Originally appeared on Joyce Bosc Linkedin on June 23, 2021

 

When it comes to connecting with federal buyers and influencers, we’re always eager to learn what’s new, what’s working and what’s not. So, we attended the recent “Content Marketing Review: Reaching the Public Sector” webinar from our friends at Market Connections. Though we missed the experience of an in-person networking event, the survey findings from Market Connections did not disappoint.

Market Connections polled 600 government personnel involved in procurement decisions for technology products and services. They wanted to find out what types of marketing assets are most useful and influential; what type of information should be included in the content; and where government buyers go to find it. Survey participants were evenly split across federal, state and local agencies, and education (K-12 and higher education institutions).

Of course, we’re most interested in the federal civilian and defense market, so we especially tuned into the federal findings. Here are our top seven federal takeaways from the Market Connections content marketing review.

1) Federal Buyers Want Relevant, Credible, Concise Content

When characterizing what qualities make content worth the time it takes to review or consume it, government buyers across all markets agreed that they most want content aligned with their interests.

A closer look at federal buyers shows that the three content qualities they care about most are:

  • Comprehensive and immediately relevant
  • Credible and reputable
  • Concise and brief

Government buyers are busy professionals eager to stay on top of industry and technology developments. Your timely, credible content that gets to the point will help them keep up with a rapidly evolving marketplace.

2) Government Values Data, Past Performance

The Market Connections survey dug into work-related content across multiple asset types. Federal buyers were largely consistent about what features were most important across videos, podcasts, eBooks, white papers, research reports, case studies, webinars and blogs. Overwhelmingly, the top three features were:

  • Data and research to support content
  • Product specifications
  • Examples of past performance

When it comes to blogs and podcasts, product specifications slipped from the top three. Federal personnel prefer that blogs encompass government thought leadership and podcast content focuses on value.

Federal buyers value content without sales messaging. They are looking for education, facts and proof points. As we’ve previously discussed, it’s especially important for GovCons to avoid using their blogs as a sales pitch. Stick with educational content. 

3) Research Reports are the Most Valuable Content

When asked which content assets are most valuable overall, or when determining solutions and specifications, and when determining vendors and providers, federal buyers consistently rated these as the top three most valuable resources:

  • Research Reports
  • Product Demos
  • White Papers

Only in the later stages of the buying cycle, during final evaluation and selection, did the list vary. By that point, buyers are ready to replace the education and technical specs of a white paper with a trial of the product.

When defining the solutions they need, federal buyers value the data and educational content at the heart of well-written, well-organized research reports and white papers.

4) Feds Value Content from Industry

Government values credible content sources. In this case, that includes credible government AND industry sources. Their top three content sources are:

  • Government bodies/agencies
  • Industry: Contractors/vendors
  • Industry-specific trade press

This is an important reminder for GovCons, who have an opportunity – some say responsibility – to help educate government. If your content is consistently educational and insightful, federal buyers will view the content as valuable.

5) The Longer the Content, the Longer it Lives

Which content has the longest “shelf life”? For federal buyers, it’s these longer-form content assets that hold their value for more than six months:

  • Case Studies
  • Research Reports
  • eBooks
  • White Papers

Videos, blogs, podcasts and webinars were all most valuable right away, with a shelf life of less than six months.

This finding reinforces the importance of mixing your perishable and durable content. Use shorter-form, faster-turnaround content assets to speak into issues and developments happening right now.

6) Federal Buyers Prefer LinkedIn

When it comes to social media, LinkedIn still firmly tops Twitter and Facebook as the most effective online channel of engagement with federal buyers. Across all age groups of public sector buyers, LinkedIn is the clear winner for effectiveness.

Last spring, we invited others to join us in doing seven things on LinkedIn that would make us proud. If you did any of those, chances are good that you felt the momentum of the 600 percent increase in LinkedIn activity since the start of COVID-19! (That stat from Linkedin). Clearly, with government on board with this social platform, we should all keep it up.

7) Webinars are Valuable and Here to Stay (But In-Person Events Are Most Desired)

Federal buyers spent significantly more time with webinars during the buying process over the past year. During the COVID-19 pandemic, when most public sector employees were teleworking at least part-time, 46 percent of survey participants reported spending more time on webinars in 2020.

While 68 percent of federal buyers agree that webinars have become the “new normal” – expecting to continue attending them frequently – only 42 percent prefer webinars over in-person meetings. In fact, federal buyers expressed a progressive increase in comfort level with in-person meetings from the spring of 2021 (when the survey was conducted) through this summer and fall. Across events of all sizes, from small group meetings of fewer than 50 people to events of 500+ attendees, there is increasing comfort with in-person attendance as we move into this fall and beyond.

Government is a relationship-driven industry and webinars were a valuable substitute for in-person meetings last year. GovCons looking for networking and connection points with government buyers may want to continue offering educational webinars (ideal length of 30 to 45 minutes) – to complement in-person meetings and events as those come back this summer and fall.

Thank you to Market Connections for your specialized public sector research. We’re looking forward to attending – in person! – the annual Federal Media & Marketing Study results in October.

If you have additional insights to share from your content marketing experience, please drop a comment. We’d love to know what you’re thinking, too!