studies:

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Federal Media & Marketing Study 2021

13th Annual Study: On-Demand Video and Presentation Followed by Small Group Discussions

 

UPDATE! The 2021 FMMS will now be On-demand

Release date: October 21, 2021

Due to concerns with COVID-19 variants, forthcoming mandates, and to protect the health and safety of our participants, we have made the executive decision to transition the 2021 Federal Media & Marketing Study release to on-demand video presentation and download report.

 

Purchase Results & Video

 

In its 13th year, the Federal Media & Marketing Study continues to empower marketers to hone and perfect their strategic marketing campaigns with valuable and reliable data directly from their federal customers. The survey provides key information about the federal audience’s media usage across print, broadcast, social and digital sources. Combining this data with demographics including: job function, location, purchase area and more, marketers have the ability to slice and dice the data and map each to specific media habits, allowing them to target specific audiences.

The survey represents the views of thousands of federal workers in a variety of positions. Whether you are interested in a broad awareness campaign, or a more focused agency-based marketing effort, data from the study can provide you key insights about the media and marketing habits of this tough-to-reach federal market audience.

WHAT TO EXPECT

  • Job Function and Purchase Responsibility – More than 25 different job functions and areas of purchase, by product and service
  • Media Usage – 60+ publications, 100+ websites and mobile sites; 10+ social sites; differences inside vs. outside the Beltway
  • Trusted Content -To what extent do decision makers trust news and information from different media sources?
  • Time Spent Accessing Content – How much time do government employees spend accessing content online, watching TV, listening to the radio and reading e-newsletters?

TWO PANEL DISCUSSIONS

Federal Media Panel: Moderated by Aaron Heffron, Market Connections

  • Kevin Baron, Executive Editor, Defense One
  • Patti Nuttybombe Cochran, Federal Marketing Consultant, Government Matters Media
  • Jeffrey Wolinsky, Director of Federal Sales, WTOP/Federal News Network 

Federal Marketing Panel: Moderated by Stephanie Geiger, Government Marketing University

  • Matt Bechtel, Director of Corporate Marketing, Booz Allen Hamilton
  • Allison Mason, Senior Director, Public Sector Marketing, Red Hat
  • Darryl E. Peek II, Head of Federal Strategic Partnerships, Google

ON-DEMAND ACCESS and POST-FMMS ONLINE NETWORKING SESSIONS

  • ON-DEMAND VIDEO AND REPORT – Our 2021 report and video presentation will be available to download on October 21. Stay tuned for purchasing capabilities
  • SMALL GROUP ONLINE DISCUSSIONS – A series of online groups (no more than 20 per session) will be limited to FMMS on-demand purchasers to discuss results and network with like-minded peers following the FMMS release. Details on registration will be available in after purchase.

PURCHASE THE OVERVIEW & VIDEO!

Overview results from the 2021 Federal Media & Marketing Study highlights high-level results from our comprehensive study surveying thousands of federal respondents at defense and civilian agencies, inside and outside the Beltway about their use of digital, social, mobile, print and broadcast media. This PDF report provides high-level results of the top digital and print publications, social media sites, radio and TV within the DC metro area. A video readout and analysis of the results by President, Aaron Heffron, is included with purchase.

 

Purchase Results & Video

All government marketers understand the importance of including content in their marketing strategy, but winning government contractors make sure that their content contains the key features their audience is looking for.

According to Content Marketing Review: Federal and Beyond, this includes data and research to support their position, product specifications and examples of past performance. The trouble is – these specific pieces can often be the densest and most un-user-friendly bits of information you have!

Using Subject Matter Experts

How can you highlight these features in a way that is easily comprehensible and relatable to your target audience (and, frankly, a little more interesting)? Use your subject matter experts (SMEs). Your SMEs can not only focus your materials on a particular process, technology, niche within a technology, or a particular agency, they can help influence RFPs (request for proposals) or those shaping them.

Government marketing expert, Mark Amtower, agrees. In a video for his YouTube channel, Amtower Raw, Mark discusses the importance and value of using SMEs to win government business.

Watch the full video here:

“These companies are more likely to win business because in the RFPs, and while the contracting officers are looking to build the RFPs, they’re looking for people out there who understand, write, and talk about this stuff. The more visible your SME is, the more they’re sharing – particularly through your website, through LinkedIn and other social platforms, through speaking or doing articles for trade publications – the more visible they are that way, the more they’re helping the contracting officer shape their RFP directly and indirectly.” He continues on by saying, “so you don’t have to be put it right in front of them, but you have to put it where they can find it. Building the platform that way and shaping it gives you consciously or unconsciously a preferred position. People like dealing with people who are thought leaders or subject matter experts.”

Industry vs. Government Thought Leaders

Thought leaders can reside in industry or government. At least one in five respondents to the Market Connections’ study expect their content to contain insights from thought leaders. Federal decision-makers look more towards industry thought leaders, while those in state and local indicated their preference for insights from either industry or government thought leaders (sometimes both).

