In preparation for the 2015 Federal Content Marketing Review, Merritt Group sat down with Market Connections’ Monica Mayk to discuss best practices for content marketing in the federal market.
What trends did you discover while conducting the 2015 Federal Content Marketing PulsePoll™?
Since 2012, budget and travel restrictions have affected government employees’ ability to attend events. Knowing this, we have been asking federal decision-makers for a few years now how they keep up with training and best practices in lieu of these events. Their responses overwhelmingly suggest that federal decision-makers seek out educational content and supporting research data during the purchasing process.
A few noteworthy trends include:
- In 2013, more than half of government (55 percent) reported participating in webinars for education and training in lieu of events. That number increased by 33 percent in the latest research.
- When seeking information and training, federal decision-makers are turning to coworkers and other agency personnel at significantly higher rates than in the past. Not only is it positive to see inter-agency collaboration; this presents an opportunity for thought leadership and digital content to be shared.
- The consumption of digital content continues to rise, with research reports, webinars, case studies and white papers topping the list.
Is there a gap in the channels that vendors use to communicate to federal decision-makers and the channels those decision-makers actually reference?
Yes, there is a disconnect between what government decision-makers find valuable to inform their buying process and which marketing content vendors think is influential or important. Contractors tell us marketing collateral tops their list of content priorities, while government says research reports and webinars are most valuable to them to inform and educate during the buying process. Only about one-third of contractors place research reports and webinars on their list of content priorities, while nearly 70% of government says this content is valuable.
We will be presenting the full findings and gaps at the 2015 Federal Content Marketing Review on March 17.
How can contractors and federal vendors be more strategic in their content marketing?
I’ve been very pleased to see so many contractors incorporating research data into their thought leadership and content marketing. Some of the larger companies have been slower to adopt this strategy, but they are getting there. The next step would be to use the data and content more comprehensively across the organization. Content marketing is not just a marketing activity. Thought leadership is not just a PR campaign. The messaging, positioning and research results can be used in everything from your web pages and sales sheets to technical presentations and RFP responses. And don’t forget to leverage the content in your social media outreach, too! Training and education are primary concerns for federal decision-makers—contractors have the opportunity to become trusted sources of information, which could transform them from vendor to valued partner.
Do you have any additional advice to share?
The use of marketing automation among government contractors lags behind marketing norms. In a study we conducted for Vocus (now Cision) in May 2014, just over half (52%) of marketing and PR professionals said they were currently using or planning to use marketing automation in the next 12 months. Only about one-third of contractors are currently using automation, and—more significantly—about half have no plan, are not considering adopting it or are unsure. This is a technology contractors should consider for pushing out and measuring the performance of their content marketing activities.