Lessons from the Federal Media and Marketing Study
Federal government employees are visiting social media sites more frequently than ever before. Across the board, social media use has increased, including upticks in the use of Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter. But the increases in all of these paled in comparison to the millennial darling Instagram-54% growth from 2017 to 2018! We’ll go into more on Instagram in a little bit…
Personal mobile devices have blurred the lines between one’s work and personal lives, especially on social media. Even if work devices have certain social media sites blocked, personal devices, a 24/7 companion for many, have made it so social media marketing can’t be ignored and can be a dynamic tool for marketers. According to the study, a majority of feds (62%) acknowledged having seen work-related advertising while they are visiting sites (including social media) for personal use, and of those, over half (57%) acknowledged having had clicked through at some point.
So, you may ask “How do I make sure my company’s social media content is engaging and clickable?” Social Media Today points to visualization: “Visuals are key to maximizing your social media presence, and the emergence of image-based formats like Stories has only exacerbated this.”
Now back to the noted rise in Instagram… the growth in popularity of Instagram and story functions across social media sites is driven by imagery, including infographics, and can increase your visibility and help drive click-through and readership. Don’t worry that your brand will be co-located with consumer brands and pictures of pets; the mash up of those things is what makes it more visible and appealing to today’s audience. The “work brain” and “home brain” operate together in today’s younger audience.
To help B2G marketers, Market Connections looks at resources and best practices to help our clients achieve goals for reaching their public-sector audiences.
With that in mind, we are sharing Social Media Today’s article on 2019 Social Media Optimization Guide. This guide provides the latest data on dimensions needed for all aspects of visual imagery on social media including popular sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram, and will help prevent marketers from making the most common mistakes such as using incorrect sizes or resolutions that can inadvertently make posts or sites appear unpolished and unprofessional.
Market Connections’ action-based research can also support your federal marketing needs by identifying the best platforms to reach your target audience with our Federal Media & Marketing dashboard or creating primary, research-based thought leadership and marketing content (including infographics, white papers, webinars and blogs) you can use to share across social media and other market channels.
Learn how social media and other marketing tactics should fit into your overall strategy for reaching federal audiences. Watch a recording of part one of our three-part webinar series, Marketing Tactics & the Federal Environment.
Finally, we invite you to join us for our upcoming webinar: Media Habits in a Time of Change: A Federal Media & Marketing Study Webinar on Wednesday, February 13 from 2-2:30 PM EST.
Federal marketers understand that when it comes to their budgets, every dollar is a precious resource, and having a strong strategy in place is essential. With that in mind, ten years ago, Market Connections and Sara Leiman launched the annual Federal Media and Marketing Study (FMMS) to help federal marketers hone in and perfect their campaigns using solid third-party research.
The first (and still only) of its kind, the survey garners responses from more than 3,000 decision makers inside and outside the beltway, to understand their media consumption habits for print, digital, broadcast and social platforms. After ten years, the federal media study continues to be a must-have marketing tool in the federal arena.
To commemorate the tenth anniversary, Market Connections reached out to co-founders Sara Leiman and Lisa Dezzutti to reminisce on the birth of the study and to learn about how the study has evolved over the past ten years.
Market Connections: Think back to 2008. In the absence of research in the federal market space, what were you and colleagues like yourself doing to try to reach the market?
SL: The prevailing thought years ago was to lead with frequency by providing continual visibility in the same media outlets that best matched a given demographic; whether that was print, websites or broadcast. While the media community had very separate sources of research for each type of media; including: audit statements for print, Arbitron for radio, Nielsen for TV, and a growing number of ad serving and ad measuring companies for digital; the media community had nothing that looked at media habits holistically in a single study where one could compare different channels within the federal decision-maker community.
This lack of information did not allow us to provide custom recommendations by audience. We had no data that would tell us which media outlets were preferred by different demographics, for example, those who purchased IT services versus finance. Without the ability to prioritize media by specific audience, we could not prioritize their preferred method of delivery either; whether it was print, digital, radio or other outlets.
Market Connections: When you first got started, can you tell us what were some of the toughest hurdles you had to overcome in creating a comprehensive study like this?
