There is a huge gap between the information government buyers want and what government contractors are giving them. This is one of the primary conclusions of Market Connections 2015 Federal Content Marketing Review.
Market Connections interviewed 150 federal employees involved in the buying process and 150 government contractors to learn what the buyers wanted in terms of content marketing and what contractors were providing. Suffice it to say that federal buyers and government contractors aren't on the same page.
This information gap presents huge opportunities for government contractors who use content marketing to educate potential buyers. Beating your competitors to the punch can pay off big if done correctly.
Government buyers increasingly rely on digital content
Government agencies needs for content are largely a response to budget and travel restrictions enacted in the wake of the GSA scandals and the ongoing budget crisis. When asked how they were getting important information in lieu of face-to-face interactions at trade shows and other events, government buyers indicated that they increasingly rely on content marketing to stay abreast of the latest trends and best practices.
When asked where they get the information they previously got at trade shows and seminars, the change in buyer responses from 2013 to 2015 showed an increasing reliance on digital content.
The percentage of government buyers accessing webinars, publications, websites and case studies has increased significantly over the last 2 years. The fact that 69% of government buyers get information from their co-workers is also a good sign for government contractors. The co-workers are likely getting their information from the sources shown in the table above.
Misalignment on the benefits of online content
Government buyers were clear in identifying the benefits of online content:
Staying current on hot topics and trends (85% of buyers)
Education (84% of buyers)
Training (83% of buyers)
Learn about/maintain best practices (75%)
Once again, the survey showed that government contractors views were misaligned with government buyers:
There are great opportunities for contractors to reach potential buyers by providing online content centering around best practices, training and education.
How do government buyers want their online content?
When asked what types of online content they found most valuable, government buyer preferences were clear:
Research reports (69% of buyers)
Webinars (68% of buyers)
Case studies (52% of buyers)
White papers (49% of buyers)
One point is clear: government contractors should reallocate the budget spent producing marketing collateral to case studies, webinars, white papers and research reports. The bottom line is that government buyers just aren't interested in your brochures and sales materials.
How do government buyers find the content they need?
Here are the online channels government buyers use to find the information they need to do their jobs:
Search engine (83% of buyers)
Government focused online communities (69% of buyers)
Corporate websites (60% of buyers)
Magazine websites (57% of buyers)
This should dispel the myth that using inbound marketing so that buyers can find you online is not applicable to B2G marketing.
Here are the most effective social channels for government buyers:
Google+ (47% of buyers)
YouTube (32% of buyers)
LinkedIn (31% of buyers)
While I wouldn't recommend foregoing LinkedIn marketing, I certainly would advise contractors to be active on Google+. In addition to the fact that government buyers use it, it will help your SEO efforts.
What should government contractors do to close the gap?
The answer to that question can be found in the Market Connections 2015 Content Marketing Review. We highly recommend using marketing automation software like HubSpot to measure the effectiveness of your content marketing and the ROI of your efforts. The primary focus for content marketing to government buyers is to be helpful and educational and provide them the information they want in the format they want.
In summary, government buyer behavior is rapidly matching B2B buyer behavior. Government buyers learn about potential vendors by accessing online content and starting relationships online. A good content marketing strategy for government contractors is to use the Market Connections data as a starting point and to use marketing automation software to optimize your efforts. Unlike many B2B industries, the fact that inbound marketing adoption is relatively low with B2G sellers offers opportunities to get a jump start on your competition.