The year was 2014. The new Apple Watch was all the rage; selfies weren’t annoying the bloody hell out of everyone yet; and The Ice Bucket Challenge had everyone soaking themselves for a good cause. It was also the year I examined some of the most innovative B2G marketing and PR strategies that were helping government contractors and IT providers stand out from the crowd and grow their public sector revenues.
This past February, I put together a brief update on B2G digital marketing ideas for 2017, looking at the emergence of B2G virtual reality initiatives, innovative go-to-market campaigns, as well as 3-D interactive experiences for lead generation. But as we approach 2018, the time is right for anyone selling technology products and services to the government to think about what will move the needle in sales, branding and market leadership next year. Yes, white papers, webinars, as well as traditional public relations and advertising all play a valuable role if executed properly, but it requires more to become top-of-mind with government decision makers – and to stay there.
Here are 5 innovative B2G marketing strategies to consider for 2018:
Geo-fencing is location-based digital technology that allows you to select a geographic point using latitude and longitude and then to create a virtual “fence” around that point of a given radius in which your ads can be served up.
For contractors and Federal IT providers, there are multiple ways that geo-fencing can be utilized to reach government decision makers. If you are seeking to do business with a specific agency, you could pinpoint a single DC Metro station in proximity to the agency office, then deliver a targeted ad to anyone who comes within a 1-block radius of that location. Ads delivered through geo-fencing typically yield higher conversions and better ROI for marketers since they’re highly contextual.
Geo-fencing can also make an impact reaching prospective buyers at key industry and government conferences. Geo-fencing at conferences:
- Uses GPS or Wi-Fi information
- Create a barrier around a location and target everyone within that location
- Usually a tight radius (around an event or storefront)
- Deliver display, audio, video ads or mobile app notifications
Bluetext recently completed a project for client ARQ at the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Conference. The police body cam and digital evidence market is crowded with products that frustrate their users. So when a new player with a better, complete approach wanted to enter the market with a solution far ahead of the competition, it turned to Bluetext for a name, brand, corporate identity and website that would get attention and convey its value to law enforcement agencies. For the official launch, Bluetext executed a sophisticated outreach campaign including mobile geo-fencing to drive attendance to ARQ’s booth at IACP that included interactive product demo’s, and a comprehensive retargeting campaign pre and post show.
The government decision makers you need to reach – as well as government workforces if you are employing bottom-up marketing initiatives – are on mobile devices…a lot. Frost & Sullivan found that almost three-fourths of government organizations issue smartphones to at least some employees and more than half deploy tablets. Consumers overall spend 5 hours per day on mobile devices, so the bottom line is that if you want to reach government decision makers, mobile has to be a big part of the equation.
Mobile retargeting is now a key element in most any successful government-focused campaign seeking to increase reach and engagement far beyond other channels. There are six key strategies to get started with mobile retargeting:
- Unsure on how to reach target audiences on their mobile devices? Think social media platforms. Today’s target audiences are more likely to browse their social media apps on their mobile than search websites. Take advantage of the tools that Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter offer for their ad campaigns.
- Want to increase mobile traffic to your site? Optimize your website for mobile to fully take advantage of this platform. That means a design that is responsive for all devices, and features simple and concise headlines, titles and other text. More importantly, make sure that images are sufficiently compressed, reduce the number of redirects (nobody wants to wait for a new screen to load), and minimize code to maintain a high-performing experience.
- Not sure how to design for mobile? Think like a government decision maker visiting your website via a mobile device. That means simplified designs and copy, but also calls-to-action that are clear about where the visitor will land if they click on that button. Viewers don’t want to leave the screen they are on unless they know there they are going.
- Need to improve your reach on mobile? Safari is the leading browser for mobile devices, but leveraging Apple’s tool is not so easy. One simple trick: Make sure you are enabling Safari, which typically blocks third-party cookies in its default setting. Find a provider that is skilled at accessing Safari’s massive number of users.
- Still not seeing the conversions you expect? It could be your landing page. Try to simplify the actions on the landing page to make sure there is no confusion or abandonment from that conversion point.
- Want to get hyper-specific with your targeting? Try geo-fencing for conferences, events, shows and other gatherings of target audiences. Sophisticated new geo-locating tools allow geo-fencing to specific blocks around convention centers, hotels and other venues. Serving ads at the right time and place can pay big rewards.
