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Defense Contractors: How To Help Your Boss Understand Modern Marketing

One challenge for defense industry marketers is getting management to understand and approve new marketing methods. One successful approach is to educate with questions.

Understanding Modern Marketing

With all the change occurring in the marketing world, marketing professionals are constantly challenged to learn new skills and keep up with the latest trends.

But to many defense industry marketers, the even bigger challenge can be getting their management to understand and adopt more of the “new” marketing strategies and tactics such as inbound marketing.

Many C-Suite executives may have come up through sales, accounting, operations or some other career path, and may be less familiar with marketing.

And even for those C-Suiters who have a marketing background, the rules of marketing have changed dramatically since they first started out. They may be more comfortable with paid advertising, direct mail, cold calling and trade shows.

The now commonplace aspects of modern marketing like buyer personas, content marketing, social media and marketing automation software can seem pretty foreign to them, if not frightening.

As a result, many marketers now find themselves spending a lot of time and effort being a marketing change agent. Their leadership and teaching skills are just as important as their marketing expertise.

When I give talks to defense industry groups about the changing nature of marketing and how to succeed at it, I start by describing the changes in how people buy now. I include slides that contain facts and figures to make my points. Here are two slides that I sometimes use (courtesy of HubSpot):

Marketing playbook is broken

outbound vs inbound marketing

But it’s not until after I ask a series of questions of the audience that I begin to see a lot of nodding heads (and a few invisible light bulbs appearing over those heads).

One of the first questions I ask is if they’ve ever not answered a call because the Caller ID indicated that it was a sales call. Every hand goes up.

I then go on to ask about how many newspaper subscribers are in the audience. How many use yellow pages? How many are on the Do Not Call list? How many have satellite radio? Who has a digital video recorder and skips through TV commercials? Do you ever throw away direct mail without opening it? And so on.

Research into the media habits of federal government decision makers supports these changes. In the Federal Media & Marketing Study by Market Connections, two findings illustrate these changes:

Attendance is declining at trade shows amongst government decision makers ...

Defense Industry Trade Show Attendance

Government buyers are reading more blogs ...

Government buyer blog readership

Defense industry marketers who want to help lead the change in their organization toward new, more effective marketing should educate with questions.

By asking questions about your management’s own buying and media usage habits, you can get them to personalize and then understand how marketing has changed. And why your company’s marketing needs to evolve.

For instance, ask questions like:

  •  Do you respond to direct mail offers?
  • Do you screen your phone calls?
  • Have you ever unsubscribed from an unsolicited email?
  • When you research a product for the company, do you do Internet research?
  • Do you ask friends for advice? Or do you get your information from the Yellow Pages or the local newspaper?

If people are being honest, they will tell you that they use search engines and social media to get information.

If you get an honest answer and the person you’re speaking with hasn’t already connected the dots, probe for why your company remains so reliant on marketing tactics that aren’t even effective with their own executives.

By getting your management to “self discover” why your company needs to use more “new” marketing and less “old” marketing, you will be an effective marketing change agent.

What challenges do you face in getting your management to understand and approve new approaches to marketing? Please join the conversation below.

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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