Many of our federal contractor clients rely on a heavy push in the final quarter of the federal fiscal year to take advantage of the mad dash by agency procurement teams to allocate end-of-year budget dollars. While “use it or lose it” may not be what it once was, because of the pandemic, many contracting officers are rushing to complete smaller procurements, meet contracting goals, and get through the needs of their customers before the September 30 deadline.
As you develop your strategy for the rest of Q4, it is important to understand end-of-year procurement priorities, provide content that speaks specifically to their needs and ensure you have the right vehicles for easy acquisition.
Now is a great time to educate them on how you can address last minute issues, highlight your strengths and differentiators, and demonstrate how you can make the process as easy as possible. When agencies try to get the most out of end-of-year dollars, consider these tips to capture federal end-of-year spending that will give you the best chance to secure some last-minute commitments you (and they) thought weren’t realistic until next year.
TIPS TO CONSIDER:
- Put in the work. July/August is the time to work with your sales, BD and marketing teams to touch base with your current customers, prospect agencies or potential partners. We know you want to be at the beach, but if you are waiting until after Labor Day, it’s too late.
- Make sure your products/services are purchase-ready. Emphasize that your products/services are at the ready/easily attainable through contract vehicles already in place at the agency.
- Highlight your business status. The larger, well-known government contractors may get the lion’s share of the dollars, but they often do it in partnerships with small, woman-owned, 8a, etc. businesses to meet contract qualifications. In addition to contract vehicles, highlight your business status. This may be enticing to an agency or a prime contractor needing to fulfill requirements.
- Be ready to answer questions quickly. Have your subject-matter experts (SMEs) at the ready to answer any questions your prospect may have about your product/service. Create readily accessible FAQs in both public facing and internal locations to answer immediate questions and keep the messaging consistent across your team.
- Know what content your customer wants at this stage. For a quick turnaround purchase, focus on their needs at the end of the buying process. The Content Marketing Review tells us that now is not the time to educate your customers with lengthy white papers, but instead focus your efforts and resources on product demos and trials.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON FEDERAL END-OF-YEAR PLANNING:
In addition to these tips to capture federal end-of-year spending, it’s also important for contractors to take time in this quarter to focus and plan on the next fiscal year.
- If you haven’t already, it may be a good time to gauge your customer satisfaction. Are there any hidden concerns you’re not aware of that could impact a re-compete?
- What contracts are coming up in the next 18-24 months? How can you gain an edge by understanding their challenges?
- How do you stand against your competitors? Consider an analysis to gauge how your audience views you and where you can differentiate from the crowd.
- Review where your customer focuses end of year spending this year. This may be a forecasting for the next fiscal year’s spending and insight into how they prioritize spending with extra dollars.
If you need help, contact us. Good luck and we hope all have a productive end of 2021!
As we approach the end of the fiscal year, the discussion turns toward agency end-of-year spending. Should federal marketers and sales assume selling for the year is done and look toward 2021, or should they implement a final surge campaign with the hopes of capturing any last-minute spending from unspent budgets?
According to Lou Anne Brossman, founder and CEO of Government Marketing University, it’s about gauging internal expectations and assessing if your company will be able to meet last minute agency demands. Ask the executive team, “What outcomes do you expect from 4th quarter marketing?” “Is this a last-ditch attempt full of hope or a concerted effort to go after identified opportunities?”
If you know there are dollars to be spent, ask yourself if your company prepared for a turnkey (i.e. quick) sale? In a recent IDEATION call, Lou Anne discussed tips for marketers at the end of the buying season. Below are a few of her expert tips along with findings from our own studies about the best content for the late stage buying process.
- Do not expect new, unidentified fourth quarter sales from a fourth quarter marketing campaign. Opportunity identification and marketing must start far earlier than that.
Federal marketers and business development professionals understand that selling to the government is not a short sales cycle. Not only should you always be front of mind, you have to consider being there with exactly what they are looking for at the exact time they are looking for it.
Selling to the government is an educational process, and the preparation often starts 12 to 18 months ahead of time. If you are marketing in the fourth quarter, it’s best to market to them for solutions they will be looking for in the next fiscal year’s needs. However, it is always useful to be top of mind if 2021 needs can be moved up with 2020 dollars. (see #2).
With next year in mind, consider that they are now reviewing needs and specifications for NEXT year’s requirements. What content should you be providing them? According to the Federal Content Marketing Review (FCMR), educational pieces such as research reports and white papers are key.
- Given everything said above, there is still a possibility — however remote — to win fourth quarter business at the last minute.
However, this is usually thanks to the marketing you did in the first couple of quarters of the fiscal year. To ensure that you are able to tap into any unspent dollars, consider marketing to where they are in the buying process. The 2017 FCMR study showed us that if they are looking at finalizing a decision quickly (making final selection), they are most likely looking for trials and product demos.
Is your company’s solution “acquisition-ready” for a last-minute sale? According to one chief procurement officer from GMarkU’s discussion, “If [an agency program office is] coming at me in the last quarter of the year especially because you have an unfunded requirement, or even an emergency buy, I’m going to lean towards existing contract vehicles. I’m going to look to things like the government-wide contracts, our strategically sourced contracts, or the GSA schedules, or other vehicles that make it easy for me to get it done quickly.” This means having your sales teams, contract shops and legal departments ready to go and on the same page.
It’s intuitive to make sure your company is set up for the quick sale and you may want to lead your marketing with language stating which vehicles you are on upfront to make it easier for your customer.
- End-of-year procurements are not just for the large, well-established vendors.
While you may think that agency’s will only reach for well-established vendors during last-minute sales, there is a place and space for small business. You should know if there is a portion carved out for small, woman-owned, minority-owned businesses. Does your marketing quickly identify you as such? In addition to what contract vehicles you are on, it is important to identify yourself as SBA, 8a, WOSB, minority-owned, or other, as appropriate.
Small businesses looking for year-end wins should also consider working with a larger vendor who already has experience. Your marketing should consider not only the agency but primes as well. What can you bring to the table for a partner? Does your company have an expertise in a niche that is needed by a prime? Knowledge of how you are perceived can help you strategically market your company’s products and services to key agencies AND partner contractors looking for something specific. Brand research could be a first step in gauging where your strengths, weaknesses and differentiators lie.
While it may be daunting to market specifically for those last-minute unspent requirements, it is not without value. It is important to understand end-of-year procurement priorities, provide content that speaks specifically to their needs and ensure you have the right vehicles for easy acquisition.
Messaging that highlights the ability to get next year’s needs addressed now can be appealing to agencies with multiple challenges. Educate them on how you can address issues they may not think they are ready for, focus on your strengths and differentiators, and highlight how you can make the process as easy as possible. These elements will give you the best chance to secure some last-minute commitments you thought weren’t realistic until next year.