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Disruptive By Design: Are We Doing the Right Things?

Marketing and communications to serve the mission.

When you think of marketing professionals, perhaps images of bustling high-rises on Madison Avenue come to mind. Or maybe it’s the latest viral dance trend that floods your social media feed. However, it isn’t likely you immediately associate marketing with the federal government and the military. If you do, it might be because you reside in close proximity to the nation’s capital.

For over a decade, I’ve worked across that federal landscape, navigating corporate communications, technology marketing and various government and military contracts. I’ve learned that how marketing is defined, valued and assessed throughout the government contracting (GovCon) industry can vary significantly.

In the technology sector, executives described the goal of marketing as creating simplicity around their product. Corporate consulting leaders emphasized the need for brand awareness externally while fostering employee engagement internally. Marketing and communications for GovCon factors in each of these key areas, depending on where you fit into the larger organization. A former government client would always ask our team, “Are we doing the ‘right’ things?”


 

In GovCon, success is not solely measured by increased sales, as it often is for technology companies. Instead, marketers and communicators are asked to balance securing funding and advancing their stated mission. Determining the ‘right’ objectives is essential before implementing any cross-functional strategy or campaign. This is often discovered by asking the most relevant questions:

Are we aligned to the right mission?
Organizations must start by clarifying their objectives. Without a well-defined mission, decision-making becomes arbitrary, and data-driven insights lose their significance. A mission can differ widely, whether focusing on creating awareness for the general public or informing a select group of budget approvers. Regardless, each organization requires a distinct definition of success, collectively understood. Ultimately, it all comes down to the “why.”

Are we engaging with the right people?
Marketers need to identify specific stakeholders, have a deep understanding of their audience and identify specific influencers in the field who can help amplify their reach. However, the real impact comes from connecting with those decision-makers and stakeholders. Avoid the pursuit of quantity. A targeted approach often yields higher quality results and conversion on desired outcomes.

Are we telling the right story?
Once you identify your audience, skilled marketers immerse themselves in their language and culture. Some call this social listening; others call this drinking from a fire hose. But if you want to connect with your audience, speak the same language and know what’s important to them. No one wants to write copy that is ignored or ineffective, so it takes honing your craft and backing it up with measurable data.

Are we using the right distribution channels?
When selecting marketing tools and channels, it is essential to resist the allure of every new trend and important to consider the pace of adoption in the government sector. However, as marketers, it is our role to guide clients away from the “we’ve always done it this way” mentality. Explore new avenues, evaluate their security implications and tailor your approach to meet government-specific requirements.

Although there is no one-size-fits-all approach, consistent evaluation brings clarity to the “right” initiatives, enabling an organization to refine its efforts and remain relevant in the public and private sectors. The “why” behind your marketing and communications serves as the ultimate compass, ensuring that your team and strategy remain mission-minded.
Adaptability is a guiding principle for collaboration with various clients and agencies. And regular assessments are the linchpin for navigating an ever-evolving landscape and achieving your objectives.

Leadership author John C. Maxwell says, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” Notably, Maxwell places “knows the way” first, highlighting the immense importance of clarity in setting a course. For those in GovCon marketing, this insight holds true—a well-defined objective is the key to guiding large-scale campaigns and safeguarding their success.

 

Matthew Klein is the growth and communications lead for the Agile Solution Factory at CACI International. He also serves a the communications chair of AFCEA NOVA’s Emerging Leaders Board.