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What Does it Take to Roll Out a New Citizen Service?

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By Madeline O’Phelan September 30, 2016

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Madeline O’Phelan is senior manager at GovDelivery.

"Is this something people will use?"

That's the one question government employees should ask themselves before launching a new product or digital service.

Why? We often think building and implementing a tool is the greatest challenge, but in practice, the hardest part is driving people to use it.

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This is why user adoption and distribution are driving forces behind product or service launches in both private and public sector, and why teams dedicated to increasing users are so highly valued across all industries.

To ensure return on investment of a new citizen service, consider these five ways to grow your user base and increase adoption:  

1. Define the Target Audience

Like most marketing efforts, understanding your audience is a critical first step. Start by identifying the target stakeholders and what they care about.  

This step informs everything else including messaging, outreach methods and more. It’s impossible to successfully engage with citizens without deep understanding of their interests or concerns.

Audiences will vary widely based on expectations. Half the battle of reaching a specific audience is figuring out what they need and how that correlates with the information an agency is trying to convey.

2. Start With Existing Subscriber Bases

Unlike the private sector, the public sector has the advantage in some cases of a built-in audience. Government services like tax filings or license renewals are mandatory, and require some level of connection with public sector organizations.

But to ensure value of digital platforms, the goal should be to turn what may be a single interaction per year with government into a long-term, active user.

Start by finding lists that already exist within the given agency. Supplement that effort by partnering with other internal departments to compile lists of audience members that can be segmented as you develop topics for distribution.

Don’t forget about low-hanging fruit: Internal contacts like employee or all-staff lists are often an overlooked existing subscriber base, in addition to contributing to an organization’s mission every day.  

3. Use Strategic Tactics to Grow Audience

The initial subscriber lists are invaluable but are just a starting point. Government marketers should continue to explore various strategies and tactics that will help them expand their outreach efforts.

Reaching more subscribers can be as simple as leveraging interagency networks to promote other types of communications citizens may be interested in receiving. Citizens who subscribe for general information about the Veterans Affairs Department, for example, may be interested in information from specific departments within VA, such as the Veterans Health Administration or the Veteran Benefits Association.

Another strategy for developing a base of invested subscribers is to include overlays on government websites. An overlay—an understated, light window box that lies on top of a website—can capture a user's information quickly and is highly effective at growing an organization’s subscriber base. If you are hesitant to use overlays, consider the most recent Benchmark Report highlighted the median public sector organization saw a 174 percent increase in their subscriber base last year using overlays alone.

4. Deliver Personalized Content

While content is king, marketers must be careful to not overdo outreach. Resist the urge to unveil every detail of your news in one message. Most citizens get hundreds of emails a day, so it’s best to keep messages short and to the point. Your call-to-action should be strong, direct and contain trackable links that direct citizens to more information about your organization or announcement.

Relatable imagery is important, as well. Designing a message with graphics that resonates with your audience and directs their attention to the call-to-action will result in higher click-through rates and better engagement with your digital platform.  

5. Make Growth the New Normal

By implementation of new tactics across government organizations, the public sector is sure to see their audiences engage with and follow through on desired outcomes.  

But there cannot be enhanced citizen experiences without an established audience, which is why building and scaling usability of your product are so crucial.

That being said, the evolution is a marathon, not a sprint. While growth is a journey that takes time, know that if building usability is a priority within your agency, the power of the product will eventually speak for itself.

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