LD: The biggest hurdles in any research project are constructing an effective survey and ensuring sampling is sufficient and valid. This study was no different. We spent a lot of time crafting the survey questions and testing them before we ever rolled out the first survey. From a sampling perspective this study is more challenging than most because it requires such a large sample size for the data to be valid. Sampling continues to be a challenge in the public sector as more and more agencies have adopted a “no-survey” policy. Our federal insights panel that we have built over the years helps us fill in the gaps.
Market Connections: What are some of the biggest lessons learned over the years?
SL: Overall, we learned that the federal audience is NOT a one-size-fits all. By this, we learned how media habits differed. For example, we learned LOCATION made a big difference. Media habits are very different inside versus outside the beltway as well as among civilian- versus defense-type agencies. DEMOGRAPHICS also had an impact on media habits including job function and area of purchase.
However, most importantly, and especially today versus 10 years ago, we learned it’s not just about the media; it’s also about TECHNOLOGY. It is important to understand how technology is used for targeting (by market, by domain, by specific demographics), for delivery (geo-fencing versus desktop or mobile by general location) and understanding how to overcome firewalls that are evermore present within government.
Federal executives have more choices for information access than ever before and they are using them all. Just like the rest of us. This survey captures the pulse of this audience with regards to their media habits.
Market Connections: What is the most interesting change for you in the market over the past 10 years, from your perspective?
LD: The most interesting has been the evolution of social media in the federal market. We didn’t even call it social media 10 years ago, we called it “networking sites” on the survey and listed examples LinkedIn and MySpace. The total that used those tools was less than 5%. The use of social media has exploded over the last ten years and forever changed media consumption behavior –attention spans are shorter and federal decision makers consume information from many more sources than ever before. That presents both opportunities and challenges for federal marketers.
Market Connections: As you’ve done this study over the years, what are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in terms of study questions, analysis, and presentation?
LD: The primary goal of the study really hasn’t changed. It has always been to understand the media consumption habits of federal government employees. And we’ve always kept a core set of questions in order to track changes and trends over time. But there have been some things about the survey itself however that have changed over those years.
Throughout the years we’ve seen changes in media and in the federal marketplace and we updated the survey to capture those changes. Whether it was the addition of new media outlets, product categories and job functions, or technologies (the growth of mobile) and platforms (the advent of social media), the survey evolved as the media landscape changed. We also keep the study fresh each year by including a few questions that are topical to the federal market environment.
And last, but certainly not least, we listen to our clients, adding questions that are of particular interest to them and fit within the objectives of the federal media study.
Market Connections: How have your clients benefited from the data over the years? Can you share a story of a client who has used study results and has seen success?
LD: We had a client who was running radio spots in the DC area to influence perceptions of their company on key issues, particularly members of Capitol Hill. They contracted us to do a series of surveys to measure perceptions before, during and after a radio campaign. The mid-campaign survey, showed no movement in market perceptions. Given the size of their investment in radio we were surprised by this. Upon review of their media plan, we realized their advertising agency (not located in DC) was recommending stations that did not well target federal decision makers. We suggested they use the FMMS data to recast their radio buys for the second half of the campaign. The final leg of the study showed significant improvement in perceptions. Using the data to target federal decision makers in the right media outlets made all the difference.
In addition, over the years we’ve seen companies that use our data in very different ways beyond media planning and buying. We’ve seen clients use the information in sales playbooks to help sales and BD teams have a better understanding of their accounts and account behavior. While others have used the data as an input when creating buyer personas (a detailed representation of your ideal customer that helps determine where to best focus time and investments). Clients also use the data to help target content placement and PR pitches.
Market Connections: Why would you recommend federal marketers purchase a subscription to the dashboard?
SL: As industry professionals, our job is to make sure that we are investing our client dollars in the most efficient way possible. The customized reports by demographic that are available in this survey database allow you to view and understand the most comprehensive and efficient media for any demographic within government.
LD: No one has an unlimited marketing budget. Federal marketers are under increasing pressure to demonstrate success. There is not a lot of wiggle room to make a mistake. It is easy to waste a lot of money very quickly in this market. The FMMS data helps ensure that companies are getting the best ROI they can on their marketing investment by effectively reaching their target audience.
Learn more about the study and subscribe to the dashboard.
