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The results are in! If you’re pursuing government business, you won’t want to make another marketing or business development (BD) move until you read this year’s Federal Government Contractor Study.

Unveiled by Merritt Group earlier this week, together with partners Market Connections and Professional Services Council, the study reveals the best BD and marketing practices and strategies of winning contractors. Merritt’s Sean O’Leary moderated a panel of experts at the launch event in Arlington, VA to dig deeper into the data and gain additional industry perspective on what’s working (or not) in the contracting world.

Is marketing at odds with business development?

The study found that the majority of government contractors with higher win rates more often keep BD and marketing separate, as different departments with different reporting structures.  While surprising to some, the panelists agreed that there needs to be tight alignment between sales and marketing — one can’t function without the other. At the same time, they understood that each has a job to do, and more gets done with separate, accountable organizational structures.

As Jay Hauck, General Dynamics Information Technology, vice president for Communications & Marketing, light-heartedly put it, marketing is the more “needy” of the two. While his team has a great relationship with BD, he stated that it’s mostly a bandwidth issue in terms of how much time they have to get marketing teams what they need. Ultimately, he said, marketing professionals need to understand the demands of BD and vice versa and collaborate toward a common goal.

Lisa Veith, MAXIMUS Federal senior vice president for Business Development & Marketing, Federal Services, acknowledged the daunting challenge contractors face in an environment where clear differentiation beyond price is a must. Veith explained that BD professionals need to be like Swiss Army knives when it comes to attracting and closing opportunities. She emphasized the value that marketing — as one tool in that Swiss Army knife — can bring to the table, particularly when it comes to helping shape the message and brand as BD teams go out to meet with prospects.

What marketing tactics rose to the top?

Events are not going anywhere. In terms of predictions for 2018 marketing spend, 86 percent of respondents of the survey said their playbook will would include event sponsorships. “This is still an eyeball to eyeball business,” said Kim Hower, Nutanix Federal, director of  Public Sector Marketing. While she said she will always be investing in events, the panel agreed that it’s important to regularly assess what events to support year-over-year — and look for ways to engage in smaller and more intimate meetings where BD personnel can spark real conversations with prospects.

Investments in market research was also noted as critical to prioritizing efforts and marketing spends, according to Hauck. Additionally, short and sweet also seems to be the name of the game when it comes to creating content. While long-form pieces like whitepapers still have their time and place, sharing small bites and shorter pieces are what works, according to Veith, and is where Veith’s efforts will be focused in the next year. As Hauck put it succinctly, “brevity is the soul of wit.”

All panelists agreed that a balanced view of measurement is key to program success. “The great thing about digital is the ability to track and measure,” said Hauck. While he doesn’t want to be beholden to metrics and feels that some forms of earned media make a big impact, digital needs to be a part of the strategy. Veith agreed that any program needs quality data in order to be flexible to react to any given event.

All-in-all the panel was bullish in terms of outlook for this year. While some noted that working with the government does require a lot of patience, taking a personalized, customer-centric and account-based approach — with a lot of the study’s key findings in mind — will be critical as they ramp activities heading into 2019.

Hungry for more data? Download a full copy of the 2018 Federal Government Contractor Study — and share what you think of the panelists’ observations!


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