Now More Than Ever, Events are a Key Part of the Government Contractor Marketing Spend

Market Connections recently released the findings of their 2018 Federal Government Contractor Study. This year's study had a special focus on the collaboration between Business Development (BD)/sales teams and marketing departments.

When it comes to organizational structure, the study found that the respondent pool was split about 50/50 with half having BD and Marketing report up to different supervisors and the other half having a shared supervisor for the two functions. Interestingly, the study found that companies with separate reporting structures had a higher win rate than those with a shared structure. As one of the speakers said, "what this shows is that BD and marketing are generally rowing in the same direction, even if they are not in the same boat."

One area where both BD and marketing do seem to be sharing a boat (much to our delight) is event sponsorship. Of those surveyed, 86% said that event sponsorship was a part of their marketing spend for 2018. Not only are organizations spending money on events, but they are seeing a return on that investment -- 64% said event marketing was very or somewhat effective in filling the pipeline with qualified leads (making events one of the top five tactics for pipeline marketing).

This focus on and success with events shows that even in the government world of rigorous and controlled RFP response and review, relationships still have a huge impact. For BD professionals, this event spend gives them an opportunity to get up close and personal with customers. Government customers need to be able to trust that a company can deliver on what they are presenting in an RFP. That trust is built through ongoing dealings with the company and the people who will be performing the work.

A panel at the research launch, co-sponsored by Merritt Group and the Professional Services Council, discussed how best to use event sponsorships to get ROI. Their advice included:

  • Small events are great for cultivating relationships. The conversational style at these events tends to breed more productive discussion and insight among government buyers and industry.
  • The market is so flooded with events, that there is not one "can't miss" event. Just because your organization has always been at an event does not mean you have to keep going. Events should be chosen based on how best they help you meet your business and marketing goals.
  • Choose events that deliver your target audience. Government marketing is becoming more personalized. Find a venue that allows you to meet with a target group, be that a single agency, a certain job function, or a line of business, to use the connection events offer to personalize your message.
  • Create a mix in your event plan including hosted events (ones that your organization holds), tradeshows, and small events.
  • Customers are looking for "light selling" which takes the form of education. Events are a great way to educate either through speaking opportunities or demonstrations.

For a full summary of the research findings, click here. We'd love to hear how your organization is coordinating BD and marketing efforts and the role events play. Share your thoughts in the comments.

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