Tag Archives: Market challenges

Developing A Solid And BUDGETED Marketing Plan

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Image: https://rboa.com/

WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY ” By Elizabeth Harr

At its core, an effective marketing budget focuses on reaching strategic business goals. So before you start trying to estimate costs, it pays to set goals for exactly what you are trying to accomplish with your marketing.

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“As we rapidly move toward 2020, it is critical to build your marketing budget and plan for the year ahead. Here’s a step-by-step guide.

Step 1. Identify your business goals

If you want your firm to growfor example, try to get specific about such questions as by how much, and by when? Your goals can also clarify which practice areas are the best targets for growth, based on such factors as where you’re already experiencing growth, and where you’re able to deliver the most value.

Step 2. Conduct target audience research

One of your key decisions is what type of research you need. Secondary research means locating studies that have already been done by other organizations on relevant industries, markets or trends. One example is the marketing budget research my firm does for professional services firms, but there are many other choices out there as well. Primary research, on the other hand, involves commissioning a study of your target audiences, and is more expensive.

Step 3. Establish your marketing strategy

This involves doing high-level planning to set the overall direction for your marketing. These decisions will help guide how you position your firm in the marketplace and deliver key messages about your firm to individual audiences. In general, an effective marketing strategy should have four key elements:

  • Findings about target audiences, including which of your services they value most, and why.
  • Your firm’s differentiators. This is one of the most elusive goals for many firms, but it’s worth every minute you can spend on it! Each of your differentiators must be true, provable and relevant to clients.
  • Your market positioning. Incorporating your differentiators, your positioning provides a cohesive and compelling story that helps you stand out from competitors.
  • Messages for each audience. These should be customized for each audience, and must support your overall market positioning.

Step 4. Identify your marketing techniques

Your research into your target audiences will reveal the preferred communications channels for each audience. Based on those preferences, try to find a balance between offline and online marketing techniques. Traditional (offline) marketing techniques have many parallels with similar efforts in the digital space.

Our research has found that the fastest growing and most profitable firms tend to use a mix of both traditional and digital marketing techniques. These techniques vary in effectiveness, so be careful about your selection.

Step 5. Decide where and how you’ll measure success

Most professional services firms track marketing result in three broad areas:

Business Outcomes — based on such metrics as revenue growth, new clients and leads, and profitability, all of which are typically tracked in one’s financial or CRM systems.

MarketVisibility — the most useful metrics usually focus on external website traffic, and more specifically the traffic to such places as your careers section and social media pages.

Subject MatterExpertise — useful indicators can include such metrics as number of white paper downloads, blog post views, or speaking event attendance.

Metrics can also include performance on deliverables and milestones, such as whether webinars events are happening on schedule, articles/posts being published, and others.

Step 6. Set expectations for effort and resources needed

Another aspect of your plan is setting goals for the level of effort that will be required from various sources. These considerations can range from how frequently you publish blogs or offer webinars, to what sort of external resources, training, software or website development services you need. Ideally, your marketing team will work together with your billable professionals and external resources to produce the desired result. Coordinating all of these activities can be quite a challenge, too — so consider using a marketing calendar.

Step 7. Establish budgets

The final step is to create your “bottom-up” marketing plan budget based on your decisions about the assumptions discussed above. Asking your vendors to estimate on specific projects and tools is fairly straightforward. However, estimating the cost of such ongoing activities as blogging or placing articles can be more complex. For example, managing the involvement of busy subject matter experts in the marketing process can be time-consuming, and estimating the costs involved can be a challenge.

Now compare your overall spending benchmark to your detailed “bottom-up” budget. If they are relatively close, that’s a good sign. If not, you may need to sharpen your pencil and recheck your assumptions. If you find that you need to reduce your budget, consider eliminating an entire technique or initiative, rather than an across-the-board reduction. Based on our experience, doing fewer things, and doing them better, delivers better results.

Best wishes on your marketing budget journey! “

Elizabeth Harr

About the Author

Elizabeth Harr is a partner at Hinge, [http://www.hingemarketing.com/] a marketing and branding firm for professional services. Elizabeth is an accomplished entrepreneur and experienced executive with a background in strategic planning, brand building, and communications. She is the coauthor of Inside the Buyer’s Brain, How Buyers Buy: Technology Services Edition; and Online Marketing for Professional Services: Technology Services Edition.

