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Federal is an old-school market that requires an old-school marketing approach. Right?

Not exactly. Successful contractors are going digital.

That’s one of the key takeaways from the 2018 Government Contractor Study that we recently produced in partnership with Market Connections and the Professional Services Council to find out what works in federal contractor marketing and business development.

The data showed that 53 percent of respondents said that they were increasing their investment in digital advertising in 2018, the highest performing marketing tactic. Going digital was also the strategy that scored highest among top-performing contractors in terms of pipeline marketing effectiveness and correlation with re-compete win rate. In other words, successful contractors have not only embraced digital, they are doubling down on it in 2018.

The big question is, why? Let’s start by defining what digital marketing really encompasses. Marketo defines digital marketing as “advertising delivered through digital channels such as search engines, websites, social media, email and mobile apps.” That’s a broad category, but the appeal across these channels comes down to two important factors: targeting and measurement.

In my last post, we discussed the need for an RFP-specific or account-based approach to contractor marketing, because the uniqueness of each agency and opportunity requires very specific messages catered to very specific decision-makers. And the same strategy applies to targeting those folks online with your marketing campaigns. On any given procurement, there is a small group of people that will ultimately decide which vendor to partner with, and digital marketing allows contractors to identify and engage those folks directly, across channels they already use, through audience customization options that include title, role, agency, behavior and location.

Let’s take social media advertising for example. When we asked contractor respondents to list the marketing tactics included in their 2018 marketing budget, social media advertising finished second (!) behind only event sponsorships, and far ahead of traditional methods like print advertising, radio advertising and webinars. The reason is targeting. On a platform like LinkedIn, you’re able to serve up a highly relevant message directly to the right people in the right roles at the right agencies at the right location. So whether you’re going after DoD decision-makers in San Diego or National Park Service leaders in Montana, you’re only paying to reach people that matter.

The other enormous benefit of digital versus traditional marketing tactics is that you can see if it’s working in real-time. Are people clicking the ad? Opening the email? Finding the website? Downloading the eBook? This instantaneous measurement empowers contractor marketers to adjust strategies and messages in on the fly and double down on what’s working and removing what isn’t.

While the importance of digital is growing, there is still a place for broader, more traditional forms of marketing. Branding is still critical in this market, and when you’re building or redefining a contractor brand, event sponsorships and broadcast advertising absolutely has a role to play in reaching a wide-ranging audience. In fact, events were the most popular single tactic being included in 2018 marketing budgets. But to drive procurement success, the data has spoken, and it’s calling for a customized, RFP-specific approach. And it’s because federal personnel are just like the rest of us – they are increasingly consuming information across digital channels, and are interested in receiving relevant, useful and educational content across those channels. Digital marketing empowers marketing teams to do that more effectively, and efficiently, than ever before.

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

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