Merritt Group

WiT B2B & B2G Marketing ChallengesEarlier this summer Market Connections attended Women in Technology’s (WIT) “Decoding B2B & B2G PR & Marketing Trends” in partnership with Merritt Group. This informative discussion brought together a panel of leading marketing and PR professionals from small to large companies including Bitdefender, Hybrent, KPMG US and Microsoft to discuss challenges they face and successes they’ve had in marketing to other businesses and the public sector.

In part two (read part one) of this blog post series we’ll focus on a second challenge discussed by panelists: broken internal systems and processes.

How Can We Better Work Together: Broken Internal Systems & Processes

Market Connections often works with B2G clients to support their business strategies from brand awareness through business development. The internal structure of these companies often varies, affecting the business growth efficiency and success of the organization. This was echoed by the panelists. Whether it’s interdepartmental communication, collaboration or even the simple inefficiencies in using marketing automation systems, the panelists shared their perspective on the good and bad of how their teams work together.

Sales & Marketing: A Contentious Relationship? Or Working Together?

How many times have we heard the following:

“The marketing leads don’t give us what we need” or “the sales rep just cares about his or her individual sales”

While each group may have different short-term goals, both need to work together to achieve long-term success.

According to Marni Puente, Market Development Leader from KPMG every member of her team must focus on the organizational client interaction plan, understand where the strategic relationships are, and together support negotiations, decision-making and networking. In her perspective, “If you’re responsible for marketing you’re responsible for business growth too.” She continues to say, “Whether it’s…doing business development [yourself], or …. working closely with the business development team, (business growth) is something every marketer thinks about.”

Are companies structured for this integration?

Market Connections conducted a study of government contractors in 2018 that revealed that over half (51 percent) of respondents stated their business development (BD/Sales) and marketing departments reported to different supervisors, nearly four in ten reporting to a single supervisor and the remaining listing either BD reporting to Marketing or vice-versa. While more than half may be reporting to different supervisors, this does not mean there isn’t room for integration; meeting regularly can ensure communication and alignment of business goals.

According to our study, many successful companies, nearly two-thirds of respondents, said their sales and marketing teams meet at least once a month, and a quarter of which said they meet weekly. However, interestingly, nearly one in five said they meet maybe once a year, if at all. Anna Wehberg, Senior Director of Marketing at Bitdefender validated our results. “If sales and marketing are not aligned, business doesn’t seem to flow right.” According to Wehberg, her sales VP and her speak, text, or Skype every day.

According to the speakers, those departments that work together see better success. A strong relationship between these two departments is key. As one panelist put it, “When relationships are strained things are going to be bad… When things are good, they’re really good.”

The overall feeling is that there is a general trend moving towards the integration of sales and marketing, with a strong focus on relationship building between the two groups.

Marketing Supporting Business Development

How are marketers supporting their BD counterparts? At Microsoft, Tonya Klause, Communications Manager US and Americas Services, talked about reducing redundancies while maximizing the “story” of Microsoft. Marketing plays a key role in training their sales team to use tools such as LinkedIn, Navigator and Elevate. Skills and techniques to effectively reach customers include content sharing on Navigator and LinkedIn, helping executives develop their profile, unique voice, and blogging skills.

Marketing can also help support the BD/Sales teams through webinar trainings and follow-up. Wehberg explained that in addition to hosting training sessions, she records those sessions and saves them online for later access. She takes notes and pulls highlights from webinars and shares them along with links to the original webinar to team members via email as a follow-up. She even texts the sales teams to ensure they have the information. She tries to find different ways to give sales reps information in different formats and repeats the message several times, understanding that people may respond and learn differently.

In general, we are moving towards integration. In order to have success in the market, it is essential for marketing and sales to collaborate, communicate and have integrated strategies. Regardless of how departments are currently structured, these teams must work together toward their common business growth goals. Best practices include: keeping lines of communication open between executives, regular weekly or monthly team meetings for strategy and planning and providing training opportunities to ensure a unified external brand as well as a sharing of best marketing and sales practices.

Thanks again to WIT and Merritt Group for putting together a great event with insightful conversation around challenges and trends and many thanks to each panelist for thoughtful input that will be supportive to B2B and B2G marketers.

Read part one of our blog series providing an overview of the event and insights into top challenge: keeping content relevant.

WIT B2B and B2G marketing challengesEarlier this summer Market Connections attended Women in Technology’s (WIT) “Decoding B2B & B2G PR & Marketing Trends” in partnership with Merritt Group. This informative discussion brought together a panel of leading marketing and PR professionals from small to large companies including Bitdefender, Hybrent, KPMG US and Microsoft to discuss challenges they face and successes they’ve had in marketing to other businesses and the public sector.