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2019/12/02/insights-harr-market-planning-and-budget-steps.aspx

The Winning Pitch: How To Sell Your Government Marketing Plan

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Image: Corpnet.com

WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY” By Alan Rubin

Dig into the market to ensure your strategy is on point and defensible. There’s a mountain of publicly available information out there on your federal customers to inform your strategy.

Are you targeting the right government agencies based on their spending plans and priorities? Do you know which personas and titles influence the decisions, and are you able to identify the right media channels and partners to reach those individuals? 

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“I’ve been through this process multiple times in both B2B and B2G organizations, and while there are more similarities than differences between the two, there are also some distinctions that are worthy of exploration. Countless articles exist to walk you through the general ins and outs of crafting a marketing strategy, so I won’t attempt to cover those here.

Instead, I wanted to share a few practical tips for public sector marketers who are (or soon will be) knee-deep in the process of requesting buy-in, resources and support from outside their marketing organizations.

The Public Sector Dynamic Adds Complexity

Many B2G marketers undertake the planning process while facing some or all of these realities:

  • The public sector leadership team must authorize their plans and budget requests.
  • That team likely includes sales leaders who (understandably) prioritize short-term demand generation activities to fill their pipelines for the coming fiscal year.
  • Marketing executives at the corporate office also may exert control over public sector marketing resources, campaigns, messaging, and priorities.
  • Headquarters decisions are influenced by a broader set of business objectives, messages, and campaign tactics that don’t always translate well into the public sector marketing realm.
  • Even in the best case scenario, government marketers are unlikely to get everything they need and will have to be resourceful in how they approach budgeting, resource allocation, campaign execution, and engagement from key personnel across their public sector and corporate marketing organizations.

If this sounds like your situation, read on for a few suggestions that can improve your chances of getting the buy-in, funds, and support you need to succeed in the year ahead.

Do Your Homework

For a starting point, see my LinkedIn article on this topic.

If you’re modeling traffic projections, potential downloads, or lead conversions from paid campaigns, do you have relevant figures to back up your assumptions? Challenge your marketing vendors to make sure they’re giving you realistic performance data.

This is important for a few reasons. First (and most important), you want to make sure you’ve selected the right strategic and tactical approaches based on the available data. In addition, your audience will likely want you to justify how and why your choices were made (hint: “because we’ve always done it” is not an acceptable answer). Having that information available will help you defend your decisions and lend credibility to your recommendations.

Know Your Audience

Executives and sales leaders tend to be direct, action-oriented communicators who respect numbers and demand results. Think about what their priorities are, how they’re compensated, how they interact with you, and what motivates them. Do they prefer it when you get right to the point with high-level summaries, or will they want to dive into details? Do they want to see slides, spreadsheets, or both? Are they familiar with the marketing jargon and methods you are pitching? If not, do they have the patience for you to educate them? Keep these in mind as you craft your story.

Educate the Corporate Office

If you’re trying to sell your plans to decision-makers back at HQ, consider what they’re dealing with and how your needs map to theirs. They may be rolling out company-wide campaigns that cut across multiple verticals. Maybe they’ve prioritized new product introductions, staff consolidation, international expansion, rebranding activities, strategic messaging realignments, implementation of new marketing platforms, or all of the above.

They may not be familiar with the ins and outs of the public sector or understand why the approach they’re applying to every other “vertical” won’t work for you. They might be intimidated by what they don’t know about B2G and don’t want to admit it. Or they’re struggling to allocate resources and plan to emphasize generic campaigns over segment-specific approaches.

Think about how you can utilize your market data, historical performance metrics, case studies, customer feedback, and vendor relationships to help them understand where your plans fit in. Look for areas of compromise and reserve some resources to customize what they give you or outsource what you can’t get internally. Communication and prioritization are key here, along with some give-and-take to ensure all goals are met.

Align to the Sales and Business Strategy

If you can’t demonstrate how your plans will help public sector leadership generate revenue, retain customers, or achieve their stated business objectives for the year, you’ll just be seen as a cost center. That’s not a label you want to wear.

