Modern Marketing Today is a proud media sponsor for the upcoming GAIN 2017 Conference, taking place on October 13, 2017 at the Reston Town Center Hyatt in Reston, VA. GAIN 2017 is hosted by Government Marketing University and brings together the niche community of government marketers to network, collaborate, and discuss industry best practices.

I sat down with Government Marketing University Founder and President Lou Anne Brossman and CEO of Asher Strategies John Asher, GAIN 2017’s keynote speaker, to discuss what to expect at this year’s show and an overview of the current government marketing space. Here’s what they had to say:

Modern Marketing Today (MMT): Lou Anne and John thanks for sitting down with us today.  The GAIN 2017 Conference is coming up soon, why is this a must attend event for public sector marketers?

Lou Anne Brossman (LB): GAIN 2017, which stands for Grow Accelerate Innovate and Network, is our second annual for Government Marketing University and it is the only conference of its type that brings the government marketing community together.

There are many events, breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day of the week talking technology to government, but there are no events that are just focused on teaching and educating government marketers not only on how to market to the government, but also on the latest trends in marketing. Because those are things they absolutely can use as their counterparts in the B2B side of the house.

Something funny that we actually found out from last year’s attendees is they started calling themselves the “GAINers” by morning two. And as they would get up and talk, because our conference is very interactive and engaging, they would all say, “I have found my people!” That’s the real wonderful thing about GAIN is that it’s something just for government marketers and they absolutely understand that and value that.

MMT: What are some of the key challenges that public sector marketers are facing?

LB: The biggest challenge that I would say government marketers are facing today are tighter budgets. We’re hearing that across the board with government marketers. There’s also the moving tradition of being harder to reach government. The days of direct mail have passed and now email is all but gone. So how do you reach them? A big challenge is really going and understanding how you reach government decision makers today.

That’s why we’re spending the primary portion of our morning at GAIN 2017 on agency-based marketing. We’re exploring how you use platforms like LinkedIn to help you target IT decision buyers within the federal government or how to use targeted banner ads to do so, to name a couple examples.

That’s another challenge not only to have government marketers identify these new ways, but then learning how they can come up to speed quickly. That’s another reason behind GAIN. We’re hopefully going to get them up to speed faster than they would on their own because so many government marketers are a one-person show. If they’re lucky, they might have two.

John Asher (JA): To add to that a bit, there was an article in Washington Technology Magazine  about a year ago that showed the percentage of government buyers that were on LinkedIn five years ago and what percent of them are there now, and it was astounding the difference.

I’m sure part of that is because about 40 percent of the government buyers now are millennials. As we all know, millennials are used to technology, whereas baby boomer government buyers aren’t. I agree that LinkedIn is a huge piece now when you’re marketing to government.

MMT: John, you’ll be talking about the “Old Brain” – how does this tie into challenges marketers are facing?

JA: There’s been an explosion in the last three years in our understanding of how buyers make decisions based on neuroscience. They have these functional MRI machines now that you can put a helmet on the buyer’s head, so to speak, try various techniques and see what marketing and sales techniques stimulate the brain. So I’ve seen over the last three years a much deeper understanding of how to be much more effective at sales and marketing.

We know that of the three areas of the brain, the reptilian brain, the emotional brain, and the logical brain, a combination of the reptilian and emotional are called the “Old Brain” typically, and the logical brain is the “New Brain.” We now know from various studies that all decisions are made in the emotional brain. You may be familiar with this adage: “We decide on emotion and justify with logic.”

So with the practical application of that to marketing and sales would be if there are three companies and all three have great offerings, service, quality, and prices, from the buyer’s mind they are all tied for first. How does the buyer choose? We all know it’s dependent on the best emotional connection.

If you’re going to be successful in sales and marketing, you must wake up the buyer’s Old Brain, and there are six known stimuli and 50 or so cognitive biases that do that. If you take a marketer who understands all of that and one who does not, there’s a huge difference in results.

MMT: What’s the one thing you’d like to share with attendees, or those still think of registering?

LB: Essentially, you’re crazy if you don’t come. The opportunity to come together with close to 200 government marketers at one time with experts teaching us just doesn’t happen. So it’s a great opportunity and it goes back to the issue of community as well. Come together with your community of peers and meet the other people that are doing the job that you’re doing.

And on a more serious note, at the end of the day government marketers need to be prepared to communicate their messaging to government in a clear and concise way. Because, in the end, we’re all doing that so we can make our government better.

We don’t work for the government, but we sure work in support of the government’s missions. And we want everyone to walk away really remembering that.

To become more involved in the government marketing community, you can register and find more information about GAIN 2017 here.

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