Top Five Takeaways from GAIN 2020

GAIN 2020 takeawaysIn its fifth year, Government Marketing University’s GAIN conference pulled together federal marketers, C-level executives at federal agencies, and mainstream marketing experts to share best practices, insights, tools and advice in an effort to educate federal marketers.

We pulled together five key takeaways from this year’s virtual conference to share with you.

1. Do your research.

A common theme among all C-level government executives was their desire for government contractors to “do their homework” before calling on them. This included:

  • Researching strategic plans, goals and mission
  • Identifying any questions they might have
  • Understanding their customers’ experience
  • Formulating a preliminary plan as to how you can help them improve service to their customers

You can find this information by going beyond agency websites, to the OMB dashboard as well as reading about agencies in federal publications to find what their chiefs are saying publicly, and stories focused on agency needs. It’s also important to pay attention to virtual and in-person events and conferences where agency staff are speaking and what they are saying. Connect the dots and understand their needs.

Think beyond what is available publicly, and truly understand your target audience’s unique needs through custom research. Effective, targeted questioning may help answer questions about awareness, challenges, needs and where they are on their customer journey related to your products and services. Thought leadership research can help you understand those needs while also giving you the fodder to create content that connects those dots.

2. Focus below federal.

GAIN’s government speakers and marketing experts spoke on the importance of creating content that was focused more narrowly than just a generic federal audience, using a more agency-based marketing approach. “Respect that the mission is unique. It’s not just government… but there are over 400 agencies who all do things differently.” Don’t give a standard pitch to a government customer; ensure you target that agency. Edit your message to their mission.

One should also consider where to place this content. Focus on not only general federally-focused publications, websites, and associations, but also those niche sites and organizations focused on your target agency. Be where they go for information.

The Federal Media & Marketing Study can provide you more details based on agency, product/service type or location.

3. One size does not fit all.

As marketers, we already know all too well, content is king. However, when creating content, marketers often wonder, what is the type of content my target customer WANTS?

When creating your content, make sure you build it out into DIFFERENT formats. Consider how people like to receive information. When asked across the four days, the government speakers varied in their preferences. Some mentioned they preferred white papers, while others said case studies and testimonials. Some prefer to read, others to listen, while others like to watch. Consider length and language of content. This confirms what we have seen in our Content Marketing Review, a biennial study which asks government employees about their preferences around content marketing.

If your content is tech heavy, you may want to consider content for both the techy and the end-user who is not so tech-savvy. In addition to the Content Marketing Review, you may also want to consider our Federal IT (FIT) Personas Study that highlights preferences on a deeper level and includes preferences and priorities of key personas for both civilian and defense federal IT markets.

4. Don’t sell, story-tell.

Regardless of format, whether it’s content creation or a meeting with your customer, you need to go beyond “selling your product or service.” Share a story on how you have solved problems for other agencies in the past. As one speaker put it, storytelling may “open their aperture” to problems they didn’t even know they may encounter. Go beyond “product talk,” and tell your story.

This can be done in multiple ways. One speaker suggested scheduling a “virtual coffee break/lunch” where you meet and share a story on how you have solved a problem in the past. Other speakers suggested case studies or use cases. Be authentic. Make it personal and share your real human experience.

And finally, and most importantly, if given the opportunity to meet, listen. Don’t make it a presentation, but a conversation. Provide your customer the space to also share their problems and concerns and tell their story too.

5. Once won, don’t lose.

Adriane Burton, CIO, Office of Information Technology, Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) reminded vendors not to be “short-sighted.” She noted that oftentimes once a contract was won, many of the people that the agency was familiar with would disappear.

Once a contract is won, vendors need to continue to deliver results and ensure that customers are really happy.

When you’re sitting in the same space as the customer, are you sure they would be willing to tell you about creeping concerns? In a remote work environment when you are NOT in front of your customer, can you tell if they are satisfied with your services or products? With potential millions of dollars at risk, ensure small problems do not snowball into larger ones that can risk your contract renewal. Consider hiring a third-party firm to find out your customer’s true level of satisfaction.

To learn more about GAIN 2020 and to watch the recorded sessions, visit: