Tag Archives: Market research

The Winning Pitch: How To Sell Your Government Marketing Plan

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Image: Corpnet.com

WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY” By Alan Rubin

Dig into the market to ensure your strategy is on point and defensible. There’s a mountain of publicly available information out there on your federal customers to inform your strategy.

Are you targeting the right government agencies based on their spending plans and priorities? Do you know which personas and titles influence the decisions, and are you able to identify the right media channels and partners to reach those individuals? 

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“I’ve been through this process multiple times in both B2B and B2G organizations, and while there are more similarities than differences between the two, there are also some distinctions that are worthy of exploration. Countless articles exist to walk you through the general ins and outs of crafting a marketing strategy, so I won’t attempt to cover those here.

Instead, I wanted to share a few practical tips for public sector marketers who are (or soon will be) knee-deep in the process of requesting buy-in, resources and support from outside their marketing organizations.

The Public Sector Dynamic Adds Complexity

Many B2G marketers undertake the planning process while facing some or all of these realities:

  • The public sector leadership team must authorize their plans and budget requests.
  • That team likely includes sales leaders who (understandably) prioritize short-term demand generation activities to fill their pipelines for the coming fiscal year.
  • Marketing executives at the corporate office also may exert control over public sector marketing resources, campaigns, messaging, and priorities.
  • Headquarters decisions are influenced by a broader set of business objectives, messages, and campaign tactics that don’t always translate well into the public sector marketing realm.
  • Even in the best case scenario, government marketers are unlikely to get everything they need and will have to be resourceful in how they approach budgeting, resource allocation, campaign execution, and engagement from key personnel across their public sector and corporate marketing organizations.

If this sounds like your situation, read on for a few suggestions that can improve your chances of getting the buy-in, funds, and support you need to succeed in the year ahead.

Do Your Homework

For a starting point, see my LinkedIn article on this topic.

If you’re modeling traffic projections, potential downloads, or lead conversions from paid campaigns, do you have relevant figures to back up your assumptions? Challenge your marketing vendors to make sure they’re giving you realistic performance data.

This is important for a few reasons. First (and most important), you want to make sure you’ve selected the right strategic and tactical approaches based on the available data. In addition, your audience will likely want you to justify how and why your choices were made (hint: “because we’ve always done it” is not an acceptable answer). Having that information available will help you defend your decisions and lend credibility to your recommendations.

Know Your Audience

Executives and sales leaders tend to be direct, action-oriented communicators who respect numbers and demand results. Think about what their priorities are, how they’re compensated, how they interact with you, and what motivates them. Do they prefer it when you get right to the point with high-level summaries, or will they want to dive into details? Do they want to see slides, spreadsheets, or both? Are they familiar with the marketing jargon and methods you are pitching? If not, do they have the patience for you to educate them? Keep these in mind as you craft your story.

Educate the Corporate Office

If you’re trying to sell your plans to decision-makers back at HQ, consider what they’re dealing with and how your needs map to theirs. They may be rolling out company-wide campaigns that cut across multiple verticals. Maybe they’ve prioritized new product introductions, staff consolidation, international expansion, rebranding activities, strategic messaging realignments, implementation of new marketing platforms, or all of the above.

They may not be familiar with the ins and outs of the public sector or understand why the approach they’re applying to every other “vertical” won’t work for you. They might be intimidated by what they don’t know about B2G and don’t want to admit it. Or they’re struggling to allocate resources and plan to emphasize generic campaigns over segment-specific approaches.

Think about how you can utilize your market data, historical performance metrics, case studies, customer feedback, and vendor relationships to help them understand where your plans fit in. Look for areas of compromise and reserve some resources to customize what they give you or outsource what you can’t get internally. Communication and prioritization are key here, along with some give-and-take to ensure all goals are met.

Align to the Sales and Business Strategy

If you can’t demonstrate how your plans will help public sector leadership generate revenue, retain customers, or achieve their stated business objectives for the year, you’ll just be seen as a cost center. That’s not a label you want to wear.

Consider taking a top-down approach to map your plans to their desired outcomes. Think through how marketing can impact the major sales and strategic goals, and build your outlines with those in mind. That may mean shifting items on your list to focus on driving new leads, targeting named accounts, or supporting specific activities that lead to upsells, cross-sells, partner recruitment, new contract awards, or other business priorities.

