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.
Do you have the information you need to create and justify your marketing strategy for the upcoming year? The “right” information can take many forms, including customer feedback, prospects’ spending plans, agencies’ strategic direction, and the important factors for key decision-makers and influencers. Limited budgets and tight timelines can often hamstring the most well-thought-out plans for information gathering. Market Connections has worked with dozens of public sector contractors over the years to get them the right information at the right time. Whether it’s maximizing the use of free resources or commissioning custom research, here is what we have learned works best in different situations.
As many know, the BEST part of selling to a government customer is that their past spending history is often open for all to see. By way of publicly available data, one can see where agencies have historically spent their money and with whom. This is incredibly helpful in identifying partners, gauging the competitive landscape, or making a “go/no-go” decision on an upcoming opportunity.
With a little elbow grease and a working knowledge of the federal procurement process, government contractors who are looking to find information about upcoming contracts and opportunities can find information on https://beta.sam.gov/ (formerly FedBizOpps.org or fbo.org). This site, run by GSA, is a great starting point to find contract opportunities. You can search for opportunities by keyword, solicitation ID, or by the name of a federal organization. You can then use a wide variety of filters to narrow results.
For more historical information, such as past contract winners, number of contract actions and historical spending since FY2004, details can be found on Federal Procurement Data System (https://www.fpds.gov/). Market Connections works intimately with this data to help measure the size of the overall market, make determinations of go-to market strategies, and track the growth and viability of partners and competitors.
Syndicated or Multi-Client Studies
A wide variety of organizations and companies release overview data regarding the federal marketplace or specific agencies of product/service categories. Usually available for a small fee, these studies and reviews can provide a glimpse into strategic plans and the direction of buying, as well as offer insights into habits and behaviors of the market in general. Something to keep in mind, however, that while this information is available to you for a smaller fee, it is also available to your competitors.
Bloomberg Government and Government Executive Media Group offer overarching studies to understand how, at a high level, contractors are perceived in the federal marketplace. BGov200 and Leading Brands can provide a glimpse of the top contractors in the market, leveraging the knowledge within the specific companies and direct contacts with buyers and federal employees.
In addition, Professional Services Council (PSC) conducts a yearly assessment and estimate of federal spending every October based on an extensive network of interviews with government officials, congressional staff, private analysts and government contractors. PSC’s Annual Vision Federal Market Forecast develops budget estimates for defense and civilian agencies overall, as well as, specific breakdowns for individual agencies ranging from the Department of Agriculture to NASA.
For best practices in federal marketing, Market Connections provides our own annual and biennial studies such as Federal Government Contractor Study which looks at the best practices of federal marketing and business development professionals; Federal Media & Marketing Study which focuses on the media habits of federal audiences; and the Content Marketing Review studies which content marketing methods are best received by federal IT decision-makers. Presented at in-person networking events, this data provides insights to help with contractors with federal market strategy development.
General information about your audience may not be enough. Your product or service may be in a niche-category or very specific, your target audience unique, or you have some thoughts and insights that you believe can set you apart from your competitors. If this is the case, it is worth the investment to commission some custom research specific to your needs.
Oftentimes our clients need more detailed information to help make smart business decisions, especially when new product launches or large advertising investments are on the line. Whether they are seeking to position themselves for a specific contract, ensure customer satisfaction, develop or test specific messages, or to gain a better understanding of how they are perceived against a specific set of competitors, our custom research can provide data and insights directly from the federal audience contractors are serving.
Market Connections has over 25 years of experience in reaching these specific audiences, gathering a strong database of federal decision-makers from all areas of the government. Whether seeking insights from the general audience, specific to an agency or purchase category, Market Connections third-party research is a trusted resource among federal professionals and the contractors who serve them.
Learn more about custom research Market Connections provides to aid government contractors with their business development and market planning.