Running a business without marketing is like planting a seed without giving it water and sunlight. You don’t need an MBA to understand that. So why would you ever enter government contracting without a Federal Marketing Strategy?
You entered GovCon because:
- The U.S. federal government is a high spending and reliable customer.
- You want a lifeline for your business.
- Opportunities with the federal government…lead to more opportunities with them.
- All 3 of these factors lead to stability and growth for your business.
Entering this sector of the economy is probably one of the most important decisions you’ve made as a business owner. Your approach to the federal marketplace can determine the survival of your entity, your business’s legacy, and your retirement plan. You’ve planted a seed in a new field and now it’s all a matter of how you take care it. Your Federal Marketing Strategy will either lead you towards a great harvest or just plain…nothing. This guide will teach you the four fundamentals towards obtaining stability and success for your business.
Your Federal Marketing Strategy
You may have developed your own following in the private sector, but now you’re starting from nothing. No matter how big your brand is, always assume that absolutely no one in the federal marketplace knows it.
Imagine you’re selling your home. What’s the first thing that people need to buy it from you? It’s not money or financial resources. It’s more basic than that.
They need knowledge. Your potential customers need to know that your house is on sale in order to buy it. You can let people know through word of mouth, and you might put a sign up in the front yard. Still, do you really want to rely on crossing your fingers and hoping the right person hears about it or drives through your neighborhood?
No. It’s 2018.
You want to make sure they can punch in the relevant keywords into Google, and it will show up right in front of them. They should know the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, the size of the garage, and the general neighborhood it’s in all before they step into your front yard.
That’s what you want when you’re trying to sell to the federal government. That’s the objective in developing your Federal Marketing Strategy.
Step 1: Know Your Buyer Persona
This will be the foundation of your Federal Marketing Strategy. In business, you’re always trying to reaching out to an ideal customer known as a “buyer persona.” They have traits that range from profession all the way to geographic location. It’s the reason why you don’t see billboards advertising snow pants in Florida. You want to cater and target your marketing efforts to the people who will buy your product.
This is not rocket science.
Luckily, you don’t really have to do much research in determining your buyer persona in government contracting. They’re always going to be the Contracting Officer. No matter your situation, this individual is always the middle-party between you and the agency. So what should you know about them?
- Contracting Officers Aren’t Industry Experts – They handle thousands upon thousands of contracts every year. Do you think they’re going to have an encyclopedic knowledge on everything they buy for the federal government? Do you have extensive knowledge about every little thing you purchase? There are Contracting Officers who are experts, but they’re sparse. It’s also worth noting that they do have experts to consult on these matters.
- How will you inform the contracting officer about your products/services?
- They Use DSBS for Simplified Acquisition – Not everything the government purchases requires this lengthy, formal bidding process. For products and services of a small magnitude, they use Simplified Acquisition procedures. To find suitable contractors for their needs, they use Dynamic Small Business Search (DSBS) On DSBS, your entity will have a profile set-up that offers information to the contracting officer.
- How will you stand out on DSBS?
- Contracting Officers Have Set-Aside Quotas – Every year, the U.S. federal government will set-aside about 23% of the $500 billion it allocates towards government contracts. This sum goes exclusively towards small businesses. There are different goals for the amount of money awarded to different set-asides which include Veteran-Owned Small Businesses, Women-Owned Small Businesses, and so on.
- How will you leverage this to your advantage?
Step 2: Create a Capabilities Statement
Put yourself in the shoes of a Contracting Officer. You issue out a solicitation, or perhaps a business contacts you for Simplified Acquisition opportunities. What do you want to know about them?
- Their Name
- What They Do
- What Makes Them Different From Competitors
- Their Set-Asides (You have quotas to meet)
- Their Previous Work Experience
A capabilities statement is a PDF document that contains all of this information on one page. The formal title for numbers 2 and 3 on the list above are the Core Contempencies and Differentiators. For your Core Competencies, you’re going to want to alter this between opportunities. It’s just as you would tweak your resume when you apply to different jobs.
Maybe you’re a construction company that handles grading, crushing, and demolition. The opportunity you’re applying for is just for demolition. What are you going to focus on in your Core Competencies section? Your demolition services of course.
Your Differentiators are what really drives your marketing efforts. They’re the reason why they would hire you over another a company that does the same exact thing you do. This is also one of the biggest pitfalls of many prospective contractors.
Many people think it’s good to list, “honest,” “hard-working,” and “reliable” in their Differentiators. These are great virtues to have, but defeat the purpose of the Differentiator section. Honestly, what business doesn’t consider themselves to have these traits? How does describing yourself the way that everyone else describes themselves really going to make you stand out?