Set Expectations Up Front

The actions you take now will affect not only the plan for the upcoming year but also your ability to influence future negotiations. If you and your leadership can’t agree on what success looks like up front, you’ll forever be chasing wins while putting your credibility and career at risk. Even worse, you may not get credit when your plans are successful.

Make sure the decision makers understand the risks in your plan and are willing to accept them. Discuss organizational dependencies such as financial investments, new hires, market feedback from customer service, and ongoing sales engagement, including what will happen if those don’t come to fruition. Clearly establish what your joint service level agreements are for things like lead follow-up times and CRM usage, as well as how each stakeholder defines the phrase “qualified lead.” Is there tolerance for long lead times? Will you have the latitude to try new things, fail fast, and adjust if needed, or will that be viewed negatively?

It’s best to find out now while you can still adjust your plans. It’s also important to define and agree on the metrics each side will use to evaluate the results of your activities, as well as the format and cadence for reporting on them.

Start with a Winning Game Plan

Every organization approaches this process differently, and there’s no perfect way to proceed. But behind every good “pitcher” a lot of preparation, analysis, communication, and teamwork.

Working out these details now, before you’re standing in front of a crowd defending your investment requests, will determine whether your marketing pitch falls flat or wins the day.”

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2019/11/19/insights-rubin-marketing-tips.aspx

About the Author

Allan Rubin is chief marketing officer at ORock Technologies and more than 25 years of combined experience in B2B and B2G marketing. Connect with him at linkinedin.com/in/allanrubin.


Are You Driving the Tools And Not The Car In Launching Your Small Business?

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23071686-car-with-wrench-and-steering-control-wheel

“SMALLTOFEDS”  By Ken Larson    https://www.smalltofeds.com

There is a new kind of monkey these days –  the technology monkey. That sucker will bury us if we don’t learn to deal with him.

As a small business counselor I have noticed there seems to be a belief that automation, the Internet and social networking can make the business succeed when in fact the real design of the enterprise itself is lacking (niche, market base, business plan, competitive analysis and financial forecasting).

I hear from many clients who ask, “What Now?” having launched an enterprise that is going nowhere because they are driving the tools and not the car. I take them back to the garage; design the auto to see if it can run and then apply the wrenches retroactively if that is possible. It is usually a traumatic experience and could have been avoided with strategic and business planning before launch. Below is a simple test to develop your potential idea for a business.

1. Do you have a product or service niche in mind?

2. Do you believe you have a market for 1 above and the means to reach it?3.

3. If the answer to the above questions is “Yes”,use the below planning aids to design your business vehicle and the road map you intend to follow on your journey:

General Planning Considerations

Market Research Guidance

Free Sample Business Plans

When you have completed the above definition and planning process you will then be in a position to astutely select the tools you wish to use along the way and apply them successfully.

You will be able to network your vehicle, pick up riders as industry partners, and attract revenue fuel in the form of customers by marketing and social networking based on the thorough definition and content of your business plan.

In short, don’t let technology make a monkey out of you and your idea as well as raid your treasury before you launch.  tech monkey Define your business vehicle and its journey first. Then pick the right technology tools to make a successful trip.

Getting Out Front In Small Business Government Contracting

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Image: Smalltofeds.com

SMALLTOFEDS” By Ken Larson

FEDBIZOPPS is a great source for market research regarding what agencies are buying and who is being awarded new business.

But pivoting to bid off FEDBIZOPPS is a lost cause. Someone else has already done the marketing.

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“Every client I have had in government contracting goes through a front- end-loaded learning process.

Below are the best tips I can offer to “Get Out Front” with effective marketing. It becomes easier as time goes on when clients get a reputation in the industry and some healthy contracts. 

Teaming gives insights into the nature of the industry, but be aware that many firms end up teaming with companies on some jobs and competing against them on others; so proprietary data like rates and factors should be held close and protected. 

https://www.smalltofeds.com/2008/09/protecting-intellectual-property-and.html

Become known to targeted agency personnel by visiting their program offices and meeting the decision makers. Bring a capability statement:

https://www.smalltofeds.com/2011/05/your-capability-statement-cape-for.html

Present qualifications openly, objectively and specific to agency needs. Determine what those needs are through market research, trade magazines, observing 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”, “National Defense Magazine”, NASA Tech Briefs and similar trade magazines. Observe agency trends and analysis that impact the market.

