GovCon Business Development 101 – Digital #B2G Marketing
You’re on a Business Development (BD) team, at FedEngineerIT (“FedEng”, made up, obviously, or insert your own name), a Fed/State/Local GovCon with 5-10,000 employees (or lots more!). You’re working with your LOB, capture, industry, incumbent subs and solution architecture, plotting and scheming how to shape and influence customer intimacy. Also, finding ways to vector the acquisition strategy, soak your LinkedIn contacts, validate partner and teaming targets, shepherd internal investment approvals. In other words, traditional B2G relationship marketing. You may also, possibly, have great ideas (or really need some) regarding the public-facing messaging, engagement and marketing content FedEng can generate to advance marketplace presence and procurement market research results (for those who are looking, including your prospective customer).
Just get the website updated, right? Publish an article in LinkedIn, and get someone to Tweet about it? With a unique hashtag, like #cloud!
Not that simple, obviously, nor will it be very effective, for both the PWin of your opportunity, and your industry presence or reputation as a trusted BD professional. What can and should you do?
A long-standing practice I’ve known, that continues to be relevant, was called the “Journey to Creating Business Conversations”. I’ll touch very briefly on some methodology like this to consider, as a long-time digital marketing enthusiast and practitioner. I’ve also now witnessed – as a Solutions Architect in several large GovCons – years of the considerable separation between corporate online marketing and agency, account or opportunity-based marketing – ostensibly as orchestrated by BD, but really hardly ever.
Ask us about our new whitepaper, “B2G Government Business Development – How to Use Digital Marketing” – part of a series. We’ll send it to you!
Here are my assumptions, which are typical reality for BD roles in FedEng:
- The corporate website can’t be changed, very much at all – and certainly not its UX design or information architecture. Fuggedaboutit. Unless it’s a several billion dollar, industry-defining opportunity. As far as I know, at this time.
- You (obviously) can’t publicly advertise or write about any strength, benefit, proof point, innovation etc. that might be emerging as proposal fodder, internally-sensitive to a client or procurement – that hasn’t already been made public (and that competitors and clients have already consumed). Nor can a team member or partner, as some kind of surrogate.
- Anything you say or post online, must be compliant with whatever it must be compliant with – FedEng external communications policies, the FAR, local laws and regulations, 3rd-party channel terms of service, etc.
- Corporate branding, marketing and advertising is a bit of a mystery altogether, and not part of a typical capture budget, except for the nifty new slogans and laptop wallpaper.
- The competition is doing a whole lot more than we are at FedEng, with lots of great searchable, reference-able and industry-current thought leadership. BUZZ-worthy. FedEng is the most influential firm, deep within critical mission programs, you’ve never heard of.
- You have less than 30 followers on Twitter, but over 2000 contacts on LinkedIn. Probably 5000.
- FedEng is not a small company, no matter how much the internal HR team tries to market it as such – it’s big, with legacy processes and zero useful online digital presence (you can do so much more in a small one, but c’est la vie ).
Following are 3 first steps to take, that follow proven (yes, a horrible word in proposals, but it’s true) methods in the discipline of digital marketing, not only for B2C/B2B, but more specifically for B2G.
(1) Keywords – keywords are generally 2-5 word phrases people use in Google to find things, in this case, find information about FedEng, for those in the procurement cycle:
- Relevance to the mission community
- Work that matters
- Expertise and capabilities
- Signals regarding trust, validation, expertise of FedEng, from others
- Relationship to the procurement, to incumbents and likely competitors
Create a short list of keywords, to use online, in blogs, articles, twitter, email. There’s certainly a whole data-driven science behind this, and many tools – but the easiest way to start is thinking (and Googling) yourself – “what will customers be looking for online?” “What keywords are competitors using”? From their needs perspective – the need to find options, validate the state-of-the-art, short-list a source pool, determine if you are in their mission community orbit.
A procurement officer (or potential teaming partner) doing market research may type “what company offers artificial intelligence-based IT operations and maintenance for the navy?” The google results show a mix of blogs, articles, government and commercial organic content, and quite a bit of paid content (mostly software vendors), but nothing from FedEng. For that matter, not much from any competitor in the first few pages of results.
Therefore, if you’re going to contribute to a press release, blog, interview, tweet or otherwise online, use the keywords from that phrase (keywords with at least 3 words are best in our industry, a.k.a. “long-tails”). Without exposing sensitive or competitive IP, just seeding, architecting and joining an ongoing business conversation. “AI-based IT O&M”, “artificial intelligence operations and maintenance”, “Navy Artificial Intelligence O&M”. If you do, your content, perspective, point-of-view, thought leadership abstract is sure to show up more frequently.
(2) Tags – are different kinds of 1/2/3-word labels to describe and categorize online content, for search engines, for readers, for conversations. Not necessarily keywords, more like what you’d see in a table of contents. You’ll see category tags in blog posts, hashtags in Twitter and Facebook, keyword tags in LinkedIn and on websites (where they’re frequently hidden in the metadata). A focus keyword in the middle of a text paragraph, if highlighted/bolded via HTML, can also be interpreted as a tag (a signal to Google regarding the semantics of the content). Use tags, choose tags – use your shorter keywords as tags. It’ll help focus the conversation, focus and elevate the search results. But use tags that aren’t really generic – don’t use #cloud – use #cloudanalytics or #cloudAItools
(3) Post – this step is simple; post content online! Don’t start with Facebook or Instagram! Not just a like, or retweet – but actual (corporate-compliant) sentences, with keywords and tags, as conversation-starters or in support of a robust, relevant and uniquely useful conversation. Within the text, if you can add a hyperlink, a URL, to your keyword (known as an “anchor text link”) – that’s a huge bonus, and a link back to the top of your sales funnel, for both people and search engines. Write about the customer need, mission and community, and how FedEng is already a valued, contributing member of this circle. Check the competition, maybe some light “ghosting” is in order.
(4) Bonus – check to see if your efforts are being noticed online – not only with your own Google search, and perhaps use of LinkedIn or Twitter analytics (for example), but also if FedEng’s marketing/web folks can get you some insight regarding inbound links, hits you’ve generated by your posts. This is being data-driven, vs. entirely relationship-driven.
Let’s do a test, search for “[Your company name here] artificial intelligence” online – see whether you’re represented, what keywords you might latch onto, use. Google/Twitter/LinkedIn/YouTube – probably not many results, no good hashtags, little useful or current. So, lesson-learned – if you’re doing BD for an upcoming procurement that deals with AI, you can probably make a great impact quickly, online, evolving the conversation around YOUR COMPANY and AI just with the tips above – so that it looks like something we’re expert in, routes searches to the top of the online engagement funnel.
In summary, while it may seem not so, there’s quite a lot BD professionals at large companies like FedEng can do, to accelerate and catalyze B2G relationship marketing, and even directly influence the initial stages of source selection and acquisition strategy development. There’s so much more – drop me a line for more information or ideas.
Author: Ted McLaughlan, 30+ years in the government IT consulting, solutions, acquisition and procurement space – delivery, PMO, capture, BD, marketing and solution architecture – for some of the largest Federal procurements, down to the smallest TO’s and RFI responses.