Use the “show, don’t tell” method. Don’t state your qualities, but describe HOW you exhibit them.
Telling: “We guarantee a job well done.”
Showing: “We use a variety of innovative quality assurance practices. While most of our competitors only check their product 3 times, we check it 5 times. This has greatly boosted customer satisfaction and has saved them an average of $X over the last 5 years since its implementation.”
Step 3: Set Up Your DSBS Profile
As a small business that’s registered in SAM, there’s no excuse to not have a decent DSBS profile set-up. It’s easy and if you know your business well, it shouldn’t take that much time.
Let’s go back to the house analogy. If you just posted a notice about your house being up for sale online, with no pictures, no address, and no description, will that sell? No.
Again, DSBS is used by Contracting Officers trying to fulfill their set-aside quotas and to make smaller purchases with Simplified Acquisition. It’s also used by Prime Contractors to look for subcontractors. If you’re starting out in government contracting, you need those subcontracts to develop your Past Performance rating.
Take a look at the numbers.Only 30% of DSBS profiles have a Capabilities Narrative. This is a basic description of a company that advertises its competencies on DSBS. At most, it would take 15 minutes to write. That means, in this search portal, the other 70%, which includes your competition, is doing nothing to make their profile stand out to Contracting Officers and Primes.
Make the move. Get noticed. Do what other people aren’t doing. This simple decision can make all the difference in where you are in 5 or even 10 years from now. Even if it’s just a micro-purchase, you’re building a relationship with an agency.
Step 4: Communicate Properly
You’re a small business looking for Simplified Acquisition opportunities. You could just hope someone browses past your DSBS profile or, you take the initiative by contacting an agency to see if they have opportunities.
a) Call Them
b) Send An Email
In today’s world, calling on the phone seems like a lost art. It has a sense of urgency along with a personal touch. However, in this case, you want to always shoot towards email. It’s just a matter of not coming off as too intrusive. These are busy people and you don’t want to start on the wrong foot with them.
Did you also know that if you don’t format your email properly, that it can be blocked by the agency? This has cost many government contractors the chance to bid on opportunities. Take the right steps in ensuring that your email will get to the agency, and always communicate with a clear purpose.
Turn Back Now If You Don’t Have a Strategy
Seriously, if you don’t plan on having Federal Marketing Strategy, then don’t even bother getting into government contracting. Without any solid bridge between you and the largest buyer of goods and services in the world, you’re not going to get that far. It’s like spending all effort and money renovating that home you’re trying to sell, but not letting people know that it’s on sale. What’s the point?
You might get land a few contracts, but not as many as you would have with a Federal Marketing Strategy. If you’re not trying to push the farthest that you can in this sector, then what are you going after?
- Do you really want stability for your business?
- Does a lifeline during a recession sound appealing to you?
- Do you really want to see your business grow beyond what you initially imagined?
There are people right now who grew their business or even solely started out as brokers in GovCon that are now making millions. They were able to do this because they took the extra steps. Those people in that 70% of DSBS profiles that don’t even have a capabilities narrative won’t be one of them.
Do you really want to look back a decade from now thinking of what might have been? When the next recession comes, can you really swallow the thought of closing your doors when you knew you could have saved your business? No company succeeds by accident and no business fails by accident.
What Will You Choose?
You’re already heavily invested in government contracting. You scoured the internet and any other resource you could find to make sure that this was the right path for you to take. Going through SAM, getting the set-aside certifications, and learning FAR aren’t the most exciting things in the world. Still, you knew that it was all worth it.
With government contracting, you’re already going to push your business further than it would have with just private sector work. Developing a Federal Marketing Strategy is the difference of pushing an extra inch ahead and pushing an extra yard ahead. That yard doesn’t just mean outlasting an economic downturn. That yard could mean less stress for you when running your business. It could mean leaving your children a thriving entity to inherit. It might even land you in a nicer house.
Don’t just look for opportunities with the government. Search for any advantage you can find, and take it. Become a force in the federal marketplace. Have all hands on deck when it comes to marketing your products and services to Uncle Sam. You have everything to lose, but so much to gain.
Extra Yard? Go the Mile.
There’s a reason why US Federal Contractor Registration is the largest and most trusted third-party government registration firm. We’ve helped thousands of businesses reach to success through government contracting. It all came down to the initiative they took towards working with us and using the strategies we advised them on.
A Federal Marketing Strategy will get you far in government contracting. Working with our marketing services and Simplified Acquisition Program will get you farther. Don’t work hard towards success. Work smart towards it. We’ll get you there.
Register with USFCR for a free market evaluation to see if you qualify for government contracts and receive professional guidance.