The key lesson is this: when creating those valuable pieces of content, include the key features your audience is looking for. Subject matter experts can help provide key information around product specifications, data and research and even provide past performance examples in a friendly way by showcasing their expertise. Share that content across your website, social media, and trusted trade publications (including online, podcasts, video, print, and radio) to help educate your audience, highlight your position, and even shape an RFP.

Learn more:

Download the 2019 Content Marketing Review Study infographics and presentation.

Join us on Thursday, May 20 as we reveal results from the 2021 Content Marketing Review: Reaching the Public Sector which will highlight findings encompassing the full FED and SLED market.

REGISTER

Sales and BD Teams

In part one of our blog series “How Contractors Can Use Federal Personas for the Win,” we shared the importance of getting internal team buy-in from leadership to marketing to sales. In addition to ways federal marketers can benefit from the use of personas, we noted the importance of collaboration between the marketing teams and the sales and BD teams to get the most out of federal personas.

Federal personas can, and should, be living documents that are tweaked by newly gathered information. Sales teams can add key insights from their day-to-day frontline experience, as part of persona building. It is important to note, however, that federal personas are not actual individuals, but archetypes of the players around the “decision-making table”. While sales teams can contribute to confirming or challenging the notions of personas, it is important to do so based on facts, rather than assumptions. Exceptions to the persona will always exist.

How Can Federal Sales Teams Benefit from Persona Building?

federal personas for federal salesSales teams should use federal personas to ensure customer-centric conversations. By focusing on more than just specific agency needs, federal sales professionals can better connect with individuals even before their first conversations. Well-constructed federal personas can provide personal backgrounds that make those first conversations easier and more familiar.

A federal persona can help guide you well before your first contact. Should you reach out to your contact via email, or are they more likely to prefer to meet you for a coffee and in-person discussion? Actual results may vary, but the predilections outlined in a well-constructed persona can give you a jump start and increase your odds.

When the conversation begins, seeding the discussion with known challenges and issues can speed up your due diligence and accelerate the process. Senior executives may have very different challenges than an end-user. Laying out those challenges before they have a chance to mention them builds a certain level of trust between you and the client. Now, as a trusted advisor, you can move the conversation forward to how you and your company can offer support and solutions to those challenges.

Sales team leaders should consider using federal personas when developing sales tools for their teams. Unique, segment specific playbooks and sales guides can allow those new to the market to hit the ground running as well as provide new insights for the long-timers on the team. Used as part of regular sales trainings, these shared tools can be enhanced with use cases from team members at regular sales meetings.

Ultimately, the use of federal personas may either challenge existing assumptions about your customer or confirm what you already see in your established relationships. Either way, the dialogue that comes about can make for a more dynamic discussion with the client, a good introduction to new sales members, and a reminder to those in the field that what has been considered true may not always be.

Learn More about Federal Personas:

Purchase the overview report and corresponding video readout:

Federal IT (FIT) Personas Study: A Deeper Look into Your Government Customer

FIT Personas will be available for purchase soon and will be found on the same page as the overview report.

Marketing Teams

Our latest blog post “Beyond the C-level Suite” emphasized  the importance of marketing to both federal IT decision-makers and influencers at agencies in different ways. Detailed personas for each federal influencer, from senior executive to procurement staff to end user can crystalize your approach and give you guidance as to the unique personal and professional challenges that can influence how and why they make decisions. In part one of this series, we’ll focus on how marketing teams can use federal personas to guide their strategy.

Originating in the consumer market, personas used for B2G will differ in their area of emphasis and approach. While B2C companies focus exclusively on their target customer, B2G marketers must blend the influences of the agency culture with the preferences and habits of the individual. To date, most B2G marketers have focused heavily on the unique aspects of agency culture and processes. We believe that on top of this marketing strategy, it is important to understand the personal motivators and opinions of specific decision-makers and influencers within the agency that is purchasing your product or service.

If you have already made the investment in creating unique federal customer personas, the journey has just begun. There are several next steps to get the best out of your efforts.

Share, Share, Share!

Sharing federal personasFederal personas are only effective if you are sharing them across your company, from leadership to marketing and communication teams to sales teams. Educate up and down your organization to consider how each persona plays a part in decision-making. To ensure all teams are considering personas in their sales and marketing efforts, post your personas in visible locations and discuss them frequently in cross-team meetings to incorporate the individual natures of each decision-maker into your company culture.

For Marketing Teams:

Plan your content to be rooted in the agency mission but tailored for specific individuals. This includes adjusting for topic, tone, depth and distribution. You would not market the same way to an executive as you would to an end-user. Their priorities, backgrounds and values may be different. Some may value being viewed as an expert in their jobs, while others value the security that their job provides them.

Furthermore, a tech-savvy end-user, may prefer to watch a video or webinar to learn more about new technologies while a program manager or senior executive may prefer to read about new trends and technologies in a white paper. What is their preference for learning mediums? How do they prefer to receive information?

