In the federal government, Q4 is shaping up to be the biggest quarter with 30%+ total government acquisition spending expected and several agencies facing use-it-or-lose-it funds. In the meantime, agencies are looking ahead at the new fiscal year and seeking, or sustaining, funding for their top priorities. It’s clear that Q4 is an ideal time for brands to hone in on their strategies.
In GovExec’s recent webinar, some of our best federal and defense market experts looked at what opportunities you should be pursuing and what the best strategies are to compete this late in the year. This includes areas you can align, how best to work with and market to agencies at this time, and what you should be doing to win these opportunities.
Troy Schneider, President of GovExec 360, was joined by Becky Hoffman, VP & Associate Publisher of Federal Brands at GovExec, Jessie Wang, VP of Defense Market Intelligence at GovExec, and George Jackson, VP of Events at GovExec to discuss ways you can successfully augment your end-of-year strategy.
What are the biggest priorities across federal and defense that brands should know about to guide their messaging and marketing?
Data from the GovExec federal market intelligence platform GovTribe showed that 725 pre-solicitation opportunities have been posted from the start of Q3 to mid-July. This indicates that there is a lot of opportunity on the horizon, with incoming RFP/RFQ/IFB solicitations that vendors can bid on in Q4. To best take advantage of these opportunities, brands should be getting their ducks in a row by the end of August.
Here are a few of the top opportunities coming down the pipeline:
Cybersecurity opportunities (particularly cloud and AI) — With an allocated 10% increase, these are expected to hit an all-time high. Every dollar will be spent because of the prioritization, from back-end solutions to critical infrastructure.
Digital transformation and modernization is as much a priority as it always has been, opening doors for tech and workforce companies.
Generative AI — AI is on everyone’s minds right now, and the government is no exception. While no one is buying AI directly, agencies are looking out for assistive solutions.
The Department of Veterans Affairs — The VA has by far the most pre-solicitations at over 130+. According to Washington Technology’s recent Power Breakfast, the VA has $1B in IT contracts/task orders that will be executed by Sept 30.
IT — There are thousands of IT related awards that are completing in Q4 of this year that could be up for recompete. From a vehicle perspective, SEWP V has the highest number of potential re-competes and from an agency perspective, and the Navy has the highest number of potential re-competes.
Countries continue to focus on developing autonomous systems with air, sea and land domain applications and producing them domestically when possible. The development of counter unmanned aerial systems (UAS) is of growing importance in all countries, including the United States.
The Pentagon is investing heavily into programs that involve cyber security and cyber offensive capabilities, artificial intelligence, combat aircraft, aerial refueling tankers (the KC-46 to be exact), submarines, naval destroyers and frigates, and missiles (long-range and restocking of existing munitions). In terms of U.S. research-and-development priorities, the focus is on ballistic missiles, the B-21 bomber, next-generation combat aircraft, missile defense systems and hypersonics.
There is plenty of opportunity on a global defense scale heading into Q4. Here are some highlights:
Countries in Europe prioritizing their defense budgets to meet the NATO Alliance minimum required standard, which is two percent of annual GDP. Modernization funding will go towards air-defense systems, artillery systems, logistical systems, and replenishing ammunition and munitions stocks depleted by support for Ukraine.
In Asia, the main priorities are submarines, transport aircraft, medium- and long-range missiles, air-defense systems, unmanned aerial combat and reconnaissance systems, and combat aircraft.
Africa and Latin America remain the laggards of global defense spending, so merely upkeep their militaries and supplementing them with the occasional big-ticket acquisition (combat and utility helicopters, military transport aircraft, and various missile systems) is about the most to be expected. With few exceptions, many countries in these regions rely on second-hand equipment (purchased or donated) or low-cost alternatives sourced from a variety of providers such as China, Russia and Turkey.
The Middle East has not been the hot-spot in recent years for defense procurement that it was in the mid-1990s and from 2006-2014. Focus in the larger spending nations - Israel, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Iran - tends to be on air-defense systems, mobile rocket launchers, radars and early warning systems, armored vehicles and combat aircraft.
“Use it or lose it” funds put even more pressure on agencies to efficiently spend their money before it’s gone. What can marketers looking to capitalize on these opportunities do?
