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Winning federal government business is hard. There are 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?

That’s the fundamental question we wanted to answer when we partnered with Market Connections and the Professional Services Council on this year’s 2018 Federal Government Contractor Study. We surveyed 200 contractor marketers and business development (BD) gurus to find out what works, what doesn’t and the biggest barriers to procurement success.

When we took a look at the data, some pervasive challenges emerged. 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 BD stakeholders. In other words, contractors are 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.

That’s not easy, but it brings to mind a strategy that we’re seeing move the needle across our federal contractor client base: Account-Based Marketing (ABM). 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 key word there is “personalized.” Federal isn’t a one-size-fits-all market. Agencies have dramatically different missions, and RFPs have dramatically different objectives. When you combine that with large federal contract values and 12-18 month procurement cycles, RFP-specific capture campaigns start to make even more sense from an ROI perspective. The study data reinforced the effectiveness of hyper-targeted, account-specific campaigns. Winning contractors tend to anticipate RFP opportunities early, develop RFP-specific capture campaigns and build marketing content targeting specific agency decision-makers.

So how do you get started with a more personalized approach? Start with the agency challenge and work back. We all tend to want to talk about ourselves, but this is more about them than us. Deeply research what the RFP is solving for, who the key decision-makers are and what they care about the most. If you’re obsessed with their needs, you’re in a far better position to understand how your organization can uniquely fit into a solution. That’s when your win themes appear, and your personalized, differentiated message will resonate across proposal language, marketing collateral and sales materials.   

Phase two of the federal ABM playbook is all about landing this custom messaging across the appropriate channels in the right order and cadence to reach and influence the right government decision-makers. We’ll tackle that in our next post.

In the meantime, download the full study here, and reach out to me directly at to chat in more detail!

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