“Getting your name out and in front of your target market is the best way to generate business. Getting a customer’s attention often comes at a hefty price, but it doesn’t always have to be that way. Learn about different publicity tactics that won’t put a dent in your budget.“
“The tactic is simple: you randomly search questions related to your niche and try to find the results in which one of the posts on Quora is ranking in the top five. Open that and try to give a very detailed and helpful answer with stats and your personal experiences about the question asked. The better your answer, the better is your chance to reach the top of Quora answers.
This works really well and, as I write this today, I already have two answers to questions on Quora that are bringing us around 25-30 visitors every single day. You may think it’s too low but considering that the average ticket size of projects we do is $500, that easily converts to a few new leads every week without spending a dime. -Ram Shengale, Fantastech
Generate Intriguing Data
People love facts and figures, and creating new ones is a great way to draw attention to your business with a little effort rather than a financial outlay. It is surprisingly easy to do, and it’s worked for me on several occasions. All you need is a poll or survey with a reasonable number of responses. As long as you have an established group of people to reach out to–like a social media group, an email list or a customer database–that’s simple to achieve. Ask the right questions, share the data you create, and you can generate anything from social media mentions to press coverage. -Ben Taylor, HomeWorkingClub
Combine Offers and Audiences
Collaborating with other companies in your area or online is a great way to broaden your audience and potentially gain new customers. Teaming up with a fellow business to give away free products or services is a fantastic way to get your name out there and gain some more publicity. Use your social media platforms to announce the collaboration and have users either follow you or tag your company to enter. You will get exposure to a whole new set of clients and gain new followers all while giving away products you already have. -Vanessa Molica, The Lash Professional
Team Up for Tabling Events
Collaborating with other small businesses for tabling events is a fantastic way to get your name out there without having to spend extra money. Using social media to announce the event will drive traffic to your page and direct people to your website to learn more. This is a great way for people to also engage with your organization and follow your organization’s journey via social media. This is a win-win because you and another company are combining your audience to bring awareness and give information to a whole new set of potential clients. -Kenna Hamm, Texas Adoption Center
Stay on Top of Trends
One thing that has worked really well for us is creating content around trending topics, and riding the organic search traffic that results in visits, comments, links, and mentions across the web. Specifically, we have found a lot of success in aggregating statistics into a big list. For example, when the coronavirus pandemic started heating up and many people started switching to work-from-home, we published a few blog posts with statistics on working from home. -Jayson DeMers, EmailAnalytics
Whatever You Do, Watch Your Spelling
I use HARO to get free press for my small business. In 2019, I sent around 40 pitches and received over 20 mentions, including major publications like Business Insider and Forbes. My top HARO tip is to proofread your pitches (or have someone else proofread them for you). No matter how good your pitch is, reputable editors won’t publish it if it contains spelling and grammatical errors, so it’s worth taking the extra time to make sure your submission is polished. -Chloe Brittain, Opal Transcription Services
Newspapers Are Not Gone Yet
You would be surprised how many small businesses are no longer sending out press releases. Newspapers in your state are looking to cover local businesses, so write a press release about something in your organization and email or fax it over to the newspaper. If you do this once per month, you would be motivated by how many times it will get picked up. Sometimes, a feature article will come out of it. In addition, Google search engines really value newspaper links to your website, and it will help with search engine marketing. -Stephen Halasnik, Financing Solutions
Instagram Stories Are Tools
Getting free publicity for your business is easy with Instagram Stories. With a Swipe-Up link, you can take people where you want them to go. People love the countdown sticker. Promote your new product launch or discount with the countdown sticker. Even if people don’t buy, you can DM them the information. People also love polls. Ask if they have already purchased and offer two choices: Yes and Send Me the Link. Many people choose option two. -Janice Wald, Mostly Blogging
Whether you are a startup looking for R&D funding to take your product to the next level or simply wanting to organize a charity event, crowdfunding is a powerful publicity tool. For starters, you get to promote your company and what it does with the vision behind what you do. Second, people love crowdfunding and a well-thought-out campaign can get shared on social networks, multiplying its views and overall PR effect. I would recommend crowdfunding on platforms such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo to get some publicity for free. -Aleksandra Arsic, CapitalCounselor
Join Organizations + Attend Meetups
The best way to get publicity for your small business is to join organizations or attend meetups within your community. These are great ways to network with other business owners who may be able to offer strategic partnerships or collaboration opportunities. Within my community, there are tons of organizations for female entrepreneurs, marketing enthusiasts, and everything in between. Always remember that every stranger in that room is an opportunity for your business, so put yourself out there and get to know everyone. -Nikitha Lokareddy, Markitors
Optimize Google My Business Profile
Local SEO can help small businesses generate impressions and awareness for their services. One of the best ways for small businesses to appear on search result pages is to optimize a Google My Business listing. By optimizing your listing with relevant information, your business may be shown in the top three results for local searches. Google My Business is free to use and highly effective for helping businesses get their name out there to prospective customers.”
