Build brand, then nurture relationships

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Don Pearson is exec VP of e.Republic Inc. and publisher of Government Technology, a magazine aimed at helping state and local governments make IT purchasing decisions.

BtoB asked Pearson how marketers should approach state and local government markets.

BtoB: What are the differences in marketing to state and local government agencies versus the federal government?

Pearson: Well, for one, you don't need a GSA contract to market to state and local governments, although some states do follow GSA guidelines. ... But the major, obvious difference is that state-and especially local-governments are very fragmented. It takes a very distributed way of approaching marketing and sales. You need to develop some brand awareness across these different sectors, but you also have to get in there and build one-on-one rela-tionships, too.

BtoB: Marketing to state and local governments seems like it takes a lot of legwork. Is it worth the effort?

Pearson: State and local governments combined actually spend more than the U.S. federal government. It can be a very lucrative market if approached correctly. It's true that it's harder to go out and reach the thousands of different jurisdictions out there. That's why most successful marketers will start out with broad branding campaigns and then home in on the individual governments that respond to the campaign. ... Once you've made a successful impact with one, the words spreads rapidly in neighboring governments and you find yourself with tons of leads. And to top it off, these governments are also often very loyal customers.

BtoB: What's a common mistake marketers make in reaching out to smaller governments?

Pearson: [Local governments] don't like people knocking on their doors who don't do their homework. They expect marketers to understand their jurisdictions and their unique problems. You can't just tweak corporate ads slightly to engage this audience. You need to put your products and services into a relevant context that shows a commitment and understanding of public sector needs.

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