According to the panelists, some of the biggest challenges include: keeping content relevant, internal broken systems (processes), speed of the industry and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and email marketing.

With so many great panelist insights around key challenges they face, we decided to report on highlights and recommendations across two separate blog posts. In this first of these two, we’ll focus on the first of the challenges identified: keeping content relevant.

Content Generation

Understanding the importance of content marketing in reaching federal audiences, Market Connections seeks to understand best marketing practices so we can share and educate our clients serving the public sector. This includes conducting regular surveys and hearing from marketing experts. We were eager to hear from panelists at WIT Connect on best practices for keeping content relevant. From personalization, to purpose, to length and finally distribution, they provided some keen insights.

When it came to actual content creation, Anna Wehberg, Bitdefender’s Senior Director of Marketing, advised that content should be personalized, using the target audience’s language while avoiding the use of jargon and acronyms. (Read more about Market Connections’ similar findings of the most “annoying jargon” among federal decision-makers.) Marni Puente, Market Development Leader from KPMG agreed. Content should keep an end-user in mind. She went on to say, “Content should offer something of value, it’s not just about the sales, but think about what is in it for them.”

What does the public sector value in content? Looking at key features from our recent study in this market, content should always have the three following features: product specifications, examples of past performance and data and research to support content. Puente’s comments echoed these results, “I’m a big fan of content having primary research… Being able to offer data nuggets…is a great way to reel people in and go into meetings with a CIO and say ‘hey did you know, our survey shows this…”

In addition to personalization, Wehberg discussed the importance of having content for unique phases of the buying journey, including:

  1. Awareness and education
  2. Consideration (recognize I have a problem, now who are my players that can solve that problem)
  3. Preference (making a purchase and taking next steps)

For each of these phases, she noted that content should be trackable and have a purpose. If it wasn’t generating business on the other end, it should be reconsidered. Market Connections also found the importance of having unique content dependent on the stage of the buying process. Content across all three phases should be informative and educational. As you move further down the funnel, certain marketing assets like case studies and product demos become more and more important. (Learn more in our 2017 Federal Content Marketing Study.)

Puente also highlighted the shift over the past 5 years from the long narrative to more snackable/digestible content as a teaser to help reel them in. Tonya Klause, Communications Manager US and Americas Services at Microsoft agreed. “While there is a place for longer-form storytelling content… it has fallen out of favor.” Technology is playing a role in how long content is holding our attention, or as Klause put it, “We are all trained to focus on something for a couple seconds before moving on.”

Marketers should also consider their audience’s demographics. What captures the attention of the incoming, younger workforce, and for how long? According to our recent study, younger audiences are willing to spend more time with content they can sit back and listen to or watch such as webinars, videos and podcasts.

(Learn more about how long federal audiences are willing to spend with content.)

Klause continued to say that for Microsoft, it’s important to incorporate customer references in their storytelling; however, getting government references is one of their biggest challenges. According to our 2018 Federal Media & Marketing Study, over half of respondents listed recommendations from peers and colleagues as a most trusted source of information and over one-quarter cited customer testimonials. While it may be challenging to secure a government reference, there can be some workarounds. For example, anonymizing the referrer by using a case study (listing only the agency or agency type) could be one way of showcasing past experience. Citing a local or state agency (who may have less restrictions) or an industry reference could be another. According to our recent study, federal decision-makers looked to insights from industry thought-leaders even more so than their government counterparts.

Thanks to WIT and Merritt Group for putting together a great event with insightful conversation around challenges and trends and many thanks to each panelist for thoughtful input that will be supportive to B2B and B2G marketers.

Keep an eye out for a future blog post focused on the second key challenge identified: internal broken systems and processes, coming later this month.

merritt group

Matt Donovan, Vice President Government, Merritt Group

Merritt Group

Jayson Schkloven, Executive Vice President and Partner, Merritt Group

This Thursday, Market Connections and Merritt Group will release the results of the 2017 Federal Content Marketing Study. We thought we’d give you a sneak peek and discuss a few of the findings with Merritt Group Executive Vice President and Partner, Jayson Schkloven, and Vice President Government, Matt Donovan.

MC: The data shows a need to develop different types of content for different stages of the buying process. Where should contractors faced with tight budgets start?

