Tag Archives: Marketing Success

Moving Your Proposal to Beyond ‘Acceptable’

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Image: “GYST Services

WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY By By Lisa Pafe

Federal government evaluators couldn’t care less about win themes. They are looking for Strengths, and if they do not find Strengths, they may instead find Weaknesses, Risks and Deficiencies.

In the federal space, Strengths are features of merit with proven benefits that exceed requirements and/or significantly reduce risk in a manner the customer values.

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“We all know that, at a minimum, proposals must be compliant and responsive. If a proposal meets this minimum bar, the evaluator is likely to award it an Acceptable rating. But what if, despite several rounds of color team reviews, the proposal barely meets this mark?

A Mediocre Proposal

We can assume that an Acceptable proposal will not win in a federal government competitive best value trade-off, unless other bidders also submit Acceptable proposals, and price is the determining factor.

Under the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), government evaluators must make an award based on benefits offered by the proposer. Those benefits may include features of the proposed offering with proven benefits, or a low price, or some combination of the two. Still, unless the win strategy is based on a low bid, the goal of our color team reviews is to improve proposal quality. As a result, we would hope that our proposal rises from merely Acceptable to Good or even Outstanding as we move from Pink to Red to Gold Team.

However, we encounter situations where despite the best efforts of reviewers and writers, the proposal never rises above mediocre. Why did this happen? In the case of some recent reviews we at Lohfeld Consulting joined as consultants, there were too many reviewers with no training or direction, too many comments and too little consensus, too little time to recover between reviews, and an ill-defined solution.

A Compelling Solution is Rich in Strengths

Writers cannot create masterful text with no direction. Communicating the win themes to writers is not enough direction. Writers need annotated outlines and/or content plans with Strengths mapped to evaluation factors.

If the capture team did not work with subject matter experts and solution architects to craft a solution of merit, and/or failed to vet potential Strengths with customers, then the writers will not write about Strengths. The reviewers will therefore not find any Strengths. The proposal will therefore remain mediocre.

Ten Lessons Learned

The lessons learned below assume that the team has developed and vetted a solution rich in discriminating Strengths. Assuming there is a well-defined solution, here are ten lessons learned our team identified to improve color team reviews and proposal quality.

  1. Types of Reviews: Not all color team reviews are created equal. Determine, up front, what type of color team reviews you will conduct and the purpose of each. We recommend that at least one group of reviewers act like a mock government source selection board to score and rate the proposal like the customer evaluation team. Every type of review should have discrete, well-defined roles that are clear and manageable.
  2. Team Composition: Get the right people committed early and get the reviews on their calendars. Keep review team membership consistent across reviews. Involve proposal professionals in the review to inspect for quality of proposal writing tradecraft (including graphics). Also, involve independent reviewers who know nothing about the opportunity.
  3. Training in the Art of Review: The right reviewers are trained reviewers. Make sure all the reviewers understand the proposal color team protocol. Set expectations for the reviews, provide agendas and scoresheets, and offer guidance/training on using automation, virtual proposal sites and/or evaluation tools.
  4. Team Size and Review Duration: Size the review team and review duration to the proposal size and complexity. Ensure each reviewer has adequate time to review assigned sections. A good rule of thumb is 25-30 pages per day per reviewer. Ideally, two or more reviewers will review each assigned evaluation factor or proposal section for a complete picture.
  5. Preparation: Ensure all review team members prepare in advance. Advance preparation includes reading the RFP, Q&A and amendments. The review team should also have access to the proposal manager’s compliance matrix and the capture manager’s win strategy. (If some reviewers are to act completely independent, do not provide the win strategy in order to see what a fresh pair of eyes finds).
  6. Horizontal and Vertical: Review horizontally for cross-section consistency. Review vertically to determine if the proposal is compliant and responsive (Acceptable) as well as persuasive and compelling (Outstanding). Do reviews at multiple entry points in case customer evaluators review only one section or one evaluation factor.
  7. Consensus: Review teams should have different roles. Some may be reviewing like a government evaluator. Others may be doing a compliance review. Still others may read the proposal for persuasiveness. No matter how you divide the roles, require each review team to provide a consensus out-brief including the proposal score or rating as well as perceived Strengths, Weaknesses, Deficiencies and Risks.
  8. High Level Out brief: Avoid time wasting, long-winded out briefs. Instead keep the group out brief under an hour with a focus on a prioritized set of recommendations for improvement. Save details for one-on-ones with authors to speed recovery and improve quality.
  9. Writer One-On-Ones: Too often, writers receive hundreds of comments and must fend for themselves during proposal recovery. Assign reviewers to fully brief the writers on consensus findings. Conduct iterative reviews before the next formal color team to ensure recovery is on track.
  10. Lessons Learned: After proposal submission, conduct an internal lessons learned using a standard template. Which review processes worked, and which didn’t? Do you need more training in proposal solutioning, writing, and/or reviews? Develop and implement corrective actions as needed.

