Editor's note: Ask Joe will be a recurring series where Joseph Morris, vice president of research for e.Republic, Government Technology's parent company, answers commonly asked questions from those working in the government technology market. It has been edited for length and cohesion.
What are some mistakes and misconceptions marketers have about selling to government?
Right now, I’m seeing a lot of confusion coming from advertising agencies and marketers in the state and local government market. This confusion results in these organizations making mistakes with leads that ultimately result in a lack of a return on investment (ROI). Let’s walk through the most common and costly mistakes with leads.
1. Once they download my content, they are ready to buy
Just because a person downloads a paper or attends a webinar or event doesn’t mean he or she is looking to buy now, or ever. Each lead represents a person with an interest in the topic, and they may be a decision-maker or an influencer. You need to think of a lead as a traction point in an account that must normally be nurtured into an eventual purchase. Leads can come in at different stages in the purchase cycle, so understanding the customer journey and where your lead is at in that process will be key.
2. The CIO is my buyer, so I should focus all my marketing on them
There is a tendency to focus only on IT decision-makers and senior-level roles and toss out all other titles/leads. Clearly, having the CIO read your whitepaper is a good thing, but tossing out all roles is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
Our research has shown that public-sector organizations spend upwards of 12-18 months conducting research prior to procurement. This research is typically assigned out to various staff members. One of our 10 laws of sales and marketing to the public sector is that buying decisions are made by groups. You cannot neglect the multiple points of purchasing influence in the procurement process. These individuals can be an early indicator of a future procurement.
3. My sales team should reach out to every lead with the same information
Pursuing each and every individual lead is not always worth your time. However, working the list in a thoughtful way can lead to more success. For example, I tend to look for the following things:
- Roles and titles
- Concentration of activity
- Alignment to content
Map out the key purchasing influencers and their specific roles for your product. Do a little bit of homework and understand your government prospect and clearly position your product against their specific needs and challenges.
4. Sales pushes should come near the end of the agency’s budget year because that’s when they have more money to spend
Timing is everything. I’ll see a company get a batch of leads and immediately turn them over to inside sales and have them call upon the list only to find out that their leads weren’t ready to buy. The natural result then is to think that there is no ROI. However, it is most likely due to timing and them not understanding the decision-making and procurement process. Remember, it can take 12-18 months from a lead downloading content for a procurement to be issued.
5. We should focus on getting all of our hot leads closed by the end of the quarter
You need to be in it for the long haul. With a 12-18-month development cycle, you need to be committed to engaging and working these accounts. It is important to establish a clear and well-thought-out protocol for handling leads based on the realities of the market. Here are some additional things to consider:
- Length of the decision-making cycle for your product
- Procurement process
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