Your website is still among the best ways to deliver content to your customers. Who says? Nearly 70% of federal IT decision-makers, according to Market Connections polling (Source: Content Marketing Review: Federal & Beyond). However, you still need to drive traffic, and search engines are the traffic cops. Are you investing in making your public-sector website easily navigable and optimized to be found? Search engine optimization (SEO) makes a difference.
Why Should SEO Matter to Government Marketers?
Eight out of ten federal IT decision-makers use search engines like Google to find what they’re looking for (Source: Content Marketing Review: Federal & Beyond). You can’t expect public sector decision-makers to just know about your company and enter your company name verbatim into their browser of choice. Is your company’s site popping up on the first page of results? Do you know the words and phrases associated with the product or services you offer? To ensure your audience can find you, marketers must find the push and pull balance.
In our own efforts to reach the federal workforce, we have experienced first-hand the trend of the past 2-3 years: spam filters have become even more rigid in allowing vendor emails to get through to agency email addresses, and agencies are strengthening ad blockers or even blocking sites altogether. B2G marketers can not only rely on traditional push methods (email, social media, digital advertising), but also maximize pull methods (earned and sponsored content articles, speaking engagements, SEO) to ensure they are and remain top of mind for agencies and driving website traffic.
SEO Must-Know: Google’s Algorithm Changes Are Coming…
As the most-frequented search engine, there’s no avoiding that we must pay attention to how Google ranks our websites. Co-founder of Ocean 5 Strategies, Kris Brinker, recently shared information about Google’s upcoming algorithm change, Core Web Vitals. Set to launch in the next couple of months, the change in algorithm will focus on website user experience including load time, interactivity and visual stability. Your website will not only have to be mobile-friendly, but mobile-first (and secure) to maximize its position according to Google’s new algorithm.
While the user experience will play an increased role in how Google ranks your website, you can’t ignore what your website contains for those who actually get there!
Search Engine-Friendly AND Content-Rich
As Kris puts it, “Don’t neglect the importance of great content.” She continues, “Your content helps you build relationships and earn trust. Gone are the days that past performance and accuracy of language in a bid were the keys to winning the contract award. Today, B2G companies must compete to attract customers to their brand by providing compelling, quality, educational materials, thought leadership, and high visibility of capabilities that can be found online.”
According to Brinker, Google is also putting importance on quality content. According to her article, Google drops a big hint:
“While all of the components of page experience are important, we will prioritize pages with the best information overall, even if some aspects of page experience are subpar. A good page experience doesn’t override having great, relevant content. [Emphasis added]”
What Is Relevant Content to Government IT Decision-Makers?
Over the years, Market Connections has studied public sector audiences to provide government marketers insights on what content they prefer, what it should contain, how they prefer to receive it, and where they go to find it.
To hear results from this year’s Content Marketing Review: Reaching the Public Sector, a study of the federal, state & local, and education markets, register for our virtual event on Thursday, May 20 at 2 PM (ET).
Guest blogger: Kris Brinker, Ocean 5 Strategies
There is no such thing as doing business with the federal government. We do business with people—government decision-makers, federal humans—who all have goals, fears, needs, priorities, and pain points.
The US government continues to offer opportunities as the largest public procurement marketplace. Just a small piece of the federal pie would be a huge win. But, the hurdles and barriers government contractors need to overcome have not only changed but also become greater.
The customer base for government contractors is becoming harder and harder to reach and contractors have to do more than ever to break through. New marketing techniques and technologies must be considered to stay competitive.
According to respected government business strategic advisor and published author, Judy Bradt, ”Many GovCons use databases to look for their next opportunity and can waste THOUSANDS of dollars and hours chasing work. That’s ’Opportunity Illusion.’ Instead of asking, ’What can I bid?’, winners focus on the right question: ’Who’s my buyer?’ ”
You need to build brand reputation and visibility long before the RFP. You also need to continue building those relationships with buyers and decision-makers throughout a long sales cycle.
Combining this with a fundamental shift in the way people are making purchasing decisions, means you need new and innovative marketing strategies to stay on top and win contracts.
Enter Buyer Personas, a Winning Strategy
Buyer personas are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers based on qualitative and quantitative data and research. Creating and having a deep understanding of your buyer persona(s) is critical to content creation, sales follow up, product development, and customer acquisition and retention.
Federal Personas to Support Your Federal Content Marketing
Creating content with a detailed persona of your federal buyer in mind allows you to go beyond agency needs and shows them you can speak to their goals, needs, pain points, and fears—both professionally as well as personally. It allows you to create your educational materials and marketing messages from a voice of empathy, not selling.
“Many government decision makers want to learn about new things, while others need justifications for existing decisions, depending on their role and personality” said Aaron Heffron, president at Market Connections, “our past review of federal content preferences and the differences between various individuals shows that by effectively delivering quality content that’s on-point and directly relevant, you show your commitment to being a partner, not just a vendor”
Past performance and accuracy of language in a bid are no longer the only keys to winning the contract award. Today, B2G companies must compete to attract buyers to their brand by providing compelling, quality content tailored to meet their specific needs, behaviors and concerns.
By first developing a clear vision of your federal persona, you can tailor your content to meet their specific needs, behaviors, and concerns. Focus on your carefully refined buyer personas and produce the content they want to consume in the format that is most appealing to them. For example, the agency contracting officers you need to influence might be most interested in information in video format, while a senior executive may prefer to read about your capabilities in the form of a white paper. By understanding your personas’ preferences, you can better understand how to personalize your content just for them.
How Do I Start Creating Federal Personas?
A good starting point is to take a look at your current clients and start to tell a story about their purchasing behavior, goals, challenges, needs, etc. You may even want to begin by experimenting with default personas available in some email or automated marketing platforms, then supplementing them with your own. Remember, your federal personas will be semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers based on qualitative and quantitative data and research. The strongest buyer personas are based on market research as well as insights gathered from your actual customer base (through surveys, interviews, etc.).
You may need as few as one or two personas, or as many as 20, depending on your business. If you’re new to personas, start small—you can always develop more personas later if needed—but get started! When possible, avoid reinventing the wheel and use information already in the market. Also consider personas developed by reputable independent market research and specialized federal marketing firms as a first step into your persona development. I was excited to discover that in July 2020, Market Connections will begin releasing their federal persona bundles—developed from their research and interviews of 300 federal IT decision-makers.
With hundreds of billions of federal contract dollars to compete for, a fundamental shift in the way people are now making purchasing decisions, and continually changing technology, companies that market to government agencies have more hurdles than ever to win contracts. Creating and implementing federal personas is a key component of a modern B2G winning strategy. Utilizing existing market research can save you time and increase the accuracy of your content development.
Kris Brinker is co-founder of Ocean 5 Strategies. With a track record of helping their customers grow their businesses, Kris and the Ocean 5 team specialize in award-winning website design, SEO, content marketing, and related digital marketing services. Connect with Kris on LinkedIn.
Ocean 5 provides marketing plans, strategies, and programs that generate more highly qualified leads, more closed contracts, and increased profit. Ocean 5 clients have enjoyed benefits such as 500% ROI, 600% increase in client acquisition, 218% increase in profit, and 216% increase in conversion rates. You can find more information at Ocean5Strategies.com