16 Oct Why Agency Based Marketing is Critical in B2G
In the commercial space, companies often have thousands of potential customers, and because of this, their marketing focuses on broad categories of customers segmented by job title, vertical market, etc.. But, in the government sector, companies might be wise to look at hyper-specific marketing efforts that target one agency or even one program within an agency. For those companies that count government as just one of many customer segments, the marketing team may not approach customer outreach this way, but if you want to make sales into the government, your competitors are likely using a strategy called “Agency Based Marketing (ABM)” to reach buyers.
ABM was a big topic of discussion at the recent Government Marketing University GAIN 2017 Conference, which focused solely on marketing in the government sector. With an ABM mindset, companies look deeply at how to understand the needs of government buyers and contract holders and nurture leads in this space.
While many of the tactics used to target government opportunities are similar to those used in commercial sector marketing, there were several raised that are worth noting.
- Research – Every marketing effort starts with data, but in the government space, the types of data needed are likely very different. Speakers and roundtable discussions highlighted the need to understand the various contract vehicles through which sales can be made. Companies need to understand which contracts can be used to procure their products or services. From a competitive standpoint, they also need to understand which contracts are expiring and which are currently held by vendors that are not allowed to recompete for the contract award.
- Content – Government buyers are often aware that they exist inside a bubble, and they likely work hard to understand what is going on in the outside world and how technology can benefit their mission. Content should always address pain points within government, rather than focusing on bits, bytes, feeds and speeds. But, marketers should be aware that government buyers have some limitations on using certain types of content. Many agencies do not allow access to YouTube or social networks; others limit the types of attachments that can come into government email. Marketers must know those rules at an agency level to ensure their content can get past the gates. They should also explore many channels through which to push their content, including media sites, events, radio/broadcast and LinkedIn, rather than expecting customers to find your content on their website.
- Relationships – While government contracts are open for any company to apply, being selected for the final rounds relies on meeting specific criteria and also on relationships. Marketers should build relationships in multiple ways – at events, through influencers and partners, and maybe most importantly, through word of mouth. Government CIOs and their teams talk and use each other as sounding boards on vendors, contractors and products. Many speakers and companies at GAIN mentioned how critical it is to either have a relationship with the potential customer before going in, or find someone who does to introduce you.
- Thought Leadership – Government buyers need to see your team as experts in their space. Back to the idea of living in a bubble, government buyers look to contractors and suppliers as windows to the outside world. If your team can help them understand end users and market needs, this is a huge value to government customers. Many companies approach content and thought leadership as a way to talk about their own products, but attention should really be paid to providing insight into market trends and evolving user needs. If you can provide interesting, thought-provoking data or if your executives can talk at a high level about important issues, this helps you stand out in contrast to companies that only talk about themselves.
- Current Customer Marketing – A well-rounded ABM program should include marketing to customer contacts and their networks throughout a contract lifecycle. Speakers noted that they looked for ways to highlight the success of a government program via internal government channels as well as to the public. They had specific efforts focused on making sure that all the stakeholders within an agency consistently knew about the success of a program.
- Case Studies – While it can be hard to get a government customer to speak publicly about what your company has done (especially in the security and intelligence space), there are ways to work around this. While an agency may not speak to media about your work, they may be open to speaking at a closed-door event within the intelligence community, for example. Mass communications channels may be leveraged for agencies and programs that have direct consumer missions, since they are often obligated to be transparent about success metrics. Companies should make sure they know these rules and should think about how they can best leverage disclosure requirements.
The bottom line in government marketing is that it is highly unique to the agency being targeted. While you might be able to repurpose some commercial campaigns and content, you likely will employ very different ways to get messages to customers. And, unlike the commercial sector, there is no such thing as mass marketing in government. Campaigns, content and relationships are highly specific to an agency and program. Marketers need specific expertise and intelligence in this area to understand how to compete.
GAIN 2018 is set for November 1.