The use of research to position a company as a thought leader in the marketplace is a tried and true method to increase credibility, raise visibility and communicate the value of products and services. We have partnered with numerous large and small government contractors to give them new, high quality market data. When we first started thought leadership research over ten years ago, our research experts sat around a table with our client SMEs and a technology journalist to discuss the issues that came out of a client’s new research study. The journalist used the research, and the interview with the SME, to build an article that highlighted a “recent trend” in the industry. As years went by, conversations with journalists tapered off and sponsored articles or white papers became the preferred methods to communicate your story. We worked with clients to combine research results with SME expertise into a voice that would be easily understood by the target audience. The result was a balance of new information with expert opinion and commentary that was digestible for target audiences.
However, today we’re seeing a new trend that is potentially undercutting the overall value of new market information and customer thought leadership research.
We realize our customers live in a multi-media world, bombarded with news and information accessible on multiple devices throughout the day. Because their customer’s time is so fragmented, many of our clients have taken to boiling research down into smaller chunks, eschewing written descriptions and narrative for graphical representations and pictures. As experts understanding the needs of the federal technology decision-maker, we often recommend that clients make research more approachable and engaging.
While we understand the need to make data digestible, we’re now wondering, “Are our clients now taking it too far?” We are finding our clients increasingly requesting only the development of graphics and pictures to try to tell the same story that we used to tell in 3-5 written pages. A new trend has emerged for using infographics highlighting 4-6 data points in an attempt to quickly communicate a thesis about marketplace issues and how our clients’ products or services provide the solution.
Meanwhile, our latest research on the types of content that decision-makers want, and how and when they want to get it, tells us that federal customers are doing much of their research online, even before talking to a potential vendor. Early in the buying process they search for white papers, detailed descriptions and opinions on how to address the issues they are facing. In a time when they need the most information about the full scope of the issue, will an image suffice?? Have we (falsely) assumed that the customer, compelled by a visual alone, will contact us? Can we really challenge the status quo within an agency with just a picture?
As we look towards 2018, we will challenge our clients to think about their marketing efforts, how and when they use different tools to communicate with prospective customers, and work towards helping them develop the right marketing assets. White papers? Yes (Sometimes). Infographics? Yes (Sometimes). Webinars and Events? Yes (Sometimes). The right mix is key.
Market Connections’ Federal Content Marketing Report can give you a good start as to what and when you need to communicate with your target. Download it now.