job titles

Local Government Marketers – BEWARE of Targeting by Job Titles

If you’re a local government marketer and you’re using titles to target your local government audience, you’ll miss countless decision-makers you want to reach, and waste resources by including many others that aren’t relevant.

One of the most vital tasks for any marketing professional is finding, for any potential customer, the primary decision maker(s) with the authority to purchase your product or service. In other words, you want to identify the person with the right set of responsibilities. That is, the right ROLE. the one that encompasses the need for what you’re offering.

B2B marketers often use titles as a proxy for determining roles. In that context, if you want to reach the person in a business with the role “head of IT”, searching for people with the title “CIO” will likely do the trick.

But with local governments, using titles as a proxy for roles is highly problematic due to the dizzying array of confusing and often misleading titles given to the key officials performing precisely the same function. For example, let’s look at titles related to the “Head of IT” role for local governments:

  • In the B2B space, the target decision maker is often a CIO or CTO. But only 6% of local governments have someone in that role with such a lofty title.
  • 41% have the word “Director” along with other words implying technology in their title (e.g., “IT Director”, “MIS Director”, “Technology Services Director”).
  • In 16% of local governments, the head of IT is designated as an IT/IS/technology “Manager” of some kind.
  • In 13%, the head of IT has a title suggesting technology responsibility, but other words implying a junior role rather than lead responsibility (e.g., “IT Technician” or “Network Administrator”).
  • Most confusingly, in 24% of local governments the Head of IT has a title with no reference to technology at all (e.g. “Finance Director”, “City Administrator”, “Town Clerk”).

Mapping Roles to Titles

At Power Almanac, we keep records for officials from 21,000 local government in 13 different roles, including:

HEAD/CHIEF OF:GOVERNMENT-WIDE ROLES:
1. IT
2. Finance
3. Purchasing
4. Clerk’s Office
5. Public Works
6. Police
7. Fire
8. Buildings
9. Communications
10. HR
11. Top Appointed Executive
(e.g. the City/County Manager)


12. Top Elected Official
(e.g. the Mayor)


13. Governing Board Members
(e.g. the Council Members)

In just two of the 13 roles, the mapping of the roles to the likely titles is quite straightforward.

  • The person in the “Head of Fire Protection Services” role is, in 94% of local governments, called the “Fire Chief” (adding in a few cases “acting” or “interim”).
  • The person in the “Head of Law Enforcement” role is, in 96% of cases, called either “Police Chief” or “Sheriff”.

So, good news if your target audience is the head of the fire department, you can with confidence expect the decision maker to have a title of “Fire Chief”. And if you’re selling to heads of law enforcement, you’ll only need to expand your outreach to two titles: “Police Chief” and “Sheriff”.

But beyond those two roles, the number of reasonably likely titles escalates rapidly, and often not as you might expect.

Suppose, for example, the key decision maker for your service is the person in charge of a municipality’s purchasing. At Power Almanac, that person would be classified in our “Head of Purchasing/Procurement” ROLE.

From our database of more than 250,000 records of local government officials, we know that there are 1,139 unique titles nationwide for the person in that specific role! Here are the top 10 most popular titles, but even this list is of limited use because these top 10 titles COLLECTIVELY represent only 44% of all the officials in that role. Further, note that most of the titles make no reference to the word “purchasing”.

Trying to use titles to amass a target audience of local government officials with the role of ”Head of Purchasing/Procurement” will yield a poor list and a giant headache.

NoteFor reference, see the Appendix of this blog post for a breakdown of the ten most popular titles for each of the 13 roles we track in Power Almanac.

Don’t Forget – Not Every Government Has Every Role

Complicating matters, not all local governments have officials in all the roles. That means it’s hard to know when you’ve found all the people you’re targeting. For example, only 27% have someone in the “Head of IT” role – essential information if you’re trying to target that role. On the other hand, virtually all have an official in the Head Clerk and Head of Finance roles. The prevalence of officials in each of the 13 roles is summarized in the chart below:

Finding & Reaching Your Target Decision Makers

If you subscribe to Power Almanac’s local government contacts database you can target officials by role. You also know both the names and titles of the decision makers in EACH role, eliminating guesswork.
But suppose you don’t subscribe. Here are 3 publicly available resources you can use, and things to keep in mind to increase your success rate with each:

Local Government Websites

The first thing to know is that 19% of local governments don’t have a website. (NOTE – we’re excluding governments who represent a population of less than 1,000, which are even more likely to be without a website.) And the websites that exist are often out-of-date or incomplete. Nevertheless, for local governments with websites, most have some sort of directory that you can use to look up officials. For larger governments, the directories are typically organized by department.

