Selling to the government is undergoing a transformation. With the advent of LPTA (lowest price, technically acceptable) as a criteria for contract awards, the value of incumbency is just not what it used to be. As with most change environments, opportunities exist for agile businesses who embrace the change.
Growth-oriented government contractors are using inbound marketing to meet the new challenges of B2G selling. While relationships will always be important in any type of selling, inbound marketing is opening doors for government contractors who are embracing the new B2G selling paradigm.
Don't take it from, listen to what government buyers have to say. According to the 2015 Federal Content Marketing Review published by Market Connections and the Merritt Group, the majority of government buyers surveyed said that they used inbound marketing content in the form of webinars, websites, case studies and whitepapers to help them in their buying decisions.
If you're a government contractor that wants to grow, inbound marketing should be part of your toolbox. Here are 4 innovative ways government contractors are using inbound marketing to grow their businesses and increase their visibility with government buyers.
1. Use inbound marketing to get on government buyer's radar screens
The sales cycles for most contract vehicles are long - you generally need to be on buyer's radar screens 18-24 months before contracts are awarded. Government contractors should use inbound marketing to reach contracting officers and their teams well in advance of a contract award. Do you have an innovative technology that solves problems your target buyers are looking to solve. Write a whitepaper about it and create blog posts around the whitepaper.
With effective content promotion, buyers will find you through organic web searches and social media queries. If you're doing a good job, you will be identifying opportunities that are coming up and you can use your content to start conversations with buyers. Good inbound marketing content will get you found for the opportunities that you don't know about.
It's not easy, but consistent content marketing will get you ranked highly for relevant search terms on Google. Commit to publishing weekly blog posts on the topics that your buyers are solving for and include the opportunity to download premium content offers like webinars, eBooks and whitepapers. If you really want to develop trusted advisor status, commit to holding monthly webinars on relevant topics. Remember, these are long sales cycles and the sooner you start producing consistent content, the sooner you will get on buyer's radar screens.
2. Use case studies to open new doors
Many government contractors do a great job providing innovative solutions for a customer, but can't build on their success. Sitting around waiting for opportunities is not going to help you grow. Develop case studies that show how you successfully solved a problem for your customer and share it with other agencies that are facing the same of similar problems.
An active business development process will identify new opportunities and the people that are responsible for managing those programs. It's more authoritative to reach out to them with real-life examples of how you've solved problems with similarly situated customers than to talk about generalities. This will keep you top of mind with buyers when they are ready to solicit proposals.
Remember, incumbency isn't what it used to be, so look for potential re-compete situations and share your case studies with the contracting officer.
3. Use your inbound marketing to find partnering opportunities
Prime contractors are always looking for teaming partners to help them fulfill their obligations to work with small businesses, women-owned businesses, disabled veterans and other demographics that are required to participate in their contracts.
The primes are just like anybody else, they use Google to help them find potential teaming partners. A consistent inbound marketing effort will get you found when they are looking for potential partners. Don't overlook the requirements to register with the appropriate primes, but inbound marketing will help them find you to fill their specific needs.
A consistend inbound marketing effort supported by a professional website that shows you're serious makes a good impression on potential teaming partners. They are looking for partners that are professional and want to grow. If you have a website that hasn't been updated in five years, you risk creating a bad impression that will be difficult to impossible to overcome.
Look at the websites for Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Booz Allen. That should give you an idea of what you should be striving for. A website that has pictures of battleships and bald eagles and content that's "me-focused" just won't cut it.
4. Use inbound marketing to diversify into commercial markets
In today's uncertain federal marketplace, revenue diversification is always a good idea. Take cybersecurity, for example. If you have a good cybersecurity solution that you sell to federal customers, don't you think banks, insurance companies and other commercial businesses could be potential customers?
B2B buyers have been accessing inbound marketing to help them solve problems for years. Think about how your solutions could be used by commercial businesses and create content around those topics. If you're publishing weekly blog posts, think about writing one per month that's targeted at commercial customers.
Commercial prospects that access your content through a web search are very likely at some state of an active buying process. The first step to getting on their short list is to be found when they're doing research. Inbound marketing content will do the job for you.
These are just a few of the ways government contractors can use inbound marketing in their business development processes. While you can't survive on inbound marketing alone, you just might have trouble surviving without it. That's why government contractors should consider inbound marketing as part of their long-term business strategy.