Tag Archives: Marketing

Marketing to Achieve a Small Business Set-aside Government Contract

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Self marketing - storedge dot com

Image: Storedge.com

INTRODUCTION

Marketing is one of the greatest challenges for the small business federal government contractor. We have previously discussed the federal government marketing process at the following articles:

Insights to Succeed

Small Business Government Contract Marketing

Customer Relations

Techniques for Product Development

This posting will address sculpting a government contracting business opportunity to the point where it becomes a sole source or small business group-designated set aside procurement.

GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS

Small business group-designated procurements are far more frequent than sole source contract awards.  Agencies must prepare special justifications for sole sourcing and those most frequently approved are for Hub Zone and Small, Disadvantaged [8(a)] firms (see table below).

Small business group designations are beneficial to firms who hold them by enhancing the probability of an award through agency restrictions on prime contractor bidding to only those who hold the group designation. Others may bid as subcontractors to the prime but the prime small business contractor must be capable of performing at least 51% of the total effort in terms of work scope, hours and dollars.

In either sole source or group-designated marketing, an agency making the buy must be convinced that sufficient capability exists in a single company or in the small business designated group community to set a contract aside. The agency must be convinced early – before a formal procurement announcement is published on FEDBIZOPPS.

Marketing to achieve a limited competition under a small business group designation or eliminate competition under a sole source contract assumes the marketing enterprise has one or more of the following federal government set-aside designations:

DESIGNATION                                                         TARGET

Small Business                                           (Group Set Aside Potential)

Small Woman-Owned Business                 (Group Set Aside Potential)

Small Veteran-Owned Business                 (Group Set Aside Potential)

Small Disabled Veteran-Owned Business  (Group Designation Set Aside Potential)

Small Hub Zone Business                          (Sole Source and Group Set Aside Potential)

Small Disadvantaged Business 8(a)          (Sole Source and Group Set Aside Potential)

Federal government procurements are further classified under the SBA Small Business Size Standards in terms of North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) Code, number of personnel and/or annual sales. To determine whether a firm qualifies for a given bid, note the NAICS for a given solicitation and download the SBA Small Business Size Standards the Box Net “References” Cube in the right margin of this site:

Small Business Federal Government Contracting

Part of the sole source or designated group set aside marketing task is to suggest to the agency the NAICS Code (hence the size standard) for a prospective procurement.

Registering to bid government contacts and establish sole source and group designations may be achieved using guidance in the below articles:
Small Business Set-aside Designations

Registering Your Business For Government Contracting

Hub Zone and Small Disadvantaged Business 8(a) designations are lengthy certification processes. The remaining designations in the above table are self-certifying at the above government contract registration web site, and are verified by site surveys and bid vetting for each solicitation prior to contract award.

EARLY REQUIREMENT TARGETING IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS IN SET ASIDE MARKETING
Effective set aside marketing reaches the agency decision makers with technical, budget and schedule authority before a synopsis of the requirement is posted on FEDBIZOPPS.

The objective of this form of targeted marketing is to get concurrence from the government to set the program aside sole source if the company has an 8(a), or Hub Zone Certification or reserve it by one of the above group designation classes to eliminate the prospect of full and open competition involving large business.

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

Your Capability Statement for Government Contracting

  • Present your qualifications openly, objectively and specific to their needs.  You must determine what those needs are through market research, trade magazines, research on what they are buying on FEDBIZOPPS, as well as postings on their web site that are future-program oriented.
  • Subscribe to periodicals like “Washington Technology” and other trade magazines.  Observe agency trends and analysis that impact your market segment.  There have been set aside programs marketed by small companies through acquainting agency management and technical personnel with capabilities they were not aware existed in the small business community or fulfillment of needs they in fact did not know they had.
  • Pay particular attention to FEDBIZOPPS “Sources Sought” or “Requests for draft RFP Comment”  on programs that have yet to be formally solicited. Obtain an appointment to present your capabilities to the decision makers (not the gate keepers).  Be courteous to contracting officers but understand they are not the individuals who make source selections. Understand that once the requirement is formally published on FEDBIZOPPS the gate closes on informal visits to the customer and the competition begins in the form of proposals by competitors.  It is too late at that point to set the program aside for a sole source or a small business designation if it has not occurred by the publication stage.
  • Cultivate teaming relationships with other firms in your industry and look for early opportunities in agencies, not only to prime a program but to bring a team of qualified contractors in lesser roles to fulfill them with you or join a team being led by a more experienced firm:

