Do you know the three R's of the government market?
When you are on the outside looking in, you might often wonder what it takes to get from where you are (Point A) to where those, say, on Washington Technology’s annual Top 100 and Fast 50 lists are (Point B). All companies, large and small, have to start somewhere, but you don’t start out on any of those lists.
When you boil it down to its basic elements, there are Three R's that are the keys to success in this government market: research, resources and relationships. While this may be over-simplifying things, the three remain basic building blocks for the market. I’ll devote this article to the first R — research.
Regardless whether you are just getting started or bidding on your 100th contract, research is critical.
The problem for the novice is where to start. Although there are both paid and free research tools, some better than others, some harder to find, and most who are new to the market are overwhelmed by how many tools there really are. They often don’t know which to use or how to use those they select. So it’s better to start with some good, free resources to determine some things about your company before you start paying for resources you may not need.
For the novice, the research must start with answering the question "Does the government buy what you sell?"
To answer this question the best place to start is the GSA eLibrary, which can guide you through the labyrinth of products and services that the federal government purchases.
Knowing the competition is a big part of your research so when you identify which GSA Schedule offers your product or service, the eLibrary also contains a downloadable list of companies on that schedule. You can rank them in order of schedule sales by using the Schedule Sales Query tool, http://ssq.gsa.gov., which includes several good report functions.
Having determined that the government does purchase what you sell and who your competition is, you need to figure out which specific agencies buy your product or service. Many agencies will list most of the products and services they purchase on the procurement page of their websites. You may have to look carefully through the website, but often the information is there.
Federal Biz Ops is another source that can provide information on how much, and how often, the government buys what you sell.
Reading key niche publications should be part of an ongoing program with your company. Trade publications such as Federal Computer Week and Government Computer News also are good places for some research. It is important to see who is being written about and which companies are advertising. Trade publications are also valuable for the industry news, trends and identifying thought leaders and companies that are prominent in that industry.
As you identify the companies in your niche, you also research them on Google, which will provide some broad information, including the company website. You can also get references on social networks such as LinkedIn and on through trade publication website searches.
Trade publications often provide additional valuable insight in the form of which companies are bidding on which contracts, executive interviews, new hires and other information.
Searching for specific companies on LinkedIn can provide personnel information, including identifying top managers, employee retention stats, employment histories of key personnel, which groups they are active in, and other useful data.
The above is by no means meant to be a comprehensive guide to available resources. It is simply offered as a short guide to certain things that are readily available. If they are used well, they can set you on a successful path.
This article was adapted from Marc Amtower’s latest book, "Selling to the Government," available at Amazon.com.
Mark Amtower advises government contractors on all facets of business-to-government (B2G) marketing and leveraging LinkedIn. Find Mark on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/markamtower.