The Guide to Business to Government (B2G)
Learn to develop a business to government marketing strategy plan perfect for you.
Whether you market directly to government agencies or work through primes, one of the most overlooked areas of doing business with the government is knowing how to successfully market to the government.
Those who can navigate the system, turn to specialist agencies and seasoned government marketing professionals to help them win their share of government business – not a luxury many small business owners can afford.
Indispensable Marketing can help you develop a business to government marketing strategy to build the relationships you need to generate critical visibility, demonstrate your expertise and win more contracts.
Put quite simply – marketing to the government is different. When the government buys, it buys differently than the commercial sector; the language it speaks is different; its motivations for buying are different.
So to achieve success as you venture into business to government marketing, small business owners must adjust traditional marketing strategies and outreach tactics to business to government marketing strategies that meet the needs of this marketplace.
Check out this presentation on How SWaMs Can Do Business With VCU
Listen to this SWaMfest Presentation on Business to Government Marketing
Review our Business to Government (B2G) Marketing Services for Small Businesses here or read below to get an strategy overview.
Business to Government Marketing Strategy Overview
Discover and Understand Your Decision-Makers
What you have to do in order to get your business to government marketing strategy started, is you have to think about how you can target your decision-makers. In government, there are four layers of decision makers to whom you should focus your marketing efforts on and you want to discover the answers to these questions below:
- What role do they play in the government contracting process?
- What are their problems and the problems the client is looking to solve?
- How do they want to be educated and engaged?
- What do they think value is?
a) Procurers – Including contracting officers, acquisition staff or others who can select the procurement methods and conduct the procurement. They are not experts at what they buy, but they are experts at how they buy. So it is important for you to know that when you reach out to them you want to tailor your message to them. They have enormous influence on the buying process, but are also steered by ‘influencers’ – to whom they are often ‘gatekeepers’.
b) Influencers – These are program managers and high level decision makers who generate the requirement for a product or service. They are responsible for the success of the programs and while they do not have the legal authority to buy, they can influence who the Contracting Officer consider
c) End Users – This group is very influential in getting the most qualified contractor involved in a bid or onto a relevant contract. And again, they don’t have the legal authority to buy but they can influence who the Contracting Officer will choose or they can recommend to the Contracting Officer specific companies or people if they have confidence that they will deliver.
c) Representatives – These are Small Business Representative and they don’t have the legal authority to buy, but help small businesses win federal contracts by viewing many federal acquisition and procurement strategies before they’re announced. This enables them to influence opportunities that should be set aside for small businesses.
Although each of these will be interested in different facets of your product or service, they all want to know the benefits of buying from you, your pricing model, and the procurement vehicles or contracts that you hold.
Guide the Government Buyer’s Journey
The government buying cycle is very predictable, and spending is heavily skewed toward the fourth quarter of the fiscal year (Sept 30 is the last day of the federal fiscal year, for state and local government it is the end of May or June). This gives small business owners the opportunity to plan a strategic campaign six or even 12 months in advance.
The first quarter should be focused on awareness raising and relationship building – fine tune your problems before solutions message both in print and on the Web and develop ways to promote that message. Events and presentations are a great way of doing this. Trade shows can be expensive for a small business, so focus on smaller agency-sponsored table tops and seminars. If you have relationships within a particular agency, consider hosting an intimate lunch and learn meeting on-site to demonstrate your latest problem solving offering and its benefits.
The second and third quarter of the government fiscal year is when you should really focus in on drumming up lead generation campaigns (use multiple integrated tactics to ensure maximum outreach). The last quarter is often focused on last minute offers and awareness campaigns to help your company secure its share of ‘busy season’ buying as agencies rush to use their remaining budget dollars.
And don’t forget content outreach activities such as newsletters and social media (blogging, etc.) to keep your company brand in front of your government customers and prospects.
Refocus Your Message on Government Agency Needs Before Solutions
Many companies make the mistake of putting their commercial messaging and marketing material in front of government agencies and hoping it will resonate. It won’t! Even worse, this material was written to convince someone to buy. Guess what, nobody wants to be sold anything.
The government has entirely different pain points, requirements and objectives (or missions) than a commercial buyer. Take time to understand agency mandates, goals and challenges, re-work your message to address these and pick your words carefully. Really effective business to government marketing materials educate the buyer by showing them problems that you solve, allowing them to see themselves building a relationship with your firm, demonstrating knowledge and expertise, showing past performances and the like. Consider the following when you craft your messaging:
- What are an agency’s particular challenges and needs? Restate these in your collateral.
- What does your product or service help the government accomplish?
- Has anyone else in government benefited from your offering? Explain more.
- Why should the government buy from you? List your contract vehicles and small business status or certification on every piece of collateral and Web site.
- What does your company do to make it easy for government to buy from you? Stress your contracting expertise, and say up-front if your business includes ex-government employees.
- Are you speaking the government’s language? Proof your messaging for government speak: Check for commercial phrases and terminology such as ‘…increase your profits…’ or ‘…your company can…’ and replace with more government attuned phrases such as ‘…meet your agency’s mandates…’ or ‘…address constituent needs more efficiently…’.
Ensure your Message gets Delivered
One of the more interesting challenges of marketing to the government is actually getting your message through – particularly when it comes to direct communication.
The idea of smaller is better here. I know we all want to do that blast thing and have it rain contracts, but the more targeted you can get the better.
You will receive far greater results targeting Procurers, Influencers, End Users and Representatives every month and reaching out with a personalized contacts (mail, phone calls, and in-person meetings) outlining one highly actionable idea than any other form of mass communication out there.
Understand Government Ethics – Use a Call to Action that Government Agencies Can Accept
One of the very first things you’ll need to learn about government marketing is that commercial call to actions such as ‘Sign up for XYZ and enter for a chance to win a TV’ are an absolute no go. Government employees are under strict ethical rules and are not allowed to accept gratuities or giveaways valued at more than $20 (provided that the market value of multiple gifts to the same official does not exceed $50 in a calendar year). Some may even decline all giveaways. There are exceptions – government employees can receive educational materials as part of a campaign giveaway (e.g. a flash drive loaded with white papers) as well as nominally-valued gratuities or ‘tchotchkes’ such as desktop trinkets.
Leverage Past Performance
Government buyers are very keen to hear how their peers in the public sector have benefited from your solution, so case studies and past performance should be an essential part of your marketing toolkit. Remember to get agency permission and don’t always count on being able to use real names and scenarios (particularly in highly confidential contracts). Use quotes from the case study and past successes on your Web site and other marketing materials. Even build the case study into a ‘educational presentation” or webinar.