I have seen 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 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 industry firms 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 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.

https://www.smalltofeds.com/2008/07/small-business-government-contracting.html

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 may not be 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.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

As a SCORE and Micro Mentor Volunteer Counselor, Ken Larson assists many small businesses with their planning and operations processes. He receives many inquiries from small companies wishing to enter or enhance their position in federal government contracting. Volunteer time, books, articles, and resources are 100%  free, maintained exclusively for small business on the above subjects.


Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) Wants Marketing Pitches Tailored To Agency Needs Only

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DISA Tailored Pitch

Image:  Stanford Graduate School of Business

 

“NEXT GOV”

“DISA doesn’t want to hear about how your solution worked for industry.  If you don’t have a unique pitch for DISA , don’t bother.

The Defense Information Systems Agency—the warfighter’s IT shop—is very interested in hearing what solutions and capabilities industry has to offer, but only in the context of how those technologies can be applied to the military’s specific needs.”


“The Defense Information Systems Agency—the warfighter’s IT shop—is very interested in hearing what solutions and capabilities industry has to offer, but only in the context of how those technologies can be applied to the military’s specific needs.

“We tend to break capabilities that work in industry. I’ve seen it time and time again over the years,” Dave Bennett, director of DISA’s Operations Center, said Monday during the annual Forecast to Industry. “If you come in and you try to sell me on widget XYZ and you want to cite a scenario where you used it in industry … I will zero my mind out. I will be singing ‘la-la-la’ in the back of my head. Because what you did in industry, nine times out of 10 will not apply in my space.”

Instead, Bennett urged vendors to come armed with specific knowledge of the DISA environment they’re looking to support and a direct pitch on how their solution would benefit the agency and the warfighter.

For instance, if you are pitching an enterprise email service, be sure you know exactly how many users are active on the systems your company would support, he suggested.

“To that level of detail, understand our space. And then understand—and help us understand—how leveraging your capability makes us faster, better, more secure, more resilient, more prone to supporting whatever the warfighter needs at the point in time he needs it, wherever he needs it on a global basis.”

“It’s just a reality of the world we operate in,” Bennett said. “You come and tell us how to use your capability in our areas. It’s the only way it’ll work.”

https://www.nextgov.com/cio-briefing/2018/11/disa-only-wants-tailored-pitches-vendors/152587/

 

7 Techniques to Profile Your Government Contract Competition

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Competiton Profiling 1

INTRODUCTION

Even though small businesses enjoy set aside opportunities in government competition, the majority of set-aside procurement bids are populated with several competitors.

Early market research, industry teaming and customer relations are necessary on the road to a set-aside win.  Marketing to Achieve a Set aside Government Contract

Once a bid target is selected, competitive analysis is vital. This is particularly true in service contracting.  As the small enterprise moves on into the full and open market, it is even more vital to know who else is bidding and their relative strengths and weaknesses.

Make a bid/no bid decision. Making an Astute Bid/No Bid Decision

If you decide to bid, develop a model of your competition as a validating tool for your proposal approach.  Develop a profile of your competitor’s likely technical solution, past performance, personnel qualifications and cost buildup.

WHO IS THE COMPETITION?

The FEDBIZOPPS web site contains an “Add Me to Interested Vendors” feedback link at every published solicitation.  Although many firms may not wish to tip their hand with an entry, those who are seeking teaming partners may list their firm in this feature. Federal Government Business Opportunities

If the government is offering a bidder’s conference, go to the meeting and attend any tours offered. Then obtain the list of attendees from the solicitation contracting officer.

Examine the contract award history on the agency web site and award notices under the “Agency Listing” at FEDBIZOPPS.  Determine who has been awarded previous contracts by the agency and who the present incumbent may be for your bid if the requirement is not a new one and is presently being performed by another company.

Make inquiries regarding the competitor through industry partners and prime contractors with whom you are associated and with whom you hold Non-Disclosure Agreements. Question them regarding the pending procurement who they believe are the bidding companies.