Consider taking a top-down approach to map your plans to their desired outcomes. Think through how marketing can impact the major sales and strategic goals, and build your outlines with those in mind. That may mean shifting items on your list to focus on driving new leads, targeting named accounts, or supporting specific activities that lead to upsells, cross-sells, partner recruitment, new contract awards, or other business priorities.

Set Expectations Up Front

The actions you take now will affect not only the plan for the upcoming year but also your ability to influence future negotiations. If you and your leadership can’t agree on what success looks like up front, you’ll forever be chasing wins while putting your credibility and career at risk. Even worse, you may not get credit when your plans are successful.

Make sure the decision makers understand the risks in your plan and are willing to accept them. Discuss organizational dependencies such as financial investments, new hires, market feedback from customer service, and ongoing sales engagement, including what will happen if those don’t come to fruition. Clearly establish what your joint service level agreements are for things like lead follow-up times and CRM usage, as well as how each stakeholder defines the phrase “qualified lead.” Is there tolerance for long lead times? Will you have the latitude to try new things, fail fast, and adjust if needed, or will that be viewed negatively?

It’s best to find out now while you can still adjust your plans. It’s also important to define and agree on the metrics each side will use to evaluate the results of your activities, as well as the format and cadence for reporting on them.

Start with a Winning Game Plan

Every organization approaches this process differently, and there’s no perfect way to proceed. But behind every good “pitcher” a lot of preparation, analysis, communication, and teamwork.

Working out these details now, before you’re standing in front of a crowd defending your investment requests, will determine whether your marketing pitch falls flat or wins the day.”

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2019/11/19/insights-rubin-marketing-tips.aspx

About the Author

Allan Rubin is chief marketing officer at ORock Technologies and more than 25 years of combined experience in B2B and B2G marketing. Connect with him at linkinedin.com/in/allanrubin.


Getting Out Front In Small Business Government Contracting

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Image: Smalltofeds.com

SMALLTOFEDS” By Ken Larson

FEDBIZOPPS is a great source for market research regarding what agencies are buying and who is being awarded new business.

But pivoting to bid off FEDBIZOPPS is a lost cause. Someone else has already done the marketing.

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“Every client I have had in government contracting goes through a front- end-loaded learning process.

Below are the best tips I can offer to “Get Out Front” with effective marketing. It becomes easier as time goes on when clients get a reputation in the industry and some healthy contracts. 

Teaming gives insights into the nature of the industry, but be aware that many firms end up teaming with companies on some jobs and competing against them on others; so proprietary data like rates and factors should be held close and protected. 

https://www.smalltofeds.com/2008/09/protecting-intellectual-property-and.html

Become known to targeted agency personnel by visiting their program offices and meeting the decision makers. Bring a capability statement:

https://www.smalltofeds.com/2011/05/your-capability-statement-cape-for.html

Present qualifications openly, objectively and specific to agency needs. Determine what those needs are through market research, trade magazines, observing what they are buying on FEDBIZOPPS, as well as postings on their web site that are future-program oriented.

Subscribe to periodicals like “Washington Technology”, “National Defense Magazine”, NASA Tech Briefs and similar trade magazines. Observe agency trends and analysis that impact the market.

I have seen set aside programs marketed by small companies through acquainting agency management and technical personnel with capabilities they were not aware existed in the small business community or fulfillment of needs they in fact did not know they had.

Pay particular attention to FEDBIZOPPS “Sources Sought” or “Requests for draft RFP Comment” on programs that have yet to be formally solicited. Obtain an appointment to present capabilities to the decision makers (not the gate keepers). Be courteous to contracting officers but understand they are not the individuals who make source selections.

Understand that once the requirement is formally published on FEDBIZOPPS the gate closes on informal visits to the customer and the competition begins in the form of proposals by competitors. It is too late at that point to set the program aside for a sole source or a small business designation if it has not occurred by the publication stage.

Cultivate teaming relationships with other industry firms and look for early opportunities in agencies, not only to prime a program but to bring a team of qualified contractors in lesser roles to fulfill them or join a team being led by a more experienced firm

Understand the small business start up past performance challenge and work to meet it.

https://www.smalltofeds.com/2008/07/small-business-government-contracting.html

Attend small business outreach events by agencies and prime contractors. Stay attuned to who is attending and research their needs and requirements.