Did you miss the Federal Media & Marketing Study breakfast event? Join us for the first of our webinar series highlighting key points and insights from the study, “Marketing Tactics and the Federal Environment: A Federal Media & Marketing Study Webinar.”
In the past, we have shared some interesting insights from our Federal Media & Marketing Study. We highlighted how federal employees respond to targeted advertising across websites and social media sites visited for personal reasons. We also discussed the confidence levels they have in the news reported from different sources. But year after year, what our audience wants to know is which digital sites are feds actually visiting?
Leading the list of top federal and congressional sites is GovExec.com, with over one third (37 percent) of federal decision makers and influencers listing it as a site they visit. Rounding the top three, are FederalTimes.com (25 percent) and Politico.com (24 percent).
In addition to being first among federal and congressional sites, when compared to the top general websites including Weather.com, CNN.com and FoxNews.com, GovExec.com ranks fifth among these high-volume sites, proving this website is one marketers should definitely consider if they are trying to reach federal audiences.
While GovExec.com, ranks at the top of both federal and general digital sites across the overall audience, if you were to slice and dice the data by demographic, the list of top digital sites looks different. When focusing on defense agencies, DefenseNews.com and MilitaryTimes.com rise to the top of the list of federal and congressional digital sites visited.
While a general direction for the overall federal audience is helpful, we know federal marketers often need more detail for specific agencies, product categories or level of decision-maker. Whether you need data to launch a broad awareness campaign or a deeper dive for more detailed information to support your agency-based marketing, subscriber-level access to the Federal Media & Marketing Study data dashboard can help federal marketers track media habits based on specific demographics, including agency type, specific agency, location, job function and purchasing area, among others.
Learn more about the study and subscribe to the dashboard.
Did you miss the Federal Media & Marketing Study breakfast event? Join us for the first of our webinar series highlighting key points and insights from the study, “Marketing Tactics and the Federal Environment: A Federal Media & Marketing Study Webinar.”
As federal marketers, we sometimes forget that our audience are not just federal decision makers and influencers, but regular people who watch the same TV shows, visit the same social media sites, visit the same websites and have the same media habits as the rest of us. Feds are people too! With that in mind, the 10th annual release of the Federal Media & Marketing Study wanted to ask about their habits when it came to how they responded to advertising… and more importantly work-related advertising.
To our surprise, and the relief of many, at least six out of ten respondents had seen work-related advertisements in both websites they visit for work reasons and personal reasons, and four out of ten specifically saw work-related advertising in their personal social media – a sign that advertising targeting (or re-targeting) is viable in this market. This was further reinforced during a discussion with our excellent agency panelists at the recent study release breakfast. The blurring of the lines between work and personal lives provides a great opportunity to reach decision makers with work-related content in their personal sphere.
The big question is, “Are they clicking on this advertising?” Yes, yes and yes! Nearly six in ten have clicked on work-related ads on websites they visit for work and for personal reasons, and nearly half click through on personal social media (even when it’s not LinkedIn!).
What does this mean for our government contractor clients and those trying to reach federal audiences? In addition to federal media placement, you may want to invest in targeting and re-targeting on social media and websites feds are visiting for personal reasons.
How do you know what websites you should focus on? Where should you invest your digital advertising dollars? What websites are feds visiting most?
With three years’ worth of data on the media habits of the federal audience, the Market Connections Federal Media & Marketing Study dashboard can help marketers develop a sound advertising and marketing strategy based on solid research. Among many features of the newly updated and easy-to-use dashboard, marketers can analyze which digital websites their audience is visiting by agency, agency type, location, job function or even purchase area to help them make decisions on media buys for advertising and sponsored content.
If the federal audience is important to your business, a subscription to this dashboard will help you hone in on your federal market strategy and increase the ROI of your federal marketing investments
Variations of Confidence in News Reported by Media: A Federal Media & Marketing Study Preview
The federal workforce may be as polarized in their views of the media as the general population. Last year, the Federal Media & Marketing Study asked federal workers how they felt about “fake news.” Two-thirds said recent commentary about “fake news” had at least some impact on their perceptions of news organizations’ credibility.
This year Market Connections wanted to dig a little deeper. Thinking there might be some halo effect that the media source has on the advertisers, we wanted to understand how confident decision makers felt on the news reported from different media sources.