Bluetext does mobile retargeting for many of its engagements, including:
- For a leading satellite networking services provider, Bluetext surrounded the perimeter of a major trade show to drive traffic to its booth
- For a leading cybersecurity company, Bluetext surrounded the perimeter of the RSA conference to drive traffic traffic to their booth featuring a cool virtual reality experience
- For a leading healthcare company, Bluetext coordinated with their sales team and surrounded medical centers where their prospects work to drive brand visibility when they walked into work everyday on their personal cell phones.
Account Based Marketing (ABM)
If you are an old-timer like myself who still buys clothes at actual physical stores, you know that the sales racks are filled right now with unsold summer inventory, probably the same summer clothes you paid double for just a few months ago. But no matter how enticing the sale, we often bypass the out-of-season sale items in favor of what we will wear in the here and now.
This comes to mind as I started thinking about how businesses market their products and services to the public sector. You not only have to hit prospective new customers you want to convert and existing customers you want to upsell with the right message, but it has to be the right message at the right time. The right time, as is the case with summer clothes on sale as the weather turns colder, often comes down to when prospects and customers are in the frame of mind to be thinking about your product or service. Catch them too early and they will get distracted and move on; catch them too late and, well, that’s self-explanatory I suppose.
This challenge becomes more difficult for marketers trying to blanket a large number of customers and prospects. The ability to personalize the message and the timing is why more marketers are increasingly intrigued by Account-based marketing (ABM). With ABM you concentrate efforts on a very defined set of target accounts – a single Agency or even units within an Agency – and then utilize campaigns personalized down to the single account level.
Marketing automation leaders are also looking at ABM to round out their services portfolio. Recently inbound marketing and sales leader HubSpot invested in ABM startup Terminus as part of a $10.3 million Series B round. In its blog explaining motivation for the investment, HubSpot talks about the fact that while inbound marketing is valuable for targeting an individual throughout the purchase process and beyond, ABM is useful when there is a need to build a relationship with multiple stakeholders at once. When done right HubSpot notes, ABM is about “precision and personalization not brute force.”
Embrace the Inhumanity of Content Marketing
For government marketers, it can be incredibly frustrating to create a compelling white paper or develop a webinar you know will be of value to agencies, but see that content sit untapped or underappreciated. The fact is that prospective customers may want your white paper or webinar but…they may not know they want it. You might have to sweeten the pot.
Cards against humanity, the self-described, “party game for horrible people,” has gone from kickstarter campaign to global phenomenon. It is also an example of how you can utilize the concept of game cards to incentivize key prospects to download and access marketing content – ideally using a more sanitized version of the game.
Think about your buyer persona. What is their typical age range, gender, title, geographic location, etc.? This can inform a creative content marketing campaign in terms of theme (Game of Thrones, professional sports trading card sets, or a variation of Cards Against Humanity like ‘Cards Against IT Complexity’ that could feature various challenges that Agencies face with their IT systems and available only to prospects who download an ebook or whitepaper, or participate in a webinar.
Virtual Reality and 3-D Interactive Design
Virtual reality can lead to real government contracts. For all of the noise surrounding virtual reality in the consumer market, it has emerged as an effective platform for storytelling with technology companies targeting decision makers in the government and enterprise markets. For a Bluetext virtual reality project with client Varonis, we enabled their marketing team to navigate a complex customer landscape and to share the Varonis story and product to a wider audience using innovative technology. The Varonis Digital Briefing Center launched at a major conference that many of their existing and prospective customers attended, and enabled Varonis to scale their demos concurrently by 6x, differentiate in a global trade show, and drive traffic to their booth.
To drive user engagement and leads, forward-thinking B2G companies are looking beyond white papers and webinars and towards immersive user experiences. Bluetext client NJVC was looking for a powerful new message as well as an immersive experience to engage and inform its global audience. Bluetext delivered a cutting-edge user experience that merged 3-D interactive design with thought leadership content marketing.
With 1,300 IT professionals deployed globally supporting 200+ sites on six continents, NJVC is the partner of choice for federal agencies, commercial clients and large and small businesses. The NJVC experience is integrated into a responsive Mission CrITical campaign microsite designed to enable users to easily access the content that best aligns with their needs. Bluetext also recently collaborated with XO Communications to develop a 3D “Etherverse” experience placed prominently in the site to drive user engagement and leads.