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5 Customer Insights Defense Firms Need For Effective Content Marketing

Content marketing is becoming one of the most effective means of reaching government buyers. To avoid becoming overwhelmed, start with your buyer.

Defense Contractor Content MarketingSurvey Respondents

Market Connections has released its sixth annual Federal Media & Marketing Study™. The report analyzes media usage of 3,700 federal decision makers, as well as their demographics, job function and purchasing habits. Just over one half of the respondents are in a defense- or military-related government agency

Not surprisingly, the study’s dominant thread is declining budgets. The impact of budget cuts on the federal decision makers manifests itself in less out-of-town travel to attend industry conferences, trade shows and seminars. Conversely, there is increased preference for and use of electronic media such as blogs, e-newsletters and webinars.

shrinking defense budgets

I found several changing media habits of federal decision makers that, while worrisome to defense contractors who continue to market themselves with increasingly ineffective traditional methods, are an opportunity to any company that embraces content marketing.


Content marketing is any marketing that involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire customers. This information can be presented in a variety of formats, including news, video, white papers, e-books, infographics, case studies, how-to guides, question and answer articles, photos, etc.

Content marketing can seem overwhelming. In the attached Periodic Table of Content Marketing by Econsultancy, you can see that, like chemistry, there are a lot of details and possible combinations.


Periodic Table of Content Marketing Click to Enlarge


And while producing content is important, so is the context. You need to provide helpful and relevant content at the right time. And even more important, it needs to be created for the right person.

That's where your buyer comes in. Before producing content, defense firms need to research who their buyers are. Their real buyers - those individuals who are involved to varying degrees in researching, influencing and selecting a solution that your defense firm provides.

This is why and how buyer personas have become so important in content marketing.

In Adele Revella’s “The Buyer Persona Manifesto,” she offers this definition of a buyer persona:

It’s an archetype, a composite picture of the real people who buy, or might buy, products like the ones you sell.

Buyer personas are like an avatar crafted from direct interviews with as many buyers as possible. And from their behavior observed at conferences, social media, etc.

Other characters who influence the buyer’s decision-making process will emerge from this research: procurement people, bosses, rivals, etc.

It’s important to remember that this buyer persona is not necessarily your customer. The development of the persona helps you discern the difference between who you THINK your customer is versus who you real customer is. Flowing from that is a wealth of strategic insights about not only who your customer is, but also how to talk to them.

"So instead of talking at the buyer, blurting out a “me-me-me” narrative with absolutely no consideration of his real concerns, marketers can get straight to the heart of the matter."

However, when researching your buyer personas, it’s easy to become distracted by interesting but irrelevant facts about your buyers (e.g. hobbies, favorite TV shows, music preferences, etc.)

To help separate the signal from the noise of buyer persona research, Revella recommends focusing on “The Five Rings of Insight™.” These are the five things that will determine if you have buyer personas that will positively impact your content creation, business development and sales.

5 rings of insight

  1. Priority Initiatives – “What causes certain buyers to invest in a solution like yours, and how are they different from buyers who remain attached to the status quo?” What three to five problems or objectives does your buyer persona dedicate time, budget and political capital? It’s not about you or your product.
  2. Success Factors – “What operational or personal results does your buyer persona expect from purchasing this solution?" To understand the buyer’s approach to a Priority Initiative, identify what tangible or intangible rewards he or she associates with success.
  3. Perceived Barriers – “What concerns cause your buyer to believe that your solution or company is not their best option?” What could prompt the buyer to question whether your company or solution is capable of achieving his or her Success Factors?
  4. The Buyer’s Journey – “…reveals the behind-the-scenes story at each phase of the evaluation.” What process does this persona follow in researching and selecting a solution that can overcome the Perceived Barriers and achieve the Success Factors?
  5. Decision Criteria – “Which aspects of the competing offerings do your buyers perceive as most critical, and what do they expect from each one?” What aspects of each product will the buyer assess in evaluating the alternative solutions available?

Armed with these five insights, Revella explains that your buyer personas will “reveal the buying decision you need to influence – telling how when and why the buyer engages to choose you or a competitor, or to stick with the status quo.”

To download an ebook on “The Five Rings of Insight™” as well as other helpful information from the Buyer Persona Institute, click here.

The Principal and Founder of Artillery, Douglas Burdett is a former artillery officer and Madison Avenue ad man. He also hosts The Marketing Book Podcast, where he interviews authors every week about the latest in modern marketing and sales.

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