What we found is that decision makers felt more confident about news reported from federal publications, such as Defense News and Government Executive, compared to many general media outlets, including CNN and Fox News, which hovered near the bottom of the list. Many media outlets, including print, digital and radio, fell somewhere in between.
And to no surprise, stark significant differences in confidence were evident by agency type and political party affiliation.
What does this mean for government contractors and their agencies when it comes to advertising and other media spending?
“While reach is important, one must always consider the credibility of the source among the target audience. If they are skeptical while reading the news, they might be skeptical of those adjacent ads,” says Market Connections President, Aaron Heffron. “You have to consider balancing reach with confidence and trust. While at times, it may be worth reaching larger audiences, if you are targeting a specific audience, you may want to make other considerations.”
Join us on November 8 to learn how confident decision makers are of the news reported by different media sources, how much time they are spending with different types of media and the top print and digital publications both inside and outside the beltway, among other key data helpful to federal marketers, agencies and media outlets.
At last week’s Market Chat Live! event by Government Marketing University, Connie Sayers, President of Government Executive Media Group provided some keen insights and best practices around account-based marketing in the public-sector market. One recommendation around ABM: in order to differentiate yourself from other contractors, create key messaging geared to specific agencies you are targeting. In a crowded federal IT market, Sayers shared that as many as 52 government contractors distinguish themselves as specialists in digital transformation!
In this example, with so many contractors all focused on one topic area, how does one contractor set themselves apart from the rest? As a digital transformation service provider, how do you make yourself more attractive to federal IT decision-makers than the other fifty-plus contractors?
We couldn’t have scheduled our upcoming webinar on marketing and messaging differentiation in the federal IT marketplace any better!
According to our recent Federal Government Contractor Study in partnership with Merritt Group and Professional Services Council, contractors with lower win rates admitted to their struggle to differentiate themselves on a factor beyond price. What does this mean? To win, it’s key to differentiate on other factors. Contractors should focus on messaging where they alone can put a stake in the ground. However, we’re finding more and more that not only are contractors finding this difficult, but it’s also not being readily done as one would think.
In fact, we are being asked by our clients more than ever to help, leading us to scan and assess the market. How well are the leading contractors differentiating themselves?
Join us October 17 for a complimentary webinar where together with Boscobel Communications CEO, Joyce Boscobel, we’ll share findings from recent analyses of top government contractors. Together we’ll reveal how they are (or are not) differentiating themselves with respect to messaging, imagery, taglines and branding and share some best practices for setting your organization apart and positioning yourself as a market leader.
Market Connections tries to stay abreast of news and topics that can help our clients and make us better partners. We recently came across the 2018 results of The CMO Survey®, sponsored by the American Marketing Association, Deloitte and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. This biennial study gathers opinions from top marketers at US B2B and B2C for-profit companies with the goal of predicting the future of markets, tracking marketing excellence and improving the value of marketing.
Among a myriad of interesting findings, one in particular caught our attention: digital marketing expenditures are expected to increase by more than 12% over the next year, increasing the proportion of marketing budgets allocated to digital by almost 25% in the next five years.
As always, we like to see how overall marketing trends align with those in the B2G community. Many times, overall marketing or corporate trends can be leading indicators of where the government marketplace is going. However, this time government contractors aren’t following the lead of corporate America, but rather, they are in lock-step with their commercial counterparts.
Recent findings focused on the federal market from our 2018 Government Contractor Study (in partnership with Professional Services Council and Merritt Group) showed that among 200 government contractors, over half (52 percent) said digital marketing was part of their overall marketing budget and 53 percent said that they increased their digital marketing spend in 2018.
What does this show? Overall, marketers (whether B2B, B2C or B2G) are seeing the value of digital marketing. Yet, with what will likely be a glut of companies focusing on advertising in the digital space, where should you focus your marketing dollars? Where can you go for more information to make smart, strategic decisions to maximize ROI?
For those focused on the federal market, Market Connections’ Federal Media & Marketing Study can help focus their efforts. In our 10th year, this study of the federal media marketplace provides a comprehensive review of the media and buying habits of federal decision-makers across the country. It details more than 20 different job functions and maps them to individual media usage spanning print, broadcast, social, mobile and digital.
