As a lifelong DC-area resident who has built a career in marketing, I have fended off many requests over the years from aspiring Federal contractors to help them market their wares to the government. “I don’t know anything about marketing to the government,” I would tell them. “I can’t help you.”
I could not have been more wrong.
Federal buyers are people: people who share the same hopes and fears, and respond to the same cues, we all do. That statement sounds obvious, but it was a revelation when Judy Bradt, CEO of Summit Insight, first shared it with me.
As Judy shared recently in an educational video I helped her firm produce, “You’re not doing business with ‘The Government.’ You’re doing business with individual buyers, human beings.” To which I must add that nothing focuses the attention of a human being better than a good story, well told.
That’s what I do: help you tell the stories that capture the attention of your buyer and deliver a message that they can understand and engage with.
What Federal Buyers Want
Contractors are well aware of all the detailed requirements which must be completed in order to be considered for the award of a Federal contract. This is the area of which I was, and remain, largely ignorant – why I didn’t feel that I could be of help. But what many people, myself included, fail to recognize is that the signature across from yours on the last page of contract belongs not to Uncle Sam, but to a Federal employee, perhaps one of your neighbors, whose personal reputation and professional career are resting on that line as well.
What that person wants and needs more than anything is for the contractor they have selected to come through with what they’ve promised.
Above all else the buyer wants to avoid being disappointed and embarrassed because they took a risk on a bidder that ended up letting them down.
As Judy often says, “Federal buyers are among the most risk-averse creatures on this planet.” That’s why incumbent and familiar contractors win so many bids on similar projects with existing agency clients.
Positioning Your Firm As Reliable and Expert
So, how can you make those buyers feel good about your firm if they have never done business with you before? By proving to them that you have solved similar problems for similar clients – either in the commercial or government space – through multiple short videos which share client success stories and testimonials.
For my commercial clients I refer to this process as Authority Positioning, accelerating the know-like-trust process by positioning you and your firm as generous educators, sincere advocates, and trusted authorities.
Both the process and the effect are the same for firms targeting Federal buyers. The biggest difference is that “know” and “like” are almost meaningless in this arena.
The overarching objective here is to build trust in the hearts of your Federal decisionmakers. Trust that you understand the scope and requirements of the project. Trust that you are qualified to fulfill those requirements and all other obligations of the contract. Most importantly, trust that you won’t make that Federal buyer look bad.
Producing Videos that Build Trust
A great guide to producing compelling business stories is the book Building A Story Brand by Donald Miller. Miller encourages us to follow the pattern of the most successful and enduring stories of all time, from Moses leading the Jews out of Egypt to Luke Skywalker saving the universe. Whether you’re writing the screenplay of a feature film or the script of a short authority positioning video, success depends upon following this seven-step format:
- The Hero (your client)
- Has a Problem (the project requirements)
- And Meets a Guide (you)
- Who Has A Plan (your unique problem-solving process)
- And Calls Them to Action (successfully lands the contract)
- Which Delivers The Hero from Disaster (never makes them look bad)
- And Leads Them to a Transformation (problem solved, contract fulfilled)
In order to keep my videos under two minutes, I compress those seven steps into three which can be expressed as Problem, Solution, Outcome; or Before, During, After; or what is known in the marketing world as Feel, Felt, Found. I also add a critical fourth step at the end which is the Call To Action – now that your viewer understands what you’ve told them, conclude by telling them what you want them to do about it.
By sharing multiple stories of past clients you have served, the problems they faced, the creative solutions you provided based upon your unique resources and experience, and the transformational results that ensued (they lived happily ever after), you will make it clear – to everyone that needs to know – that you are a trusted solution provider.