How to create a Government Engagement Strategy

A well thought out government engagement strategy, updated on an annual basis, is your roadmap to building business with State and Federal Governments.

A government engagement strategy is an important tool for businesses seeking to sell into government. The government sector is large; in the Victorian Government alone there exist 440 entities. Without a strategy to document the targeted engagement points, and specify actions to take against those points, it can be very difficult to effectively engage with a customer of this size and breadth.

government engagement strategy
A government engagement strategy will light the way to doing business with government.

A government engagement strategy is no different from an account plan. It maps government opportunities to a business’s solutions, identifying priority areas within government to approach.

The strategy should have a 12 month view, but be broken into quarters, identifying actions for each quarter to create and build government engagements. Activities from each quarter contribute to and build on the focus for each subsequent quarter, noting meetings had, outcomes and next steps. It also captures additional steps and contact points learned through government meetings.

Components of a government engagement strategy

The core aspects of a government engagement strategy are:

  • Unique business value – what will make government want to meet you?
  • A description of the products or services you want to sell to government
  • Outline of whole of government and agency directions or strategies relevant for your business – what is their compelling reason to act?
  • Your targeted government bodies (departments/agencies/other government entities)
  • Your specific contact points
  • Your business priorities, and
  • Team commitment

Your strategy must also document all those supplementary activities that enhance your engagement with government, including industry association memberships, networking and artefacts that position the business as thought leaders – such as blogs or information events.

1. Define your products and/or services in terms of benefits to government

It is essential to make sure you have a set of well-defined and appropriate products and services to market to government – and that you have defined their benefits to government. Review these on an annual basis and redefine if necessary.

Also understand your point of difference; this will be the key for why government wants to meet you.

2. Align your solutions with government strategies and directions

The magic of a government engagement strategy happens when you align a government strategy or direction (the problem) with your product or service (the solution).

Start by looking at the strategies and plans put in place by government over the past 12 months. Some will be agency-specific, while others will span the whole of government. The plans the various government agencies have begun enacting are the clues to where the current priorities lie.

All governments produce forward procurement plans. Study these to understand where opportunities lie. Budget papers also provide strong insights into government directions and thus opportunities for business to engage with government.

This will help you tailor your solutions to align with specific needs. It may also help you identify which government entities to target first.

3. Identify your targeted government bodies’ needs

Make sure you target the right government customer – every government agency in your strategy must have a need for your offering. (If you sell an innovative transport solution I doubt very much that the Public Records Office would have much use for it.) As in point 2 above, align your targeted government customers with published strategies and policies.

Further, look at your case studies in other government jurisdictions or relevant commercial sectors. What have you delivered that government can learn from? Target your government agencies based on an understanding of the value they can get from what you have provided (which of course means you must understand their needs!).

4. Identify the right government contact points

Similar to point 3 above, you must have the right contact points in your government engagement strategy. Most government people agree that industry communications are important, but it becomes annoying and time wasting for them if the query or meeting request should have gone to someone else more relevant.

Identify the right contacts for each of your targeted government entities using your existing client relationships or the resources listed below. Look at organisational charts, annual reports and government directories to target the right organisational position and person.

Every so often reconnect with your contacts to confirm they are still in the same role and request a new contact if appropriate. Discuss with your key contacts any updates to strategies and priorities, and potential timelines for implementation.

5. Allocate your priorities

To give yourself the best chance of succeeding, prioritise all your government engagement activities over the next 12 months and make sure you have a realistic and achievable plan of attack. (If a government engagement strategy fails, it is often because it seems too daunting to implement, leading the business to give up, frequently before even starting.)

Also align your priorities against departmental strategies and review annually. You may find that what was once a priority for a department, and thus for your engagement strategy, has now dropped down the list.

6. Get your team onside

Regardless of the size of your organisation, it is vital that everyone involved is on the same page. All stakeholders need to understand the overall strategy and priorities, the targeted outcomes and the role they need to play. For larger organisations, that means the executive team, the marketing team, technical specialists, and even external business partners. For smaller organisations, this is your management team and relevant colleagues.

A well thought-out government engagement strategy really does work – as long as you commit the time, energy and resources to implementation.

Useful resources

Government directories contain listings of all government departments and agencies, their responsibilities and organisational structures.

Departmental websites also outline portfolios, responsibilities, positions and structures, and should be consulted as you prepare your strategy.

Annual Budget Papers outline major capital and operating expenditure commitments by portfolio.

Procurement Activity Plans list upcoming procurements by description, proposed quarter for release, and proposed method of release – for example, quotation or tender.

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