The government contracting landscape is full of pitfalls, red tape, daunting procedures and intense competition.
Of course, the biggest challenge that we all face is sequestration, which is making it imperative for government contractors, large and small, to adopt the most effective habits in order to win business. Market Connections’ Government Contractor Study was developed with this in mind – to identify the top BD and marketing practices of contractors with higher win rates, and enable companies to see how they stack up against competitors.
Understand Your Customers’ Needs
The more educated you are on the market you serve, the better equipped you will be to face challenges and volatility. Since the B2G community is vast, try narrowing your focus to a few agencies and learning how they operate. Understanding your customers’ needs, challenges, budgets and purchasing motivators is critical for developing the right win themes and designing the best solutions. Take advantage of publicly available information on the agencies you are targeting, and build competitive advantage with proprietary, targeted new pursuit and capture intelligence.
Know Your Strengths
Looking within to identify your company’s strengths can go a long way to aid in success. Brand research, or Attitude, Awareness and Usage studies (AA&U) reveal so much more than just whether people recognize your logo and colors. This type of research will identify how you are perceived, what you are known for, how your competitors are perceived and what their strengths and weaknesses are. Brand research goes beyond measuring awareness; it will also reveal the depth of understanding of who you are and what you do and the perceptions of your company and services, whether positive, negative or neutral. Anything negative or neutral bears closer investigation, and anything positive can be leveraged as a strength. At the same time, if brand research reveals perceived strengths in areas that do not give you strategic advantage, then you can set to work re-positioning and adjusting perceptions using fact-based insights from your market, rather than operating on speculation and gut feeling.
You may find that your 8a status, Hub zone, veteran or women-owned business status provides a leg up, so understand these designations and use them to your advantage. Investigate SBA’s Score Card to learn which agencies scored high so you can play to your strengths. Winning contractors deftly leverage partners and competitors. Small and large businesses can reap the rewards of partnering with similar or different size businesses. Oftentimes, we are so focused on the competition as being competition. Yet if each company plays to each other’s strengths, the right partnership can lead to competitive advantage and a contract win.
Develop a Plan and Actually Execute Against It
The federal sector is a large and complex market. Develop a sales and marketing plan that plays to your strengths based on agency needs, budgets and purchasing motivators. Once again, research will help you gain a deeper understanding of your target buyers’ needs and expectations. A fact-based roadmap, informed by brand research, capture research and/or market opportunity assessments will support a winning strategic positioning and capture plan.
In any business, building relationships is the key to sustaining success. In B2G, relationship building is essential with the buyer, the end-user, the contracting officer, competitors, consultants—you name it. Since the government sales process typically takes 18-24 months, knowing who to go to and how to shape the procurement using the government customer’s requirements can help accelerate the cycle.
Price Competitively and Deliver Quality
Don’t overlook the importance of competitive pricing and quality service, especially during austere times. You may need to become more lean by focusing only on the products and services you are best known for and that deliver the greatest margins. Target your R&D investments to only those products and services with the greatest opportunity. Use contract evaluation research to measure and manage customer satisfaction and identify any brewing issues before they become full-blown threats to your contracts and relationships.
Knowing How to Reach Government Decision Makers
Knowing where and how to reach senior decision-makers at agencies is a vital component to every marketing effort aimed at the federal government. This year’s Federal Media and Marketing Study shows a changing media landscape, which is dictating that contractors try different approaches for reaching the government audience. Government executives are embracing mobile solutions, with smartphones and tablets becoming key channels for reading news and information—signaling a major shift in which government decision-makers want ubiquitous access to content. Yet print media still is not dead and marketers need to develop strategies that target a broad range of media channels and formats.
Navigating the government sector in this climate remains a challenge. While there is no magic wining potion, there are winning strategies embraced by contractors with higher win rates.