In our last blog post, Should You Reconsider Your 2021 Federal Media Strategy in Light of COVID?, we touched on how to use agency-based marketing (ABM) for media purchasing when space in general federal publications are limited.
Federal marketers are oftentimes challenged with tight budgets and high expectations to produce strong ROIs. Simply, they are expected to do a lot with very little. Agency-based marketing when paired with investments in advertising and other broad marketing strategies can provide a boost to the expected return on investment.
What is one way to maximize a small budget? Effectively connect with the preferences of your TARGET audience with a strong understanding of what makes them tick day to day.
Using Personas to Connect
There are many ways of developing personas, depending on your needs and resources. A good place to start is your own Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool and your client-facing teams. If you need deeper insights your tool cannot provide or have been surprised by conflicting comments from your teams, you may want to consider third-party research. Using personas helps you drill down on your customers’ preferences and develop a focused strategy tailored specifically to them.
For federal marketers, that can mean a focus on agency type, agency-specific, geographical, or product/service categories. Understanding your customer on a deeper level can help you speak to their personal and professional goals and challenges. For example, if you are targeting an IT end-user, you may focus on educating about more technical features because of their desire to be an expert in their agency, whereas if you were marketing to a procurement specialist, you would want to focus on cost-savings because of their pride in being prompt and efficient. In the same vein, one may prefer to watch a webinar, while another prefers to read a white paper due to their personal learning preferences.
Learn more about Market Connections’ Federal IT Personas.
Consider “Where” They Are Already Going
In addition to content creation, you may want to consider where and how you are advertising or sharing your content. Whether it’s because space is at a premium in some of the more general federal publications, or you are focusing on more niche publications based on your particular audience, understanding where your audience is going for news and information can help get the right eyeballs on your content and drive agency decision-makers to your site.
Ad placement is only one lever you can use and is often most effective to build awareness. If you are having difficulty closing sales among those who know you, consider delivering information and messages through other popular channels among your target audience. They may have a preference for a certain social media platform. They may use certain streaming services to reach specific news programs or tune into radio stations throughout the day. Of those media channels, are there geo-locating advertising opportunities you may want to explore to reach your prospects?
Selecting correctly from your customer’s media buffet of online publications, print publications, social media sites, TV, radio or streaming services can eliminate some of the “guesswork” and improve the ROI on your marketing investment.
Learn more using our annual Federal Media & Marketing Study.
Consider diving a little deeper and consider more targeted marketing as part of your overall federal marketing strategy. Beyond creating tailored content that is relevant to your specific audience, also consider the format and placement of that content. Federal marketers have many tools available that can pair nicely with internal intelligence to help make educated decisions about their company’s federal marketing investments.
Insights Pulled from a Sneak Peek of the 2020 Federal Media & Marketing Study
From the desk of Laurie Morrow, Vice President of Research Strategy, Market Connections Inc.
Over the twelve years my team has conducted the Federal Media & Marketing Study, we have looked at how federal audiences are engaging with different media properties from print publications to online to newer social medias. In addition to analyzing readership, we also investigate habits, trends, levels of trust and confidence and time spent with media along with other marketing tactics year over year.
With all the changes and pivots the federal market and those marketing to them had to make this year, I was eager to see whether there would be changes in this year’s results due to the pandemic, elections and other recent major events.
Taking a sneak peek into the findings, I found some interesting results around trust and confidence that while not tied to pandemic, may be a result of a charged political and social climate this year.
Confidence in News
The first is an overall decline in confidence in general news media. Like others, I was not necessarily surprised by this finding, as we started to see some drops in confidence in general news sources last year tied to political party affiliation.
What I did find surprising was seeing a decline in some federally focused media as well this year. Over the years, the level of confidence in federal news outlets has relatively remained unscathed but has distrust now seeped into federal media? Is this due to the charged climate, or do we expect to see this trend continue to grow in an era where “fake news” and general distrust in media grows along political and geographical lines?
Trust in Source
Similar to the level of confidence in news, this year’s results indicate an overall decline in trust of ALL sources of information, from associations to industry pubs to government contractors. While the ranking of trust in sources is relatively the same as last year, the general decline across the board could possibly point to a growing skepticism within the federal audience. In coming years, we will continue to measure that level of trust to see if this continues to trend down or if this current dip in trust is due to the current climate.
Regardless of whether this is a trend or not, this begs an important question, “What can we do as an industry to regain our federal customers’ trust?”
In addition to details around the level of confidence in media properties and rank sources of information by trustworthiness, the 2020 Federal Media & Marketing Study most notably studies the readership of general and federal publications, social media site usage, and television viewership and radio listenership (for the DMV), among other marketing tactics. We highlight any differences found by agency type, location (inside the beltway vs. outside), party affiliation, and geography (urban, suburban, rural) among other characteristics, where statistically different.
Learn more about our study, purchase the on-demand overview and/or annual subscription to the dashboard.
Understand Public Sector Preferences & Consumption
Like many of you, recent events have caused us to cancel or postpone our in-person meetings, events and conferences based on government guidelines to create some social distance to protect ourselves and our community. Many of these events and meetings were crucial to our business from both an educational and business development perspective.
While it’s a good thing for our nation, marketers will need to review and revisit their plans for reaching target audiences and could affect the way our business works not only over the next couple of months, but we may well feel the impact on our businesses for the next 18-24 months.
Social media, webinars and virtual events are critical activities in keeping your business rolling, making contacts, and educating your customers who may be self-quarantining. The good news is, many of those working in the public sector were already leveraging these tools on a regular basis, so we won’t have to start from scratch.
According to our most recent Federal Media & Marketing Study (FMMS), three-quarters of federal workers reported watching live webinars during the workday, and at least one in five were watching recorded webinars on their own time (weeknights and weekends). We foresee this number growing over the coming months. In this new environment for engaging our audiences, it’s important to maximize specific content and optimize the timing and length of these virtual events.
Market Connections’ Content Marketing Review found both federal and state and local audiences most want webinars to include research and data supported content and highlight specific examples of past performances. In addition to these key elements, they also wanted to see content tailored to their organization type and product specifications.
CASE STUDY: Learn how client, Lockheed Martin, used thought leadership research to create a webinar and other marketing assets.
Market Connections has also found that over one-third of federal workers and nearly one-quarter of state and local workers were already spending 30+ minutes on webinars. Approximately 50% of feds preferred watching a webinar during the lunch hour (between 11 AM and 2 PM).
While nothing replaces great face-to-face opportunities to meet and connect with your public sector customers, webinars may be a great way to build on your relationships, provide them useful insights, educate them and provide a virtual social touch point; not only during times of isolation, but also as part of our regular marketing planning.
Learn more about webinars and the public sector:
Learn more about creating research-based thought leadership content for webinars.
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.