Make a point to be present at bidders’ conferences for existing solicitations that may not be bid but which may lend insight into the agency needs and prime contractor relationships in the future.

As a small business becomes known in the federal government contracting community, successful marketing of sole source or group-designated business becomes easier, but it is always a challenge due to the need for taking early action in windows of opportunity.

Find those windows and communicate capabilities to the decision makers and industry team members who can help you.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

As a SCORE and Micro Mentor Volunteer Counselor, Ken Larson assists many small businesses with their planning and operations processes. He receives many inquiries from small companies wishing to enter or enhance their position in federal government contracting. Volunteer time, books, articles, and resources are 100%  free, maintained exclusively for small business on the above subjects.


5 Tips For Survival As A Consultant

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“WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY” By Mark Amtower

“Becoming a consultant isn’t as simple as adding a line to your LinkedIn profile, though some think so.

At each step along the way as a marketing professional I have had to adapt and adopt. Push your boundaries, but not on someone else’s dime.”

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“Over the years several people have come up to me at various events and said something like, “I can do what you do.” Usually I simply respond, “Go for it.”

If they do go for it, and they are good at what they do, I may advise them on how to set up a consulting business, properly price their services and advertise themselves. I even started a formal six-month program for this purpose.

However, most will not survive as a solo consultant. You need to be a big self-motivator, be able to work by yourself, endure dry (no $) spells, know what business to turn down and what to accept, know how to position yourself in the market and more.

And you need to define this expertise in a way that resonates with the market niche that may require your help. Many of those in transition find themselves in the role of consultant, often in a default mode and often what they hope will be a temporary situation.

Regardless, if you find yourself bearing the title “consultant,” here are five tips to get you going.

First and foremost, know your strengths and your limitations, and be painfully honest with yourself as you write these down. Please notice I said “write these down.” Writing down your strengths and weaknesses reinforces them in your mind. You aren’t going to share them with anyone so being honest with yourself should be easier. And remember, weaknesses need not be permanent.

Are your strengths something someone or some company will pay an outside consultant for? You are looking to pinpoint a specific area of expertise where you excel. You need to define this expertise in a way that resonates with the market niche that may require your help.

Seconddefine the niche that needs what you do. You may offer a service that smaller contractors require as they don’t currently have the infrastructure or pipeline to support having that skill internally.

Your service may appeal to specific job function areas (business development, audits, marketing, back office, contract management, factoring, specialized insurance and the like). In all likelihood you can start to define your niche in terms of company size and functional area. If you can differentiate further, perhaps a regional/geographic focus, do so.

Third, establish your credentials. You will need a web site and a strong LinkedIn profile. Both should share how you developed this area of expertise and highlight anything that makes you special.

A big part of establishing credentials is contentYour content should be designed to showcase your expertise, an educated point of view about your niche. It can include commentary on current market events, regulations shaping your niche, tips and tactics and more.

Fourth, know who to pitch in an organization. The smaller the company, the higher up you should pitch. In the late 1980s I was sharing a problem I was having with another marketing friend. This one marketing guy would attend my seminars but never ask me to come over to his company headquarters to discuss what they were doing.

My friend laughed at me and said “You should be talking directly to the CEO, not the marketing guy.” Within a few weeks I had a lunch meeting with Dendy Young, CEO of Falcon Microsystems, and we’ve been good friends ever since.

Fifth, if you are in the consulting biz to stay, be prepared to morph. When I started my company in 1985 I became an expert in direct marketing to the government- snail mail. I’ve adapted and morphed several times in the past 35 years, through the launch of the web, the initial confusion over email marketing, the evolution of web 2.0 and finally the creation and deployment of social networks.

Only accept assignments when you can add value. If you are asked to do something that is not an area of strength, pass. Recommend someone you know, trust, and who is quite good at what the customer needs. Doing so will bolster your value in return. “

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2019/03/26/insight-amtower-consultant-advice.aspx

Insights on Weathering a Market’s Perfect Storm

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Image: topagentnetwork

“WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY”  

“If you’re looking for smooth sailing, consider this. Approached correctly, tough budget decisions can not only help companies sustain but spur them to innovate.

