Business-to-Government has experienced a few bumps in the road over the past year: the GSA conference scandal, the Sequester restriction on training and travel budgets, the government program office’s reluctance to speak with industry, and now the government shut down. Indeed so much has happened in government over the last year to increase the challenge of B2G communications that I’d be hard-pressed to list it all. The folks over at Market Connections Inc and Boscobel Marketing Communications have published a white paper which sheds some light on the communication dilemma we are facing today and discusses the apparent mismatch of how industry and the government plan to communicate with each other under the current budget constraints. Let’s discuss some of the more interesting points they’ve presented.
The Difficulties of Talking to Your Government Customer
Seventy-two percent of agencies plan to attend fewer conferences and 57% say they will be hosting fewer conferences. Contractors are in step with these results with 50% stating they will attend fewer conferences. Government participants stated they would be turning more to webinars, reading publications in their field, and reviewing websites to gain knowledge. Contractors plan to have more personal discussions with government personnel in addition to updating their websites and producing white papers and case studies. The biggest discrepancy was in the area of face-to-face visits. Of contractors, 68% said they would try to do more face-to-face visits, while only 19% of government said they planned to do the same. This might explain why it is so hard to get an appointment to meet with government personnel.
A silver lining does appear in the findings however, especially for small businesses. Increased use of social media and website reviews by government personnel will make it easier for small business to get their story out and compete directly with large businesses. By participating in LinkedIn discussions, regularly using Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, you can spread your message to government and become known as a thought leader. Video is also a great way to highlight your products and explain what you can bring to your customers.
A big concern held by both government and industry is that this communication mismatch will inhibit innovation and collaboration. Two-thirds of both contractors and government agree that it will be difficult for government to maintain best practices. Three-quarters of those surveyed, for example, believe contractors will have to become more innovative to inform and educate their government customers. As contractors we must keep trying to attract their attention in new and creative ways as well as the tried-and-true approaches like simply knocking on their door.