Winning federal government business means navigating long procurement cycles, budget fluctuations and rapidly-changing acquisition strategies. So how do the most successful contractors position themselves to win in this increasingly competitive industry? And what can companies that are looking to grow their federal business apply from these lessons?
These are the fundamental questions we wanted to answer when looking at the data from our Federal Government Contractor Study. In positioning for RFPs, capture and marketing teams said they struggle to differentiate the company’s value proposition beyond price, identify the right win themes and align messaging and strategy across procurement and BD stakeholders.
In other words, contractors were seeking a deeper understanding of their agency prospects, the specific goals of the RFP, and how to communicate a compelling and differentiated message to stand out from the pack.
This is something that is now even more important as contractors lost some standing as trusted advisors in the last year, according to Market Connection’s recently released Federal Media & Marketing Study 2020. This study details the key trends in federal media consumption last year, shedding light on exactly how and where contractors should be shifting their energy to stay competitive.
In 2020, trust in government contractors decreased by 5%, meaning this year it is important that marketing messages work to increase trust by including unbiased proof points and examples and communicating that you understand their unique problem and what they want to accomplish. Building back this trust also means frequent contact that goes beyond email and websites to keep your company top of mind before, during, and after the RFP process.
Build a Personalized Approach
This complicated balancing act brings to mind a strategy that we’re seeing move the needle across our federal contractor client base: Account-Based Marketing (ABM), which—if we’re being honest—may just be federal marketing by another name. Marketo defines ABM as a “strategy that concentrates sales and marketing resources on a clearly defined set of target accounts within a market and employs personalized campaigns designed to resonate with each account.”
The keyword there is “personalized.” Federal agencies (i.e., the “accounts”) aren’t one-size-fits-all in the market. They have dramatically different missions and RFPs have dramatically different objectives. When you combine that with large contract values and 12-18 month procurement cycles, RFP-specific capture campaigns start to make even more sense from an ROI perspective. In reality, ABM isn’t that different from how companies have always marketed to agencies in the federal space. When we surveyed contractor business development leads in the past, the data reinforced the effectiveness of hyper-targeted, account-specific campaigns and the 2020 Report calls out how to get in front of those agency decision-makers. Winning contractors anticipate RFP opportunities early, develop RFP-specific capture campaigns and build marketing content targeting specific agency decision-makers.
Map to the Procurement Process
Start with the agency challenge and work back. We all tend to want to talk about ourselves, but winning a contract is all about the agency, about THEM, and the outcomes they demand. Deeply research what the RFP is solving for, who the key decision-makers are, and what they care about the most. Become obsessed with their needs, and you’ll be in a far better position to understand how your organization can uniquely fit into a solution. Move that “About Us” section to the back and focus on speaking to the core issues and opportunities of the RFP. That’s when win themes appear, and a personalized message will resonate across your proposal language, marketing collateral, and sales materials that go beyond stale PowerPoint presentations.
Once a differentiated message has been established, it’s important to develop account-centric content that can be leveraged in a variety of ways throughout the stages of the RFP process:
- Determining needs and specifications
- Shaping RFIs and RFPs
- Making a final selection
Through some previous research, we found that the government values content differently during each stage of the process. For instance, during stages 1 and 2 research reports and white papers scored the highest, while product demos scored the highest during stage 3. This is something that should be considered as you pull win themes through to developing content for federal decision-makers.
Your B2G Marketing Success
Your approach will also differ depending on the size of your company. For instance, larger companies already have brand recognition in the market, meaning their content doesn’t need to go over the “who we are” as extensively, as they are likely already connected with decision-makers. Smaller companies, on the other hand, will need to focus more on information gathering for the purpose of influencing and building relationships with these decision-makers. No matter the size or maturity of your company, thought leadership should always be a priority. It’s an essential route to build trust with key decision-makers, as evidenced in our blog, 3 Benefits to Research Powered Thought Leadership.
Government contracting isn’t easy and the RFP process is ongoing, but techniques such as ABM, phased content strategy, and thought leadership will build the overall trust and brand recognition needed to compete more effectively. To learn more about this visit our B2G Marketing Hub.
Ready to elevate your government outreach? Learn about Merritt Group’s dedicated Government Practice or reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to chat in more detail!
This blog was updated on January 21, 2021, to reflect new market data and insights.