It All Begins with a Solution

Just write and solution later is the worst way to develop winning content. Yet, too often, reviewers are expected to evaluate proposal drafts that reflect the lack of a compelling solution. If you want color team reviews that work, solution before you write. Give writers effective templates and fully developed content plans with Strengths mapped to evaluation factors. Then, implement the ten lessons learned above, and see your color team reviews improve and win rates soar.”

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2020/05/01/insights-pafe-beyond-acceptable.aspx

5 “Linked In” Keys To Stay At Home Sales And Business Development

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“WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY” By Mark Amtower

Here are a few things you might not be doing on LinkedIn that can help you stay active, in the loop, and maybe get closer to winning that deal you’ve been working on.

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First, and always foremost, make sure your profile is up-to-date and fully represents what you do and who you do it for. An out-of-date or incomplete profile will probably cost you business instead of helping you win business. LinkedIn is the top venue for vetting professionals in our market, so present yourself well.

Second, find things to share. As you’re reading the GovCon trade media, listening to podcasts or reading blogs, find things that are worthy of sharing, things that your connections will find interesting and useful. I share events, podcasts (like Nick Wakeman’s Project 38 or Amtower Off Center), contract updates and more. And of course I will be sharing this article when it runs.

Third, reach out to key accounts. Touch bases with all of your connections and look for new connections to make in those accounts. When I am reaching out to new people in a company I am working with, or want to work with, one thing I always do is see who our “shared connections” are. If you share twenty+ connections with someone; that may be worth noting when you reach out. I have people with whom I share over 1,000 connections. Steve Cooper (yes, that Steve Cooper) and I share 1,328 connections.

Fourth, there are a lot of soft touches that you can make through scanning your Notifications page. There are always people who have changed companies, moved up in their current company, have birthdays, and more. For each of these I look at their profile before I send anything. I look to see who else I know at the company and glean anything I can to help me formulate a more personal message rather than simply send “Happy birthday” or “Congrats on the new job.” The more personal it is, the more memorable you become.

For example, a friend of mine just got a new position with a government contractor and I happen to know five other people at that company. So in my congratulatory message I referenced knowing these people and offering to do an introduction. In normal times this might not be necessary, but during the stay at home situation, she may not meet these people for a while. I’ve worked with this woman before and I know she’s extremely competent in what she does so in my introductions to the other people I know I have a high degree of confidence in saying “you just added a great person to your team.”

Fifth, scroll through your homepage to see what other people in your network are doing. This is like a Twitter feed and the more active your network is the more information will be there in real time. So scroll through and look for things that you can comment on, or congratulate people for, or otherwise acknowledge in some meaningful way.

LinkedIn offers you a 24/7/365 way of staying in touch with your 1st degree network. In our current stay-at-home environment this is extremely important.

These are some tip of the iceberg social selling techniques that I have been using and coaching my clients on for several years. They are especially effective at helping you stay top of mind in difficult times.”

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2020/04/21/insights-amtower-stay-at-home-bd.aspx

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mark Amtower

Mark Amtower advises government contractors on all facets of business-to-government (B2G) marketing and leveraging LinkedIn. Find Mark on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/markamtower.

Understanding The Challenge Of Short Attention Spans

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Image – “Linked In” – Bristin Appukuttan

WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY” – By Mark Amtower

Next time you have something to share, people are likely to remember that you make your point quickly, and they may be more likely to give you another look. Violate that by boring them with verbosity or rehashed ideas and you are toast.

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“From 1989 to 1995, HBO presciently produced a comedy that predicted a phenomenon beyond our control, the ever-decreasing attention span. The show, Short Attention Span Theatre, soon become known as SAST (representing yet another growing phenomena- the acronymization of our language…talk about a short attention span).

As one might surmise from the name, SAST was a series of short skits and interviews, many of which were LOL (sic) hilarious. Among the hosts was a rising comedic star, Jon Stewart. This was eminently watchable TV for the simple reason that things happened quickly, and if you only had a few minutes to spare, you could watch, laugh, and move on without fear of missing a plot twist. Look it up on YouTube- it stands the test of time

I did a little research on attention spans recently and found that some people’s attention spans were now under ten seconds. TEN seconds.

Our attention spans are getting shorter. I won’t speculate as to why except to say that with the various technologies available the craving for instant gratification continues to outdistance our desire for deeper understanding. I’d blame Gordon Moore (see below), but he was simply pointing out the obvious.

Not only are attention spans getting shorter, but the majority of people are multi-tasking, especially the younger ones, which further reduces the attention given to each task.

So now we get to the crux of this matter: in marketing “content is king.” Companies seeking to grow marketshare have an ever-increasing need to put content into the hands of people who make buying decisions. Unfortunately, it’s likely that their audience lacks the time to consume the tons of daily content that’s coming at them from multiple directions.

And, like most, they probably have a shrinking attention span.

So, we have the collision of short attention spans with the desire to get the attention of decision makers, an audience that may or may not pay attention to your content even if it crosses their screen or even lands in their inbox.

