6 ways to stand out in a crowded government field

Don't be a Waldo; make yourself be seen

Periodically I go to Central Contracting Registration to check the numbers; as of Aug. 17, there were 600,349 registered companies. That’s more than a few looking to do business with the government.

But what does this mean to you…and to the other 600,348 companies?

If yours is one of the companies that has a solid pipeline and enough business in hand, that may not be of interest to you. For the rest though, here’s what it can mean:

Where’s Waldo?

The popular children’s book series, Where’s Waldo, places a tall guy with glasses and a red and white striped shirt and cap and blue slacks in a various scenes where he totally blends in. The object is to find Waldo in the picture. It is not easy.

So let’s go back to the 600,349 companies registered at CCR, and remove, say, the top 5,000 (they represent the companies that own major contracts, sell well from GSA, or are active sub-contractors). These are the companies that make decent money in the government market. And although it doesn’t seem like a huge percentage, I think it is accurate to say that the top 5,000 contactors in the federal market account for more than 75 percent of the business. That leaves 595,349 companies, a sizeable crowd by most standards.

So what does this mean for you?

For openers, you don’t want to be lost in the crowd. The point of Where’s Waldo is to make a game out of finding him in some chaotic scene. The point of becoming a government contractor is to stand out in a crowd, and win some business as a result.

However, you might be surprised at how many companies end up as faceless Waldos, lost in the crowd, always wondering what is the magic formula for getting business, and where can I find it? For those lost in the crowd, here is part of the formula:

Succinctly say who you are and what you do.

Now, who do you say it to, and where?

There are a variety of venues in which you need to share this information, and it should start with your company’s website. This is where you control the entire editorial process, the content. It is the place that has to become the hub of activity for your company. It must be clearly stated here exactly what you do, how you are different from the competition, and why the government should hire you.

This is all about your ability, not your economic status, so do not lead with 8(a), Hub Zone or any of the company business status information. Lead with your ability.

Once that is clearly stated, you need to attract visitors to your website. Think of it as the hub of a wheel and your activities as the spokes.

Because this is a relationship-driven market, networking is essential.

Networking in the right venues – including associations, breakfast briefings and trade shows – is important, but selecting the right one is critical. Ask around and observe which venues your peers show up in. Selecting the right association can go a long way to helping you meet the right people. The bigger ones for the government market include TechAmerica, AFCEA, the Professional Services Council, ACT/IAC, ASBC and others.

A tip for live networking: make certain your business card states clearly who you are and what you do. Avoid the vacuous tag lines that mean nothing. Make it easy for people to read your web address and your email address – don’t use a type size that requires a microscope.

The next spokes on the wheel are Web 2.0 tools and social networking. For those of you not on LinkedIn, get a grip and join this excellent tool for keeping in touch with all those you meet on a professional basis.

Other spokes could include a blog (not as hard to do as many think), video (rapidly growing in popularity for many businesses), webinars (an excellent tool for getting information in the hands of people who care), Twitter (growing), podcasts (think of them as audio white papers), white papers (yes, they still work) and more.

Remember, simply signing up at gets you no recognition. It is just the beginning of the journey.

About the Author

Mark Amtower advises government contractors on all facets of business-to-government (B2G) marketing and leveraging LinkedIn. Find Mark on LinkedIn at

Reader Comments

Mon, Aug 23, 2010 Doug Reitmeyer Austin, Texas

All that a construction contractor needs to get started is at For those that want to really get going fast, we provide an Advanced Federal Construction Business Acceleration Training Workshop that concludes with turning in real bids on real contracts. The key is to start building out a circle of influence by working on it every day. The system enables any construction contractor to view the entire federal construction spending by the day in less than 5 minutes. It is an essential tool for contractors and a must have technology of the Professional.

Mon, Aug 23, 2010

Excellent advice and very well stated. I work for a government agency as a small business specialist, and am always appalled of the lack of information and how difficul it is to find information on some websites. After CCR the individual website is the first place we look to find information about a company. The name, address and technical information should be visible within 30 seconds of viewing the website, otherwise, we move on to the next web address.

Mon, Aug 23, 2010 Richard Herndon, Va

It is absolutely necessary to have a "value add" statement. Practice that value add statement when you network and make those relationships positive by contributing!

Sun, Aug 22, 2010 Mike Lisagor

Great advice, Mark (as usual!). I would probably add that, from an internal perspective, is it is equally important to know what you don't do. Too many companies chase everything that moves and/or communicate to government buyers and potential teammates that they can do everything. Not much of a differentiator, spreads resources to thin, and is an indicator of an unwillingness on the part of management to "say no."

Sun, Aug 22, 2010 Jean Jolkovski Phoenix, AZ

Have been a SCORE counselor for over a decade, trying to assist small companies as they try to enter the Government contracting environment. Have been trying to get this message across, but I compete with the Small business Administration. Their "Selling to the Government" free seminars advise these companies to register. End of seminar! I receive requests that read "I registered more than a year ago and have received no contracts. Why not? " or "Why do I need to do any more? Registration will get me in the door". I have a small SCORE client who has spent six months registering, obtaining certificate (when most Federal solicitations permit self-certification) and they really believe that their marketing effort is complete. They have made that statement in their business plan. When I asked them to define just what it is that they are prepared to deliver, the answer was "consulting services". That is one of the boxes on the registration application. Now they can take a vacation while they wait for the contracts to roll in.

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