GovCon Marketing: Your Aesthetic Sells
According to SAM.gov, there are 372,619 Active Government Contracting organizations registered to compete for lucrative Federal Government contracts. Every Fiscal Year, these organizations go toe-to-toe to get their piece of the discretionary spending pie.
So how do you make your Government Contracting company stand out from the pack?
The answer is a simple concept: You must perfect your visual presentation. GovCon is a human-centric industry, and your presentation is your first impression. It is how you are remembered. From logos, social media headers, business cards, to websites, every part of your aesthetic matters.
Like the rest of the world, Federal Government buyers leverage the internet to make decisions, including identifying vendors, informing their purchasing decisions, and educating themselves on different ways to support their requirements. It’s up to you to get their attention and stand out as someone with the solutions to their problems.
Numerous articles and theories have been developed on how to attract federal customers, all from new-age aesthetics to traditional marketing. However, first impressions serve as the true litmus test for gaining access to the highly sought after federal funds.
The Pulse of GovCon sat down with Ms. Janet Waring, Vice President of Model B, a modern digital marketing agency, to discuss how their company brings together creative web design, finely-tuned metrics-based advertising, and brand-aware content to build beautiful things that inspire action in Government Contracting.
Pulse Question: What should Government Contractors keep in mind when developing (or revamping) their website and/or web-based marketing materials?
Government Contractors must always keep in mind that a good website design is a plan for arranging elements in such a way as best to accomplish a particular purpose. The purpose always being to attract, educate, inform, and drive federal buyers to their services.
Government Contractors’ websites need to highlight the services they are currently bidding on, and should be designed with flexibility in mind. Let’s say for instance you are bidding on an Information Technology (IT) Services requirement, but your current homepage design is focused on Human Capital (HC) Services. You want the flexibility to be able to easily adjust your images and content based on the type of federal contracts you are going after. You want your federal buyers to immediately get a sense that you are qualified for the work you are bidding on.
Whether you choose to build your website yourself - or you select a website vendor to assist you - always make sure your website is built in an easy to use Content Management System (CMS), like WordPress, and learn how to make edits to your site yourself for on-the-fly adjustments.
We have worked with many clients over the years who have come to us for a new site simply because they felt like they were being held hostage by their current website vendor, having to call every time they needed even the simplest of edits. If you choose to work with a website vendor, make sure you work with someone that understands the pace of the GovCon industry, and who will be a partner to your success.
Pulse Question: How creative should Government Contractors get with their website? Is there such a thing as too much creativity?
You have 7 seconds to make an impression and capture someone’s attention on your website. As with most good things in life, website creativity moderation is the key here. While you do not want walls of boring text on your site, you also don’t want a “busy” site full of visuals and conflicting buzzwords that the information gets lost, and your federal buyer gets so overwhelmed they click out. So how do you find a balance?
Today’s technology allows information to be easily presented visually and in a compelling, user-friendly way that engages the visitor. First we recommend working with your team to identify key visual elements to add to the primary landing pages of the website. This should include call-to-action elements that engage your audience and grow your database.
Second we implore you to consider and evaluate your website’s functionality. Do you host or attend events? Include an event calendar of where your company on any given day. Looking to hire new employees? Offer a “Submit Your Resume” functionality. Is there information only your clients, employees or subcontractors should have access to? Include a private log-in area for these individuals. Are you active on social? Include a social feed on the homepage.
Federal buyers can judge how you will treat them (and their requirements) by looking at your website. Your design gives them insight as to how you view your own organization and services. If you don’t put any effort into your website’s design - or if its too busy or disorganized - your audience might assume you’ll take the same approach to their requirements as well.
Pulse Question: What information should be included on Government Contractors’ website and/or web-based marketing materials? What information should be left out?
Luckily in this day and age, we have data that lets us know what people are looking for on a Government Contractor’s website. The most visited pages on a Government Contractors website are:
Services page (86% of visitors say that is why they are there)
About Us page
Contact page (64% of visitors want to know how to contact you)
Career Opportunities page
The most common things a Contracting Officer is looking for is:
Relationships with Subcontractors, or other Primes
Facility Clearance (FCL)
GSA Schedule(s) and Contract Vehicles
Thought Leadership Articles
Make sure each of these elements are easily found on your website. Note: your website should include a search function that allows users to search by queries, not just by specific text.
