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How Defense Contractors Can Better Market to the U.S. Government

Defense contractors who deploy the latest Internet marketing tactics can boost their business development efforts, and build awareness and preference with government buyers.

Selling to the Government

Mark Amtower, “Godfather of Government Marketing” and author of “Selling to the Government: What It Takes to Compete and Win in the World’s Largest Market” is an expert in marketing to the government.

In his book, he outlines the basics every company should master to tap into government markets. It is a great primer for defense contractor CEOs and business development professionals, whether they are new to government sales or seasoned pros who want to make sure they have all their bases covered in this time of procurement flux.

The book has a chapter on how to align a company's marketing efforts with its business development and sales. It includes a vital checklist because "marketing dollars not tied to sales results are wasted."

  1. Match your area of expertise with an agency's needs.
  2. Identify the contract or contracts that are designed to fill those needs.
  3. Have the right personnel in place - people who already have skills and relationships.
  4. Support the sales personnel with the right collateral material.
  5. Understand the long-term nature of the sale.
  6. Set your BD professional loose in the market to match your core strengths with current and emerging opportunities in the agencies where you are a fit.
  7. Identify each of the opportunities you can most likely win (as prime or sub or via the GSA schedule).
  8. Meet with the key government and industry people involved in those opportunities and set up meetings with your key personnel.
  9. Develop the necessary relationships and further establish your area of expertise.
  10. Pursue and capture the business.
  11. Perform these steps over and over again (rinse and repeat).

For government contractors who want to out market their competition, Amtower has included a chapter toward the end of the book entitled "The Missing Link." This chapter covers Internet marketing tools that forward-thinking contractors are now using to market to the federal government.  He describes them as "a set of tools that allows us to interact in ways not even the great science-fiction television shows or movies could have imagined. The Jetsons may have been closer."

Among those state-of-the-art marketing tactics that defense contractors should be using:

LinkedIn & Twitter:

While social networking is not face-to-face networking it really is the next best thing. It allows you to find potential partners, prospects, and employees and it helps you identify others in companies or agencies you may not know. It provides you with a venue to manage the network of people you know... and to expand that network by reaching out to others with similar interests. It can, and does, lead to face-to-face networking...

Blogs, White Papers, eBooks

If a defense contractor only does one social media tactic, it should be to create a blog. Blogs can convey thought leadership, improve a company's search engine rankings and target a specific niche.

...a blog can create a community around a niche....There are several niche blogs in the federal market, each attracting some portion of the traffic available for its respective niche.

Similarly, the development of whitepapers and eBooks that educate the government buyer on how to solve their problems can quickly build awareness and preference for your company.

Podcasts, Video & Webinars 

Amtower describes podcasts as "audio whitepapers." With the podcast software on smartphones, the consumption and distribution of podcasts is increasingly dramatically, and government contractors are stepping up their use. The use of video is also increasing. As for webinars:

Many of the most successful companies in the market rely on webinars... to reach and teach prospects about various technologies, tools, and products. They do not want to sell, but to educate. These tools are great for prospecting and retaining customers.

What do you think? What marketing tactics have you found successful in marketing to the government? Please share your comments 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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