Artificial Intelligence. Block Chain. Machine Learning. If Casey Kasem (RIP) still ran American Top 40™, these would top the government technology charts for 2019. We all love playing the hits, but have you ever read the lyrics and the liner notes? I have, and it’s not easy to interpret; and if I can’t understand them, having been in the field for decades, what hope do my customers have?
Bringing a new technology to bear in the market poses a number of challenges for suppliers and buyers alike. How does one describe the benefits of the technology (let alone, how it works)? What’s the best way to market a new concept when the technology itself means many different things to many different people? Add the additional fact that federal government buyers are notoriously risk averse, and you face a real challenge to bringing new ideas and options to customers and prospects alike.
We have spent the last 20+ years making sure the words, messages, materials and channels used by the federal contracting community connect with the target market. Tapping into some of the recent research, there are some best practices that can help find your authentic voice.
Tell them a story. Storytelling is an ages-old tool to both entertain and pass along lessons to future generations. Information embedded within a story format is more likely to be recalled in the future. We have found the same when discussing new technology concepts with both a technical and non-technical crowd.
The 2019 Market Connections Content Marketing Review1 highlights this fact. Research reports, white papers and product or service demonstrations provide the most valuable marketing content for federal buyers of emerging technologies. Within these content formats it is important to discuss the value that these technologies bring to the agency, while providing a clear description, in non-technical terms, that explains the steps and processes to integrate something new and different into their daily routines. These materials are being read by program managers, C-level leaders and technical staff alike. Make sure to tell an appealing and relevant story that helps all customers justify the decisions they make.
Create on-the-go collateral ready to share, but meet them where they are. “On the go” means many different things to many different people (and different generations). It is therefore important to understand the way your customers learn and share knowledge. Their outlook and habits may surprise you.
The past two years have borne witness to the explosion of mobile marketing. Every website, article and write up has been optimized to be viewed on a small screen on the train, at the gym, or even at the office. This evolution has been a bonus for the new generation of workers for whom the workday has no real beginning, middle or end. Younger workers have shown a willingness to jump between personal and work related reading and media consumption at the drop of a hat. They will click on work related content on their personal social media platforms, just as they consume personal content while “at work.”
And yet, many continue to make decisions on new technology purchases that are still decidedly old-school. Our recent studies have shown that nearly six-in-ten (56%) federal workers still print out material for future reading. Indeed, more than four-in-ten (43%) print it out to share! Yes, these individuals typically share content they might otherwise have preferred in digital format, but realize that those they are sharing it with will most likely consume it on paper. Bottom line, despite your company’s pushing new technological frontiers, the old technologies are the ones getting the word out.
Leverage trusted sources to reach customers and prospects. Buying into any new technology requires a leap of faith. IT and program staff are taking a risk by changing the way work is being done at their agency. They need to trust who they partner with because their reputation, and job, are on the line. Whether your company is well known, or not known at all, for its new technology, leveraging connections with trusted partners like trade associations and government-specific media platforms is the best path to connecting with the customer.
Members of the federal community join professional and trade associations to help learn new things, connect with others and get a leg up professionally. These organizations provide a valuable platform to the government contracting community to deliver information on new ideas and new technologies. Joint white papers and research reports, co-branded events, and other speaking engagements provide a vehicle to educate and inform a specific target market. Finding the right, trusted group(s) to target your customers should be at the top of the list of any new launch plan for a new business area.
And finally, differentiate through authentic language and not buzzwords. We all have heard or read the following:
“Our company provide innovative, cutting-edge services meant to disrupt the existing paradigm through a combination of best-in class products and agile, game-changing leadership.”
This company could be doing anything in any field. Writing a description of how your product, service or even your company, is different than your competitors can be difficult for B2G marketers. Commonly used words like innovative, cutting edge and next generation, have lost their impact and can ring hollow to customers. While marketers often get requests to use these words in their materials, can including these words in marketing content hurt a brand, rather than help it? According to our research, certain words and phrases may annoy readers more than they explain what you do.
Content aimed towards government IT customers, whether a white paper, marketing collateral, or a white board-style video, should be built upon three pillars: data and research, product specifications, and past performance. While it may be difficult to avoid all buzzwords, your content should focus on including these three pillars to ensure you keep your customer engaged. Technology decision makers want direct and informative content without the jargon to avoid the feeling they are being sold a bill of goods.
New technologies pose a challenge to buyers and sellers alike. However, by identifying the best ways to articulate the power of these technological advances, and by reaching the right people at the right time, you can increase the likelihood your customers and prospects will remember you. This manner of communications is critical to laying a foundation of trust. And it is on this basis that a productive and long-term relationship is built and produces hits for years to come.
Aaron Heffron is the President of Market Connections, a market research firm that provides custom B2G, B2B and government research services. He has over 20 years of experience in research and analysis in various industries and sectors, including federal government, trade associations, technology, television and radio, and telecommunications.
This article was published in the Summer 2019 Service Contractor Magazine. Click here to view a PDF of this article.