I have been blogging for 14 years. I have found through hard experience that it is best to divide opinions from professional assistance offerings.
I have Google Adsense and site metering on both the sites I maintain.
The Blog containing professional assistance to small business earns orders of magnitude more traffic than the opinion blog and proportionately more earnings. People want help more than they want opinions. See below graphic for traffic comparisons over 9 years. Neither site has made me rich and I did not set them up for that purpose.
It took the better part of a year to build up traffic. I view blogging as an auxiliary enhancement to marketing my non-profit foundation as well as the foundations I support and staying in touch with Veteran Issues.
The most useful feature of blogging to me is a time saver. I can write an article once and send 50 clients to it in the course of my advisory work. That saves me enormous amounts of time.
I spend roughly 3 hours a day blogging and site maintenance, maintaining books and reference materials in BOX at the site free to the public. The majority of my time is devoted to counseling specific small business clients and blogging is vital to that mission.
“While the COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges for the government contracting community over the past several months, there may be a silver lining on the horizon.
This situation has created a backlog of RFPs that procurement professionals will be releasing during the rest of the summer. And we can expect a larger-than-usual “end of the year” push during this time frame.“
“This summer, many believed that federal spending for contractor services would be fast with new RFPs being released rapidly. This reflects the fact that the addressable funds in the federal budget are the highest in 10 years.
According to a study from Market Connections, however, about two-thirds of procurement personnel went fully remote due to the virus, slowing down RFP releases. The report also found that 50 percent of respondents said the execution of new projects was put on hold.
This points to the need for the vendor community to help government customers and prospects work through this period of potential rapid procurement.
Time to Cultivate Relationships
The Market Connections study also found that 45 percent of government customers are looking to vendors to provide educational and consultative services, especially during the peak time of COVID-19. In addition, 41 percent stated that they wanted industry members to be nimble in providing both short- and long-term solutions and guidance.
Now is the ideal time to consider developing systematic plans to both cultivate and educate government buyers – especially since the pandemic continues today and will into the foreseeable future.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also made it very challenging to meet with government customers face-to-face. However, with or without the pandemic, the reality is that one chance meeting at an event would most likely not translate into a contract win.
A systemic plan to cultivate these relationships in the “new normal” should include thought leadership marketing, and other value-added content that can help with the education about your solutions.
The study also highlighted how government buyers are tapping into vendor webinars, research firm websites, contractor websites, and trade associations to become educated on the most cutting-edge solutions in the marketplace.
Sales and BD teams should be fully armed with all educational content, and use it as potential gateway tools to open doors to virtual meetings with government prospects. If you want to get the attention of the prospect, figure out a low-risk solution that will help them to do their job more cost-effectively.
An Ideal Time for Incumbents
It is common knowledge that government decision-makers are risk averse, and are more likely to engage with industry members they already know. In today’s business climate, incumbents certainly have an advantage when it comes to winning recompetes.
Though it’s all too easy to fall into complacency traps when re-bidding on business. Even in normal times, the incumbent contractors lose between 25 and 30 percent of their recompletes. It’s all too easy to lose an existing government customer, and even harder to win additional contracts to fill the void from the revenue lost.
