The “how-to” market the DoD blueprint everyone should have. I was trolling the internet the other day and ran across an article posted by the DoD. The subject was “10 Tips for Marketing to DoD”.
Now I have read several of these articles through the years and this, like all the others, did not fully explain the how of things.
I will explain these tips from a seller’s perspective. I am with hope that this will give you a better understanding on what is meant by “marketing the DoD.”
The Need For Market Information
Simply put it means knowing your market information. We need to know the government market the same way we know our commercial market. This means we are going to have to invest some time in research.
Are you concerned with the cost on labor hours? Investing in the time now will save you in costly mistakes later.
10 Marketing Tips Provided by the DoD
1- Follow the money.
This is easily done and is pretty straight forward, but it is only the starting point.
2- Arm yourself with information and facts, not emotion.
Even if you have won some awards and think you know where to be. Chances are if you have not done your research you will find yourself falling behind.
Identifying Your Government Information
It is best if we know who, what, where, when, why, as well as how. At a minimum we need to know who is buying, where are they located, and when are they buying.
The oddball here would be the ‘how” they are buying. What type of contracting vehicle are they using? Is it an IDIQ, BPA or using Simplified Acquisition Procedures (SAP)?
This information is also needed when you are creating an effective capability statement. You might as well do your due diligence now in order to be well positioned for tomorrow.
Although this type of Government information lives online through FBO and FLIS, having it well organized will save you several hours of extracting what you need. Search GovData can present this information in a connect-the-dots fashion; saving you precious time.
3- Find your niche. Don’t try to be everything to everybody.
Now when I say your niche, I am referring to what is it that you can do in the government spectrum that is competitive?Let’s say that your company specializes in a particular part/product, so you choose to make that your focus.
In government this is not always the best way to start out. You may find that even though you are priced competitively for your commercial buyers, you may not be for government buyers. The good news, there is almost always something we offer that will be competitive in the market.
Finding Your Niche in the DoD
If you are new to government, I suggest getting your feet wet by setting bid goals. Ask yourself; “How many bids do I want to submit each week?” It isn’t a matter of whether or not you win, but getting some experience at this point.
First look over a bid opportunity and roughly guess what you would charge to to do the job – be sure to write this on a tracking sheet.
After the bid has been awarded look over the winning bid to see how far off you were, or if it was a good price.
At this point you are not worried about the technical stuff. By tracking your bids you are you are finding where you fit in on price and what to sell when it comes to the DoD.
Personally, I even tracked buyer name, posted and award dates. It allowed me to know when my market peaked, and how long a particular buyer takes to make an award.
Doing this enables you to not only find your focus, but can identify your path of least resistance.
An example of what I mean:
Earlier in my defense career I was working with a machining and fabrication company that wanted to focus on the bracket market.
Brackets are their niche in the commercial sector however, by tracking I found they were losing by a large margin.
If you are losing by a large margin it is usually because of one of two things;
• Margins are too high.
• COGs are too high (I will address how to lower your COGs in another article)
More often than not, it is a good indicator that this part/product should not be our focus. If you are just starting out I suggest using this as your golden rule.
Government is labor intensive and out of the gate we want the best return on minimal effort.
4- Target your market and understand your prospective customer’s mission, environment, challenges and hot buttons.
Since we know the “W’s” of DoD marketing, we have our target Agency. Now what if I asked you what facility would benefit you most, would you know?
Don’t feel bad, most people don’t.
Staying at the Agency level is still a shotgun approach. So now we should identify the facility doing the bulk of the buying, as this is the path of least resistance.
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Know the Government Agency’s Concerns and Goals
An Agency’s website is a good starting point for different buying divisions. They state the mission and the types of things that they buy to sustain the war fighter.
To gain insight on possible challenges you can turn to the award history from that agency. By doing this we can get a glimpse as to what might be forthcoming.
For those that have the resources I will say, you can learn a lot on trends and needs just by watching the bid market.
5- Meet with Small Business Professionals and PTACs.
To be honest, the small business resources in my area were of little to no help to me. I have gotten feedback from others indicating they worked with some knowledgeable PTACs out there, so this may depend on the area you are in.
I do however, suggest taking advantage of any free resources that might help in saving time, gaining knowledge or getting exposure.
To gain some free exposure I suggest the SBA’s Small Business Administration Profile page.
6- Don’t provide a standard; one size fits all presentation to potential customers. Research their requirements and understand their challenges
The most common mistake made is marketing the DoD with a general capability statement. This statement lists all your codes and work you do.
Most people do this thinking they are showing diversity in capabilities. The Governments response to this approach- Who cares!
Your statement should stand out and be relevant to the needs and concerns of the prospect. Do not be afraid to throw some graphic elements into your document to draw the reader’s eye into it.
You only have about 3 seconds to catch their attention and they see hundreds of these a day.
7- Explain how your service or product has a positive impact on a project’s cost, schedule and performance.
An easy way to answer this is by asking yourself:
• Am I using Lean Manufacturing?
• Is this material new, reducing costs without performance?
• Is the manufacturing process new?
• Can I offer quicker turn around?
• Do I have the set aside that they prefer
8- Identify your differentiators—what separates you from other great performers?
Any of the above can work, in addition with the things like:
• Up with current technology – high investment
• Maybe your engineering dept. has high achievements
9- Translate the relevancy of your past performance; don’t expect a prospective customer to do it for you.
This one I think should be self-explanatory. If our prospect buys gears, we don’t show him retainer rings. They are only concerned with what they need to purchase and you either present that or risk being tossed into a “no” pile.
Understanding the Mindset of Your Government Buyers
A buyer (a contracting officer, as well as a contracting specialist) may buy several items across a broad spectrum, and none of them may relate to one another.
Here is why your statement should be spot on.
Think about this way. You have been given the responsibility of making 10,000 or more purchases each day. All you see is a mountain of paperwork on your desk and in addition you are being sent 500 capability statements a day.
Would you like seeing a statement that has nothing to do with you? It is kind of irritating and a waste of your time, isn’t it?
In my opinion, many of the older buyers view their job like this: I got to get these buys off my desk, and as quickly as possible and by any means possible.
Things are put into place to weed out those that can not follow directions or have a clue. You are deemed “non-responsive” or “non-compliant” and will lose out on the opportunity automatically.
10- When you meet with Program Managers and Contracting Officers, be prepared to discuss a real requirement, not your generic capabilities.
These meetings can take place on “Industry Day” or other site visits stated within the request. Be sure to watch FedBizOpps (FBO) for these listings.
This is yet another reason we have to do our due diligence and know our market. Having done this will better prepare us to ask competent questions concerning their specific concerns.
By being more proactive and knowing the goals of your Agency and the challenges facing them, allows you to be responsive and not reactive!
The DoD article did not make mention of the elevator pitch and I have seen it in other DoD material.
The elevator pitch is used if we happen to get only a few seconds with our prospect. Being prepared, we can present a quick and enticing short version; leaving them a capability statement.