Market research firm, Market Connections (@mkt_connections), recently released its 2012 Federal Media and Marketing Study – a detailed survey of how the federal government uses various forms of media in executing its functions.
Summary of Findings
The online survey was conducted in January through March of 2012 and is based on the responses of over 3,700 respondents. 44% of the respondents worked at civilian agencies while 56% worked at defense agencies or for the military. 82% of respondents were at least 45 years old.
Here is a summary of the respondents’ roles in the purchasing process:
- Identification of need for product/service – 59%
- Determination of requirements, specifications or features – 52%
- Evaluation of proposals/bids/quotes – 33%
- Identification of potential contractors/suppliers – 31%
- Allocation of budget dollars – 25%
- Draft/writing of RFP – 25%
- Make final decision/approve purchase – 25%
There is a wealth of useful data in the study. Of particular interest to readers of this blog are the findings related to federal employees’ use of social media and mobile devices in performing their jobs. Highlights include:
- 60% of respondents preferred to read trade publications online or on a mobile device, either exclusively or in combination with printed materials
- 58% of mobile users used smartphones while 31% used tablets
- When asked if they were allowed to access social media sites at work, 44% responded yes, 44% responded no and 12% did not know
- 58% of respondents used Facebook, 46% used YouTube and 35% used LinkedIn. LinkedIn usage doubled since last year’s survey.
- 37% of respondents read blogs and 13% write blogs
- Top blogs read were NextGov, Government Executive, Federal Times, Federal Daily, FedBlog and FedSmith
All data cited above comes from Market Connection’s 2012 Federal Media Marketing Study Overview.
Implications for Government Contractors
The study provides conclusive proof that federal employees involved in the procurement process are educating themselves through social media and by reading blogs. While the survey doesn’t provide any data on the prevalence of the use of search engines in conducting acquisition-related research, I think it’s safe to assume that Google and other search engines are being widely used.
This is not to say that traditional relationship-based purchases have gone away. However, it’s safe to assume that the federal budget situation will place increased scrutiny on the acquisition process and require contracting officers to not only ensure that they are allocating funds fairly and effectively, but also to ensure that they are considering all of the options available.
Government contractors that are using inbound marketing techniques like search engine optimization, content marketing and blogging have a jump on their competitors who aren’t. Smaller contractors that don’t have long-established relationships with buyers can boost their business development efforts with inbound marketing. Contractors seeking business development opportunities outside of the agencies and programs that they currently service can use inbound marketing to get found by a whole new set of potential buyers.
Here are some suggestions you can use immediately to start using inbound techniques to improve business development efforts:
Read the blogs your buyers read. Comment on the blog posting when appropriate, preferably in a way that helps your audience and establishes you as a trusted advisor.
If you’re not on LinkedIn, create a profile today. Look to join groups that your buyers participate in and offer helpful comments and suggestions. Again, the goal is to position yourself as a trusted advisor that helps others solve problems.
Lastly, educate yourself – learn what inbound marketing is all about and how each element works together to help you get found on the internet, convert website visitors to leads and analyze the process for continual improvement.