(This is the first of a two-part blog on how IT companies can survive sequestration. If you like this blog, please share it. Thanks!)
It’s not exactly the best of times for IT contractors and other organizations selling to the government, and it doesn’t promise to get better anytime soon.
Even before the fallout from sequestration – which officially kicked in on March 1, setting off a chain of budgetary adjustments ultimately intended to save $1.1 trillion through the next decade – an economic “New Reality” was settling in. According to a forecast from Deltek, agencies will only spend $113 billion on IT by 2017, down from $121 billion in 2012.
Contractors, of course, will take a financial hit here. But some will fare better than others. Those would be the companies which convincingly make the case that they offer unique, essential solutions and/or services that agencies cannot do without. Whether these offerings increase efficiencies, enhance capabilities and/or reduce costs, tech players for the public sector constantly have to prove themselves.
So how do you do that without a commitment to your marketing communications program? Well, you can’t. While you may perform an abundance of IT miracles within the government space, you won’t reap the rewards of retaining – and expanding – your customer base if agency decision-makers aren’t aware of who you are or what you do.
To skillfully convey how your services and solutions bring distinct value, you may find that you’ll need outside consultation with a PR/communications agency. A good agency team will already have established, productive relationships with influential members of the media and analyst community, to position your messaging points for maximum exposure. These professionals will also hone in on the following “must do’s”:
Chopping through the jargon jungle. If you can’t elevate your messaging above the ‘usual suspects’ of buzzwords, agency influencers will simply roll their eyes and move on to the next candidate. Everybody talks about the cloud, information security, big data, mobility/BYOD, etc. The right communications team will constantly push harder to ask the driving “who cares?” questions to “peel off” the layers of jargon-loaded, empty phrases and drill down to pivotal, telling statements of meaningful impact.
Leading by example. Federal professionals are a “show me” kind of crowd. They seek products and services that have already demonstrated their worth in the public sector. That’s why you have to compile an ongoing, ever-expanding archive of relatable customer case studies/success stories. A communications professional’s insights are invaluable here, to support each story with a compelling narrative, one which conveys a focused beginning (Here was the government customer’s problem), middle (This is what our company did for the government customer) and end (This is how the government customer benefitted by having the problem solved.) In other words, you have to go beyond just talking about product features and services. You must craft a series of messaging points that clearly define what it is that these solutions do – and why it matters.
Demonstrating compliant capabilities. Departments are constantly challenged to satisfy the compliance mandates of laws such as the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA). In fact, only seven of 24 agencies reviewed achieved more than 90 percent FISMA compliance, according to a 2012 Office of Management and Budget (OMB) report. When you’ve deployed solutions for agency customers to make it much easier – not harder – to meet these requirements, you obviously gain a decided edge over competitors who haven’t. But in many cases it takes the experienced hand of a communications professional to effectively illustrate this and drive it home.
In part II of my blog, I’ll provide more key benefits that a high tech PR firm can deliver for IT contractors, in both good times and bad. If you’d like to sit down and discuss with us what you need, then contact us.
Evan Weisel is principal and co-founder of W2 Communications.