The key is to recognize the customer’s culture and strategic goals, leverage successes and evidence from the existing contract, and engage with internal operations teams six months before the RFP is due to be published.
In addition, the pace of innovations moves so quickly, even if the government customer has not changed the SOW. Being able to show how your solutions have adapted to meet new needs will help overcome any ‘business as usual’ fears that evaluators may have about your company and offerings.
Ultimately, you want to plan to win the contract from the start by creating a complete contract story, developing the right processes, and staying fully connected with the customer throughout this entire journey.
Getting Prepared for Rapid Procurement
During this time of potentially rapid procurement, developing the right resources for winning new contracts or a recompete is vital – such as leveraging the right proposal teams that have the subject-matter expertise, understanding the buyer agency, and including everything from writers to graphic artists to orals coaches.
No contractor wants to miss out on an opportunity for business growth – especially with a potentially strong summer selling season in front of us.
Being fully connected with the customer, providing ongoing educational resources, and not resting on your laurels when it comes to recompetes, could make for a prosperous time for contractors.”
“The Covid 19 crisis has forced Feds and contractors alike to a new level of “digital transformation,” a forced migration to tools we were aware of but not necessarily using often or well: online meetings, telework, and leveraging social networks like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook more fully and more frequently.
With the physical re-opening of federal sites still in question, the need to adapt has never been greater. I have heard from different sources that federal offices will not return to any semblance of normal in this fiscal year, and possible not until calendar 2021.
In the meantime, here are a few ideas to win more business at the end of fiscal 2020 on Sept. 30.
First, relevant content, well written or produced, then properly deployed after production. Content can take many forms, from articles and blog posts, to videos and podcasts, from webinars to white papers, and much more. Studies from Market Connections, Inc, Hinge Marketing and others have not only demonstrated the value of content in the procurement process, but have shown it to be a critical factor when you are targeting specific contracts, going after business with a specific agency, or developing and showcasing an area of expertise.
Producing the content is step one, putting it where your target audience will find it is step two.
All content should be resident on your web site under a “Resources” button. After that, share it via social sharing and email. If you post it on LinkedIn, it automatically goes to your 1st degree connections via their “Home” page. If someone else shares it, it goes into their 1st degree network the same way.
Your content should be educational in nature and avoid any overt sales message. Just include contact info at the end and encourage readers and viewers to share.
Second, virtual events. By this time we should all be ZOOM-masters, right? I had been on ZOOM before Covid 19 sequestered us, but now I feel like I cannot live without it. ZOOM is massively more personal than a call.
Many events, even larger ones, have gone virtual with varying degrees of success. For those that didn’t quite make it, the problem may have been the tech backbone or the partner you chose to produce the event.
Vetting your virtual event provider and testing capacity is key, so start by asking your peers who they are using. If you attend an event that works, or that does not work so well, find out which platform was used.
If you are hosting an event for govies, make certain it is on a platform approved by their agency. If it is FedRAMP compliant, you should be OK. If not, rethink your platform.
Virtual events are here to stay.
Third, social selling. Social selling has been growing in importance over the last few years, but has now become critical. LinkedIn is the primary venue for this and the traffic on LinkedIn since the “stay at home” order has risen significantly.
Social selling is not traditional selling. It is the art and science of getting on the radar of a defined audience and staying on the radar in a non-intrusive way by leveraging social networks. It is not designed to replace traditional sales or business development, but to supplement and support them.
Sharing the content you develop is a social selling technique. Finding, liking and commenting on content shared by your prospects, is another technique. “Following” your prospects before reaching out is yet another. There are several easy-to-do social selling tactics.
Reaching out to connect with your prospect audience can be a social selling technique as long as you don’t send the LinkedIn connection “form letter.” Find a way to put the connection request in context of what the prospect does and what you bring to the table, but not a sales context.
“The random approach taken by some is not marketing. It is wishful thinking, the misapplication of a valid and useful marketing tactic to satisfy the whim of a CEO desperate to create awareness for themselves or their company.“
“There are always new shiny objects littering the various avenues along web 2.0 (soon to be web 3.0?), tools that can be snarky or fun, tools employed in the realm of business to consumer, with Generation Zs or even with the Millennials.