Add to this the fact that content is being produced and shared at a breakneck pace. Think of this as Moore’s Law(1) where computing speed is replaced by the amount of content being generated, and instead of doubling every two years (Moore’s original concept), now it takes maybe a couple of months to double the amount of content being generated. As Moore implied, this is not a reversible condition.

With this addition to our “content is king” premise, how do we get the attention of the audience we seek?

Many marketers understand that being concise is key. I call it the word-per-idea ratio (2) where you strive to keep the ratio as tight as possible while retaining the ability to convey a concept. This is why many business videos, podcasts and blog posts are short. It is why I try to keep most of my articles and blog posts to under 500 words. Make one good point and make it fast. Next time you have something to share, people are likely to remember that you make your point quickly, and they may be more likely to give you another look.

Violate that by boring them with verbosity or rehashed ideas and you are toast.

The biggest problem is getting your content in the queue of the decision makers, and this is never a given. Even if it gets in the queue, a variation of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle(3) occurs: the timing– will it be found and read or will it miss being seen because it was not delivered in the venue (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) when your prospect was present?

Short attention spans + so much content + timing issues = black hole absorbing unseen content.

There is no simple solution to this puzzle. However there are ways to increase the odds in your favor, including

  • Try to produce good content that is germane to your audience
  • Only one main idea per piece of content
  • Use a compelling headline or title that highlights the topic you will discuss
  • In written pieces, use graphics
  • Cite original sources as necessary and when you can link to those original sources
  • Hashtag people and companies mentioned
  • Re-purpose the content into multiple formats
  • Place the content in venues where it will most likely find the right audience
  • Place it in those venues more than once (retweeting is great, posting on LinkedIn in different places should work)
  • Send it directly to those you really need to reach IF you have a relationship with them
  • Generate content on a regular basis, not on rare occasion
  • Make certain the content is edited for clarity and grammar
  • Ask viewers and readers to share (“If you liked this, please share it with those who might find it useful.”)
  • Care and feeding of regular viewers/commenters – comment back on comments and remember to say thank you
  • All of your content (or links to it) should be in one location on your web site

Is this too much to keep in mind when producing content? Initially, yes, but most of it becomes muscle memory with practice.

If and when I come up with a more practical solution, I’ll call it Amtower’s Content Marketing Law.

AND, if you like this article, please share it….

This article is an expanded update of: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/sast-meets-content-marketing-when-heisenberg-collides-mark-amtower/

(1) Moore’s law: IT executive Gordon Moore wrote in 1965 that the speed of computing would double every two years predicated on the number of transistors a microchip can hold.

(2) I first heard the phrase “word per idea ratio” from Chris Trelease, then with telemarketing firm Sturner and Klein. I worked there while in graduate school and a short time beyond that, and I met and worked with some great people.

(3) Uncertainty principle, also called Heisenberg uncertainty principle or indeterminacy principle, statement, articulated (1927) by the German physicist Werner Heisenberg, that the position and the velocity of an object cannot both be measured exactly, at the same time, even in theory.”

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2020/03/11/insight-amtower-content-overload.aspx

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mark Amtower
Mark Amtower

Mark Amtower advises government contractors on all facets of business-to-government (B2G) marketing and leveraging LinkedIn. Find Mark on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/markamtower.

Seven Management Techniques To Assist In Achieving A Small Business Government Contract

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Image:  “Startuptown”

SMALLTOFEDS” By Ken Larson

Entering government contracting as a small businesses is indeed a challenging time, but there are many opportunities awaiting you. Capitalize on those opportunities and win your first federal government contract.

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“One of the biggest challenges for a small business in government contracting is achieving that first major contract. A small business entering the field does not have a government contract past performance record to include in proposals to federal agencies. At the onset, the only qualifications that can be referenced are commercial successes and the individual expertise and qualifications of the owner (s), employees and management. 

Past Performance Challenge

Here are seven small business management techniques to assist in achieving that first government contract: 

1. Contingent Hire Agreements – Recruit prospective employees and associates who have previously worked in businesses that have contracted with the government. Such individuals bring expertise and qualifications with them and lend credibility to your enterprise. 

A contingent hire agreement is one way to approach an experienced employee with the prospect of joining your firm at a later time when the business base is there to permit professional advancement. Under such an agreement the prospective employee agrees to contribute time and effort on a proposal for a new contract and is assured on paper by your company of a position on the project when it is awarded to your firm. 

Such arrangements are generally recognized by the government as a credible way for new or start-up businesses to grow and agencies will accept resumes of experienced professionals in proposals from small business contractors with signed contingent hire agreements even though the personnel may not yet be on the company payroll. 

Prospective employees of this type are often available from the retired or downsized ranks of prime contractors. Be aware that government procurement integrity regulations apply. Individuals should not be considered who have a potential conflict of interest in the project you are bidding due to a former association with the buying agency in a source selection authority role as specified in FAR Section 3.104.