Jayson: We often advise our clients to get as far left of the RFP as possible. Contractors need to be able to win the business before the RFP is even released. We advise clients to build thought leadership content up front as requirements are still being investigated and defined; content that positions them as experts on key topics and trends in the eyes of the federal buyer before the RFI or RFP is even released. That positions the contractor as a go-to authority when the RFI or RFP is being shaped, well before it hits the street.

Matt: I completely agree. Especially from an awareness and market education perspective – you must get as far left of the RFP as you possibly can to avoid being left out.

This process is so different from the commercial sector where the stages of the buyer’s journey progress to that final transaction. In the federal market, if you’re not included in the RFP, you’ve missed your chance to compete before those stages unfold.

Jayson: This initial type of content is about thought leadership, be it white papers or eBooks or position pieces. But the study data shows as buyers get further along in the buying cycle, they have different content needs; at this point they want to see case studies, demos or a use case. This is a challenge when contractors can’t name their federal clients.

MC: What is your advice?

Jayson: Use cases and case studies are always hard for marketers to secure in the federal space. If you have a client champion that is willing to be featured in a case study, that is always going to be money well-spent and should be a priority. Once the case study is published, you can always use that to inform other content assets and thought leadership themes for the earlier stages in the buying process.

Matt: Agreed. In terms of that first touch, aim to be educational or tell them something they don’t already know about a critical pain point or challenge. Industry research has proven to be fantastic way to build awareness and start a dialogue that can lead into the following phases of the buying cycle.

MC: As federal decision makers are looking for that information, we know from various studies they face technical barriers to accessing some types of content, from websites that are blocked on work devices to bandwidth. We also know more and more, they are using their personal mobile devices to access content.

With that in mind, the study shows that almost one-third of contractors don’t take those existing barriers into account when developing content. What are your thoughts on that?

Matt: I think it’s essential to have a full understanding of any limits or barriers to communications federal agencies face. This market is unique in terms of email restrictions, or restricted social platforms and websites – especially within DoD and Intel. Will emails get through? Are social media sites blocked or prohibited during work hours?

But the thing to remember is many federal decision-makers are bringing their own devices to work and consuming content outside of work.

Jayson: The data also showed federal buyers are consuming content on the commute. When I see that, it begs the question: what are vendors and contractors who are trying to reach the federal audience doing to take advantage of this in new and innovative ways? Are they building websites and assets with a mobile-first approach?

Mobile has become a huge platform for content consumption and it continues to grow. Ensuring your website is responsive and mobile-friendly is table stakes at this point. But thinking a little bit more creatively about types of mobile content, like a podcast series or digital pocket guide, is something we are doing a lot more of with our clients. Or developing programmatic ad campaigns targeting mobile audiences or paid social campaigns on mobile platforms like Facebook Messenger; there are so many options.

Matt: Absolutely. Even on the social media piece, I think what the data is saying, and what our clients have noticed, is we’re all human beings; we’re on Facebook and Twitter after work. People don’t stop consuming information outside of the office. So even the tactics and channels that are prohibited at work may still reach the right decision maker and shouldn’t be completely left out of the marketing mix.

seo strategyMC: Part of that marketing mix includes getting found, right? Interestingly, the data shows search engines are the number one channel federal decision makers use to find content. Yet, 40% of contractors are not using search engine marketing (SEM). Do you think search engine optimization (SEO) alone is enough to capture those searches?

Jayson: Regardless of whether you’re investing in SEM, you need to make sure you are practicing good organic SEO. First, make sure you have relevant, pertinent content about your organization and your areas of expertise throughout your site and you are investing in updating it regularly.

I think too many organizations view their website as something they refresh every six months to a year or longer. That type of set-it-and-forget-it approach will not get you ranked organically. With our clients, we’re seeing greater success when they update the content on their site regularly. We sometimes develop a quarterly web strategy or monthly editorial calendar for their websites. In both cases, we build good content that is rich with targeted organic search terms that are also truly relevant.

It’s not about trying to game the search engines. The search algorithms have gotten too smart and those tactics can hurt more than they help your ranking. The key is to have a site that’s mobile friendly, follows good structure, is easy for search engines to index with content, and is updated regularly.

Matt: There is absolutely a place for SEM – it can be cost effective and search engines are where most of us start when we’re collecting information on a major purchase. But whether it’s organic with SEO or whether you’re using a paid strategy, it goes back to valuable content. If there isn’t any stickiness or engagement, and it’s not driving a follow-up action, the click didn’t mean much.

Want more? Act now: Registration ends April 25

When: Thursday, April 27, 8:30-11:30 AM (EDT)

Where: Crowne Plaza Tysons Corner
1960 Chain Bridge Rd., McLean, VA 22102

Register Now 

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