Successfully marketing to government entities

Lou Anne Brossman, founder and president of Government Marketing University, discusses how her program connects and uplifts companies and entrepreneurs that mar...

ABERMAN: Well, I’m really impressed with this initiative. Tell our listeners: what is Government Marketing University, and why did you start it?

BROSSMAN: Government Marketing University is pretty much what it sounds like. So, we teach people that market and sell to the U.S. public sector, meaning federal, state and local, and some education, depending on what their organization is focused on. And I actually bought the URL for GMarkU back in 2007. So, I’ve been planning this for a long time. When I started out, over 35 years ago, in the government market, even at the time, there was no place to go to learn government marketing. Then there were some few little pockets in the mid 1990s, but really nothing else.

So, that was a reason I first came up with the idea, and then years later, decided it was the right time. So in 2015, I launched GMarkU to the market, and it’s a collaborative environment workplace for government marketers, government salespeople, business development. Again, we’re all marketers at heart, to be able to come in a safe collaborative environment, and learn best practices around marketing to the U.S. public sector.

ABERMAN: Sales and marketing is essential to every entrepreneurial activity under the sun. And so, I tend to spend more time in the private sector, and I see a lot of need in the private sector. Give me some examples of the kind of resources and programs that GMarkU is providing that are really directly applicable to building up these kind of skills.

BROSSMAN: It’s funny you mentioned private sector. So, we support private sector into the public sector, but within the public sector, there are just a slew of individuals that are retiring all the time, that have spent anywhere from 35 to five years in government. And what they do is, when they come out, a lot of times they come out as consultants into the government I.T. space. So, we have built up what we call our ambassador program, and these are all former federal CIOs, CTOs, CSOs that, we have a whole slew of them now that are all part of GMarkU.

And when you think about sales, they are a wealth of knowledge for salespeople. They will come in and do training of how a salesperson can handle their first initial call with the CIO. And one training session I love is how not to impress a federal CIO, and the CIOs that we have, the former CIOs that teach that, because they’ve been out of government over a year, they can be pretty honest. You know, pretty open with what these sales and marketers need to do. So when we think about helping the private sector, that is one way, with our ambassadors. We use them for all of our training, we use them for all of our events, and they come with just an amazing wealth of knowledge. And that’s just one small aspect of GMarkU.

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ABERMAN: It’s funny to me that, for people who are outside of the government world, they often think that all you have to do is obtain access. And they somehow differentiate that from some of the enterprise. I mean, first of all, you always have to have a good inflection point when you get in any organization. Once you get in, what are some of the differentiators vis-a-vis selling into the commercial sector, vis-a-vis government, once you get your foot in the door?

BROSSMAN: We say all the time, oh, it’s different in federal, and we’ll talk federal specific here. And while there are a lot of differences, it’s still a lot of similarities, as it pertains to marketing. A marketing campaign is the same if you’re talking to a Fortune 500, to a federal agency. It’s just the way you use words. You don’t talk about how we’re going to help you grow your revenue. We’re going to talk about we’re going to help you reach your missions.

So, that’s one of the really great areas of GMarkU that we really focus on: the whole world of content. Content is king, as well as strategy. So, helping these government marketers, especially the young ones that are just coming into the market, and really understanding what that means, that you really need to talk and walk the steps as a corporation as well, of how you’re going to help government reach their missions.

ABERMAN: How much do you find the existence of the FAR, or the DFAR, and contracting rules, and the buyer being separated, maybe, from the person you’re talking with? Do you have to do some training, or help people understand that the person with the buying authority may not be the person you’re actually talking with when you do your pitches?

BROSSMAN: You know, it’s funny, we just recently did a panel of chief procurement officers. And they were talking about how they kind of call themselves the unsung heroes, as well as contracting officers. They never get the love. They’re not the ones, and they’re like, send us stuff. We can’t obviously accept expensive things, but send us stuff, make sure we know about your product, because when it’s approved at a C level, or even a program manager level, which face it, that’s where the decisions are made. The C level is influencing it, but the decisions are made at that program management level in government.

But then, once it gets down to the contracting officer, they still can go somewhere else, and if we’re talking about just where to buy it, meaning which channel partner, it’s really important that these channel marketing people are making sure that they’re staying in front of the contracting office. If it’s a product, it’s good odds that it’s going to go with the product that has been requested, but it’s not a sure thing as well. So, make sure you’re talking to that audience.

ABERMAN: So, what additional advice, a few things you’d give any marketer or organization who’s looking at the public sector? Obviously, other than joining into GMarkU.

BROSSMAN: Well, I’d take that a little further. I mean, there are some things, but just about GMarkU, I’d recommend all your listeners that really want to learn more about how to market into the government: We have an annual conference called The Game conference. This is our fourth annual year coming up, it’s on November 12th, 2019, where we’ll have 400 government marketing and sales people in the room, along with a slew of our ambassadors, and other industry experts talking. So, that is one thing. The other thing is just making sure that you’re going to networking events, and meeting with your peers, meeting with your colleagues, hearing what other people are doing, making sure you’re going around.

There’s a breakfast lunch and dinner every day of the week around the Beltway. A lot of those are free. Go to those, find out, if you’re targeting on a marketing or sales to a particular agency, find out where that CIO, or somebody else within the agency, is speaking, and go listen to them. Find out what they’re doing. Another thing we talk about a lot is, every single federal agency has public information, called their strategic plan. Go download it. It’s the Bible to that agency, and it will tell you exactly how to market to them

ABERMAN: Blocking and tackling all the time. Thanks for coming in to spend time with us today.

BROSSMAN: I love being here, I hope to come back soon.

ABERMAN: Lou Anne Brossman, the founder of Government Marketing University.

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