Public-Sector Marketing That Works: 9 Steps to Developing a Strategic Plan

Successfully marketing products and services to the public sector starts with a strategic plan based on solid research and specific goals that can be implemented and evaluated in a timely manner.

During GAIN 2021’s session, “Rethinking Your Playbook: 9 Steps for Setting a Cohesive Annual Marketing Strategy,” a panel of B2G marketing experts provided a marketing roadmap for the public sector.

#1: Set Goals

Set realistic and measurable goals for the next six to 18 months. Define success, establish deadlines, and monitor progress toward attaining objectives. Get buy-in from stakeholders and bring them along on your journey.

“Start with the end in mind and define what you are trying to achieve,” said Stacy Outlaw, Senior Vice President, Marketing, Worldwide Assurance for Employees of Public Agencies (WAEPA). “Choose three to five top objectives that you want to accomplish.”

#2: Conduct a Marketing Audit

Perform a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) of how you are executing your strategic plan. Adjust as needed, and test new tactics.

“Look back over the past year’s activities and do an audit of what worked, what you need to continue doing, what you need to stop doing, and what you should start doing,” said Lisa DeLuca, Senior Manager, Public Sector Marketing, Cisco. “I recommend going through this process on a quarterly basis.”

Get outside your comfort zone. Associations can open doors to new audiences. To illuminate new ways of going to market, turn to partner networks and corporate counterparts. Connect with other government marketers, share best practices, and keep up with trends in public sector marketing at Government Marketing University’s website.

#3: Know Your Audience

Before you sell products and services, know your audience. Your sales and engineering teams – your ‘feet on the street’ – can help. Understand how competitors and partners reach customers. Vary the methods for reaching people based on their values and behaviors.

Pay attention to geopolitical realities that affect customers, such as supply-chain issues. Don’t launch programs or messaging campaigns that conflict with the current state of affairs.

#4: Analyze Your Research

Know your audience. Use multiple data resources, such as media companies, to find out what’s important to prospective buyers. They can help you understand what the government needs. “Use data as a marketing strategy compass, and let it guide your plans so that you can rise above the noise in a very competitive market,” said Lorena Montes-Virag, Director of Marketing, Public Sector, World Wide Technology. “We need to think about what type of messaging is going to resonate.”

Market Connections provides custom research services that provide keen insight into government buyers –and help you win more business. Joining AFCEA or PSC opens doors to forums for public- and private-sector professionals in the federal IT market.

#5: Identify Your Target Audience

Creating a customer profile requires you to define your ideal audience –likely buyers of your products and services. Research the competition. They know your audience. Monitor their social media channels and their positioning.

Understand your customers’ users experience (UX). Leverage existing customer data – surveys, customer feedback, online experiences (UX) – and talk to your customer-service team. They’ll have insights into issues that customers care about. Identify pain points and provide a frictionless experience.

#6: Determine Your Budget

Determine a budget for implementing strategy and align spending with desired outcomes. Is the goal more sales? More subscribers? Increased leads or brand awareness? Look at the data. Where do target customers get their information? Allocate funding accordingly.

If you live in the market development fund (MDF) world, you need to strategically allocate your funding by thinking long term versus on a quarterly basis. Work with your stakeholders and partners to define a forward-looking approach but leave some room for flexibility. From an OEM perspective, start with what you need to do, not what you have to spend. Approach partners for other sources of funding to extend your reach and accomplish your plan. And communicate early and often about your plan. Make sure you include your stakeholders to get buy in.

#7: Develop Marketing Tactics

Marketing tactics are strategic actions for promoting products and services that can influence overall strategy. A case study, for example, is a marketing tactic. Execution of the tactic could encompass a blog post, white paper, video, or other content.

Focus on tactics that you can execute without having to make an extraordinary effort. Periodically test and evaluate effectiveness. If necessary, pivot in anew direction.

#8: Develop an Implementation Schedule

A robust timeline will align with campaign goals, metrics, data, and research. Be flexible. Ongoing assessments and shifts can result in timeline shifts.

Leverage best practices, such as corporate -ed campaigns, to optimize your timeline. As the timeline shift, keep it up to date. Stay agile and prepare for the unexpected – always.

#9: Create an Evaluation Process

Truth arises from a foundation of data.

Small things are important. Use correct tags and nomenclature to name campaigns – aligned with the way your organization measures things.

Data collection and analysis will reveal problem areas. When you complete your evaluation process, consider the buying cycle’s steps in consideration your customers’ experience. Are you paying attention to last days of service? Are you focusing on renewals? Data will inform advancement of your marketing plan.

“We may all be in denial about data, but it tells the truth, so you need to make sure you understand all your sources when you create an evaluation process,” said DeLuca. “Are you in line with all the processes that you put in place to measure?”

Government Marketing University offers a creative brief template for outlining the strategy of a marketing project or campaign. Use it to document your project’s purpose, goals, requirements, messaging, demographics, and other key information. The strategy document promotes stakeholders’ understanding of their roles to further support strategic marketing plans.