As we approach the end of the fiscal year, the discussion turns toward agency end-of-year spending. Should federal marketers and sales assume selling for the year is done and look toward 2021, or should they implement a final surge campaign with the hopes of capturing any last-minute spending from unspent budgets?
According to Lou Anne Brossman, founder and CEO of Government Marketing University, it’s about gauging internal expectations and assessing if your company will be able to meet last minute agency demands. Ask the executive team, “What outcomes do you expect from 4th quarter marketing?” “Is this a last-ditch attempt full of hope or a concerted effort to go after identified opportunities?”
If you know there are dollars to be spent, ask yourself if your company prepared for a turnkey (i.e. quick) sale? In a recent IDEATION call, Lou Anne discussed tips for marketers at the end of the buying season. Below are a few of her expert tips along with findings from our own studies about the best content for the late stage buying process.
- Do not expect new, unidentified fourth quarter sales from a fourth quarter marketing campaign. Opportunity identification and marketing must start far earlier than that.
Federal marketers and business development professionals understand that selling to the government is not a short sales cycle. Not only should you always be front of mind, you have to consider being there with exactly what they are looking for at the exact time they are looking for it.
Selling to the government is an educational process, and the preparation often starts 12 to 18 months ahead of time. If you are marketing in the fourth quarter, it’s best to market to them for solutions they will be looking for in the next fiscal year’s needs. However, it is always useful to be top of mind if 2021 needs can be moved up with 2020 dollars. (see #2).
With next year in mind, consider that they are now reviewing needs and specifications for NEXT year’s requirements. What content should you be providing them? According to the Federal Content Marketing Review (FCMR), educational pieces such as research reports and white papers are key.
- Given everything said above, there is still a possibility — however remote — to win fourth quarter business at the last minute.
However, this is usually thanks to the marketing you did in the first couple of quarters of the fiscal year. To ensure that you are able to tap into any unspent dollars, consider marketing to where they are in the buying process. The 2017 FCMR study showed us that if they are looking at finalizing a decision quickly (making final selection), they are most likely looking for trials and product demos.
Is your company’s solution “acquisition-ready” for a last-minute sale? According to one chief procurement officer from GMarkU’s discussion, “If [an agency program office is] coming at me in the last quarter of the year especially because you have an unfunded requirement, or even an emergency buy, I’m going to lean towards existing contract vehicles. I’m going to look to things like the government-wide contracts, our strategically sourced contracts, or the GSA schedules, or other vehicles that make it easy for me to get it done quickly.” This means having your sales teams, contract shops and legal departments ready to go and on the same page.
It’s intuitive to make sure your company is set up for the quick sale and you may want to lead your marketing with language stating which vehicles you are on upfront to make it easier for your customer.
- End-of-year procurements are not just for the large, well-established vendors.
While you may think that agency’s will only reach for well-established vendors during last-minute sales, there is a place and space for small business. You should know if there is a portion carved out for small, woman-owned, minority-owned businesses. Does your marketing quickly identify you as such? In addition to what contract vehicles you are on, it is important to identify yourself as SBA, 8a, WOSB, minority-owned, or other, as appropriate.
Small businesses looking for year-end wins should also consider working with a larger vendor who already has experience. Your marketing should consider not only the agency but primes as well. What can you bring to the table for a partner? Does your company have an expertise in a niche that is needed by a prime? Knowledge of how you are perceived can help you strategically market your company’s products and services to key agencies AND partner contractors looking for something specific. Brand research could be a first step in gauging where your strengths, weaknesses and differentiators lie.
While it may be daunting to market specifically for those last-minute unspent requirements, it is not without value. It is important to understand end-of-year procurement priorities, provide content that speaks specifically to their needs and ensure you have the right vehicles for easy acquisition.
Messaging that highlights the ability to get next year’s needs addressed now can be appealing to agencies with multiple challenges. Educate them on how you can address issues they may not think they are ready for, focus on your strengths and differentiators, and highlight how you can make the process as easy as possible. These elements will give you the best chance to secure some last-minute commitments you thought weren’t realistic until next year.
Market Connections CEO, Lisa Dezzutti received Government Marketing University’s second annual Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2019 GAIN Conference on Tuesday, November 12. Unable to attend, President Aaron Heffron accepted the award on her behalf.
With over 30 years of experience in the government marketing community, Lisa was recognized for her contributions to the industry, including starting market research firm, Market Connections, serving as Board President for Women in Technology and years of service at GTSI.
In presenting the award on behalf of Government Marketing University, Mark Amtower, Managing Partner at Amtower & Company and first annual Lifetime Achievement Award winner shared a few words about Lisa, “The contributions of Lisa and her team at Market Connections has helped us produce some absolutely great marketing programs, not in glam and glitz, but in real results, things that actually work… I rely on Market Connections like no other source in this market for my education.”
While she was unable to accept in person, Lisa did send a few notes of appreciation, “I am so deeply honored to receive it and terribly disappointed not to be here to receive it in person. It has been a great pleasure and privilege to be a part of the government contracting industry for the last 30 years.” She continued by noting those in the audience, by saying, “I have had the opportunity to work with and get to know many talented people, many who I call friends, many who are in the audience today. My friends and colleagues are the real reward after 30 years in this industry.”
To learn more about the GAIN Conference and see all 2019 GAINer awardees, visit www.theGAINconference.com.
Marketing IT Offerings: Ensure your messaging is on target with helping government improve performance, customer experience and operational costs.
Traditional commercial tactics do not always translate seamlessly into the public sector market. Aligning your message to your customer’s mission needs and outcomes, marketing to multiple agency stakeholders (from technologists to procurement professionals) and transitioning your position from vendor to partner/educator can significantly improve the strength of your marketing and messaging to this niche market.
Lou Anne Brossman and Steve Watkins from Government Marketing University interview marketing executives Liz Anthony (ViON Corporation), Aaron Heffron (Market Connections) and Milo Speranzo (Dell EMC) about effectively marketing IT service offerings in the public sector. This discussion provides fellow government marketers insights and best practices for the evolving government IT landscape.
- Your marketing collateral should showcase BOTH your services AND your product offerings.
- Federal marketing is evolving from product to solution focus. Your marketing should focus on how you can help your customers meet their mission, not their bottom line.
- Educating your customer is essential to solution marketing (and selling.) Help them understand all aspects of the solution to their current problems, and review solutions to the problems they haven’t even realized they have yet.
- Newer “As A Service” models require multiple messages. Multiple audiences play a role including technologists, compliance and procurement professionals.
- Do not treat the government as its own vertical, but as a robust economy with its own verticals. Customize your marketing to different verticals within the public sector economy you are going for (state, local, federal, agency).
- If you are new to government or vertical, leverage any name brand equity you may have in the commercial space, across other verticals or even other products to get a leg up in the market. It’s not completely necessary to run away from your established commercial roots.
- Consider the future buyers in the public sector audience and how they gather information – generational turnover in leadership positions requires a trusted partner to help guide them.
- With so many events and media outlets in the public sector space, be strategic on where you spend valuable time, energy and resources. Triangulate where your customer and their mission aligns with your offerings and solutions and place your focus there.
- Look at opportunities to partner with associations and volunteer opportunities in areas of focus for your government customers.
- Utilize great free resources such as fbo.gov, performance.gov, fpds.gov and other government sites.
Listen to the full podcast. (Podcast length: 52 minutes)