You can download a recommended draft shell for a contingent hire agreement from the BOX “References” file in the right margin of Smalltofeds and obtain further guidance at the following link:  Contingent Hire Agreement

2Seek government solicitations for taking over incumbent work forces. In some cases the government designates base operations contracts, system support contracts and other service contracts at military installations or federal agency locations as small business set-asides. In certain of these contracts the services may have been performed until now by a large corporation which is no longer eligible to compete due to the small business designation of the current procurement. The employees of this large company become available for recruitment since they will lose their jobs at the location if they do not join the winning company. These individuals have built-in technical expertise on the project and government contracting backgrounds.  Acquiring an Incumbent Work Force

3Build government contract business system infrastructure such as estimating, pricing, proposal preparation, long-range planning and job cost accounting processes. These processes are particularly important if you do not qualify to sell under FAR Part 12, “Commercial Contracting” and you are in the services business. Having these key elements in place enables your company to bid large scale jobs consistently and to forecast, estimate and account for new government business. They also permit the company to pass site surveys and audits by DCAA and DCMAO in connection with proposals and contract awards. Having key infrastructure in place creates a favorable impression to prime contractors and other prospective teaming partners. Framework for Government Contract Business System

4. Team with large business contractors who have experience in the government contracting field. As part of such teaming arrangements they may be willing to trade-off their expertise and assistance for your particular technical skills and your small business participation as a subcontractor on new contracts. Remember large government contracting businesses are required to submit and perform to annual plans or buying from small business to the government. Failure to do so can jeopardize their current government contracts or place in danger the award of a project where a small business plan is required. 

You have motivated large business prospective partners available to you in the government contracting community. Protect yourself with proprietary data agreements and insure that your company’s work scope for a given project is well defined in a thorough written teaming agreement. Large businesses will respect you for your professionalism when you demand a formal business approach.  Teaming in Government Contracting

5. Submit and negotiate a General Services Administration (GSA) Schedule. Pre-establishing pricing and terms and conditions with the GSA lends credibility to your enterprise. Schedule periods can last from 5-10 years and simplify buying for your prospective government customers They can have confidence that the GSA has reviewed and determined that your rates are reasonable and they can be assured that the terms and conditions of your schedule have met the approval of the GSA. All they need to do is place a funded delivery order request for the supplies or services with the GSA against your schedule, negotiate the technical statement of work and delivery requirements with you and the deal is done. You can read more about pursing a GSA schedule at: Achieving a GSA Schedule

6Pursue contracts which are set-aside for small business enterprises. If you are a woman-owned, minority-owned, veteran-owned or disabled veteran-owned business, seek government business solicitations which have been set aside with these designations. It is more likely that you will be competing against enterprises at that same developmental stage as your company by taking this approach.

If you are a small business with no other set-aside designations, seek teaming arrangements as a subcontractor with minority-owned, veteran-owned or women-owned businesses. 51% of a project (work scope, dollars and hours) must go to such designated businesses under such arrangements, but your part of the program is still significant and earns past performance credit. Your team members will not usually be your direct competitors but will be involved in lines of work that usually complement your business and enable the team to fulfill a scope that is larger than any single member could undertake alone.  Teaming arrangements can result in winning larger jobs that can span a number of years in duration and mean good, solid cash flow for all participants. 

7. Self-market to federal agencies with your capabilities statement and ideas for government programs. If you are a Minority-owned 8(a) or a Hub Zone-located small business, a government agency can sole source a procurement to you without competition under the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). Even if you are not an 8(a) or Hub Zone firm, self-marketing has tremendous potential. There are over 50 federal government agencies with facilities, bases, locations and offices housing contracting officers and buyers all over the United States. Find the nearest locations to you via the agency search filters at  SAM Contract Opportunities and send them a capabilities statement with a request for a meeting with their small business liaison officer. Your Capability Statemenr

Federal agencies are required by statute to meet with you. Once you are there find out the names and contact information of their technical management authorities who define requirements for acquisitions. Determine what the agency needs through research with the technical decision makers and on the web. Most agencies forecast their long range plans at sites available to the public. Define a creative project in terms of meeting your client’s needs and offer it to the agency points of contact as a prospective set-aside contract.

If the agency posts your self-marketed project for competition, you will still be in the driver’s seat during the proposal stage, having developed the concept and positioned yourself well ahead of your prospective competitors in terms of a solution with your customer. You may well have convinced the agency to set the program aside for a small business category in which you qualify  Small Business :Set-aside :Designations . That leg up cannot be achieved after a solicitation has been posted to SAM Contract Opportunities.  

SUMMARY:

Try combining a well written business plan with an aggressive marketing campaign and the seven approaches outlined above.  Your Government Contracting Business Plan .”

https://www.smalltofeds.com/2007/01/seven-management-techniques-to-assist.html

Developing A Solid And BUDGETED Marketing Plan

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WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY ” By Elizabeth Harr

At its core, an effective marketing budget focuses on reaching strategic business goals. So before you start trying to estimate costs, it pays to set goals for exactly what you are trying to accomplish with your marketing.

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“As we rapidly move toward 2020, it is critical to build your marketing budget and plan for the year ahead. Here’s a step-by-step guide.