Federal agencies have lots of use it or lose it funds. These days, we aren’t seeing agencies spend this money on stockpiling of equipment, but rather services contracts. A lot of money is being spent on lead generation and branding, but brands should be going beyond these activations. This is a great time to dive into account-based marketing (ABM) strategies using thought leadership content, digital advertisements, podcast spots, 30-second TV commercials, and more, all of which GovExec can provide.
To maximize your marketing impact during this busy season, Becky Hoffman offers four key focus areas:
Be present. Be active in the market with a consistent message so that you're top of mind (not the time to pull back; especially if you know there are viable opportunities). Want to finish the year strong!
Be targeted. Identify the opportunities - what agencies have funding and what opportunities do your products and solutions plug into. Evaluate your pipeline and prioritize which agencies and opportunities are the most viable (don't want to spread yourself too thin). This is a time of year where marketers need to be super aligned with their sales team and understand what they need to win business. Tailor your messaging to the opportunity (versus being more broad); make it specific to EOY funding and align your messaging to key priorities (cyber, AI, etc)
Be efficient. Not only are buyers busy but marketers and sales teams are too -- be mindful of everyone's time and be efficient with your marketing programming. Build on the programs you already have in place; time will not be served to spin up something entirely new. Turnkey activations to drive air-coverage and thought leadership are important. Quick turn content development. Event sponsorships with baked content
Be informed. Research is key in anticipating their priorities. The data that comes from research will help marketers refine the story they want to tell and the channels they adopt to tell it to the right audience. Additionally, third party data makes a stronger case for your brand’s capabilities and enhances the story you want to tell. Learn more about research solutions here.
Because the defense market can be vastly different from the federal space, defense companies don’t really see “use it or lose it” money. Defense companies realize that they are not going to be able to sell a billion dollar weapons system in the span of a few months, and they aim to play the long game.
Although the market is different, Jessie Wang reiterates the importance of Hoffman’s point above about presence. For prime contractors that have been around for a long time and are well known and already ingrained, they shouldn’t be trying to remind the DoD to buy from them. Rather, their messaging should be centered around how they can be the best partner. A company being present and being consistent about the value in their partnership is what's critical to generating business. While this is more of a long term strategy, now is the time to get started.
A few ways defense brands can enhance their presence include:
Focus on trade shows to showcase brand and messaging. Pull research into your trade show planning for objective third party data.
Go beyond the booth. Trade shows are certainly key moments where industry and customers convene, but it’s important to do more than just attend.
Lean on resources like GovExec TV. “Five Questions” and “GET Talks” can add a little show-biz to your booth. These resources also have quick turnaround times, making them a great last-minute addition to your strategy.
The fiscal year end is always a hectic time in government. How can brands efficiently network and partner with agencies?
Plug into already existing programs by removing barriers and making it easier for agencies to say “Yes'' to your solution. The most effective marketing at this time of year is in service of existing, established programs. Spinning up something brand new isn’t really what agencies want to focus on this time of year. Reinforce that you are the best partner — you're here when the agency is ready.
Brands need to be working to be efficient with buyers’ time. It may be too late to carve out time to speak at engagements at this point, and your tactics must be more efficient. Webcast products are great for this, as well as templated events. Here are a few examples of GovExec templated events that could be a useful framework for your strategy:
Cybersecurity-focused GovExec Trivia Night — August 24
Data & Analytics Summit — August 30
Beyond the government, partnering has become a huge priority among contractors. Why is this and what can companies do to partner with other organizations?
It’s true that partnering keeps coming up in the contracting space. There are fewer businesses getting contracts, but they are getting more money than ever before. This makes teaming with other contractors crucial. Find ways to build relationships to maximize both of your potential.
If you are a new contractor, partnering is the fast-track into government business. It gives you the opportunity to work on contracts that are already established, rather than spending months,, or even years, working your way onto a big contract vehicle.
Interested in learning more about how you can maximize your fiscal year end strategy?
Watch this webinar on-demand to gain even more insights from these speakers.
To help put together a winning FYE package, reach out to GovExec for the marketing solutions you need, including ABM, events, research & insights, and more.
Contact Solutions@GovExec.com today.