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How Local Governments Learn About Software, and 4 Upshots for Direct Marketing

The ideal time to reach local government software buyers is early in the purchase cycle– when they first start researching available solutions. So for local government marketers, it would be extremely useful to know what information sources these decision makers rely on to learn about software.

Power Almanac’s first of its kind survey (together with research partner CivicPulse ) of 1,199 senior local government officials reveals their go-to sources.  We asked the officials the source(s) they turned to for information about acquiring new software. Their most popular answers are summarized in the chart below.

Direct Marketing Upshot #1:  Your Outreach is Doing Double-Duty

Check out the top source by a wide margin – officials at other local governments.  It’s the #1 source no matter how you slice the data:

  • By type of government (county, municipality, or township)
  • By population, large or small
  • By any of the 10 roles/ departments we surveyed.

This means that, when you reach out to local government officials, your aim should be not only to educate those officials directly, but other officials they might influence indirectly.  Therefore, share information that helps them understand how your solution provides value and in a way that they can tell others about your solution.

Direct Marketing Upshot #2:  Don’t Forget about Heads of IT

The third ranked source was (internal) IT staff.  We suspect this would be higher, but only about 25% of local governments have a head of IT.  Not surprisingly, officials at governments representing larger populations (more than 10,000 people) are far more likely (62%) to check with their IT staff than those at smaller (< 10,000 people) governments (29% checking).

As discussed in earlier blog posts in this series, software purchases for local governments are team decisions, typically involving end user departments, top appointed and/or elected officials, and IT staff (if applicable).    You’ll want to create direct marketing programs to reach all three groups.

If you’re targeting larger governments, consider creating technical resources specifically for IT staff, and then use your direct marketing efforts to let them know about it.  A best practice to review is Bang the Table’s “Expert Commentary Archive”.

Direct Marketing Upshot #3:  Do Direct Marketing!

Don’t overlook the impact of your direct marketing.  While software vendors appear 4th on the list of information sources, more than one-third of local government officials rely on information directly from you to learn about software.  That’s too many to ignore, and too many to simply “hope” they learn about you.

As we noted in an earlier blog post (GovTech companies are neglecting email marketing), email has the #1 ROI of all marketing efforts.  And Power Almanac just happens to have the email addresses of more than 210,000 local government officials to help you launch your campaign.

And as you can see in the chart below. 71% of heads of IT relay on software vendors as a source of information, which ties in with Upshot #2 above.

Upshot #4:  Magnify the Impact of Your Direct Marketing

The survey results suggest that these are strategies you can implement to build brand credibility and awareness, and thereby increase the receptivity and impact of your direct marketing efforts:

  • Improve customer satisfaction, and make sure people know about it
  • Actively engage with (local government focused) associations.

Since officials turn to officials from other local governments to learn about software, the positive impact of high customer satisfaction is magnified.     Invest in improving customer satisfaction… and then make sure you publicize your successes.  For example:

  • Develop world class customer training, support and loyalty programs (for an example to emulate, read the customer raves for 2020 “Haverford Award” winner MCCi here)
  • Develop physical and virtual user communities (e.g., Tyler Connect)
  • Get testimonials and write up success stories (Granicus has 100+ here), and distribute them broadly (e.g., on partner sites, as Carasoft partners do here)
  • Encourage your satisfied customers to post positive reviews software review sites such as Capterra.

Regarding associations . . . You probably noticed in this post’s first table that Associations are officials’ 2nd most popular source of information about software.   In some ways this is consistent with source #1 (other local governments) because associations are a place to network with peers.  It’s also consistent with source #4 (software vendors) because, as this Finance Director put it:

“(Association) conferences were the best source of info on software options for us during our research process.  It was quite useful to be able to meet with several vendors in one place.”

Joining an association and showing up is a start but NOT enough.  A best practice we’d strongly recommend is to pick just one, or perhaps a few associations (depending on your resources) and become actively involved. For example:

  • Sponsor-live and virtual events
  • Participate in education workshops and webinars
  • Contribute actively to online discussion forums
  • Seek out leadership positions
  • Advertise in association newsletters and websites.

Leading organizations to consider joining include national, government-wide organizations:

As well as leading role- and/or department-specific organizations, such as:

If your business is small and regional in scope, consider (instead) one of the countless regional associations (e.g., League of California Cities ).

Final Word

Direct marketing is a powerful tool for local government marketers, especially since local governments make purchases outside the RFP process.

“With so many software options, the current RFP based process just doesn’t attract all of the needed players.  I’ve discovered after the fact we missed better options.  I would love for 10 companies to give me prices, and then I’ll talk about what their services look like.  That would be a software purchasing dream.”

  • Head of Building Permitting

And your direct marketing strategies will be more effective if they’re driven by an understanding of where local government officials seek information before acquiring new software.

Note: Interest in software among local governments is booming.  Be sure to review other articles from our series:

  • Part 1 for the impact software is having on local governments, and
  • Part 2 for officials’ software priorities.
  • Part 3 for purchase criteria.

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To learn more about our research partner CivicPulse or the survey methodology and sample, check out our software research appendix .

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