Small Business Government Contract Teaming

  • Understand the small business start up past performance challenge and work to meet it:

Understanding the Past Performance Challenge

  • Attend small business outreach events by agencies and prime contractors.  Stay attuned to who is attending and research their needs and requirements.
  • Make a point to be present at bidders’ conferences for existing solicitations that you may not choose to bid but which may lend insight into the agency needs and prime contractor relationships in the future.

SUMMARY

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.

If you are eligible for any of the designations discussed in this article, make small business set asides or sole source procurements key elements in your marketing plan.

NATO Agency Seeking Bids for IT Modernization Program

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NATO IT

Photo: NATO officials discuss future cyber initiatives at the NATO Communications and Information Agency. (NATO)

“NATIONAL DEFENSE MAGAZINE”

“The program will span at least four contracts and be worth up to $537 million, and is expected to be completed by mid-2018.

NATO’s communication and information technology arm is seeking industry partnerships as it takes on a multi-year modernization effort for its information-technology systems, according to the organization’s acquisition director.

The NATO Communications and Information Agency — which runs the information technology, communications and command and control for the multinational organization — has opportunities for defense and IT companies in various stages of the modernization program, Peter Scaruppe told National Defense in February.

“The IT modernization program is a very important one because it basically replaces all of the IT in all the NATO locations, and for all the NATO forces,” he said.

The program entails: streamlining NATO’s IT service offerings to increase efficiency and effectiveness; using a customer-funded delivery system to increase the flexibility and scalability of IT services; delivering services from a centralized set of locations; and implementing increased cyber security measures, according to the agency.

Next on the priorities list is introducing a cloud-based services enterprise design by this summer, which Scaruppe called a major part of the modernization program.

“Storage is an important issue for all current and future IT programs, because with big data and the availability of big data, it is increasingly important,” he said. “We are anxious to see what companies will provide.”

NCIA Agency also plans to develop new data centers in Mons, Belgium, and Lago Patria, Italy, by early 2018, Scaruppe said. A third site has not yet been publicly revealed, but is being considered as an option “if and when we need it,” he said.

“This is for the IT support and operational support for NATO locations and operations,” he said.

NCI Agency has made concerted efforts in recent years to work more closely with industry to beef up its cyber defense capabilities. The agency contracts out about 80 percent of its work to the defense and security industries of NATO’s 28 current member-nations, Scaruppe said.

This year, the agency will host its annual industry conference in North America for the first time since it kicked off six years ago, rather than in a European country, “to note the transatlantic alliance,” he said.

The theme of the NCIA Agency Industry Conference and AFCEA TechNet International — which will be held in late April in Ottawa, Canada — is “Sharpening NATO’s Technological Edge: Adaptive Partnerships and the Innovative Power of Alliance Industry.” The conference builds upon last year’s theme of why innovation is important to NATO’s technological needs, Scaruppe said.

“Especially in the IT and cyber world, we know that there are a lot of innovators out there … not exactly keen on working with an 800-pound gorilla like NATO,” he said. “Some are not familiar with the process, [so] we need to catch the right innovators.”

One major part of the conference is dedicated to innovation challenges where agency officials and industry will discuss pre-determined areas of study, he said. “We did this last year, very successfully, and we got lots of proposals, many more than we thought we would get.”

Conference attendees will learn of upcoming business opportunities with an overall budget of about $3.2 billion over the next two to three years, Scaruppe said.

Businesses also have the change to speak with agency experts ahead of potentially bidding on a project.

“We do this every year, but we’re dedicating a lot more time to this part than usual [this year],” he said, adding that the agency hopes to attract more U.S. and Canadian industry members as a result.

Attendance rates at previous conferences have been about 70 percent European-based, Scaruppe said.

