By supercharging the National Science Foundation's marketing efforts, we helped qualified applicants gain the funding necessary to pursue their boldest innovations.

Activating research to optimize digital engagement.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) pushes the boundaries of science and technology by funding research across many science and engineering fields. The hard part? Finding the right projects to fund. While two of NSF’s grant programs—Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR)—receive plenty of applications every year, NSF found that few applicants held the requisite characteristics.


Marketing & Communications Strategy
National Science Foundation Powerpoint
National Science Foundation Ad

To find and attract more candidates developing risky projects with strong commercial potential, CHIEF’s digital marketing support helped identify the right audiences and guide them to NSF’s SBIR/STTR site. We began with some intensive research of our own, putting NSF’s already-established process of promoting grants and attempting to reach its target audiences—researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs—under the microscope.

With discovery findings as our guide, we updated the look, feel and tone of NSF SBIR/STTR’s digital presence to attract each of the personas also defined through our research. A fresh structure for the programs’ webpages combined with optimized content helped applicants connect with relevant information. To bring it all together, a new messaging strategy outlined key principles that NSF could use to create impactful and shareable content.

National Science Foundation Tweets

We also guided NSF’s work to streamline their communications strategy for connecting with staff, grantees and alumni. By increasing engagement with these folks—our named brand ambassadors—we tapped into a passionate knowledge source that could help amplify NSF’s brand reach among target audiences.

The Results

CHIEF laid the groundwork for SBIR/STTR to implement successful outreach strategies in the future. Putting our work to the test, we crafted promoted social and paid search content to target online users by interests, keywords and look-alike followers to drive qualified visitors to the NSF SBIR/STTR site—an effort that resulted in a 148% increase in site traffic when combined with organic search and referral traffic.

We Also Provided

  • A Digital SWOT Analysis to help NSF better understand focused marketing efforts
  • An Ambassador Toolkit to support internal NSF stakeholders and alumni in their efforts to connect with new audiences via compelling and consistent language
  • A Heuristics Evaluation to help drive improvements across the larger NSF site, above and beyond the SBIR/STTR web pages