Then there are mainstream tools such as videos and podcasts, animation tools and others that, when used well, have legitimacy across markets: B2C, business to business, and GovCon, tools that help the company gain real traction toward a definable, measureable goal.
But when you have a neophyte in the role of marketer, a person with the power of making decisions for the company, you have the potential for disaster.
Too often in companies of a certain size, the role of marketing, by default, goes to the founder, president, CEO. This often results in marketing by whim, the result of seeing a shiny object used by others, becoming enamored of that shiny object, and wanting to get one of your own. “Did you see that YouTube interview of John Smith, the CEO of Small Company One, the one with the cartoons? That was so cool! We need one of those…”
I have had numerous conversations with the owners of small companies regarding shiny objects. Some of those conversations go something like this:
Owner: “Hey Mark, did you see that (video, podcast, blog post) from Small Company Two? They got 2,750 (views, likes) and they probably got a ton of business from that. Can you help me do that?”
Mark: “Maybe, but to drive that much traffic you need to share information that resonates with your audience and you need to develop a following (subscribers, followers on LinkedIn, etc). It takes time. You’ll need to set realistic goals for what you want out of this and set some metrics. Are you prepared to do that?”
Owner: Sure, let’s try it and see what happens.”
One month later…
Owner: “We did two (podcasts, videos, blog posts) and we only got 12 views. This doesn’t work.”
This reminds me of the numerous times I’ve heard “We did a white paper and nobody read it.” I wish I was exaggerating but these conversations have occurred for years, and they are recurrent.
Getting traction from any marketing effort takes planning. Growing an audience takes time. With a little planning and guidance, many smaller businesses attract more attention.
These same founders/CEOs understand that winning business in this market takes time and planning.
They also need to understand that good marketing requires the same mindset.
“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.“
“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.
(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.”
“Is a winning proposal a good proposal? Some argue that by definition, yes, a win is a good proposal. However, we all know that a proposal can be the winner for reasons unrelated to proposal quality—such as a price shoot out.
Therefore, when we look back at our win-loss track record, we miss a lot of important data if wins and losses are the only measures of successful performance. As a result, we may re-use a poor-quality proposal or dismiss a losing proposal that has some successful elements.
Are your proposals good?
In a Deltek webinar, Bob Lohfeld polled the audience to ask: “Are your proposals compliant, responsive, AND compelling?” Interestingly, only 15 percent of 150-plus respondents believed that their proposals were consistently achieving all three measures of quality. Another 35 percent responded that their proposals sometimes achieved all three. Meanwhile, 35 percent stated that their companies consistently do NOT achieve all three, while the remaining 15 percent responded that their companies do not even understand the importance of all three performance measures.
In my experience, bidders do focus on compliance (although often do not achieve that measure as I pointed out in a recent Washington Technology article). However, many do not fully understand the difference between a compliant proposal and a responsive proposal. And, many do not grasp what makes a proposal compelling.
Compliant versus responsive
Your proposal can be compliant but not responsive. How does that happen? The narrative complies with the instructions, evaluation criteria, and work requirements. The format, whether electronic or hard copy, conforms with the instructions. The proposal even includes a compliance matrix. However, the content fails to focus on the meaning behind the RFP words. The outline is correct, but the proposal narrative misses the mark, perhaps providing too much detail on topics the customer does not care about and too little on what they value.
Another common mistake that makes a proposal non-responsive is focusing too much on your company rather than the customer. The proposal can be compliant, but if every paragraph begins with your company rather than the customer, it is not responsive. Too much fluff, words that don’t matter, and unsubstantiated bragging can all reduce responsiveness. When evaluators read non-responsive content, they lose interest. Non-responsive content also reduces the evaluators’ trust in the bidder as a potential contractor.
Responsive versus compelling
Similarly, a proposal can be compliant and responsive, but not compelling. A proposal is compelling if it is rich in Strengths. Strengths in the federal market are features with proven benefits that have merit: exceeding requirements or significantly reducing mission or contract risk in a manner the customer values. The only way to understand what the customer values is to spend a lot of time with the customer listening to needs and then returning to discuss potential solutions. It is an iterative process, leveraging information gathered from a variety of customers to formulate potential solutions and then gathering feedback to refine the solution.