Pulse Question: We all know how GovCon loves our events and Industry Days. How do you make an effective business card that will stand out from the pile?
First and foremost your business card should always be aligned with your marketing materials and website. When a federal buyer receives your business card and then goes to your website it should be immediately clear, through colors, fonts, and images, that they are on the right website. If your company brand, tone and messaging is consistent - they won’t have to guess and they will stay on your site.
Business cards should only include information that is most relevant to people being able to contact you easily (i.e. name, title, phone, and email). Other relevant information should be your organization’s address (or where you sit if you have multiple locations) and your website link to learn more about your company.
When deciding what additional information to include, you can make yourself helpful by including your socio-economic status and contract numbers for federal-wide buying vehicles such as GSA Schedule(s).
pulse question: What should Government Contractors keep in mind to ensure their website is technologically-friendly?
Ideally, all websites should be Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) puts the number of workers with disabilities at 18.6M. Many of those work for federal, state and local governments. For an existing website, the first thing you want to do is run an audit to see where you are not being compliant today. Review the results, and prioritize those fixes, and determine what level of compliance you need to be (A, AA, AAA).
Pulse Question: How often should Government Contractors be putting out content? Is it actually helpful for driving federal buyers, or is it just noise?
Content is super important for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Adding content gives a search engine (aka Google) more to index and more keywords for your site to rank for (see next question). Content becomes noise when it is a) not researched well; b) is not a core-passion for the organization; and c) is not optimized correctly.
The important part of any organic content stream on your website is that you keep it current, which would be at least one post per month (our recommendation). If you have a designated blog or news section on your website - and you are not posting content or updates at least once a month - it will make it look like you are stale, not paying attention, or aren’t doing anything at all. These are bad things that will leave a bad impression with your federal buyer.
So how do you keep up with your “image” without distracting from your day job? The first step is to analyze your resources, understand what you can keep a heartbeat with, and commit to at least one *meaningful* post per month.
The next step for your content is to think about what your organization knows that others don’t. What is your team passionate about? Do you have a unique perspective on specific topics that apply to your target audience (aka that federal buyer)? Perfect! Build a content stream that contains tips and easy-to-follow advice that helps your audience improve the way they approach their requirements.
Also remember that not everything has to be a blog post! Other types of engaging content include press releases, videos, webinars, whitepapers, e-newsletters, and podcasts.
Pulse Question: There is just too much on the internet now. What can Government Contractors do - besides make a killer, easy-to-use website - to be “found”?
We could be here for days talking about SEO, but it is extremely important for every GovCon organization to understand how search engines are ranking your site. Keep in mind that search engines are a business. Their job is to ensure their Search Engine Results Page (SERP) gives people the results they are looking for.
According to Google, these are some of the most important factors when to keep in mind when building your site - ensuring it will be “found”.
Make organization a priority. It helps your website visitors and it also helps Google understand the content on your website.
Create original content. The content should be useful, clear, and as concise as possible. Include keywords users would type to find your pages, and actually include these words on your site - but not all of them so it becomes overwhelming. Remember too many keywords - or “keyword stuffing” - will actually hurt your SEO rankings.
Share your most important information first. See Question 3!
Develop a bullet lists. They can help make the text more digestible.
Frequently update your website. Keep in mind, the more frequently you update your website, the more likely it will be to appear in the search engine results.
Use text for links (especially in the navigation). If it is an image, make sure to include a relevant ALT tag.
Come up with fun (but not complicated) page titles and descriptions. Be sure that <title> elements and alt attributes are detailed, descriptive, and definitive.
Optimize your site’s load time. In today’s fast paced world, load speed matters and it does impact your SEO rankings. For certain search engines, like Google, site speed is one of the ranking factors in their algorithm so speed matters.
We also recommend using a variety of data visualization (i.e. info graphics, photography, video, charts, maps and easy to read buttons) to present the information your federal buyer needs to know because visuals can go a long way. For example, one info graphic we designed for a cyber security company was picked up by several blogs, including Wired and Huffington Posts. This was not only great exposure for the company, but it also created valuable backlinks to their site from “authority” websites that help their SEO - thus driving more federal buyers to their site.
If you have clarification or additional questions pertaining to this article, please contact Janet Waring at email@example.com.