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Defense Contractor Content Marketing: The Business Development Afterburner

Defense contractors who develop marketing content that is solution-based, properly mapped and more than just text can increase their leads, contracts and customer engagement.


Defense Contractor Content Marketing Image: U.S. Navy

Yesterday I attended a defense industry workshop about growing international sales. It was well attended and had a large number of midsize and smaller defense contractors (the primes already have successful international sales processes in place).

The discussions were wide-ranging and included familiar topics like International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

But there were also discussions of a less familiar topic to defense contractors: marketing.

Marketing has not played a major role in the business models of most defense contractors. However, as defense contractors diversify to other areas of the government, internationally and to commercial markets, the need for marketing has increased.

Fortunately, defense contractors are getting into the marketing game at just the right time. Marketing is undergoing a tectonic change that is opening up opportunities to defense contractors:

  • Traditional, costly, interruptive “outbound” tactics like advertising, PR pitches, direct mail and cold calling are losing their long-held power and effectiveness.
  • New, “inbound” content marketing tactics like blogging, social media, webinars, SEO and email are on the ascent. And are less costly.

But there’s a catch.

As marketing continues to evolve, shrewd companies are keenly aware that the core restraints of marketing have shifted from space to attention.

For ages, marketing was constrained by space limitations (i.e. ad size, commercial length, trade show booth size, etc.). This space was normally rented from a gatekeeper that could control access and exposure. Or in the case of media relations and PR, an editor had to be pitched (or begged) to gain exposure.

Because of the Internet, space is now almost limitless. Web pages can be added with minimal incremental cost. Video and podcast lengths can go as long as necessary. Companies can communicate directly with their audiences.

With unconstrained space, companies must now compete for attention. To get attention, defense contractors need remarkable content to move their prospects through the traditional marketing steps of awareness, interest, desire and action.


For remarkable content that can be an afterburner for business development, here’s what defense contractors need to keep in mind:

Remarkable Content Is Solution, Not Product Based

Just like at a cocktail party, if you only talk about yourself, others won’t find you very interesting. Your prospects don’t care much about you; they care more about what you can do for them. Companies who talk only about themselves and their products are generally yawn-inducing. And lonely.

Instead, focus on the problems your prospects are facing and how you can help them. Pay attention to their core pain and how they feel. What is making it hard for them to do their jobs? This is where buyer personas come in the picture.

This focus on the buyer persona is the basis for all successful content marketing. You cannot create effective content with out a deep understanding of your buyer persona.

Here are some questions about buyer personas to help guide your initial discovery:

  • Who is your ideal customer? (It might not even be your current customer.)
  • What problems does he face at his job?
  • What questions are your sales and customer service people getting? This can provide insights into what’s keeping your buyer persona up at night.
  • Who does your buyer persona report to at work?
  • What function do they have at their job?
  • How much budget control do they have?
  • Who else is involved in purchase decisions for products like yours?
  • What do they do for fun?
  • What is their outlook on life?
  • One of the most important things to do in buyer persona research is to interview your ideal customers. Make sure to include people who are not your current customers.

Map Content To The Right Lifecycle Stage

As the graphic below shows, content can play a strategic role in moving prospects along the buying stages.

Defense Contractor Content Marketing

So how do you create all that content that’s needed? Don’t leave it to one person or department, especially if you’re a defense contractor with a lot of subject matter experts in house.

Obviously, you want to hire or outsource content-oriented people, but more importantly, you want to create a culture of content across all areas of your company.

Your company probably has more content idea generators than you realize. If some of the people in your organization can offer up just the ideas, your marketing group or agency can polish up the concepts for the appropriate format.

Once the people in your organization realize how their content ideas are contributing to the company’s business development, sales and bottom line, they will want to contribute even more.

Distribution is also very important by providing the right content and the right time.

When distributing your content, keep in mind that the half-life of a social media link is about three hours (about 90 minutes for Twitter). That’s why you need a lot of content to grab attention of your prospects and customers.

A popular rule of thumb for content distribution is the 10:4:1 rule:

  • 10 pieces of relevant and helpful industry content. Examples include links to third-party articles, new research, and industry trends. Essentially, you want to distribute content that shows you have a clear understanding of and expertise related to your industry.
  • 4 links to company blog posts that are applicable to people who don’t use your product of service (helpful articles).
  • 1 piece of content that moves your prospect to the lead stage. Examples include links to eBooks or webinars behind a landing page that can convert a visitor into a lead.

Content Should Be More Than Just Text

It’s very easy to think of content as just words on page. But social media is becoming increasingly visual, and rewarding of visual content.

In the more visual social media networks (e.g. Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, YouTube) it is vital that you leverage those mediums for all their visual worth.

For instance, show products being used. For defense contractor marketing, images and video are one of the best ways to communicate complex products and services in a simple way.

An example of great visual content is defense contractor GE’s “Badass Machines” Pinterest board.

GE Badass Machines

Remember that content does not have to be a 50-page whitepaper, but rather bite-sized, visually digestible content snacks.

Be Consistent

In creating remarkable marketing content that your prospects will love, remember that slow and steady wins the race.

You will not be successful in content marketing if you are not consistent. Make a plan and stick to it. This is one of the secrets to successful content marketing that is not talked about much. It is more important to have consistency than volume.

What do you think? Please join the conversation below. And if you found this helpful, please consider sharing it with your network.

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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