Using a Strength-based solutioning approach helps you identify potential Strengths, vet them with customers, and then articulate them in your proposal as part of your discriminating value proposition. Strengths make responsive content more compelling and make it easier for government evaluators to score your Strengths. Strengths also build trust because the proposal then demonstrates that the bidder understands the customers.
Other measures of goodness
Certainly, there are other valid measures of goodness. Lohfeld Consulting has seven proven quality measures that include compliant, responsive, and compelling as well as customer-focused, easy to evaluate, well-written, and visually appealing.
In proposal post-mortems, consider not only whether the proposal was a winner, but also whether it met the seven quality measures. If not, why not?
Was capture insufficient?
Did capture fail to identify Strengths?
Did proposal writing fail to articulate the value proposition in a compelling and customer-focused manner?
Was the proposal hard to read and lacking in visuals?
Was the narrative simply poorly written?
Even if your proposal resulted in a win, asking these questions is still valid because the proposal may have won despite its faults. There is always room for improvement.
Winning doesn’t validate the proposal’s goodness
I do a lot of proposal reviews and post-mortems. I have read proposals that are good and lost as well as proposals that are bad and won.”
“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.“
“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.
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
2. Seek 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
3. Build 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
6. Pursue 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.
“Now is the time to think through your marketing strategy and the various venues for contracting with the federal government. This article will discuss these venues and the opportunities they offer your small business.“
You are embarking on the utilization of SAM Contract Opportunities, the gateway for federal government agencies advertising prospective contracts on the Web.
II. WHAT TYPE OF SMALL BUSINESS ARE YOU?
A. Commercial Contracting Under FAR Part 12
Are you planning to market an existing commercial product which has been on the market, such as software, hardware, a commodity, a report, a conference, a survey or a study, sell it to meet a government specification or statement of work and bill for the end product when delivered?
If the answer to this question is “Yes”, you may be able to do business under Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Part 12, “Commercial Contracting”, which is a simplified and fast form of selling to the federal government.
The vast majority of purchases by the federal government in this category are Firm Fixed Price (FFP) with a product warranty of some type. You may be able to sell under FAR Part 12 if your product meets the definition of commercial items specified by the government.
B. Non-Commercial Contracting
Are you planning to market your services at an hourly rate, sell them by labor categories with professional job descriptions to perform the government statement of work and bill by the hour for labor and at cost for material and travel?
Or is your product or service a development effort or not readily available to customers in the commercial marketplace. If you fall into this category for either reason it is unlikely you will be contracting under FAR Part 12 and you will be pursuing long term government contracts.
If the above apply, much of the remainder of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) will apply to you, together with the various contract types other than FFP which are used for efforts where the contractor and the government may share the business risk in development, implementation or production of a new product, system or service.
C. Commercial and Non-Commercial Contracting
You may decide to market under both (A) and (B) above. Some small businesses sell their product commercially, but contract for product implementation and support on a service contract basis.
If you are selling under (A) and (B) or just (B) above you should examine this web site further to obtain sufficient detail to develop your business system in estimating, proposing, accounting and billing the government for contracts not qualifying under FAR Part 12.
III. YOUR CUSTOMER
Although all requirements in the federal government market emanate from the US Agencies there are several ways for meeting these requirements with a business arrangement that suits your small business.
A. U.S. Government Agency As a Customer
There are over many agencies or “Departments” in the Federal Government. Each of these agencies has a statutory obligation to contract from small business for 23% of everything it buys. Contracting officers must file reports annually demonstrating they have fulfilled this requirement. Not fulfilling the requirement can put the agency annual funding in jeopardy. You have a motivated customer in federal government contracting officers and buyers.
As a prime contractor to one of these agencies your small business proposes, negotiates and contracts directly with a federal government contracting officer. You may or may not have subcontractors or suppliers.
A subcontractor is a teaming partner who agrees to accept a portion of the effort under your prime contract and abide by the prime contract terms and conditions flowed down to him from you. On competitive procurements the business arrangement is usually mutually exclusive on the part of the subcontractor and your company.
