Over the past year, Market Connections’ signature studies, including the Federal Media & Marketing Study and the Content Marketing Review, have pointed to a rise in the role of professional associations with federal decision makers. These studies, along with additional surveys we have conducted in the federal market, have concluded that public sector marketers should strongly consider working with professional associations to reach federal, state and local decision makers. To further test our hypothesis, we created a PulsePoll™ specifically asking about the role of associations, with the hope that this data can not only support government contractors’ membership and engagement strategies, but also identify opportunities B2G marketers should consider through professional association channels.
We saw the first hint of this trend in the 2018 Federal Media & Marketing Study’s Most Trusted Sources of Information. Two of the top three sources listed among federal respondents for trustworthiness came from professional associations. With nearly half of respondents, professional association websites (46%) came in second place followed by white papers and case studies created by professional associations at number three (36%). Webinars hosted by professional associations also ranked among the top ten, with nearly one-third of respondents listing it as a top trusted source (31%).
We continued to see the importance of professional associations in the 2019 Content Marketing Review: Federal & Beyond. Over half (55%) of federal respondents said they frequently click on and/or download content from familiar professional associations. This is a sharp contrast to the less than one in ten (9%) respondents clicking on or downloading content of unfamiliar vendors.
Recent results from our 2019 Federal Events PulsePoll™ and webinar continued to illustrate our hypothesis of the important role of professional associations in federal marketing. Professional associations ranked second in how individuals learn about events (57%). In addition, among all events listed, those hosted by professional associations AFCEA and AUSA ranked in the top five among all respondents, and even higher among defense agencies.
Looking at these findings alone, one can’t deny the value of working with professional associations to help reach federal audiences, especially for vendors who may not have an existing relationship with target clients.
However, some questions remained unanswered. For example, which professional associations are federal decision makers joining? Should contractors focus their membership and marketing efforts with federal- or IT-focused associations? Are there marked differences in membership by agency type or job role? What factors are important to feds when choosing to join an association? What are some barriers keeping them from joining? Most importantly, how are they engaging with associations that contractors can benefit from?
To help answer these questions, we surveyed federal decision makers about membership and engagement with professional associations. To hear results of our latest PulsePoll™, join our upcoming complimentary webinar: Marketing Through Professional Associations: Reaching Your Government Clients on Thursday, June 27 from 2-2:30 PM EDT.
What kind of trade shows should we be participating in? Does it matter if it’s commercial or government focused?
Should we save some dollars and just host a webinar instead?
Event marketing isn’t easy, or cheap. Our clients want the answers that will help them get the most out of their event marketing budget. Over the years, Market Connections learned about event attendance in signature studies such as the Federal Media Marketing Study and the Federal Content Marketing Study. However, some questions remained unanswered. To help our clients develop strong event marketing strategies for their public-sector audience, we surveyed federal decision-makers on event preferences and factors and barriers of attendance.
In the first part of our two-part series, we identified the factors that drive federal audiences to events and barriers that keep them from attending. Now, the questions remain: what should the events we create and/or participate in look (and feel) like? What kind of events do decision-makers in the federal government want?
We asked a series of questions regarding preferences on event formats including: live versus virtual events, single versus multi-vendor events and event focus, among others. Ultimately, respondents preferred:
- Live, full-day events
- Multi-vendor events
- Large, trade-show style events, and
- Events with a Public Sector/Federal focus
Feds, especially those outside of the DC area, preferred local events to having to travel. Conference centers won out over having it at a hotel or even on-site at their agencies and events over lunch were preferred to those over breakfast or dinner.
What we’ve learned is that after years of decline, event attendance is trending up, albeit slowly. On average, feds are now attending 1-2 virtual events and 1-2 in-person events a year. Events hosted by GovExec, DGI, AUSA, AFCEA and ITSEC have been among the most frequently attended live events over the past year.
Event marketers need to pay attention to their audience preferences. Make sure events are federally-focused. Take advantage of multi-vendor events your target customer may already be attending. Having presence at these events is a good start, but your strategy must include opportunities to position you to educate, explain and engage. Meeting these three E’s will ensure that any event will maximize success and value for your marketing dollars.
For the full study results and recording of our latest webinar, visit our 2017 Federal Events Study page.