The federal government hasn’t exactly been the best ally to small business in recent memory.
But for entrepreneurs looking to carve out a space for their startup through any means possible, there’s no ruling out working with feds in order to sustain future business success. Let’s put two and two together. Capitol Hill has a spending problem in that it likes to spend – a lot. A significant portion of that spending? Federal contracts for small businesses.
A recent CNN analysis in 2012 found the federal government spends more than $500 billion a year on private-sector contractors, roughly 14 percent of the entire federal budget. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), it’s also the government’s aim to award 23 percent of all federal contracts to small businesses.
That’s a lot of dough.
Contracts are also up for grabs, so Income.com cautions against remaining ignorant of federal contracts or waiting too long to act on one, or else another up-and-coming entrepreneur can snatch that money from right under your nose. You’ve got to know where to look, if certification will help and how to market your business to the feds.
The money is out there, and Uncle Sam’s pockets are deep.
Online contracts databases a vital resource
Entrepreneurs unfamiliar with the world of federal contracts can often feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of possibilities out there. How do you know what contracts are currently being offered? How do you know what is required? How much time do you have? There’s an easy answer to all those questions: Get online.
Finding out what contracts are out for bid and what you need to do to land them has never been so easy, especially since the SBA is testing a new online registry specifically designed to cater to small-business owners looking to get a hold of contract information.
The SBA recently announced the launch of RFP-EZ, a new digital marketplace that streamlines the contracting process and makes it easier for entrepreneurs to find and bid on contracts. When searching for a contract, you can find what agency is offering it, what the project entails, what the proposed timeline is, what prerequisites you need to be awarded the contract and how performance will be evaluated.
The system is currently in a beta trial period and only offers a few technology-related contracts, but if successful, it will be expanded.
For those looking for a more established online gateway to finding federal contracts, try FedBizOpps.gov. The site’s advanced search function lets you tailor your inquiry to find the best possible and most relevant contract for your organization.
Certification improves chances at winning the contract
Entrepreneurs often chase after contracts soon after they find them, but one way you can improve your chances of winning the bid is by getting your business certified. The government puts aside certain contracts for businesses that are certified under a number of different labels recognized by the SBA.
For instance, the SBA offers certifications to entrepreneurs who can prove their small business is disadvantaged, minority owned, veteran owned, woman owned, in a historically underutilized business zone (HUBZones) or even owned by an Alaskan or Native Hawaiian.
Entrepreneurs need to weigh their options carefully,. Pursuing certification can entail counseling fees and labor, but the payoff may be big.
“Although the certification processes may be time consuming and perceived to be invasive, the certifications offer many sales and development opportunities for those businesses that complete the processes,” Crystal Kendrick, president of The Voice of Your Customer, a minority-owned marketing firm, told Small Business Computing. “The federal government also tracks sales to certified disadvantaged businesses by agency and encourages those agencies that do not meet their goals to increase their spending with certified disadvantaged businesses.”
Know how to market your goods
Because it spends some $500 billion on federal contracts, the U.S. government is actually one of the largest purchasers of goods and services on the planet. And what does that make it? A consumer. Like any consumer, it has to be wooed and pitched to, meaning your marketing tactics better be up to snuff.
While many think the government spends willy-nilly, the opposite is true when it comes to federal contract procurement. The government has needs like any consumer, and your marketing has to hit on those points in order for you to win. You have to be targeted, know which specific product or service you want to market and how it can relieve the government’s pain points. Focus on why it will help and not what they can do with it.
Let them know what you’re working with in order to impress agencies. Give an overview of your strategy, your business, your culture, your vision and why your product will help the government. Keeping your pitch concise is a profitable technique to winning federal contracts.
Income.com knows entrepreneurs want to succeed by any means necessary, so it advises them to look into every opportunity they can: Especially federal contracts. If big government is willing to spend on small business, you might as well make sure the money is coming to you. Research what contracts apply to your business, lobby for certification if you meet requirements and hone your marketing pitch to solve fed problems.