By Pam Racer, PTAC counselor at Western Carolina University
The U.S. federal marketplace remains a great market opportunity for small businesses. The federal government typically spends approximately $500 billion in contracts every year; and, 23 percent of these dollars are mandated to be awarded to small businesses.
One of the biggest challenges that a small businesses faces is finding the right opportunities. Those that match their capabilities, while still working within the growth strategy for the company. While the federal procurement procedures may be different from those for your commercial customers, the same marketing techniques and strategies should be utilized.
Learn the rules: Familiarize yourself with what is involved in doing business with the federal government. Take a class, review a webinar, talk to business owners who have experience in government contracting. Review government requirements for business registration, how to respond to requests for proposals, what the procedures are for getting paid, etc.
Understand what the government is buying, and why: Every agency and department has a set of goals. Being able to identify these can help determine whether there is an opportunity for your products or services. Remember, what the government intends to buy and how much it has to spend is public knowledge. Identify opportunities and focus your sales and marketing strategies based on their budgets. Each federal agency or department budget is listed on the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) website.
Research existing and upcoming opportunities: Once you’ve identified the agency that is buying what your business has to offer, start tracking contract opportunities and solicitations that are respective for that. Good websites to use are USAspending.gov and FedBizOpps.gov.
Get Moving!: Start attending government and industry sponsored events that will include your target market as an audience. These can be hosted by anyone in the procurement community. Look for events happening at the military bases.
Seek out your local PTAC: These counselors are located throughout the state and can be a great resource for assistance in how to do business with the government. They can provide confidential counseling to assist with all phases of the government award and post award processes.
Most importantly, remember that doing business with the government is NOT going to get you rich quick, save your company, or keep you from having to pay corporate taxes! Selling to the government should be a decision that is well thought out, fit within the strategy of your company’s long range marketing plans, and be within the capabilities of your company to perform.