B-to-g marketers shift focus to digital and social channels
Accenture uses social media to promote content and webinars
Business-to-government marketers must beware the bulk. Direct mail no longer headlines the b-to-g marketing mix. These days, print performs as a role player, supplementing a more integrated strategy that pivots on digital channels. Even document management company Xerox Corp. has revisited its traditionally direct mail-oriented approach.
"It's no longer the traditional one-dimensional mass production of hard copy direct mail pieces, where we print thousands of them and send them to government and commercial accounts all in one fell swoop," says Edward Gala, VP of sales operations marketing at Xerox. "Today it's much more about customized, cross-media marketing. When we do a campaign, it may have a print component, but we would marry customized printing with email and social media and other elements like webinars so that we really create a set of cross-media touch points."
Xerox specializes in streamlining the government's back-office operations — including print service management, electronic toll collection and Medicaid claims processing — that focuses on efficiency and mirrors its marketing strategy. Gala says that the company has loaded its marketing emails to the government with digital features to deliver a fuller message.
"With the new social media tools, when you get a message from Xerox, it comes with links to videos on YouTube. It comes with links to whitepapers and analyst reports that are accessible online. It comes with invitations to webinars where you can learn more from thought leaders on a particular topic, whether it be security or sustainability or cost reduction," he says.
Deloitte builds awareness
Government-driven marketing pivots on engagement. Because the process to attain a government contract can take longer than 12 months, b-to-g companies have increasingly adopted digital marketing as a means to remain top-of-mind with their targets.
After a CBS News report last year on multifunction printers' data breach vulnerabilities featuring its competitors, Xerox "jumped on it and conducted an integrated security campaign," Gala says. The ongoing campaign, centered around the question of how secure government agencies' multifunction printers are, spans direct mail, email, YouTube and webinars. Gala says a benefit of the digital components is their ability to extend the campaign's reach. He singles out the webinars featuring a panel of security experts to illustrate the point.
"In the past, we might have attracted 100 people to a live security event in a certain city," says Gala, "but in this case, we did online and more than 3,000 people attended."
Mark Amtower, founder of b-to-g marketing advisory firm Amtower & Co. and author of Selling to the Government, agrees that webinars are particularly valuable for marketers whose wares may feature a steeper learning curve.
According to research firm Market Connections, webinars have continued to grow in popularity among government employees. The firm found in its "2011 Federal Media and Marketing Study" that 52% of the more than 3,000 federal employees surveyed had attended a webinar in the past year, up from 21% in the 2010 study.
Webinars are also a valuable data collection tool. Gala says that one of Xerox's primary challenges is maintaining updated contact information because "some of the decision-makers involved in the government accounts change with more frequency than in commercial accounts." He says that digital channels such as webinars have helped to address the issue by facilitating the collection and cleansing process.
Jean Ostvoll, executive director of marketing and communications for management and technology consulting company Accenture's Health and Public Service business, says that the digital-for-data process has been aided by a rise in government employees
being more present and receptive to digital marketing "over the last 18 months."