Due to the current economic uncertainty, government contracting is looking more and more secure and lucrative so it’s not surprising that even commercial businesses are vying for more government contracts. Yet a government customer can be more difficult to acquire because of the bureaucracy and formal bidding process. For companies selling products and services to the federal government, traditional marketing strategies may not work. The challenges for marketers are made even more difficult when dealing with government decision- makers who are difficult to engage via conventional means. When doing business with commercial clients, one does not have to navigate through all the federal requirements necessary when bidding a contract. However, the best kept secret is that when doing business with the federal government, it is still about relationship building, just as much as it is about meeting the requirements in the RFP.
The concept that the government customer is the ultimate target for customer relationship management (CRM) is gaining traction among government marketers. For government contractors, we must shift the spotlight to our customers rather than focusing on our products and services. The reason is that the government customer expects to be in control and is in control more than ever before. The development of a CRM strategy for a government-serving company could lead to increased sales leads and relationship-building within the federal government while increasing market share. The challenge for many companies is without a clear understanding of how to execute a CRM strategy for government customers, it would be unwise to implement a CRM strategy, since substantial resources are needed.
Companies should first develop and publish a CRM strategy, and develop a long-term implementation plan to achieve the CRM best practices for the government IT sector. The CRM strategy should include a description of the corporate strategy, corporate business goals, organizational structure of the CRM effort and a communications plan. Shortly after finalizing the CRM strategy section, the internal communications plan for the company can be developed and published. It is vital that the internal staff be aware of the benefits of CRM for it to work. To do so, the best way is to conduct a pilot program before officially launching the full-scale program.
A CRM Pilot Program is a long-term goal and only viable once the processes are in place. Prior to the pilot program, the marketing team must prove to the executive staff that the organizational departments are able to function properly with a small margin for error. This will be determined based on interviews with managers of the departments involved and also by doing test runs and shadow plans for a span of 3 months. The customer for the pilot program will be chosen from a list of customers provided by senior sales staff. Once agreed upon, marketing will create marketing materials including a brochure, microsite and e-commerce center specifically for the customer. The pilot program will span six months to gather enough data to make unforeseen tactical changes, evaluate processes, and assess additional supporting areas which may be needed. Once the pilot is closed to the customer, the marketing team and strategy executives will create an extensive report and incorporate lessons learned into the original CRM strategy. Then, the final report will be presented to all staff.
In conclusion, take a cautious stance when developing CRM plan and consider implementation to avoid costly pitfalls. If a company decides to implement a CMR strategy for government customers, the marketing team must be able to measure the results to tie it to profits, provide value for the customer and engage the customers. The government customer is unique and providing products and services to the government can be problematic. Fortunately for established companies, they have the expertise and history of serving the government. However, there is sometimes a lack the operational means to capture the customer needs. Without doing their due diligence, companies will not be able to implement a successful CRM program.
Victoria Schmidt is the Marketing Manager at Avaya Government Solutions. Follow her @Phishskins or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org