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What are private sector marketing teams doing that are good ideas for public sector communications teams to adopt? In this blog post, Susan Ganeshan, Granicus CMO, shares five high-level strategies that continue to dominate modern marketing.

There are many fads in marketing. Some of them work. Others not for long. Some don’t seem expensive, then turn out to be. While the marketing world continues to spin quickly, public sector teams that want to stay up to date can benefit from understanding new best practices for private sector marketing teams. Here are several high-level strategies that continue to dominate modern marketing.

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Welcome to the 2019 edition of The Modern Content Marketer’s Buyer Guide. About 10 years ago, marketers realized that content is a critical piece of their pie, and have since been working overtime to generate content to help win the prospect’s attention.


1. Be a Click Away From Citizens

The media landscape has shattered. Think back through your day and recall the myriad of touchpoints you’ve had with media. You have probably used apps, social media platforms, visited web pages, opened emails, and listened to a podcast. All of which have been added to — not yet replaced — the traditional channels of TV, print, and radio.

To make an impact, you have to tailor message delivery channels so you’re meeting the citizens everywhere they are: on their phones (texting, emailing, visiting social media), their tablets, and their desktop computers. You have to move beyond traditional channels toward ones that are actively connected to the services citizens want and need.

By name, this is called an omnichannel marketing strategy. In practice, it means connecting both traditional and digital channels to web-based properties. One positive side effect is that it can make marketing more cost-effective. You can focus on the channels and placements that matter.

Shifting your marketing strategy is easy once you shift your mentality. Start to think of the citizen as one click away, not one office visit away.

Learn More: Three Strategies for Travel Brands to Enhance the Customer Experience

2. Tell People About What Interests Them

A 35-year-old mother of two young children is going to have different goals, priorities, routines, and media habits than a single 23-year-old male. Different people are interested in different things. This seems so simple as to be not worth mentioning. But while it’s easy to understand, this differentiation needs to be put into practice in any marketing outreach these days. In the private sector, they’re called “buyer personas”.

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For government communicators, developing personas means looking at your audience and trying to divide or categorize them in meaningful ways. For example, communicators at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) divide their personas by a veteran’s military service. By segmenting by whether a veteran served in World War II or fought in Iraq, the VA has immediate insight into which programs and services will be most beneficial to each. A World War II vet, for instance, is more likely to be interested in Medicare benefits where a younger veteran may be interested in home loans.

The point here is that when you think of key audiences — versus a massive, but faceless audience — you can begin to tailor your messages (and their placement) and begin to drive real outcomes and make a difference. Also, consider ways to capture and capitalize on that interest. For instance, if someone reports potholes in their neighborhood on your 311 app, they are probably interested in other happenings in that same neighborhood.

3. Optimize for Search Engines

In the past, government agencies may have been able to forego intensive efforts to optimize their website for search —something that private sector marketing teams have had to make substantial investments in. It’s now becoming critical. The impetus comes in part from changes to Google algorithms that optimize searches for mobile devices, which in turn aligns with behavioral changes driven by users.

The 2019 Civic Engagement Benchmark Report published by Granicus reports that nearly half of all web traffic to government websites started at a search engine. That means citizens aren’t always going to your homepage and navigating your menu. They’re entering an internal webpage after typing something like “pay water bill St. Paul” into the search engine.

Government communicators, then, must optimize web properties not only for mobile, but also for search. It’s a long, ongoing journey. But you can start by considering how well-trafficked organic pages are greeting citizens with the answers and services they desire. No matter what, make sure the content on these pages is clear and concise: Citizens will be able to understand it quickly and search engines will value and reward it with a higher ranking.

4. Layer Your Tech

To some extent, it’s difficult to talk about marketing without introducing the technology necessary to implement it. There truly is a digital tool for everything. Private sector marketing technology spans from social media management, to customer relationship management, to web content management systems, to customer service modules, to search engine optimization, to whatever the next best tech is.

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As you move from using one to two to three different solutions, you start to understand how important it is to have forethought in how you layer the tech stack. Do you need out-of-the-box integrations or can you custom build your own? Are your solutions purpose-built for government? Or are they free tools? Make sure the solutions you use, whether for email marketing or content management or even for digital service delivery, will work for you at scale. For example, how many different customer service departments do you need to work with to troubleshoot an issue?

Government is held to a high standard. Your technology can’t get in the way of that. It needs to be secure, yes, but it also needs to meet government requirements, such as those laid out by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Be very careful of “free” tools designed for highly generalized use cases. Government communications are highly specialized and require similarly specialized tools.

5. Measure and Iterate

You can’t improve what you don’t measure. Thankfully, with today’s tech, there are many opportunities to get the data you need to learn from failures and build on success.

For example, can tweaks in email list segmentation and subject lines improve email engagement? Can design modifications to your homepage connect citizens to what they need faster? Can service-related pages route citizens through the proper pathways such that they don’t have to call city staff?

Which brings me to arguably one of the most important metrics: How many citizens have you served without requiring them to travel to your office and speak in person with your staff? When you’re able to deliver services simply and digitally, you get happier citizens and, due to smaller workload, happier staff.  

The takeaway here is that almost nothing in marketing is one and done. You have to stay nimble, open-minded, and keep evolving.

Learn More: Optimizing the Customer Journey over a Lifetime

Bringing It All Together

Innovations have, in many ways, completely reconfigured how we approach marketing. But they haven’t substantially changed these fundamentals: Know your customers, understand where they are, make sure they can find you, use the right tools, and keep improving. Each of these points could serve as introductions to much more in-depth pieces, but — for the time being — they serve as an introduction to key principles of a modern public sector marketing strategy aimed at better civic engagement.

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