Step 1. Identify your business goals

If you want your firm to growfor example, try to get specific about such questions as by how much, and by when? Your goals can also clarify which practice areas are the best targets for growth, based on such factors as where you’re already experiencing growth, and where you’re able to deliver the most value.

Step 2. Conduct target audience research

One of your key decisions is what type of research you need. Secondary research means locating studies that have already been done by other organizations on relevant industries, markets or trends. One example is the marketing budget research my firm does for professional services firms, but there are many other choices out there as well. Primary research, on the other hand, involves commissioning a study of your target audiences, and is more expensive.

Step 3. Establish your marketing strategy

This involves doing high-level planning to set the overall direction for your marketing. These decisions will help guide how you position your firm in the marketplace and deliver key messages about your firm to individual audiences. In general, an effective marketing strategy should have four key elements:

  • Findings about target audiences, including which of your services they value most, and why.
  • Your firm’s differentiators. This is one of the most elusive goals for many firms, but it’s worth every minute you can spend on it! Each of your differentiators must be true, provable and relevant to clients.
  • Your market positioning. Incorporating your differentiators, your positioning provides a cohesive and compelling story that helps you stand out from competitors.
  • Messages for each audience. These should be customized for each audience, and must support your overall market positioning.

Step 4. Identify your marketing techniques

Your research into your target audiences will reveal the preferred communications channels for each audience. Based on those preferences, try to find a balance between offline and online marketing techniques. Traditional (offline) marketing techniques have many parallels with similar efforts in the digital space.

Our research has found that the fastest growing and most profitable firms tend to use a mix of both traditional and digital marketing techniques. These techniques vary in effectiveness, so be careful about your selection.

Step 5. Decide where and how you’ll measure success

Most professional services firms track marketing result in three broad areas:

Business Outcomes — based on such metrics as revenue growth, new clients and leads, and profitability, all of which are typically tracked in one’s financial or CRM systems.

MarketVisibility — the most useful metrics usually focus on external website traffic, and more specifically the traffic to such places as your careers section and social media pages.

Subject MatterExpertise — useful indicators can include such metrics as number of white paper downloads, blog post views, or speaking event attendance.

Metrics can also include performance on deliverables and milestones, such as whether webinars events are happening on schedule, articles/posts being published, and others.

Step 6. Set expectations for effort and resources needed

Another aspect of your plan is setting goals for the level of effort that will be required from various sources. These considerations can range from how frequently you publish blogs or offer webinars, to what sort of external resources, training, software or website development services you need. Ideally, your marketing team will work together with your billable professionals and external resources to produce the desired result. Coordinating all of these activities can be quite a challenge, too — so consider using a marketing calendar.

Step 7. Establish budgets

The final step is to create your “bottom-up” marketing plan budget based on your decisions about the assumptions discussed above. Asking your vendors to estimate on specific projects and tools is fairly straightforward. However, estimating the cost of such ongoing activities as blogging or placing articles can be more complex. For example, managing the involvement of busy subject matter experts in the marketing process can be time-consuming, and estimating the costs involved can be a challenge.

Now compare your overall spending benchmark to your detailed “bottom-up” budget. If they are relatively close, that’s a good sign. If not, you may need to sharpen your pencil and recheck your assumptions. If you find that you need to reduce your budget, consider eliminating an entire technique or initiative, rather than an across-the-board reduction. Based on our experience, doing fewer things, and doing them better, delivers better results.

Best wishes on your marketing budget journey! “

Elizabeth Harr

About the Author

Elizabeth Harr is a partner at Hinge, [http://www.hingemarketing.com/] a marketing and branding firm for professional services. Elizabeth is an accomplished entrepreneur and experienced executive with a background in strategic planning, brand building, and communications. She is the coauthor of Inside the Buyer’s Brain, How Buyers Buy: Technology Services Edition; and Online Marketing for Professional Services: Technology Services Edition.

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2019/12/02/insights-harr-market-planning-and-budget-steps.aspx

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.


The 7-Step Marketing Planning Process

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Image: “Engineering News Record

WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY” – By  Elizabeth Harr

A systematic marketing planning process can be adapted to a wide variety of challenges, from launching a new firm or practice area to repositioning an existing firm. Here is a brief overview of the most essential parts of the process.”

______________________________________________________________________________

“1. Understand the business situation you are facing.

To gain a clear understanding of your business goals and any related constraints, look closely at such factors as:

  • Have new competitors slowed your growth?
  • Is price sensitivity limiting your margins?
  • Has your market become commoditized?

Base your planning process on regular, systematic marketplace research. To name just a couple of types of research that may be applicable, a SWOT analysis can help you organize and evaluate your business drivers, categorized by strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, or threats, while opportunity research studies the viability of different markets or target audiences.

2. Research to gain insights into your target clients.

In my firm’s experience, practicing professionals almost always have some misunderstandings or blind spots about key elements of how their clients make decisions. Fortunately, client or persona research provides insights into target clients and their process for selecting a firm.

