Also, he said, marketers should understand the culture of the government agency and how the buying decision differs in the public sector vs. the private sector. In some ways the decision is the same, he said, in that government buyers want to know how a product is going to make their job easier, faster and better; however, he said, government purchases have to be compliant with certain trade stipulations.
Educating potential government buyers on how other agencies are using your products or services—and how successful those products or services have been for those users—is very important, Amtower said and, as a result, there has been a significant rise in the use of webinars, podcasts and online videos.
Horizon Consulting, a provider of high-volume work-flow management, data entry, loan quality control and appraisal management to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as well as other government agencies, recently launched a new Web site that uses blogs, social media and video as communications tactics.
“We want to be able to build awareness within the target community about Horizon and its services so that, when we do go to submit a proposal, they know who we are,” said Stephen Coakley, VP and a founding partner of Horizon Consulting. “When you're smaller, like us, that can be a challenge going into a new agency, where maybe everybody knows Lockheed Martin, or Booz Allen and the other big boys in the government space.”
Though competing against big-name companies might be intimidating, small businesses should not be discouraged, said Lourdes Martin-Rosa, president of Government Business Solutions and the American Express OPEN adviser on government contracting, because the government allocates 23% of its procurement expenditures for small businesses. In 2009, federal contracts reached more than $590 billion, she said, with 21% of that, or more than $93 billion, awarded to small businesses.
Plus, Martin-Rosa said, large companies that have large IDIQ (indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity) contracts must award a portion of those contracts to small businesses as subcontractors. “So not only is the federal government seeking small-business contractors, but large prime contractors are looking for them as well to subcontract to,” she said.
Martin-Rosa stressed the importance of becoming “contract-ready” by properly registering at www.ccr.gov (Central Contractor Registration) and by researching opportunities at Web sites such as Federal Business Opportunities (www.fbo.gov) and www.usaspending.gov. Plus, she said, American Express OPEN provides Government Contracting Insight Guides to help small businesses take advantage of government opportunities. The guides (available at www.open.com/governmentcontracting) include worksheets that help small-business owners track their progress. M