When we look back over the past year, COVID-19 has impacted the tech industry in terms of the investments that the government is making to improve services and infrastructure. Before 2020, the only time you heard about contact tracing and vaccine management might be in the hallways of the public health department. Similarly, the only time video conferences were used were in unique circumstances - most government hearings were required to be in person.
The pandemic, coupled with the federal stimulus dollars, created whitespace for new technology products and services. Industry is developing applications that specialize in public health and rental assistance programs. There is renewed demand for digital service offerings and secure data with a remote workforce. This is really exciting!
Conversations are happening about projects that many thought were years away because the demand is now here. In fact, if you sit quietly, you can hear all of the text and email notifications hitting government officials right now.
But in the frenzy to take advantage of the stimulus-funded programs and remote workplace, it’s incredibly easy to lose sight of what made a company successful before COVID-19. Keeping a grounded focus is really what can help you accelerate your brand, improve your efforts and expand your market share. Here’s what I mean.
Never forget your bread and butter. If you have worked with government for a while and have established a strong brand, it’s important to remember what led you to this success. You have a reputation for doing work and that reputation built your brand. By fixating on the shiny new object to help with the pandemic, you’re losing sight of your customer’s long-term needs. You also may be neglecting a solution offering that likely appeals to a broader government audience. If you don’t pay attention to what made you great in the first place, your market share may decline along with the pandemic.
Don’t lead with the new stuff when your customer loves the old stuff. Don’t forget that the customer is a customer. They have invested in your solution or services and are probably pleased if they want to sit down and talk to you. Making sure that the government program is getting a positive return on investment and the support for the “old stuff” is more important than the new solution they don’t have budget or approvals for. Always make sure your customer is happy with the current investment before loading them up with what they need to buy next.
Don’t lose focus on your customer. We are still coming out of a pandemic. Public servants aren’t any different than anyone else. They have families and lives that may have been disrupted by COVID-19. There are still pressures to adjust how government performs its work from an infrastructure, cybersecurity and service perspective. I don’t think it’s a far reach to say that your government customer still may be a little overwhelmed. So, while you may have the greatest new widget to help government respond more quickly to the new realities, know that your approach has to be empathetic and full of assurances that it’s simultaneously low risk.
See an RFI or an RFP, then go for it. All bets are off in your approach if government issues a procurement for a new technology product or service. If this happens, it’s your job to write the most compelling response to the scope of work and pricing.
There is always a place for the new; you just need to set the table. It’s not lost on me that if you have read this far, you may think you should never show off the latest and greatest technology solution. But that’s not what I’m saying. To the contrary, government should innovate and industry is the best place to get those ideas and tools. If you want to lead with what is new, make sure you do your research. Assuring the customer that you are a trusted partner, understanding funding and programmatic needs and properly communicating how your tool or service complements the existing environment is a great start to the conversation.
Your customer may be perfectly content with their 1988 Chevy Cavalier, or they may be dying for a 2021 Audi A7 without even knowing it. Either way, you’ll always win if you keep in mind their human needs, their agency’s goals and how your offerings can best suit them.