For example, many marketing professionals correctly understand that their customers value them as trusted advisors; but what they may miss, however, is that few prospects are simply looking for a trusted advisor. Rather, they’re almost always seeking a firm to solve a specific business problem.

If you do research to understand this basic distinction — and develop your marketing plan accordingly — you will win more new customers … and then evolve into their trusted advisor.

3. Be smart about positioning your brand.

At its most effective, positioning elevates a brand to the point where people can’t help but take notice. A brand that is different and unexpected stands out from the competition and has a distinct marketplace advantage.

This starts with identifying differentiators — which is easier said than done. To truly be effective, a differentiator must be:

  • True — You can’t simply make it up; rather, you must live up to your promise every day.
  • Provable — You must be able to prove it, especially to skeptical prospects.
  • Relevant — It must be important to prospects during the firm selection process.

Next, use your differentiator(s) to draft a focused, user-friendly positioning statement: a short paragraph summarizing what your firm does and for whom — and why clients prefer you over competitors. Your various audiences (e.g., potential clients, referral sources, and employees) are interested in different aspects of your firm, so develop targeted messaging for each.

4. Define your service offerings — and then refine them.

Service offerings can get stale over time, so it’s a smart strategy to update them to keep your competitive advantage.

For example, as customers’ needs change, you may want to introduce new services. Your research might uncover issues many customers are not even aware of yet, such as an impending regulatory change, suggesting a range of possible service offerings.

Whatever changes you decide to make to your service descriptions, they should be informed by your analysis and research into your clients and competitors.

5. Identify your preferred marketing techniques.

Once you have gathered insights into how, where, and when your prospects are looking for information about firms like yours, your next goal is to make your expertise more visible and tangible to them — a result that we call Visible Expertise.

Achieving this requires a balanced marketing plan. What works best, according to our research, is a 50/50 blend of offline (traditional) and online (digital) techniques, as shown in Figure 1.

TraditionalDigital
NetworkingSocial Media
SpeakingWebinar
MeetingsPhone/Video
Print PublicationsBlogs/Online Publications
Direct MailEmail
Cold CallsSearch
Print AdvertisingOnline Advertising
Associations/Trade ShowsGroups/Online Conferences

Figure 1. Traditional and Digital Marketing Techniques

6. Identify any new skills, tools, and infrastructure you will require.

If you’re considering new marketing techniques, you may also need new tools and infrastructure. Some of the most common are:

  • Website
  • Marketing Collateral
  • Marketing Automation
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Social Media
  • Video
  • Email
  • Speaker Kits
  • Proposal Templates

To keep your marketing teams up-to-date on today’s ever-changing digital tools, your choices are to learn, retain or hire. The fastest growing firms, according to our research, tend to use more outside talent.

7. Document your operational schedule and budget.

Be sure to include specific timelines and deadlines so you can measure your progress. Develop a marketing calendar that includes every tactic you will be using (blog posts, emails, tradeshows, and webinars) during the upcoming quarter or even the entire year. You may need to adjust this calendar — possibly as often as weekly. Build in consistency and predictability, but leave room for last-minute changes.

To build a budget, start with the tools and infrastructure mentioned above. Use benchmarks when available, and don’t forget to allow for contingencies (usually 5-10% of overall budget).

The next step is yours!

Of course, doing all this is often easier said than done — so my advice is to gather your team, do your research, and get started on your marketing!”

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2019/10/31/insights-harr-marketing-planning-process.aspx

About the Author

Elizabeth Harr

Elizabeth Harr is a partner at Hinge, [http://www.hingemarketing.com/] a marketing and branding firm for professional services. Elizabeth is an accomplished entrepreneur and experienced executive with a background in strategic planning, brand building, and communications. She is the coauthor of Inside the Buyer’s Brain, How Buyers Buy: Technology Services Edition; and Online Marketing for Professional Services: Technology Services Edition.

Tips For 2020 To Survive And Thrive In Government Contracting

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WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY” By Mark Amtower

Have an internal venue for sharing intelligence and having it analyzed by stakeholders in BD, capture, sales, marketing, and finance.

Have that analysis shared with the executive team as you proceed to ensure course corrections are made in a timely manner.

______________________________________________________________________________

“I will ignore the elephant in the room and not discuss the ever-present beginning of fiscal year continuing resolution.

As I re-read John Keegan’s Intelligence in War, I keep thinking about what kinds of intelligence companies need to survive, then thrive, in GovCon.

Let’s start with the basics: Contract intelligence

As we all know, SAM, FPDS, FBO and more will merged into one system under GSA. I don’t hold out any great hope for ease-of-use in the near term, but I hope I am wrong. When and if it comes together, it should be a great platform.

In the meantime, you need to have current, actionable information. I use Bloomberg Government and I am quite pleased with it, especially as they add features based on customer input. GovWin, FedMine and others are also available. If you use Deltek’s software, GovWin dovetails nicely.

But you need the contract data to map out where you are going.

I also have a number of news feeds from GovCon trade media, blogs and podcasts that I monitor.