Whether you are focusing your efforts with overall civilian agencies or specifically trying to reach IT decision-makers for Department of Defense, the tool can help you make better decisions on where to place advertising based on their habits.
- Which publications are they reading most?
- What social media are they using more often?
- For those “Inside the Beltway,” which radio stations are they listening to or tv programs are they watching?
Market Connections will be unveiling results from the 2018 study on November 8, 2018 at the Valo Park Conference Center in McLean, Virginia. To register, visit www.marketconnectionsinc.com/fmms2018event/.
The CMO Survey® collects and disseminates the opinions of top marketers to predict the future of markets, track market excellence, and improve the value of marketing to companies and to society since 2008.
While it is nice to know the challenges we all are facing, what you REALLY want to know is:
- How are your competitors spending their marketing dollars?
- Is their spending the same as yours?
- What about next year?
You don’t want to miss the next big thing, and you certainly want to know where your efforts are going, so that you can go head-to-head with your primary competitors.
Being present is still a key to winning. Almost 9 out of 10 survey respondents stated that event sponsorships are included in their marketing budget. As we have seen in other studies (Federal Media & Marketing Study and Federal Content Marketing Review), event participation is on the rise among federal decision-makers. Contractors are seizing the opportunity to get in front of their audience by sponsoring and being present at events where they can have face-to-face transactions with potential clients and customers.
While event sponsorships outranked other items by a large margin (at least half or more of respondents also listed social media advertising, written marketing content, market intelligence and research and digital advertising), it has not peaked. One-third of respondents said they would increase their marketing budget spend on event sponsorships in the future.
What will be increasing even more? Where will the competition be greater in the upcoming years? The answer is: digital advertising. Atop the list with more than half of respondents stating they will be increasing their marketing spend, digital advertising will likely see big jumps (and increased competition for real estate) in the upcoming years. Market intelligence/research (yay!), podcasts, video marketing and radio/TV advertising are among those with the strongest growth looking ahead…
Upon further review, we saw some key differences in who specifically will be increasing their spending in certain areas. Those contractors with lower than average win rates on new opportunities are more likely to be increasing their market intelligence/research efforts. “It’s not surprising. Few things hurt worse than NOT winning or bringing in a new client,” says Aaron Heffron, president at Market Connections. “The one thing that hurts more is not really knowing why. Sometimes only an outside eye can see the reasons clearly.”
How Can You Ensure Contract Wins?
Thinking about these findings even more, when it comes to ensuring contract wins, a few key questions contractors need to ask themselves are:
- Was what you were promising in your bid credible to the audience?
- Did you have a specific strategy to communicate your strengths that were specific to the agency, or were you using the same messages and methods you always have been?
- In a crowded market, were you telling the prospect what they needed to hear, or what you thought they wanted to hear? Do you know the difference?
- Was this customer most influenced by price, value, key personnel, past performance, or reputation (or something else)?
- Did you even have a chance? How happy was the customer with the existing provider?
These, among others, are important questions to not only ask post mortem, but BEFORE you even start. More than 18 months before a contract is up for bid, the most successful contractors are building a plan customized to the customer, planning a marketing strategy that incorporates events, digital and other personalized means, and building a clear, concise value proposition. As you can see, competition for placement at events and digital visibility is going to be at a premium, so it’s essential you start planning now.
The Federal Government Contractor Study conducted by Market Connections, in partnership with Professional Services Council and Merritt Group, surveyed BD and marketing professionals focused in the federal marketplace to understand their top challenges and best practices.
New pursuit and capture research
New pursuit and capture research helps anticipate and understand the needs and goals of a target market, providing contractors with fact-based insights to inform a more effective capture strategy. It can help identify which opportunities contractors are most likely to win, the win themes for their capture strategy and perceptions of their organization and the competition.
Customer satisfaction research
In addition to winning new business, in an environment with shrinking budgets, it is key to also win those contracts up for recompete. Customer satisfaction research has helped clients save key accounts that would have otherwise been lost due to unidentified customer issues and brewing dissatisfaction. Clients also use this research to ensure satisfaction on strategic government contracts, thereby increasing their chances of winning when the contract comes up for renewal.
