Some government marketers assume that the procurement process is what makes breaking into the public sector market so hard. The truth is, local government decision makers are process ninjas—if they want to buy something, they can figure out a way to buy it. In reality, the greatest challenge is that government leaders are risk-averse. And for good reason, because the risk of failure is simply too high. Nobody wants to be the person who invested in the technology that didn’t actually get lead out of drinking water, or the permitting software that didn’t actually make the process easier and faster for residents and local businesses.
Successful government marketers remember that their target customer is a human and proactively reduce risk. Here are three strategies that you as a government marketer can take to effectively influence and motivate local government decision makers to take the risk and invest in your new solution:
1. Understand key personas
The marketing landscape has gone through a seismic shift. Technology enables messaging at scale, and data empowers companies to prioritize relevance. But scale doesn’t solve the problems in your marketing or sales process, it actually exposes them. And what is often forgotten in the name of scale is personalization.
To break through the noise, you first have to be clear about why you’re engaging and why you’re doing it now. Each key stakeholder has an external mission and an internal motivation. As marketers, it’s critical to understand these personas. Who they are, what their day-to-day looks like. You must do the work to show how your solution impacts their bottom line—which for local government is often a community improvement metric, not a financial one.
Tactical Takeaway: Build specific local government personas, focus on what matters to them when they make decisions to help get you started.
2. Build trust with great content
The best way to build trust is to prove it. When I was a local government consultant, anytime I would propose something new to a city leader, the question I was asked was “where has this worked, in a city that looks like mine, to solve the problem we’re talking about?”
Successful marketers will answer that question with case studies that make your customer the hero. Great content cuts through the noise helps prospects recognize the challenge your customer faced. It makes them want the outcomes your customer achieved and leaves them wanting to know how they can easily replicate.
Note I didn’t say that they want to know about your solution at this stage. Evaluating the beeps and squeaks of a solution is the absolute last phase of the decision making process. And you won’t get there if you don’t first prove that you can, and have, helped other local governments solve problems.
Tactical Takeaway: Develop a big, diverse database of case studies where your customer is the hero, and put them everywhere.
3. Develop a procurement playbook
Local government leaders are stretched thin. They’re asked to be experts at most things, and are constantly reacting to the latest current event. As a result, the path of least resistance is often the path chosen. Which is why I’ve heard government leaders say they haven’t worked with a new vendor in 2 years, it is just easier to expand a contract than create a new one.
That means it is your job as a government marketer to grease the skids. By proactively mapping out every step of the procurement process—contract vehicles, funding and financing mechanisms, scopes of work—you can build trust, reduce risk and streamline the sales process. Government leaders are more likely to continue a sales conversation when they know they don’t have to navigate the lengthy procurement process on their own.
Tactical Takeaway: If possible, always link to the RFP that was used by a customer to buy your solution. Cities love to copy and paste scopes of work from their peers.
The B2G market is more crowded than ever. Today, most government marketers and sales leaders rely on static budget and RFP data to track opportunities. In state and local government, more than 78% of sales go to the first company at the table. Which means if you’re responding to an RFP, you’ve likely already lost.
Leveraging real-time search and engagement behavior—either what is sitting in your own CRM or other first party authenticated buyer intent data can help you build more powerful marketing personas based on how priorities and pain points change over time and create compelling content that speaks to the immediate needs, interests and stage of prospects.
Winners this year will be the companies who make purchasing their solution a no-brainer decision for government leaders. These strategies in addition to data will help you reduce risk to do just that.