All government marketers understand the importance of including content in their marketing strategy, but winning government contractors make sure that their content contains the key features their audience is looking for.
According to Content Marketing Review: Federal and Beyond, this includes data and research to support their position, product specifications and examples of past performance. The trouble is – these specific pieces can often be the densest and most un-user-friendly bits of information you have!
Using Subject Matter Experts
How can you highlight these features in a way that is easily comprehensible and relatable to your target audience (and, frankly, a little more interesting)? Use your subject matter experts (SMEs). Your SMEs can not only focus your materials on a particular process, technology, niche within a technology, or a particular agency, they can help influence RFPs (request for proposals) or those shaping them.
Government marketing expert, Mark Amtower, agrees. In a video for his YouTube channel, Amtower Raw, Mark discusses the importance and value of using SMEs to win government business.
Watch the full video here:
“These companies are more likely to win business because in the RFPs, and while the contracting officers are looking to build the RFPs, they’re looking for people out there who understand, write, and talk about this stuff. The more visible your SME is, the more they’re sharing – particularly through your website, through LinkedIn and other social platforms, through speaking or doing articles for trade publications – the more visible they are that way, the more they’re helping the contracting officer shape their RFP directly and indirectly.” He continues on by saying, “so you don’t have to be put it right in front of them, but you have to put it where they can find it. Building the platform that way and shaping it gives you consciously or unconsciously a preferred position. People like dealing with people who are thought leaders or subject matter experts.”
Industry vs. Government Thought Leaders
Thought leaders can reside in industry or government. At least one in five respondents to the Market Connections’ study expect their content to contain insights from thought leaders. Federal decision-makers look more towards industry thought leaders, while those in state and local indicated their preference for insights from either industry or government thought leaders (sometimes both).
The key lesson is this: when creating those valuable pieces of content, include the key features your audience is looking for. Subject matter experts can help provide key information around product specifications, data and research and even provide past performance examples in a friendly way by showcasing their expertise. Share that content across your website, social media, and trusted trade publications (including online, podcasts, video, print, and radio) to help educate your audience, highlight your position, and even shape an RFP.
Join us on Thursday, May 20 as we reveal results from the 2021 Content Marketing Review: Reaching the Public Sector which will highlight findings encompassing the full FED and SLED market.
Guest blogger: Mark Amtower, Amtower & Company
Market Connections’ Federal IT (FIT) Persona Study should resonate with everyone selling IT products or services to the government. The always evolving IT landscape shortens the cycle of Moore’s Law every day, making it critical for the savvy IT product or services contractor to educate federal buyers on a regular basis. Smart federal marketers understand that to increase the likelihood of success, they need to extend this education process to a broader audience of influencers and decision-makers at target agencies. The FIT Persona Study helps marketers understand each type of persona that can participate in that process.
Once you determine the characteristics of the personas you need to influence, start mapping out content that fits their needs at each stage of the buying process (see, Market Connections’ Federal Content Marketing Review).
According to studies by other major market research firms, buyers begin their journey by doing research online, looking for information on the products and services they are likely to purchase in the relative near term. These studies show that 60%+ of the buying process is researched before outreach to any vendor. Mandiant Security Validation’s (Mandiant Solutions, part of FireEye) Chief Marketing Officer, Tracey Moon, coined this the “dark funnel” in a presentation around the customer journey of Government Marketing University’s 2019 GAIN conference.
Building Content for Your Target Audience
Your content must fit each step of the process starting with the identification of the issue to be resolved. Then you should educate the buyer of the problem area and how it can be addressed. After that, you can educate on what your solution is and does, in what situations it is applicable, ease (or not) of use, etc., developing content specific for each persona in the process.
The newer the technology or technological advance, the bigger the opportunity is to jump in early with good content to educate your customer.
However, key influencers and decision-makers may have differing challenges with technology that need to be addressed and using personas can provide guidance on the types of problems or challenges that need addressing in your content. For example, you may need to address technical challenges for the frontline IT specialist, how it is deployed for the project manager, versus how it can help reach agency mission goals for leadership or how it can be procured to the procurement officer.
The most important thing: develop your content with the idea of educating your customer, not selling to them.
The next step is to understand how they prefer to consume content. If you are targeting end-users, you may be able to get away with one or two formats; however, if you are trying to reach an agency and all their key players, you may want to consider the format in which you develop your content pieces. An end-user may prefer a video, a project manager may prefer a white paper and a CISO may prefer a podcast. One type of content format may not fit all.
Marketing Your Content
Unlike the famous movie quote, “if you build it, they will come,” you cannot create content and expect your customer to find it on their own. Once you have built your content, you need to market that content across different platforms. Use SEO, social media, trade media, and other sources to announce the presence of your content and direct customers back to your resources. Another valuable use of personas is to help you make strategic decisions on where to market based on target personas’ key preferences.
For example, if your key target personas show a preference for using social media such as LinkedIn, there are many ways you can drive traffic to your content:
- Simple, easy and no cost: Post a synopsis and a link, then get your sales, marketing and business development teams to share the content with their networks.
- Group pages: Check agencies’ company pages, click on the “# of employees on LinkedIn,” then use the “All Filters” button to look for specific job titles. Once you find professionals that match your target personas, you can look to see what “groups” they belong to and if possible, join those group(s) and start sharing your content there as well.
- LinkedIn articles: Byline or have company ambassadors (leadership) byline short articles to be published on LinkedIn.
- Advertising: If budgets permit, consider boosting your posts with LinkedIn advertising.
Educating your government customer in a targeted manner by creating content that addresses their specific challenges, in formats they prefer to learn from, and marketing that content in areas/platforms that they are more likely to visit, can only help increase the likelihood of consideration during the procurement process.
Mark Amtower has been advising federal contractors of all sizes on the best practices for marketing to the federal government since 1985. Most recently he has focused on social selling, differentiation, building the SME platform and content marketing. He is the author of several books, has hosted a weekly show on the Federal News Network for 14 years, and has been a contributing writer to Washington Technology for 12 years. He is a frequent speaker at industry events. Connect with Mark on LinkedIn.