Live networking

Live networking events such as the Washington Technology Power Breakfasts are an excellent place to find people interested in the same issues that you are. Associations such as AFCEA, ACT/IAC and PSC are equally important as you get into your 2020 and beyond market planning. The exposure you can receive by actively participating in events and associations is essential for your company’s growth.

I discussed live networking in a recent Washington Technology article. The same criteria I used for picking events and networking venues applies to the associations that you might want to belong to. The pedigree of the organization, a.k.a. its background, the networking opportunities, and the education offered by the association are the key factors when making your choice.

While I only listed three associations above there are a variety of very specialized groups throughout the GovCon ecosystem. Some of these focus on specific agencies, such as the NASA Contractors Group which meets in Greenbelt, Maryland, or a CEO group I will not name that focuses on doing business at Fort Meade. There are others, such as the Government Blockchain Association, that focus on specific technologies. Finding these groups is not always easy but it can be critical to your survival and growth.

Account/agency-based marketing

This is another key factor. When you have a beachhead in a particular agency, you need to think about how to grow your presence in that agency. It is easier to expand inside an agency where you are known rather than to go after new business in another agency.

You can leverage your contract tracking service to see what other contractual activity is occurring in your client agency and see where you might fit. You may also look at your existing contractual vehicle to see if there is other work that can be appended to your current contract.

LinkedIn can also play a significant role in expanding your beachhead at an existing client. All federal agencies and most major operating divisions are listed as companies on LinkedIn and you can search the employees for key contracts. Connecting with key personnel and leveraging LinkedIn as a content delivery venue is a must.

Leveraging an experienced outside POV

One other factor is to consider bringing in a consultant with deep market knowledge to help you review your go to market plan before you start implementing. Host a brainstorm session with your leadership team and invite this expert to review your plans beforehand, then come in and give various “what if” scenarios.

Over the years I have participated in a number of these as the outside expert on marketing issues which overlap with sales, business development, and capture issues. Often I have identified gaps in leveraging associations, social media and traditional media, and events that have helped companies establish deeper connections with current agencies or to go after new business.

Sometimes those inside the company are too close to the issue to see some of these gaps.

I started this article by referencing John Keegan’s intelligence in war. Sun Tzu’s The Art of War also references leveraging intelligence to gain a significant advantage.

Gather intelligence

So my final tip on things to consider when you are proceeding in the year 2020 and beyond planning is to gather intelligence from multiple sources that is useful and that will be used by your executive team and frontline managers as you proceed. “

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2019/10/25/insights-amtower-consider-2020.aspx

Best of fortunes in 2020 and beyond.”

About the Author

Mark Amtower advises government contractors on all facets of business-to-government (B2G) marketing and leveraging LinkedIn. Find Mark on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/markamtower.

Nine Trends Remaking Business

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Editors Note: This article was written by John Battele in 2016 as an astute analysis of where business in general was headed, driven by the 5 principal generations of people that manage U.S. enterprises. In the last 3 years I have found it a remarkable predictor of what I experience every day in serving entrepreneurs.

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JOHN BATTELE – ON “LINKED IN

“Thanks to NewCo, I’ve gotten out of the Bay Area bubble and visited more than a dozen major cities across several continents in the past year. I’ve met with founders inside hundreds of mission-driven companies, in cities as diverse as Istanbul, Boulder, Cincinnati, and Mexico City. I’ve learned about the change these companies are making in the world, and I’ve compared notes with the leaders of large, established companies, many of which are the targets of that change.

As I reflect on my travels, a few consistent themes emerge:

1. Technology has moved from a vertical industry to a horizontal layer across our society. Technology used to be a specialized field. Technology companies sold their wares to large companies in large, complicated IT packages and to consumers as discrete products (computers and software applications). In the past decade, technology has dissolved into the fabric of our society. We all can access powerful technology stacks. We don’t need to know how to program. We don’t need a big IT department either. Now, technology is infrastructure, like our physical systems of highways and roads. This levels the playing field so new kinds of companies can emerge, and it’s forcing big companies to respond to a new breed of competitor, as well as a newly empowered (and informed) consumer base.

2. Big companies are on the precipice of the most wrenching transformation in history — and tech is only part of the reason why. BigCos change very slowly. They are cautious by nature and extremely suspicious of “the new.” BigCos study new developments and wait for proof before they change. As digital technology spread through society over the past three decades, big companies were slow to get a web page, slow to conduct business over the web, slow to lean into mobile and social, and slow to respond to new types of startup competition. Of course, now that the web is mature and consumer platforms like Facebook and Google are massive, BigCos have shifted resources to digital. But that last point — responding to startup and business model competition — is far more problematic, because responding to new kinds of competition isn’t something you can outsource. It requires a fundamental shift in corporate social structure — and culture is hard to change.

