Marketing to government has to be done differently if it’s going to be effective. What works for the private sector won’t fly in the public realm, so it’s important you approach it strategically.

Why is marketing to government different?

There are countless reasons why marketing is different in the federal space, but let’s cover the most important ones.

  • Government puts a massive premium on past performance, trust, and compliance. If you can’t show these things, you’re at a major disadvantage.
  • Money isn’t the driver; purchases will always be focused on mission objectives.
  • Government is willing to pay a premium for service assurance and good support.
  • There are going to be complex procurement processes and governance issues to work through.
  • There has historically been a reliance on SIs and partners for large technology purchases and implementations.
  • Security restrictions can cause information access issues.

Here’s what you DO want to do:

  • Know your niche.
  • Target the problem area and be as specific as possible.
  • Focus on sub-departmental users; don’t chase after entire departments right out of the gate.
  • Find customer success stories and cultivate those relationships early on, so there are people willing to vouch for you when you need it.
  • Make sure you truly understand the agency priorities.
  • Connect with the key prime contractors as early as possible and maintain regular communication.
  • Focus on educating your customers instead of trying to sell them something.

And here’s what you DON’T want to do:

  • Don’t move forward without understanding spending rules and other restrictions.
  • Don’t use jargon or terms they’ve heard a million times before like “self-serve” or “do more with less”
  • Don’t forget that happy customers are truly your biggest marketing opportunity.
  • Don’t assume that because you’re marketing to government that you don’t need an awesome website
  • Don’t ignore the trends and updates to Public Policy or White House Policy

Your main marketing activities should include:

  • Website
  • Cultivating customer relationships
  • Public Relations
  • Content creation (both customer-focused and positioning yourself as a thought leader)
  • Events
  • Paid advertising campaigns

Here are the final, key takeaways when marketing to the federal government:

  • Make sure you’re focusing on the mission and outcomes, not the technology.
  • Remember that the influencers are different. The CIO, contractors, prime support teams, program managers, acquisition teams, and potential teaming partners all need tailored messages.
  • Your messaging must demonstrate that you’re low-risk and come with things like high-security compliance and easy implementation.
  • Don’t forget the differences between the unique publications and channels, and their audiences. You’ll want to target federal trade publications, radio, YouTube, and more. (If you want to get emails through to the Pentagon, make sure you’re using plain text emails as HTML won’t go through.)
  • Education is king. Some of the best marketing and content are based on educating the government, as opposed to selling a product.

Marketing to government isn’t easy, but these tips should give you a good place to start.