Do you want to build preference with the right government customers? Content marketing is the new heavy artillery. But it's all about the aiming.
Market Connections and Merritt Group have released the 2015 Federal Content Marketing Review.
The report “looks at how content is influencing the federal buying process and how contractors are leveraging content in their marketing, communications and business development activities.”
The report also identifies gaps between what government buyers perceive as valuable content versus current contractor marketing priorities. There are some big disparities.
With the recent budget and travel restrictions in place and cancellation of events to get information and training (i.e. trade shows, conferences, seminars, etc.), government decision makers are turning to webinars, white papers, case studies, websites and discussions with other agencies.
Not surprisingly, government decision makers and buyers indicated that the top benefits of digital content are “hot topics and trends” (85%), “education” (84%), “training” (83%) and “best practices” (75%).
However, contractors are putting their highest priorities on marketing collateral (69%), white papers (62%) and case studies (57%).
Do you see the disconnect?
Marketing collateral tends to be about the contractor. The same with case studies and to a lesser extent, white papers. That content tends to be about the company producing the material instead of what's interesting to the reader.
While there’s a time and place for contractors to talk about themselves, it would be more effective from a content marketing standpoint if the main thrust of the content were on the customer. What would be most helpful to the customer they’re trying to reach? What would be educational? What would help them make more informed decisions?
One tenet of content marketing is that a prospective customer doesn’t care about you until you show that you care about them first.
And that is the one tweak that defense contractors should make in their content marketing to stand out amongst the competition. Start with researching your buyer persona, or ideal customer whom you want to influence. What kind of content would they really appreciate?
Mice aren’t attracted to mousetraps. They’re attracted to the cheese on the mousetraps. The same with content marketing – focus first on providing useful information that will show empathy, and build trust and credibility. Publish the useful content on your website on a consistent basis and invite the reader to subscribe to an even more helpful newsletter. Or offer them a research report in return for their email address so you can deepen the relationship via more helpful, interesting content.
After you’ve provided valuable content, the reciprocity principle will start to work. Ultimately, the customer will get to know, like and trust your company. When the customers are in an early stage of a contract, they will seek you out for advice and counsel.
As you continue to offer helpful content, your company will get more speaking engagements and publicity because of your thought leadership.
Interestingly, the study indicates that the least valuable content for government contractors is blogs (28%). Blogs are simply articles posted to a section of your website (in reverse chronological order) that include the ability for readers to make comments and use social media to share the content. You’re reading a blog right now.
I have only read the highlights of the study (which you can download here), but I would bet that government customers find blogs the least valuable because they are usually all about the companies who author them.
Look through the websites of most government contractors (who have a blog) and you’ll see they’re all about the companies. Look at us! We won an award! We’re ISO certified! We had a company picnic! We did community service!
While there’s marginal value in content like that for employees and prospective hires, it’s not helpful to the customer. It’s not helpful from a content marketing standpoint.
Instead, if a contractor were to also publish a customer-oriented blog on their website (it’s OK to have multiple blogs) that is focused on helping to educate and inform their customers and prospective customers, the blog would be as noticeable as an illumination round at night. The website traffic would surge with the right kind of visitors – potential customers.
And blogging would help more than any other content marketing tactic to improve what government buyers indicated is the most effective online channel - search engines (83%).
The impact blogging has on search engine optimization (SEO) is unequalled. Here's why: each and every post you write gets published as its own, individual, indexed page on your website. If you think of indexable pages as lottery tickets for getting found online, then each page is a new opportunity to win more chances of the right people finding your site.
When your blogging focuses on keywords related to problems your company solves, the blogging helps you rank in search engines and get found by people looking for the solutions you provide.
Contractors who produce helpful, educational content for their prospective customers will be the big winners in the escalating content marketing arms race.