Evolving digital platforms open more ways to win in GovCon
By Toby Eckhardt
Jun 18, 2021
Originally Published on Washington Technology
Over the past year of the COVID-19 pandemic, we witnessed a major shift in companies moving the majority of their marketing spend to digital platforms. For the commercial and B2C world, this increase was simply an additional boost to what was already trending as a growing dominant reliance on digital tools to reach consumers where they work, live and play – digital devices.
However, in the government technology and services marketplace, where the traditional marketing formula of in-person networking, conferences and job fairs had still remained a dominant form of audience engagement prior to the pandemic, the shift was dramatic for those who jumped into digital.
Yet, overall, we find that digital platforms today remained a generally untapped area for the government marketplace especially in the procurement of new business.
The challenge is most social channels have not segmented their markets or offerings to easily accommodate B2G audience segmentation. From the perspective of the social media platform owners, this makes sense, because as an industry, government marketing spend is perhaps one of the lowest in the world.
LinkedIn is the only platform that offers government industry segmentation and programs, which is why it is such a powerful tool for recruiting.
Even though most channels do not cater to the government industry specifically, they can still be very powerful and cost effective when used correctly. Especially for smaller to mid-size contractors, these channels offer opportunities to get in on the ground level before the marketplace becomes more expensive and digital landscape is more crowded.
As the professional and personal arenas blur, this places an ever-growing emphasis on a digital, interconnected business landscape. Both organic and paid digital media have become a standard for channel content and reach, whether to create awareness, educate an audience, or create a direct-action result. The most frequent digital tools are search engine marketing, social media marketing and programmatic marketing.
Within the government contracting market, in order to meet request for proposal requirements, procurement teams search for organizational information such as past performance or proof of capabilities to evaluate all bidders. This is where having an effective digital strategy becomes critical, starting with your company website and disseminating through the entirety of your digital communications.
We find the most effective B2G digital programs include these elements:
- A focused, strategic message – Businesses need to focus on cultivating a consistent brand message throughout their online sites, from website to social media channels, Apps and more. This messaging is vital because, should it make a lasting impact, it will regularly bring your brand to the top of potential customers’ and employees’ minds.
- Content aligned to SEO strategies – As you develop your site content, ensure best practices are implemented for search engine optimization with properly formatted pages, titles, headers, and meta descriptions, as well as a responsive framework and relevant keywords embedded in respective pages. Higher search result rankings for relevant keywords coupled with strategically developed content that speaks to your audience’s needs establish credibility and, by extension, validate your offering.
- An expanded digital footprint – Once your sites are built or updated, it’s critical to expand your organization’s digital presence. Whether establishing new social channels or repurposing existing ones, it’s essential to plan out editorial calendars that lay out the specific content, the content schedule, and the strategy behind it. The primary goal is to leverage content that contains consistent brand messaging (which was created during the website phase) and link back to relevant pages on your website. This method creates initial engagement while providing further context to supplement the brevity of social media posts. By crafting relevant and engaging content paired with strategic calls to action on every post, you start conversations that make lasting impacts with users and help spread your message, outside your existing network of connections/followers.
- Effective organic content – Along with website development and social media, organic content is among the most potent drivers of buy-in and new business available today. Organic content is original copy and images that individuals and organizations post on their social channels. The most important content needs to be less about selling, and more about informing, educating and inspiring. And also, btw, not all about you and your organization. Audiences are quick to dismiss and even disdain social channels that are purely about directly selling. Quality organic content is a must have, and these strategies also take time to reach their true potential. Search engines require backlinks and other forms of validation to ensure that content is relevant, a proof that is built through subsequent and repetitive searches.
- Laser focused visibility – Social media accounts need time to grow engaged followings. This is where paid media management will bolster your organic efforts and offer a distinct advantage. Paid digital media can be in various forms, including funds that boost organic content to reach greater target audiences and posts written and funded to appear in social feeds only to specifically identified audiences on that channel.
Digital platforms can keep brands top of mind during the request for information or RFP stage of a contract. They can get your message in front of key influencers or decision-makers, or they can be used to create unparalleled awareness in a target geographic market where work will be done or when reaching the general public is needed.
As more services providers across the government industry start jumping into digital, we anticipate this state of the digital landscape will change. Early adopters will be the brands to beat in the upcoming GovCon decade.
Toby Eckhardt is CEO of Focused Image, an award-winning branding, advertising and public relations agency in the DC area that specializes in government industry and technology.