In addition to the learning style differences, key influencers and decision-makers may prefer different ways to access information. Across the board, marketers understand the importance of SEO, but are you considering other channels for marketing to different federal personas? While one individual may prefer to directly go to a vendor website or video, others may prefer to get information from associations, industry publications or events.

In addition to preferences, use tools like the Federal Media & Marketing Study to understand what publications and websites they’re going to already in order to focus your media and advertising efforts there.

Learn More About Federal Personas:

Purchase the overview report and corresponding video readout:

Federal IT (FIT) Personas Study: A Deeper Look into Your Government Customer

The FIT Personas bundles will be available for purchase soon and will be found on the same page as the overview report.

WiT B2B & B2G Marketing ChallengesEarlier this summer Market Connections attended Women in Technology’s (WIT) “Decoding B2B & B2G PR & Marketing Trends” in partnership with Merritt Group. This informative discussion brought together a panel of leading marketing and PR professionals from small to large companies including Bitdefender, Hybrent, KPMG US and Microsoft to discuss challenges they face and successes they’ve had in marketing to other businesses and the public sector.

In part two (read part one) of this blog post series we’ll focus on a second challenge discussed by panelists: broken internal systems and processes.

How Can We Better Work Together: Broken Internal Systems & Processes

Market Connections often works with B2G clients to support their business strategies from brand awareness through business development. The internal structure of these companies often varies, affecting the business growth efficiency and success of the organization. This was echoed by the panelists. Whether it’s interdepartmental communication, collaboration or even the simple inefficiencies in using marketing automation systems, the panelists shared their perspective on the good and bad of how their teams work together.

Sales & Marketing: A Contentious Relationship? Or Working Together?

How many times have we heard the following:

“The marketing leads don’t give us what we need” or “the sales rep just cares about his or her individual sales”

While each group may have different short-term goals, both need to work together to achieve long-term success.

According to Marni Puente, Market Development Leader from KPMG every member of her team must focus on the organizational client interaction plan, understand where the strategic relationships are, and together support negotiations, decision-making and networking. In her perspective, “If you’re responsible for marketing you’re responsible for business growth too.” She continues to say, “Whether it’s…doing business development [yourself], or …. working closely with the business development team, (business growth) is something every marketer thinks about.”

Are companies structured for this integration?

Market Connections conducted a study of government contractors in 2018 that revealed that over half (51 percent) of respondents stated their business development (BD/Sales) and marketing departments reported to different supervisors, nearly four in ten reporting to a single supervisor and the remaining listing either BD reporting to Marketing or vice-versa. While more than half may be reporting to different supervisors, this does not mean there isn’t room for integration; meeting regularly can ensure communication and alignment of business goals.

According to our study, many successful companies, nearly two-thirds of respondents, said their sales and marketing teams meet at least once a month, and a quarter of which said they meet weekly. However, interestingly, nearly one in five said they meet maybe once a year, if at all. Anna Wehberg, Senior Director of Marketing at Bitdefender validated our results. “If sales and marketing are not aligned, business doesn’t seem to flow right.” According to Wehberg, her sales VP and her speak, text, or Skype every day.

According to the speakers, those departments that work together see better success. A strong relationship between these two departments is key. As one panelist put it, “When relationships are strained things are going to be bad… When things are good, they’re really good.”

The overall feeling is that there is a general trend moving towards the integration of sales and marketing, with a strong focus on relationship building between the two groups.

Marketing Supporting Business Development

How are marketers supporting their BD counterparts? At Microsoft, Tonya Klause, Communications Manager US and Americas Services, talked about reducing redundancies while maximizing the “story” of Microsoft. Marketing plays a key role in training their sales team to use tools such as LinkedIn, Navigator and Elevate. Skills and techniques to effectively reach customers include content sharing on Navigator and LinkedIn, helping executives develop their profile, unique voice, and blogging skills.

Marketing can also help support the BD/Sales teams through webinar trainings and follow-up. Wehberg explained that in addition to hosting training sessions, she records those sessions and saves them online for later access. She takes notes and pulls highlights from webinars and shares them along with links to the original webinar to team members via email as a follow-up. She even texts the sales teams to ensure they have the information. She tries to find different ways to give sales reps information in different formats and repeats the message several times, understanding that people may respond and learn differently.

In general, we are moving towards integration. In order to have success in the market, it is essential for marketing and sales to collaborate, communicate and have integrated strategies. Regardless of how departments are currently structured, these teams must work together toward their common business growth goals. Best practices include: keeping lines of communication open between executives, regular weekly or monthly team meetings for strategy and planning and providing training opportunities to ensure a unified external brand as well as a sharing of best marketing and sales practices.

Thanks again to WIT and Merritt Group for putting together a great event with insightful conversation around challenges and trends and many thanks to each panelist for thoughtful input that will be supportive to B2B and B2G marketers.

Read part one of our blog series providing an overview of the event and insights into top challenge: keeping content relevant.