Merritt Group Blog

Why Long-Form Content is (Still) Critical to Engaging Government Buyers

2019-Columbus-CircleLong-form content marketing is dead, right?

Our attention spans have dropped to a disturbing low of 8 seconds, so content has to be visual, short and simple to engage target audiences. That’s what the marketing world has been collectively preaching for the past decade. While that sentiment isn’t totally wrong, it doesn’t reflect the nuanced world we live in. The fact remains that various content formats have different goals, and make sense at different points in the buying cycle – especially in the government market.

That fact was proven once again in the 2019 Content Marketing Review (CMR) study produced by our partners at Market Connections, which surveyed government technology buyers on the types of content they find valuable when making procurement decisions. I had the pleasure of moderating an insightful panel discussion on the findings, featuring:

  • Patricia Davis-Muffett, Director of Global Public Sector Marketing, Amazon Web Services
  • Oliver Nutt, Head of Marketing Communications, General Dynamics Information Technology
  • Lisa Sherwin Wulf, Senior Director of Marketing, Government, SolarWinds
  • Milo Speranzo, Director, North American Marketing (Federal), Dell EMC

Below are some key takeaways from that discussion:  

Don’t Bury Long Form Quite Yet

So what were the most valuable content formats to government decision-makers? Some of the top performers included research reports, white papers, case studies, product demos and yes, even webinars. Such formats tend to include useful data, past performance, deep analysis, and typically require a significant time investment from their audience. Overall, the results spoke loudly: government leaders will spend time with long-form content if it’s valuable.

And it makes sense. These folks are making multi-million dollar decisions on mission-critical software and systems. They need substantive content that’s going to help them do their jobs better, which means educational information on how the technology works and the tangible results it can deliver for their agency. That level of detail can’t be delivered in an infographic.

Federal vs. State & Local: Consumption Differences  

The study also uncovered some interesting differences between federal and state & local government (SLG) buyers. SLG decision-makers are far more reliant on vendor content when making procurement decisions, with 47 percent citing industry as the most important information source (compared to 32 percent for federal). SLG personnel were also more open to consuming content across social media channels, and spend more time researching solutions after work and on weekends.

There could be a variety of factors at play here. SLG technology teams tend to be smaller, younger, and the audience is more geographically dispersed. So while federal IT leaders have more of an established infrastructure around the beltway for education and information sharing, SLG teams seem more reliant on – or open to – digital channels, even when they aren’t at work.

Don’t Forget About Brand

Brand awareness and thought leadership can often feel like distinct marketing goals with distinct tactics, but the 2019 CMR found how intrinsically linked they truly are. Respondents were overwhelmingly more likely to engage with content produced by vendors, associations and media channels that they are familiar with.

It sounds simple, but if government leaders don’t have a sense of who you are, they are far less likely to take that step of engaging with your content to learn more about what you think, what you deliver, and how you can help them. So brand awareness strategies across event sponsorships and advertising still have a critical role to play in providing air cover for your thought leadership content.  

The 10 Words a Government Marketer Should Never Say

Finally, we get to every marketer’s favorite thing in the world: jargon! The study found a bunch of words that we all think are really cool that our target audience of government leaders actively despise! So let’s all chill out on calling every solution an innovative, next-generation, disruptive, cutting-edge, industry-leading, best-in-class, value-added, dynamic, streamlined and agile offering that no agency can do without.

I encourage everyone to download the full study here, and reach out to me directly at donovan@merrittgrp.com for a complementary content audit and assessment.

Topics: content marketing government