Effective Marketing to the Federal Government
A Guest Blog Post by Jennifer Schaus, Principal of Jennifer Schaus & Associates, Washington, DC
Marketing any product or service requires understanding your buyer; the what, the who, where, when, how and why. Marketing to the government is the same. The Federal Government is the worlds LARGEST buyer, spending over $400 Billion dollars annually on anything from armored vehicles to pens and pencils to socks.
The Federal Government buys anything from armored vehicles to socks and pens and pencils. In addition to products, they also buy services ranging from IT to HVAC and construction. The key component in your offering is to ensure you have a solution that fits the needs and budget of the government.
There are usually several players involved in the buying process. This will usually include several individuals such as a Program Manager and a Contracting Officer (those who sign off and approve the purchase).
Although Washington, DC is the hub of the Federal Government, much of what happens here is policy related. Major and minor purchases take place both in Washington and at various government locations around the country and world. These locations can be military bases or field offices for The FBI or The Department of Agriculture. This information is public and therefore spending some time to build relationships within your local government community will be advantageous to your sales process.
The Federal Government fiscal year runs from October 1st to September 31st. Every agency has a publically available budget information as well as details on historical purchases. Because of a use-it-or-lose-it process, the federal 4th quarter tends to see great spikes in purchases. The 1st quarter can tend to be slow due to budgets being approved (“Continuing Resolution”).
Check out this PR Video that set to change the Government’s mind about Nuclear Energy
The government is a slow buyer. They tend to be risk-adverse. Anything you can do to make the buying process easier for them, the more likely they are to buy from you. The government can purchase using p-cards (procurement cards) most of which have spending limits at $3k. They can purchase directly from you using a competitive bid system, sole sourcing your solution &/or through contract vehicles such as the GSA Schedule, the VA Schedule, etc. These contract vehicles usually have completed the vetting process and established your “best” pricing upfront, thus eliminating paperwork and time on the buyers side.
The government tends to be reactive rather than proactive and this is a simple fact. Most of what they buy is in response to a crisis or great need and these are usually the high-dollar purchases. For example, as a reaction to 9/11, there was a tremendous increase in the government purchasing security systems – products and services. All agencies have a website stating their mission. Using this available data to conduct research and understanding your customer will help you make a more effective and tailored marketing pitch.
Additionally The Small Business Administration has set-aside goals for contracts. They set levels and disperse grades at the end of the fiscal year to every agency based on meeting (or not) certain goals. You can use the grades to determine which agency received poor marks and back into targeting them (if you meet one of the small business designations). These goals can range from awarding contracts to woman-owned businesses, HUB-zone businesses, Veteran-owned, disabled, 8a, etc. If your firm holds any of these formal designations, you become more attractive to the buyer.
Various resources are available both for purchase (from commercial companies who specialize in B2G) and gratis (government websites). Carroll Publishing, FedSources, Deltek, and Leadership Directories are examples of commercial firms, data aggregators, who provide marketing list of government buyers as well as some value-added data on solicitations and agency intel. FedBizOps and FPDS are examples of government websites that house data on solicitations, budgets, past and future. PTAC offices are also available and useful to those who are just beginning in the B2G sector.