Five trends that highlight the nuances and quirks of the federal market and the risk you face if you don't address them head on.
In 1985 I opened Amtower & Company when I saw that few were treating marketing to the government as a separate and distinct discipline.
My reasoning was that the world’s largest market (then and now), had enough nuances and quirks to demand experts that did nothing but study these nuances and quirks, then monitor and share “best practices” in as many venues as possible. As a result I produce seminars and briefings, speak at many other events, write articles, host a weekly radio show, am working on another book – yet there is more to be done.
I remain fascinated by this ever-changing market.
Through the years I have come to learn that there are no trend-setters in this market because the government is slow in adopting most things and contractors tend to follow the feds. Those who attempt to set the trends usually end up as chalk outlines on the contracting sidewalk. Witness the myriad of well-funded companies that started and died during the dot-com era.
During this time I have seen some things that ebb and flow, but never go away. I also watch carefully as some things start to emerge. Here are five areas that are either emerging or re-emerging. I suggest you pay attention to them.
Company web sites of the most successful contractors will become more informationally robust. While the company web site is considered a basic, it is often taken for granted. Many ‘must do’s’ are overlooked, usually because a new shiny rock has shown up on the marketing horizon. Among those ‘must do’s’ is making the site content relevant and current, so updating the company web site on a regular basis for relevance is a big must-do. Staid and stagnant web sites will not attract repeat traffic and never have.
The companies that grow over the next few years will have robust, content-rich web sites.
Developing relationships with feds will become even more important- and harder to do. Finding or creating venues to network and share ideas and communicate with your prospects will be difficult. As it becomes more difficult for feds to attend events, it will become more vital for you to find ways to meet them. This remains a relationship-driven market.
This leads directly to the next two topics: social media and events.
Use of social media, especially LinkedIn, will expand more rapidly than ever. In early 2010 LinkedIn had 50 million members. By early 2013 it will break 200 million, including tens of thousands of key feds.
Those without a robust social media presence will lose marketshare in direct proportion to their social media inactivity. While many may adopt social media, most will not bother to understand how to leverage each tool they adopt. Misuse of social media is often worse than non-use. Proper use of social networking allows you to become more visible and more credible to a larger audience faster than ever before.
The Washington Technology Top 100 Contractors are all on Linkedin. Why? The feds are already here.
This will lead to more companies hiring or retaining social media experts and the expansion of social media as a B2B/B2G profession. Larger primes already have key staff members with social media titles.
Local events and in-agency events will be more important than ever. Restricted travel budgets and the cut-backs in frivolous events will make shorter, local events more important than ever before. These events can be agency sponsored, deal with a specific topic or technology, be sponsored by an association or professional event firm, publications, but will focus on an audience that can attend without travel. Some will offer sponsorships, others exhibit space. There are many excellent events in this category and just as many that are questionable. Check out the event producer before committing your company.
Last but not least, more manufacturers will pull out of direct sales to the feds and use channel partners. Many manufacturers have succumbed in recent years to the we need our own Schedule drum beat. Selling directly to Uncle Sam has at best become onerous to many manufacturers, regardless of the products. From regulatory and compliance issues, FSSI and LPTA, to under-trained government procurement and contracting staff, manufacturers are finding direct sales to be difficult if not impossible. Channel masters, resellers with relationships, skilled sales staff and contracts have deservedly regained prominence with manufacturers in this arcane marketplace.
The biggest issue facing manufacturers is picking the right channel partner(s).
Pay careful attention to these five areas. They are growing and will be critical to your ongoing success.