Earlier this summer, Market Connections in partnership with Professional Services Council and Merritt Group conducted our biennial 2018 Federal Government Contractor Study. In order to stay alert to the biggest issues our government contractor clients may be facing, we conduct this study to answer what federal marketing and business development (BD) professionals are currently wrestling with in the marketplace.
Year after year, we take into account how respondent answers vary based on what role they play within their company. While, as a group, both business development and marketing departments find similar areas challenging, when you compare the two, responses differ.
What were their top challenges in 2018? While both groups listed the government procurement cycle, a challenge that falls outside of their control, most challenges listed by each group can be addressed with thoughtful collaboration (and maybe a little outside assistance).
Being Different Is Hard to Do
In a crowded and competitive vendor market, it’s hard to stand out. Both those working in marketing and BD raised the challenge of differentiation to the top of their list. But if you look at the data more closely, the survey found that respondents with lower win rates found “differentiation beyond price” more challenging than those with higher win rates.
What does this mean for contractors who want to make sure they stand out?
“The data shows that it’s key to differentiate yourself beyond price. While you may think you are the best-looking penguin around, to many, you’re just another bird in a tuxedo,” says Aaron Heffron, Market Connections’ president. “Price is just one factor on which you can set yourself apart. However, you need to highlight other attributes that make you the best choice of the flock. The problem is, many contractors cannot clearly communicate what it is that sets them apart.”
Understanding What Sets You Apart
Market Connections performs research that compares our clients’ offerings and business functions against those of their direct AND indirect competitors. We also identify the PERCEPTIONS of you and your competitors that get you on, or off, the short list. The result is a competitive edge that is sharpened with real market feedback rather than guess work and assumptions. This research provides our clients:
- Comprehensive profiles of competitors
- Comparisons of their and competitors’ current contracts, offerings, pricing, customer base, positioning, and market strategies
- Perceived differentiators between them and competitors
- Their market share relative to competitors
Learn more about Market Connections Competitive Profiling research and how it can support your marketing and BD strategies.
See other key findings in our latest report: 2018 Federal Government Contractor Study: Best BD & Marketing Practices of Winning Contractors, in collaboration with Professional Services Council and Merritt Group.
At Market Connections, we often tell our clients that buyers and decision-makers sitting in federal government agencies are people, too. They are often affected by general trends as much as the person who lives next door. Result trends we found in our recent Federal Media and Marketing Study are also being found and reported by additional parties both in the federal space and the general market.
Over the past 18 months, the media has come under increased scrutiny. False or exaggerated stories have been spread through social media, often by nefarious actors. This “fake news” may have damaged the credibility of news and information sources. Market Connections asked about the impact of “fake news” on the credibility of news sources among federal government buyers and decision-makers. Two-thirds of respondents mentioned that there was some impact on their perception of news organization credibility. In addition, we saw a rise in the number of media sources accessed. This is a potential result of decreased trust in a single news source.
Publishers are recognizing the impact of the term “fake news” in their industry and responding in kind. In a recent story, MediaDailyNews reported on a group of well-known news publishers including The Washington Post, The Economist and The Globe and Mail who are setting transparency standards that allow the public to determine the quality and reliability of journalism.
The Federal Media and Marketing Study results point to the increased viewership of TV news. Watching the news or news programs on TV went up among federal decision-makers from 51% in 2016 to 57% in 2017. Looking at the general public as a whole, MediaDailyNews reported an increase in viewership from a year ago, citing Pivotal Research Groups saying, “all network TV news viewing through November 12 — on broadcast and cable — is up 6% versus the same time period a year ago.”
What does this mean for federal marketers? Remember that although we are in a niche market, our audience is like everyone else. Your target audience is relying on more sources to get and verify their news and information. Don’t discount trends in the general market and use tools like the Federal Media and Marketing Study to help you make decisions about your market strategy by allowing you to better understand the depth and breadth of the readership, viewership and listenership in the federal market.
Download the overview:
Download the report to see how the study results may impact your 2018 media mix and strategy.
Purchase the online tool:
Get in-depth insights with the FMMS data tool. This is a dynamic web-based reporting tool that allows you to cross-tabulate survey results to create your own customized data views, such as job title and product purchases or job title and website visits or publication readership.