PROFILE YOUR COMPETITOR

Check the Competitor’s  General Services Administration (GSA) ScheduleMost government contractors who have been in business long enough to qualify for a significant procurement also establish a GSA Schedule.  Virtually all of them post that schedule at their web site.  For products it will contain the prices through profit for items the company wishes to sell off the schedule to the government.  For services the schedule usually contains fully loaded labor rates through overhead, G&A and profit.  Examine the schedule and note the prices, comparing them to your cost build ups. GSA schedules are usually projected for a 5 year period.  Achieving and Utilizing a GSA Schedule

Consider A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request. Note from company web sites, FEDBIZOPPS award announcements, press releases and other public data the contract numbers your competitor has been awarded by the agency to whom you are bidding.  Consider similar program history in other agencies if the present bid has no recent competitor history. Then submit a FOIA request to the agency FOIA Point of Contact listed at the government web site, identifying the document or documents you are requesting specifically by name and identifying number (s).  When requesting contracts, RFP’s, change orders and similar data, always include the contract number and be specific with regard to references to all changes.  If proposals are requested include a specific request for management, technical and cost volumes. The more detail you provide the more likely the response will supply what you wish to have. Utilizing the Freedom of Information Act

Obtain Competitor Dunn and Bradstreet (D&B) and Better Business Bureau (BBB) Reports. You have a D&B Number.  So do your competitors.  Use your registration at the Dunn and Bradstreet web site to order a D&B report on your competition.  Its will provide detailed history of the company, its ownership, the length it has been in existence, its credit and payment history, as well as other useful information.  D&B charges a fee for the reports, but you can order them as needed and pay by the report.   Dunn and Bradstreet  A BBB report is free and may provide insights into complaints, problem resolutions and related matters from the buying public.Better Business Bureau

Review the “Project on Government Oversight” (POGO) Federal Contractor Misconduct Database (FCMD).  This data base has surprising detail on many government contractors who have undergone federal legal actions such as defective pricing and other violations of the FAR, yet remain in business having paid fines or financed continuing litigation.   The site is free POGO Contractor Misconduct Data Base

Make a Physical Visit. Visit your competitor’s location, particularly if it is local.  Make sure you are viewing the cost center out of which the job will be bid.  Many businesses have multiple cost centers at multiple locations to maximize competitive factors on government contracts.  Cost Center Strategic Planning  Without entering the facility, assess the size of the operation, the traffic entering and leaving and relative indirect cost factors that can be generally observed, such as square footage, headcount of badged employees, the size and content of the parking lot and related matters.

Post Generic Help Wanted Ads at Your Web Site and Elsewhere on the Web.  Without revealing the specific contract or program (unless you believe it will benefit you) publish job descriptions and openings for the skill sets necessary to perform the work required by the new program, even if you already have the personnel on board.  Look for interviewees who have worked for, or are presently on, the competitor’s payroll and invite them for a visit at a neutral location. Some companies even announce a job fair for the program.  Talent is fluid today. It is also being re-defined.  Thus, what used to be considered a “Pool” (either captive or available) is now a technologically-equipped, high speed resource of communicators with motivated skill sets seeking opportunity. Economic hardship has also put a hard, cynical edge on many.  Selling must occur both ways (employer and employee).  To an extraordinary degree the age in which we live is requiring us to redefine trust and the degree to which communication and expectation contribute to it. Loyalty has taken a back seat to the above.  Recruiters, companies and entrepreneurs must recognize these hard facts of life.  Is the term, “Talent Pool” Obsolete?

Develop A Cost Model of Your Competition. Make a copy of your cost model spreadsheet for the job and modify it to look like your competitor. To see examples, check the models labeled “Attachments A and B” in XLS spread sheets within the “Books by Ken” BOX in the right margin of this site.  Plug your direct costs for labor, material, ODC (travel and the like) into the competitor model, then using information developed above, evolve estimated indirect cost factors for Overhead, G&A and Profit/ Assume that all competitors will have to pay the same relative wage scale as you have determined by salary survey  to attract or retain talent and a fringe benefits package to meet government requirements for vacation, sick leave, holidays, taxes and similar expenses. Then focus on the overhead and G&A as key factors in winning the pricing criteria for the job, comparing your bid to the competitor cost model. Pricing Small Business Federal Government Contracts

SUMMARY

An effective competitor profile contains performance, historical, demographic, statistical, physical operations, human resource and cost information that is trending in nature and provides insights and comparative balance to a challenging bid. It is a key tool in performing risk analysis and making related trade off judgments in the final submission of your bid or proposal.