Personas

The Importance of Building Strong Personas for the B2G Marketer

by Jenna Sindle

As anyone who has worked in the B2G marketing field will tell you, marketing to the public sector – and the federal government in particular – is a unique experience. From using the correct terminology to being observant of rules related to gift giving it’s a vastly different field than that of B2C and B2B marketing.

What’s also important in order to be successful in B2G marketing is to have a solid understanding of just who you’re marketing and selling to within the federal government, particularly as many organizations ramp-up their account-based marketing (ABM) strategies. 

Our former colleague at Strategic Communications Group and founder of StoryTech Consulting, Chris Parente, shared his insights on how to build strong personas for the federal customer. As Parente notes, “there is no single federal IT persona” so there’s quite a bit of work to be done by marketers to understand who they’re trying to connect with. Fortunately for our readers, Chris has some great insights in how to take on this challenge successfully. Read on to learn more.

Chris Parente Shares His Insights on Federal PersonasIf you want to successfully market a product or service, you need to understand everything you can about who your targeted decision-makers are and what they care about. A way to increase your understanding is the development of marketing personas.

Per Wikipedia, “a persona in user-design and marketing is a fictional character created to represent a user type that might use a site, brand, or product in a similar way.” The definition goes on to say that “in most cases, personas are synthesized from data collected from interviews with users.” The “garbage in, garbage out” rule applies – personas are only as good as the research used to create them.

Recently I attended the Federal IT Persona Study – A Deeper Look into Your Federal Customer. It was a virtual event put on by Market Connections with support from their marketing partners the Professional Services Council and Government Marketing University. Market Connections has been doing B2B and B2G research for over 20 years, providing actionable intelligence to support marketing and business outreach strategies. They are probably best known in B2G circles for their annual analysis of the media consumption habits of government decision-makers, a must read for government marketers.

Market Connections interviewed over 300 federal IT decision-makers, both inside and outside the beltway. There were also additional in-depth interviews with key federal personnel to round out multiple personas detailing personal and professional preferences. Spoiler alert – there is no single federal IT persona that covers all decision-makers.

As part of the overview presentation, two of the ten available federal personas were shared with registered attendees, a program manager working for the Veterans Administration out of Texas, and an IT specialist in D.C. working for the Department of Health and Human Services. These are valuable for government marketers, whether as a foundation to build upon or as a “sanity check” to compare to their own federal personas.

Some overall results that caught my eye:

·      What inspires them – The top two responses were feeling they are making an important contribution and doing their part for the mission.

·      Top professional challenges – Nearly half cited slow bureaucracy, followed by one-third stating needing to do more with less budget.

·      Who they have confidence in for technical decisions – Two-thirds trust their team members, however, ONLY 16 PERCENT trust contractors/vendors! Caveat emptor indeed!

Within the two federal personas shared, key differences were seen, for example their motivation to learn about IT:

·      The IT specialist valued being viewed as the internal expert.

·      The program manager felt technology changes quickly.

In addition, differences were found in how they preferred to learn, communicate, and gather information; challenges they faced in their roles; what they sought most from vendors they worked with; and many others.

After the survey presentation there was a panel discussion moderated by Aaron Heffron, president of Market Connections. The panelists were Christina Morrison, Federal Solutions Director at the cybersecurity provider Proofpoint and Tom Nagle, Managing Partner at the management and marketing consultancy Statler Nagle LLC.

Christina talked about using personas during her time at HP, and how people naturally want to buy from people they like. She made the point that personas are important no matter the size of your budget, and that they fit perfectly into an account-based marketing (ABM) approach that unites sales and marketing objectives.

Tom cautioned marketers against thinking that buying decisions are entirely rational. He told the audience that personas were an effective way to “market to the whole human.” He also said that personas support framing your messaging as storytelling, which is a prerequisite for success. (Amen Tom!)

The presentation and video of the results readout  can be purchased here. Later this month Market Connections will release their federal persona bundles developed from the research. These will cover additional decision-makers and influencers in IT purchasing from the CIO to the procurement professional at both defense and civilian agencies.

Understanding your target market is a never-ending process. Personas based on quality market research help immensely.

This article originally appeared on Market Connections and is being shared here with the permission of the author.