The agency is also looking to attract more cyber experts through the conference by running a next-generation skills exercise and innovators program, he said.

“We have a lot more work than we have staff for — and the same is true with the private companies — [and] we want to find innovative ways of how to attract these people, how to retain these people and also keep us current in the cyber exercise.”

http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/blog/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=2448

 

 

 

How to Make Your Expertise Visible to Customers

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chucks-blog

Image: “Chucks Blog”

“WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY”

“What can make a difference in terms of real business growth?

How can professional services providers—with clients to help, staff to manage, and hands to shake—assess whether their marketing approach needs a tune-up or a teardown?

The most productive business development strategy for professional services firms selling to the government requires a potent blend of expertise and communications that reach decision makers who are ready to act. That means leveraging both proven online marketing techniques – and the demonstrated expertise of business development professionals – even in the context of contract-driven revenue.

Making a Good First Impression Online

When decision makers have a problem, they go online.

Maybe they find a helpful article on an industry blog published by an unfamiliar firm. Overtime, they follow the blog, attend a free webinar, and maybe even receive useful tips in weekly emails from that same firm. If the decision maker later needs a speaker for a premium event, is looking for a contract partner, or needs to make a referral, they think of you.

How Buyers ‘Check Out’ Potential Professional Services Providers

check out professional services

Once, formal references would have dominated this chart. Today, a firm’s website is the uncontested champion, though buyers are typically using multiple resources. From search engines to social media, buyers have a wealth of ways to learn about providers and solutions—and they’re using them.

Identifying Expertise

Your accumulated experience in your industry is valuable for business growth—often, more valuable than you realize. Knowledge that you take for granted, ideas that may feel like the basics to you can provide essential insights to others. So take a step back and assess what you know.

The key to figuring out what expertise is worthy of building visibility around is to find the intersection of:

  1. Typical problems your target audience is trying to solve.
  2. What your experience has taught you about the causes of these problems.
  3. Services you provide that are important to your long term growth.

This information is fodder for educational, relevant, and accessible content.

Develop Great Content Around Your Expertise

The fact is your expertise can drive business long before you talk to a prospective client, partner, or even influencer. And that’s exactly what happens in the most successful content marketing campaigns.

Strong content has a couple of key attributes. It should be:

  • Educational. This isn’t guerilla promotion. Your content should teach audiences something valuable, not promote your firm.
  • Relevant. Your content should speak to target audiences’ real challenges and opportunities. It has to be rooted in a sophisticated understanding of their needs and marketplace.
  • Accessible. Content should speak your audiences’ language. Keep it clear and accessible while avoiding unnecessary jargon.

Give It Away

I know it sounds counterintuitive, but you’ll want to give away—free of charge—all that great content. The goal is business growth, and to do that, you want to put yourself in a position to advise your target audience. This is a great way to be introduced to a prospective buyer and spur business growth. Build credibility as a problem-solver in your marketplace, as a knowledgeable advisor. If you do, potential clients may choose you over a competitor.

Educational Content and High Growth

When your firm starts assembling its marketing toolbox, it makes sense to ask, “Which tools work?” After all, if a tool or technique isn’t going to make a demonstrable contribution to the bottom line, then why bother?

For answers, we can look to our studies on the marketing strategies used by high growth businesses that deliver the most pack to the punch. The table below shows the top 5 most effective strategies – the top 3 are directly related to showcasing expertise.”

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2016/12/14/insights-harr-marketing-expertise.aspx

 

 

5 Ways to Tilt the Playing Field in Your Favor

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WAtilt-the-playing-field

“WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY”

“Small businesses rarely take the time to come up for air when it comes to trying to see how they are perceived in the market.

Those doing the vetting need to quickly understand who you are and what you do.

There is no such thing as a level playing field in government contracting, so what can you do as a small-to-mid size contractor to tilt the field in your favor, t get those vetting you the quick answer they seek?

Here are five factors that can either level the playing field or tilt it in your favor.

First and foremost, determine what your major skill area is and where you stand in the list of firms that do the same or similar work. Your niche can be technical, a process, deep knowledge of a particular client organization, having a leading subject matter expert on your team, and more.