You can scan the directories for likely decision makers, keeping an eye out for officials with more senior sounding titles (and referencing the list of most common titles for each role in the Appendix to this post). However, you’ll still need to be careful. For example, you might find 3 cities, each of which has a Treasurer, a Controller, and a Finance Director. The Treasurer might be the head of finance in one city, the Controller in another, and the Finance Director in the third.

LinkedIn

We’ve measured the use of LinkedIn listings by local government entities. 65% of local governments have LinkedIn listings, but 40% of those are autogenerated by LinkedIn and not maintained by the government.

Finding LinkedIn profiles for individual officials is even trickier due to several limitations:

  • Only 53% of officials have profiles.
  • Any particular search may return many pages of profiles, many completely irrelevant, that need to be scanned through to find likely decision makers.
  • When you find an official, say an “IT Manager”, it’s difficult to know if they are in charge of IT, or a junior employee a couple levels down from the CIO you haven’t found yet.
  • And searching with the wrong title may not bring up the official, even if they have a profile.

Note that both the website and LinkedIn based searching approaches are unlikely to find the appropriate role-based decision makers when they have general or vague titles, which is all too often the case (e.g., “Administrator”, “Supervisor”, “Commissioner”) or have titles unrelated to their role (e.g., the “Finance Director” in charge of IT).

Office of the Clerk

The most effective way to find and reach your target decision-makers at local governments is by phone, and specifically by calling someone in the Clerk’s office (at smaller local governments, this probably means talking to the head clerk). The clerk’s office is a vital hub for every local government, and typically the best source for current/accurate information. While a call campaign is a time-consuming method to building your target audience, it yields by far the most powerful results.

We know, we build and maintain the Power Almanac contact database by calling all 21,000 local governments every 6 months, and we’ve been at it for 9 years.

Here are a few best practices to follow when your team makes its calls:

  • Ask “who is in this role” vs. “who has this title”. For example, if you have a product that helps cities streamline the building permitting process, ask “Who is the leader of your group that issues building permits?”, and not “Who is your Chief Building Officer?”
  • After you’re given a name, definitely ask for that person’s title (and contact info). If the title is unexpected or vague, describe the role more completely and verify that they gave you the right name.
  • If the answer is “nobody does that here,” ask HOW that work gets done. For example, “Since you don’t a person/group in charge of issuing building permits, is there another government or company that handles the issuing of building permits on behalf of your city?” They’ll either confirm that the role is outsourced, or they’ll realize they misunderstood your initial question and give you the name you’re looking for.
  • Don’t be surprised if 1 local government official serves in 2 or 3 different key roles at the same time. It’s not the norm, but we’ve found that about 10% of local government officials serve in 2 or more roles.
  • Train and monitor the team doing the calling for you. There’s a natural tendency to slip back into asking for titles. Don’t do it!
  • Keep at it. As with any organization, local governments have staff turnover. Call back and refresh your list.

Conclusion

For local government marketing, role-based targeting is not just more effective, it’s essential. And your up-front efforts to build your audience via roles will yield significantly better results, as in more qualified leads and more sales. But like in most matters of consequence, seeing is believing. To that end, we offer 100 FREE leads of local government decision makers to let you experiment with role-based targeting.

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Appendix – Ten Most Common Titles for 13 Key Roles

In this Appendix, we provide charts with the ten most common titles for each of the following 13 key roles. Click on the hyperlink in the table to be taken to that section of the Appendix.

Government Wide Roles

Department/Function Heads

Finance role
Fire protection role
HR
IT
Law enforcement role
PublicWorks role
Purchasing role

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