3. The next generation’s leaders don’t want to work at BigCos (if they don’t have to). In the past year I’ve met with senior executives at massive companies like Nestle, Publicis, P&G, Walmart, Visa, and McDonald’s. When I ask what keeps them up at night, all of them answer “hiring the next generation of leaders.” The best and brightest now see “launching a company,” “working at a startup,” or “working at a digital leader like Google or Facebook,” as a preferable career choice, starving BigCos of their most valuable asset: talent. While one might dismiss young professionals’ penchant for startups as a fad or a phase, there’s something far deeper at work, namely …

4. A job is table stakes. To win talent, companies must compete on purpose, authenticity, and organizational structure. Millennials are now the largest force in the global economy, and they have a markedly different view of work: Purpose and “making a difference in the world” are central in their work-related decisions. They’d rather work at The Honest Company than Unilever, if given a choice — and the best and brightest always have a choice. Members of the next generation want to be at a company where work means more than a paycheck. They believe work can be a calling (Reich) or an expression of our creativity (Florida). BigCos aren’t currently organized to enable their workforces in this way (human resources, anyone?), but NewCos — even the very largest ones like Google — most definitely are.

5. Today’s consumers are newly empowered and are making decisions on more than price. If millennials are choosing employers based on purpose and authenticity, it follows that they decide how they spend their money in similar fashion. Convenience, selection, and price are important, but new kinds of competitors are exposing weaknesses in big companies’ essential truths, and that’s an existential threat. Dollar Shave Club questions Gillette’s core premise, MetroMile questions Geico’s core premise, Earnest does the same to large financial institutions, HolaLuz to energy companies, and the list goes on. Companies profiting from practices or products that demonstrably create more harm than good in the world are threatened in an age of transparency and accountability. Regardless of good intent or excellent marketing, if your business makes people unhealthy, or depends on exploitation of vulnerable workers, or can be laddered to climate change, it’s at risk of mass consumer migration to businesses with better narratives.

6. The platform economy means traditional competitive moats are falling away. Today’s largest consumer companies earned their power by consolidating and optimizing their access to commodities (what their products were made of), manufacturing (how their products were made), and distribution (where their products were sold and how people became aware of them). They were built on humanity’s first global platforms: television and mass transportation networks. We all know that the Internet undermined this hegemony; physical distribution is no longer a surefire competitive advantage (just ask Walmart). But what’s not well understood is how quickly other parts of the product stack have become platform-ized. Just as startups can now access technology as a service, they can also access sourcing and manufacturing as a service (Dollar Shave doesn’t make its blades, for example). This of course bolsters point #5 above: If any company can access the same economies of scale, brands must compete on more than price or distribution, they must compete on voice, innovative (and information-first) approaches to markets, and purpose.

7. Cities are resurgent. I just returned from Mexico City, which earlier this month hosted its first NewCo festival. While there, I heard a refrain consistent with my visits around the world: The city is changing for the better and new kinds of companies are at the heart of that change. When people gather at NewCo meetups or inside NewCo sessions, I keep hearing “There’s just no way these kinds of companies could have made it in this city ten years ago.” Coupled with the horizontal force of technology and the rise of a purpose-driven zeitgeist, cities have become both the epicenter of humanity’s greatest challenges, as well as the birthplace of our greatest innovation. One generation ago, one-third of humanity lived in urban centers. Today, it’s more than 50 percent. One generation from now, more than two-thirds of us will reside in the tangled banks of a city center, and that number will surpass 80 percent by the end of this century. Cities offer access to capital, education, regulatory frameworks, and a collaborative density of human curiosity and connections. It’s where great companies are born and grow.

8. BigCos are deeply aware of all this — and a massive shift is about to reveal itself. For as long as I’ve been in the media and technology business, I’ve heard big company executives proclaim they were committed to change. But it always rang hollow: Large companies expended far more resources preventing change than they ever did committing to it. Over the past year, however, I’ve sensed a deep shift in the tone of my conversations with BigCos. These are some of the smartest people in the world, and they understand the technological, generational, and social tectonics at play. In their board rooms and C-suites, conversations are already underway about changes so significant, they’ll be viewed as “calendar reset” moment: Before Shift and After Shift. We’re already seeing leading indicators — Walmart’s commitment to sustainability, GE’s move to Boston, Publicis’s rewritten purpose statement and organizational structure — but in the next year or two, the pace will quicken. New CEOs at category-leading companies like McDonald’s, Ford, and P&G will most likely announce stunning new initiatives that would have been inconceivable a decade ago.

9. The best NewCos realize there’s a lot to learn from the BigCos. After years of feasting on BigCo markets, “established upstarts” like Google, Facebook, Uber, Zenefits, and Square are transitioning from cultures based on “move fast and break things” and “ask for forgiveness, not permission.” Their leaders are now turning to questions like “How do I build a company that will last for generations? How can I maintain a strong corporate culture when I have thousands of employees? How do I work productively with regulatory and policy frameworks, now that I’m an established player?” Turns out, BigCos have decades, if not centuries, of experience in answering these kinds of questions. In my conversations with leaders of both NewCos and BigCos, I sense a new kind of detente as each side realizes how much it has to learn from the other. In the coming months and years, I expect we’ll see a lot more cooperation between the two.”

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/bigcos-newcos-nine-trends-remaking-business-john-battelle

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.

______________________________________________________________________________

“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.