It can also be a combination of elements, but it has to do three things: be true, resonate with buyers, and be demonstrable.

For companies that don’t have a specific area of expertise, focusing on a specific agency is a viable tactic. But it has to be a deep knowledge of that agency and the agency personnel.

Second, clearly define your skills in terms that will resonate with buyers and influencers, both feds and primes. Frame the differentiator in a way that is clear and concise. It has to be a short, clear message, not some lengthy diatribe that leaves people confused.

Third, make certain your message is central on your company web site, truly front and center. Instead of some nebulous tag line about customer satisfaction, deploy a clear, concise positioning statement. One of my favorites is from Reliable Integration Services in the 1990s. The CEO, Valerie Perlowitz, came up with “Networks, nothing but networks” and it was big and bold on the front page of their web site. Simple and direct.

Fourth, deploy it on the LinkedIn company profile and encourage all employees to use the message on their individual profiles. LinkedIn is probably the top place for being vetted, so your message must be clear and easy to find here as well. If you are engaged on other social platforms, the same applies.

Fifth, follow any news concerning your niche. It is easier to post news links and comment on them (content curation) rather than try to generate fresh content. This does not mean you won’t generate your own content, it just means that you have more content available.

Perhaps the best way to tilt the playing field in your favor is to focus on one agency and your technical strength, a combination that makes you attractive to both the agency and potential partners and primes.

The downside to not positioning your company well is that a few of your competitors are likely to, and that will leave you on a playing field skewed against you.”

Mark Amtower advises companies on all aspects of marketing to the government. His next workshop is Dec 6: Creating Your Subject Matter Expert Platformhttp://blog.federaldirect.net/2016/10/dont-miss-creating-your-subject-matter.html 

5 Marketing Tenants for Today

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5 tenants

Bob Davis, “Washington Technology”

“These tenets are self-evident.

Some companies seem to have forgotten them as they keep doing ever more of what they did in the past.

  • Find a niche. Look for a clear, distinct segment enabling you to standout from competitors.
  • Change your product mix. Are you selling what customers want or what you have always tried to sell?
  • Get found online. Is your web site mobile friendly?  Most prospective customers search on mobile devices.
  • Become a destination. Distinguish your company from others by being creative e.g. hold special events that will attract customers.
  • Be part of the community. If you want your community to support you, support it. Be visible in your community.

Full disclosure: This information was selected from an article published inUSA Today, March 21, 2016, aimed at small retailers.  It is interesting that Rhonda Abrams, the author, offers sound marketing advice to small retailers that applies directly to our industry.

Our industry may have forgotten these basic marketing tenets.  For decades, in our industry, “marketing” meant having a capabilities brochure, corporate presentation, web site and little else.  Additional marketing collateral and investment was unnecessary until 2011 or so because we had been in a bull market during the previous decades.

So, having a real marketing budget had not been particularly necessary.  Unfortunately, this lack of consistent marketing investment became the norm.  Spending money on “new marketing stuff” became the exception often requiring special dispensation.

Years ago, Frank Bradley wrote a book called Marketing Management.  This book has 990 pages and 21 chapters.  One chapter discusses sales/business development.  Marketing and business development are not interchangeable terms!  It turns out that marketing in the technology services industry has about 20 sub-functions.  Which ones are being overlooked at your company?

There is much that marketing can do to promote a company’s value proposition, brand, image, reputation and market visibility all contributing to lead generation, which is the lifeblood for growth in services companies.  Marketing’s job is to develop a market presence i.e. ecology around business development and operations so that the company can establish mindshare.

According to Hinge Marketing, Reston, Va., traditional marketing activities entail a dozen or so tactics.  Digital marketing activities entail another dozen tactics.  Ideally each company will have the right mix of these tactics suited to the company’s plan to achieve growth and its business objectives.

How will your company truly implement the five tenets stated above?  Who will lead the underlying strategic thinking and analysis?  Is your company’s marketing function a strategic enabler or something else?”

These are important questions you need to answer.”

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2016/04/07/insights-davis-marketing-tenets.aspx