A supplier is a purchased finished vendor or off the shelf retailer who sells you items or components necessary to produce your product but does not accept the flow-down provisions of your prime contract other than the most general terms and conditions such as US Public Law , EEO, Tax Provisions, Warranty and the like. Supplier relationships are not usually mutually exclusive arrangements.
You may be able to fulfill the entire prime contract scope of work or meet the product specification from within your company. However, major government procurements are increasingly geared to teaming arrangements involving a prime and several subcontractors. As the prime on such a procurement you normally have the lead share of the work scope, you have a product critical to the program, you know the customer the best or a combination of these factors. Your subcontractor team members are usually not your direct competitors but are involved in lines of work that complement your business and enable the team to fulfill a scope that is larger than any single member could undertake alone Your direct competition is most likely forming similar teaming arrangements in an attempt to win the larger jobs which can span a number of years in duration and mean good, solid cash flow for all participants.
A General Services Administration (GSA) Schedule is a pre-qualifying way to obtain business directly from all federal government agencies. The GSA performs the service of negotiating with you for multi-year pricing of labor, products and equipment, together with pre-established terms and conditions. Your schedule and terms are posted to the GSA Web Site and all federal agency buyers can expeditiously buy from your schedule. A GSA Schedule is normally set up for 5 years. Achieving and Utilizing a GSA Schedule
The GSA also sponsors and manages major Indefinate Delivery/Indefinate Quantity (IDIQ) procurements such as “Alliant” and “Alliant Small Business” for Information Technology. These contract vehicles pre-position large and small contractors and teams of contractors to accept competitive delivery orders under established terms and conditions and standardized solution s for technological areas in high demand across the federal government. An IDIQ procurement can span a period as long as 10 years.
B. A Government Prime Contractor As A Customer
Government Prime contractors who are large businesses (roughly defined by the SBA and the banking community as having over 500 employees and annual sales in excess of $20M) and who hold federal government contracts have the same requirement as government agencies to buy at least 23% of the supplies and services in support of those contracts from small business.
Large business, under federal procurement law, must prepare and submit annual “Small Business Contracting Plans” for approval by the local Defense Contract Management Area Office (DCMAO) nearest their headquarters. These plans must include auditable statistics regarding the previous 12 month period in terms of contracting to small businesses and the goals forecast for the next year. The federal government can legally terminate a contract in a large business for not meeting small business contracting goals. Approved small business plans must accompany large business contract proposals submitted to federal government agencies. You have a motivated customer in large business subcontract managers, administrators and buyers. A small business who becomes a prime contractor does not have to meet the annual small business contracting plan requirement until it becomes a large business.
In selling to a prime contractor you propose, negotiate and subcontract with a company who holds a contract with a US government agency and in turn flows down its provisions to you. Or you sell under purchase orders on a commercial basis (FAR Part 12) to another company who holds a federal government contract.
C. Selling Via a Joint Venture
There are occasions when two companies wish to combine their respective products or resources and form a separate entity to undertake a contract, usually a prime contract with the federal government. The marketing considerations for such a venture involve impressing the client with the resources being dedicated to the program or addressing government concerns about broadening the technology and assuring redundant capability in the industrial community. A joint venture consists of human and other resources from the participating companies. However, it stands alone as a legal entity. Joint venture agreements are difficult to craft. Protecting proprietary information, together with intellectual property is especially demanding. Dividing the contractual effort and ultimately integrating it into a final product or service is also a challenge. Complicating the scenario is the fact that the US Government reserves the right to approve joint venture agreements before a contract can be issued to the entity. One company usually assumes the lead role in the joint venture. Some joint ventures hire a joint venture administrator who is the only legal entity authorized to sign a binding document on behalf of the two companies once it has been approved by each firm through a joint venture board, with equal representation by both organizations. Administration, accounting and billing at the joint venture level is a third tier of administrative cost which must be born by both companies.
Your customer in the federal market is either the government itself or a prime contractor. You will sell as a prime contractor, as a commercial supplier or as a subcontractor and on occasion you may have the need to establish a joint venture with another firm.
