Technology and defense companies who include the public sector as an important market view mid-summer as their time to get busy. For marketing to the Federal government, whose fiscal year begins October 1, we call this the “buying season,” because in August and September agency procurement officers will make their final selections to meet end-of-year requirements. With the government, allocated funds are often “use-it-or-lose-it,’ meaning they won’t carry on through the next fiscal year. Anything unspent becomes out-of-reach.
That’s why a sound marketing strategy tailored specifically to the Federal agencies is so important starting after the July 4th holiday. Giving program managers and those in procurement your best effort to select your products or solutions for their purchasing decisions is essential during these next several months. Here are our top tips for marketing to the Federal agencies during the Buying Season:
- Federalize the Message. Big brands who sell to many different sectors often don’t have the in-house knowledge or expertise to deliver a message to Federal agencies that will resonate with their decision-makers, instead simply repurposing marketing and messaging developed for the commercial markets. Big mistake. Federal officials think differently – and react differently – than commercial clients. Because agencies have fixed budgets, ROI (return on investment) is less important. Yes, budgets can be tight and the best value is important. But that’s a little different than ROI. Government officials have mission requirements to meet and want solutions that will achieve those. Telling them how your product will do that will have a far greater impact than how much money they can save.
- Look Like You Belong. Government officials don’t want to see campaigns that aren’t relevant to their needs. Nor do they react to campaigns that don’t look like them. My favorite mistake that I see all the time is campaigns that use stock images of executives in ultra-modern glass office high-rises. That’s not what government offices look like, and it’s hard to see the connection.
- Make Them Feel Like They Belong. Create a government-targeted landing page that is easy for them to find on your home page. Otherwise, they won’t spend much time hunting around hoping to find marketing materials that talk about their challenges and mission requirements. Use images and color palettes that fit in but also leverage accent colors to stand out. But… give the Feds some credit. They won’t jump at a jet fighter unless there is something about that jet that means something to them. Find the right images, not just ones that you think look patriotic.
- It’s a Big Audience With Lots of Input. It’s easy to think that there are only a handful of Federal officials involved in purchasing decisions. While that might technically be true for the final decision, there are lots of people involved throughout the process. These include top officials who set the policy and goals, program directors who have to implement those policies, project managers who run the actual programs, researchers who might be tasked with exploring options and evaluating choices, and procurement officials who make sure the entire process is followed to the exact letters of the Federal Acquisition Regulations (the voluminous procurement Bible that includes all of the complicated purchasing rules). Make sure your marketing appeals to every step of the process, and every part of the sales funnel.