While Covid threw every marketer for a loop, B2G marketers were especially impacted given their reliance on in-person events for both branding and driving demand. Public sector marketing leaders had to quickly pivot and embrace new strategies and channels, with a heavy focus on digital.
We caught up with two B2G marketing leaders to discuss how they are re-thinking their marketing strategies.
A Surgical Approach to Events
Events are a staple of every marketing plan, regardless of sector, but their ROI remains notoriously difficult to measure.
The challenge is even more acute for government marketers who rely heavily on in-person events. Many companies that found success through other marketing channels during Covid are rethinking their event investment strategy.
Allan Rubin, a public sector marketing executive with more than 17 years of leadership experience, recognizes both sides of the events equation.
“Events are definitely back. Attendance has been strong this past year as people got out to reconnect with their networks,” said Rubin. “However, during Covid, a lot of focus shifted from events to digital marketing, and that accelerated the transition of both budgets and skills to digital tactics. I think digital will continue to capture a larger share of B2G marketing budgets and mindshare moving forward, probably at the expense of event spending.”
Josh Martin, CMO of Decision Lens, the leading government sector planning software, has made changes to his event strategy because of these noticeable shifts.
“We have found that connecting with our target audiences is now happening at smaller, more focused events,” said Martin. “As a result, we’ve shifted our spend from primarily big events, where a small vendor might get lost, to micro events where we stand out. While tracking ROI remains challenging, we’ve deployed a system and process which provides maximum visibility into pipeline impact. We are augmenting our events strategy with strong pre-event digital awareness campaigns to drive booth traffic.”
While events will likely always be a component of an integrated B2G marketing strategy, marketing leaders are starting to take a more surgical approach to event selection so that budget can be freed up for digital channels that proved successful, and more measurable, during the pandemic.
“Smart marketers are also finding ways to combine the two channels,” added Rubin. “Digital tactics can be used to extend the life of their event investments beyond what happens at the physical venue, bringing more value before, during, and after the actual event.”
New Boxes on Your Org Chart
With an increased focus on digital channels, some interesting organizational changes have begun to happen as a result. Particularly, some new roles have emerged, with more on the horizon.
In the digital marketing environment, thorough research is extremely important. Research plays a large part in tying together the insights needed to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time.
Martin and his team at Decision Lens recognized the importance of research and acted on it. “We recently added a Research Manager to the team. This role has been very helpful across multiple areas including content planning and audience segmentation,” said Martin. “Research is important because almost everything about the federal government is knowable and buyers are sophisticated. They expect vendors to specifically speak to their unique challenges and suggest solutions to overcome them.”
Even for non-digital marketing positions, the focus on data-driven marketing, segmentation, intent targeting, and measurement shouldn’t be ignored. According to Rubin, “Writers, event managers, and creative types also need to understand the data. Traditional skills are still important, but the C-suite wants to quantify return on marketing investment as costs increase. As digital becomes a larger part of the B2G marketing mix, expectations are higher for marketers to quantify everything with tighter KPIs, performance data, and marketing-influence metrics. Marketing leaders and their staffs need to be prepared to deliver quantifiable insights to justify their spending and to inform their strategies.”
Rethinking Content Strategy and the Rise of ABM
Content strategy has always played a critical role in B2G marketing strategy, but some marketers are reassessing their approach to content. Decision Lens recently re-envisioned their thought-leadership strategy and saw a significant improvement in lead acquisition results. “When we were promoting tech demos on LinkedIn, we were paying significantly more per lead than we wanted to,” said Martin. “We took the time to write and promote a comprehensive eBook, and we cut our cost per lead by 90%. After identifying a major pain point for the DOD, we invested several months researching the topic, sourcing and reviewing secondary research, and designing an easily consumable, impactful thought-leadership piece we’ll be able to use for years.”
Content strategy plays a big role in another trend in B2G marketing – the adoption of Account-based Marketing (ABM), which can be a particularly effective approach given the narrow focus on specific government agencies and the key influencers at those agencies.
Rubin weighed in, “There’s been much more recognition of the importance of account-based marketing in the public sector, particularly to position companies well in advance of anticipated RFPs. That title and skill set are showing up much more frequently in job descriptions.”
Is it Live or is it GPT?
It wouldn’t be a marketing blog if we didn’t talk about AI in marketing.
Generative AI tools like ChatGPT, Microsoft’s new GPT-powered Bing, and the just-released Google Bard can’t be ignored if you’re a B2G marketer. When used properly, these tools have the potential to significantly improve efficiency without sacrificing much quality. “It’s still early days for these tools, and marketers are both excited and nervous about bringing them into the mix in a way that helps them get more done with fewer resources but without risking brand authenticity,” said Rubin.
Martin experimented with ChatGPT and was able to significantly reduce his content creation process. “Previously, it took me a couple of weeks to create a series of nurture emails. By using ChatGPT, the copy we got back was about 65% complete, and we reduced our content development time down to two days.”
Decision Lens didn’t stop at ChatGPT, though. Martin’s team recently introduced voice replication software that used a 1-minute sample of his voice, combined with a provided script, to create a voiceover that could then be added to videos. You can check out the videos (and Josh’s “you can’t tell it’s not him” voice) on Decision Lens’ homepage.
For more on the use of AI tools in marketing, check out our recent post.
What are your thoughts on B2G marketing trends? How much of your events budget has been reallocated to digital channels? Have you added a position to your team that didn’t exist in B2G marketing a few years ago? Leave a comment and continue the conversation below.