IV. MARKETING AVENUES
A. Small Business Certifications
Your small business designation at your SAM registration places you in the small business set-aside market for 23% of the total goods and services the federal government buys. Within small business, there are additional self-certifications and SBA certifications to which you can apply if you qualify.small business designations
Self-certification occurs when you respond to government requests for proposals, cite you registration number and state in your proposal certifications and representations that you are a Small Business and whether or not you have set-aside designations.
Procurement contracting officers and prime contractors are responsible for verifying self-certifications. Owners claiming designations must have a major equity share in the business and must be involved in running the business operations.
The SBA certifies Small, Disadvantaged Businesses under their “8(a) Program”. The application for this certification is available at the SBA Web Site for businesses who qualify by virtue of minority ownership and minority involvement in running the business operations. The SBA reviews, approves and grants 8(a) Certifications to small minority-owned businesses. Please see the following link:
Federal agencies and prime contractors are required to set goals and contract to achieve annual objectives for each of the above certifications within the overall 23% small business contracting mandate required by statute. Procurements are regularly “set-aside” for these designations to achieve government and prime contractor annual objectives. Procurements are also set-aside for small business in general, which includes companies who may not qualify for the additional small business certifications discussed above.
B. Capability Statement
With your small business SAM registration and additional certifications, you are ready to develop your capability statement. This document will be a promotional brochure which on paper and through the electronic media advertises who you are, what your do and why the government or prime contractors should buy from you. Major elements of your capability statement in addition to your small business designation and certifications are as follows:
(1) Company overview
(2) Supplies and services description couched utilizing your marketing ideas and strategy.
(3) Past performance of your enterprise or your personal background and qualifications (experience, education, etc.)
(4) Facilities or capabilities overview (How you perform your service couched in a manner that will appeal to your target market)
(5) Explanation of the positive results the client should expect.
(6) Points of contact and ways to contact you for meetings, placing an order and contracting your services.
Your capability statement can be distributed on paper to your target market as a brochure, emailed as an attachment and linked into related industry web sites or partner web sites to get the word out about your product or service. The capability statement targets contracting officers and prime contractor buyers who are seeking to fulfill their small business buying goals. It is a way to get you in the door and speak to or correspond with the management and technical personnel who are the decision makers in sourcing small business buys.
C. Self-Marketing for SBA 8(a) Small Disadvantaged Business (SDB)’s and Historically Under-Utilized Business (HUB) Zone Contractors
If you qualify for a SDB Certification or can attest that you are located in a HUB Zone, these items can be valuable marketing tools. Presenting your capability statement to a prospective federal customer and meeting the management, technical and procurement decision makers puts you in a position to self market projects. All federal agencies and large business contracting to the federal government have to meet SDB and HUB Zone annual buying objectives. They have processes for competitive procurements. The processes are generally lengthy to comply with regulations governing solicitation on the open market, request for proposals, source selection, negotiation and award.
Under the 8(a) SDB Program and the HUB Zone Program if you can assist a federal agency or large business in identifying a product or service they need and that you are a qualified source to fill that need then the your customer can buy it directly from you and bypass the competitive process entirely. The key to achieving this type of targeted marketing is to contact and/or visit your customer regularly and get in front of the solicitation process. Once a project has gone to the “Sources Sought” or “Solicitation” stage you can still convince the customer to set it aside for 8(a) or HUB Zone firms, but you will be competing with other SDB’s or HUB Zone contractors in your NAIC’s Code for the business. The “Early Bird Gets the Worm”, adage is useful for SDB and HUB Zone organizations. Some buying agencies even permit an 8(a) SDB or HUB Zone Contractor to assist in writing the product or performance specification for a project to expedite the process. Federal agencies and large businesses are motivated to use the non-compete, set-aside features of the 8(a) SDB and HUB Zone Programs. Doing so permits them to meet their small business procurement goals and enables a swift buying action of a product or service for which they may have a critical need.