In rising to the challenge, motivated companies may identify new and innovative solutions to address immediate customer concerns while laying groundwork for cost-effective changes that serve them well for years to come.

The business-to-government market is weathering a “perfect storm” of challenges that affect companies and government alike. Budgets are tight. Government procurement is in transition. And technology is advancing faster than at any point in history. Such forces demand practical solutions, born from experience and innovation.

NEW PROCUREMENT REALITY

Uncertain budgets limit government commitments. What have traditionally been five-year contracts are increasingly being shortened to three years, triggering an earlier re-bid process than what we saw just a few years ago. At the same time, RFPs and award decisions are frequently delayed—by months and even years, not just days or weeks.

What’s more, an emphasis on lower cost drives the use of LPTA (lowest price technically acceptable) contracts. Government is forced to define solutions that minimally address their greatest needs, rather than search for technologies, processes and expertise that optimally meet their longer-term requirements.

To win business, contractors are scrambling to recruit and retain talented employees, at lower salaries than in previous contracts. Once awards are announced, more and more are protested—5 percent more in 2014 compared to the previous fiscal year (GAO Bid Protest Report 2014).

The resulting prolonged procurement cycle for an increasing number of abbreviated-term contracts creates a substantial workload for procurement officials. This is all happening at a time when many seasoned procurement professionals have recently retired, taking with them a deep familiarity of the many nuances of government contracting. The remaining contracting employees are fewer in number and facing increasingly complex contracts.

The turbulent federal contracting process demands patience, understanding and flexibility all around.

MARKET SHIFT: THE CUSTOMER PERSPECTIVE

When I took the helm at NCI in 2011, I realized a seismic shift was happening in the government market. U.S. soldiers were starting to come home after a decade of war. The global economy was in a downturn. Political pressures were high and budgets were increasingly under pressure. I knew we had to roll up our sleeves and assess the new reality. And, we had to do it from our customers’ perspective. What were they dealing with in this new era? How could we best help them?

Companies that visit, listen to and speak with customers often will be more aware and better prepared for any customer or contract shifts on the horizon.

We listened. We learned. We vigilantly monitored:

  • External factors, such as the overseas environment, our political climate and the economy, to understand how those factors will ultimately affect government budgets and spending as well as their bottom line.
  • Changes in acquisition, e.g., the long-held mindset of LPTA contracting.
  • Customer issues, especially when working with geographically dispersed customers.
  • Customer procurement practices. Proposal strategy and award decisions are no longer driven primarily by those responsible for the end mission—it is now significantly more weighted toward acquisition personnel.

STEERING THE SHIP

To get past the tough spots, businesses have to both anticipate and prepare for market changes. Many government contractors made significant reductions in personnel cost and real estate footprints in response to the newly emerging government market reality. When bidding or submitting recompete bids, most have had to cut salaries to win new contracts.

But no company shrinks to greatness. Right-sizing operational infrastructure is only the first step. To stay relevant…to lead solution definition that truly serves the needs of our government customers, companies must invest in people, technologies and customers.

Even through elongated decision cycles, we’ve made a commitment to getting the right team on board. They start by listening and learning right away. When customers are ready, we aim to be present with the expertise, experience and attitudes we believe are required to get the job done right.

Government customers are busy and working within their own personnel and budget constrained environments. It’s our responsibility to keep a finger on the pulse of proven and emerging technology and processes that can serve them well. We must lead. The stability and growth of any successful government contractor depends on just that.

BALANCE IS AHEAD

I am optimistic about this market. Situations and factors may have pushed the pendulum too far in one direction. As it swings back, I expect it will settle into a new reality. One with more measured budget conditions, yet steeped in a practice of innovatively exploring even the most mundane contract to sleuth out a better way to accomplish each mission-critical task.

In the end, we’ll all be better off.”

by NCI Inc. President Brian J. Clark  

Editor’s Note: NCI is ranked No. 65 on the 2015 Washington Technology Top 100.

http://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2015/07/08/insights-clark-weathering-the-perfect-storm.aspx