My answer to What are the best ways to find open RFPs for government software contracts in the U.S. (federal, state…
Answer by Ken Larson:
You are quite correct regarding the time consuming nature of searching web sites. Further, and often misunderstood, is that much has occurred in the way of marketing activities by companies in advance of notices formally published by the government on FEDBIZOPPS.
By the time the formal, solicitation is published it is too late to market for setting a procurement aside for a small business designation if it has not already been established as such.
In addition, formal solicitation publication closes the window on self-marketing by HUB Zone and 8(a) firms for set asides to them individually without competition. In short, businesses have been marketing for the requirement long before it became formally announced at FEDBIZOPPS.
There are companies that will send your opportunities for a fee. Some will sign a contract with you to do a proposal for you to the government. Both will charge an arm and a leg.
The web sites and the service companies are a way of seeing what is being bought or awarded but success in small business contracting must come from an effective marketing program.
Effective set aside marketing reaches the agency decision makers with technical, budget and schedule authority before a synopsis of the requirement is posted on FEDBIZOPPS.
The objective of this form of targeted marketing is to get concurrence from the government to set the program aside sole source if the company has an 8(a), or Hub Zone Certification or reserve it by one of the above group designation classes to eliminate the prospect of full and open competition involving large business.
- Become known to targeted agency personnel by visiting their program offices and meeting the decision makers. Bring a capability statement:
- Present your qualifications openly, objectively and specific to their needs. You must determine what those needs are through market research, trade magazines, research on what they are buying on FEDBIZOPPS, as well as postings on their web site that are future-program oriented.
- Subscribe to periodicals like "Washington Technology" and other trade magazines. Observe agency trends and analysis that impact your market segment. There have been set aside programs marketed by small companies through acquainting agency management and technical personnel with capabilities they were not aware existed in the small business community or fulfillment of needs they in fact did not know they had.
- Pay particular attention to FEDBIZOPPS "Sources Sought" or “Requests for draft RFP Comment” on programs that have yet to be formally solicited. Obtain an appointment to present your capabilities to the decision makers (not the gate keepers). Be courteous to contracting officers but understand they are not the individuals who make source selections. Understand that once the requirement is formally published on FEDBIZOPPS the gate closes on informal visits to the customer and the competition begins in the form of proposals by competitors. It is too late at that point to set the program aside for a sole source or a small business designation if it has not occurred by the publication stage.
- Cultivate teaming relationships with other firms in your industry and look for early opportunities in agencies, not only to prime a program but to bring a team of qualified contractors in lesser roles to fulfill them with you or join a team being led by a more experienced firm:
- Understand the small business start up past performance challenge and work to meet it:
- Attend small business outreach events by agencies and prime contractors. Stay attuned to who is attending and research their needs and requirements.
- Make a point to be present at bidders' conferences for existing solicitations that you may not choose to bid but which may lend insight into the agency needs and prime contractor relationships in the future.
As a small business becomes known in the federal government contracting community, successful marketing of sole source or group-designated business becomes easier, but it is always a challenge due to the need for taking early action in windows of opportunity. Find those windows and communicate capabilities to the decision makers and industry team members who can help you.