D. GSA Schedules and Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) Contracts
The General Services Administration (GSA) pre-qualifies contractors with a terms and conditions package and negotiated rates for products or services. Your GSA schedule is then posted to the web at:
This site is searchable by all government agencies who want to buy products and services. A GSA schedule allows you to offer a pre-existing contract vehicle with established pricing to any federal government agency or prime contractor. This shortens the procurement process considerably. In some procurements, a GSA Schedule is necessary to qualify for bidding certain jobs. You can read more about applying for a GSA Schedule by going to the General Services Administration Web Site at: GSA Web Site
Under Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) Contracts, terms and conditions and labor hour pricing are agreed upon in advance with an agency for a period of time (usually a multi-year arrangement). Many large government agencies contract utilizing IDIQ contract vehicles and often make multiple awards to several companies who then compete for work on a delivery order basis thereafter.
The GSA also manages large scale IDIQ procurements in high technology areas such as Information Technology (IT). Individual agencies then compete and procure IT products and services against the standard with established terms and conditions and known pricing. Once qualified, winning in this type of environment is simplified to submitting the best technical solution to a given delivery order with the lowest man-hours or product pricing. It is not uncommon for competitors to offer discounts during the competition.
Under both GSA Schedules and IDIQ Contracts individual delivery orders are negotiated separately regarding the labor hours, material and travel cost necessary to complete a discrete scope of work.
Because the federal government buys on such a large scale and in many acquisitions chooses to package related technologies or services, it is a necessary part of your marketing plan to consider teaming with other companies. As discussed in paragraphs II. and III., above, large businesses who are in the same line of work as you are have a requirement to subcontract to small businesses under federal government contracts. In addition, large and small companies who are in related or synergistic businesses to yours actively seek partners in the federal government market to permit access to larger packaged procurements.
Attend trade conferences, join trade organizations, get into technical blogs on the web. All large businesses contracting with the government have a small business liaison officer which you can locate at the company web site. Present your capability statement electronically or preferably in person to local large businesses engaged in federal government contracts who may need your services.
Many large businesses are willing to team as a subcontractor to a small business to get access to the small business set-aside market. A large business cannot receive an amount in excess of 50% of the dollar award of a small business set-aside, but many large businesses are willing to subcontract to multiple small businesses on federal government contracts to broaden their business base.
For SDB companies, the “Mentor – Protege’ Program is available. This is a federally sponsored program whereby a large business sponsors a smaller business through active teaming and mentoring. Your can learn more about this program at:
The best way to approach a large business or another synergistic small business is to have a program target as a discussion vehicle. If you find a project for which you need a partner or partners, carefully research the firms you are considering, check their D&B’s, see if they have entered their company in the “Interested Parties” frame of the solicitation at FEDBIZOPS.
When teaming with another company, most arrangements become mutually exclusive if you are subcontracting to one another and not just supplying off the shelf products. As the business relationship evolves and you begin sharing information a two way Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) is usually necessary to protect proprietary information.
As the business relationship matures and the parties agree to become exclusive, a teaming agreement is also necessary. At this point you have agreed upon who will be the eventual prime contractor and who will be the subcontractor. The areas regarding work share and proposal preparation are particularly critical in terms of thorough definition to avoid future misunderstandings among the parties. If and when the prime contract is awarded, the teaming agreement is replaced by a subcontract from the prime party to the subcontracting team member.
F. Small Business Innovative Research Program
Other federally sponsored programs are the Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Programs for high technology small business. These are competitive programs awarding small business fundng in critical high technology areas. Your can learn more about the SBIR/STTR Programs by going to:
This article has offered a template of avenues for small business federal government contract marketing. You should apply the template to your business plan and explore which avenues suit your enterprise. The federal government contract customer is motivated to buy from you. Your marketing task is to target and find your customer considering the supplies and services you sell. The federal government offers competitive advantages to various types of small business, depending on ownership and size. Federal government contracts offer small purchases and long term contractual arrangements from firm fixed price purchases to cost type and time and material contracts. The opportunities are there for small business entrepreneurs’ to pursue.”
“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.“
“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 grow, for 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.
Step 5. Decide where and how you’ll measure success
Most professional services firms track marketing result in three broad areas:
1 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.
2 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.
3 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! “
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.