One of the greatest barriers to entering the advocacy space is becoming a recognizable and trusted voice in a community that's close-knit, often slow-moving, and governed by personal-professional relationships. New or emerging technology vendors and consultants have their work cut out breaking through the noise and distinguishing their firms.
Even though there are significant challenges, firms can grow their businesses with strategic marketing in the advocacy space. Here are a few tips for getting in front of the right advocacy decision-makers.
Come up with some unique content piece that hasn’t been done before.
At this point in the game, everyone has live events, webinars, conferences, one-pagers, beer koozies, et cetera. You don’t have to do something completely new and reinvent the wheel. But do a click-bait webinar on fly-ins, chances are some of the more established advocacy brands will already be saturating the market with an updated version. Using creativity and a milestone or holiday can help build your buzz.
Solicit help from an outside validator.
Work with a university, media outlet, or established network to provide greater authority to your voice as someone who should be taken seriously in advocacy. These organizations should be at the top of your list for outreach to the industry and it would justify utilizing any marketing dollars available.
If you don’t have a connection to an established vendor, look for an individual or mentor who does. Every recognizable figure in the industry had someone give them a shot when they weren’t getting speaking requests, and many want to pay it forward.
Attend major industry events.
Sometimes you have to be seen in the advocacy industry and go to the three or four events that everyone talks about. If you’re a vendor or aspiring consultant, throw down some sponsorship dollars to display the capabilities of the business and be prepared to make a visible investment in the industry.
Vendors play a critical role in the advocacy industry, but in-house practitioners don’t want to see vendors taking free tickets every year without giving back. It raises questions about the dynamics of working with the vendor and/or the vitality of the company.
Get involved in industry organizations.
One solid way to earn your keep and build your name is to get involved in the industry organizations that offer you and your firm the most value. Don’t just pay the membership dues and list it among your credentials — join a committee, volunteer to host or lead an event or serve on a planning committee for an annual gathering. Having a seat at the table where you help create the events allows you to be a leader when the events are announced and held.
Apply for an award.
There are lists of individual accolades, 40 under 40, technology, advocacy and general organizational awards that can greatly boost a startup or young company. The investment of paying for an award submission can provide a great value as a finalist, winner, and even regular submitter. If you submit an award, your work is going to be showcased to judges that are insiders in the advocacy industry. This strategy is well worth the time and effort. If you are a finalist, let your clients and prospects know. If you are a winner, it will justify paying for some ads to let everyone know that you’re the best. You can also invite your client(s) to the awards ceremony.
These are all simple and tested steps to raise your profile in the advocacy industry.
Joshua Habursky is the Head of Federal Affairs at the Premium Cigar Association, Adjunct Professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management, and a Contributing Editor to Campaigns & Elections.