During my younger days I was fortunate enough to cut my teeth in the public sector at powerhouse Washington radio station WTOP, and was part of the launch of FederalNewsRadio. During that part of my career, I was lucky to be able to work with CMOs at just about every major defense and global technology brand serving the federal government. At the time, my biggest competitors were the stacks and stacks of Federal IT and Defense magazines that filled the bookcases behind them. These were the reams of tangible, tactile publications that their CEO’s demanded they advertise in before even considering buying 60-second slices of intangible “air.”

The precipitous decline in those print publications, combined with the impact of budget cuts on the federal agency buyer’s ability to travel to attend industry conferences, trade shows and seminars, has flipped that model on its head over the last 5 years. The resulting void of strong brand void has led to an increased thirst for more readily accessible “premium” content—white papers, e-books, survey reports and other in-depth materials that can be indispensable for government decision-makers. Yet, defense and technology vendors and contractors continue to peddle their wares using increasingly ineffective traditional methods of marketing.

The most notorious of these are companies that load up on traditional marketing to push government contracting vehicles—their IDIQs, GWACs and GSA Schedules – especially at the end of the federal buying season. There was once a time and a place for that – but no more. Marketing is now forever changed thanks to Al Gore – or who ever invented the internet.

As a result – government buyers have become real buyers just like you and I, involved to varying degrees in researching, influencing and taking themselves 75 percent through a buying process to ultimately select a solution that your company – and your 10 largest competitors – all provide.

This is why it is now so critical to target your marketing with premium content to specific and very real buyer personas. You need to put yourselves in their shoes to differentiate your brand and fill that void with contextually relevant content before your competitors do. No matter who that buyer is, they are all facing the same quandries:

  1. I have a problem, but I don’t know what the solution is.
  2. I know what some solutions are, but I don’t know which one is best for me.
  3. I know which solution I want, but I don’t know who to buy it from.

And while the best way to answer these is with content, the biggest obstacle I find since joining the agency side is that most of the companies we work with do not yet have mature content marketing strategies and lack the in-house resources needed to generate enough thoughtful, relevant content to drive engagement that results in traction for their brands in this market. The other challenge is their inability to harness the thought leadership of their subject matter experts. The people inside their company who have the expertise on issues most relevant to your target audience often do not have the time or have not been engaged to contribute content on a regular basis. As a result, marketers are struggling not only to develop the editorial calendar, but more importantly the content itself.

It’s no secret that a lot of successful marketers are turning to agencies to overcome this very challenge. When they do, they realize very quickly that we can capture more eyeballs – and drive much more significant and targeted brand engagement—by empowering them to become masters of their own content for far less than what they used to spend on traditional ads in all of those long-gone publications– and for a fraction of the cost of those radio ads. They all once had their time and place – and so will your brand if you continue to allow your competitors to outmarket you and find a cozy place for their content in the minds of your buyer.