The U.S. federal government remains the world’s fortune one customer purchasing every type of service and product. It is a relationship-based marketplace where decision-makers want to know who the vendors are before the bid is awarded. To win more contracts, it is imperative that contractors market effectively and not fall victim to these top five marketing myths.
Myth # 1: Marketing is not necessary
Most government contractors do not feel that marketing is a necessary process and instead invest time and effort in only responding to posted bids and requests for proposals (RFPs). This is called “chasing the bids” and results in a very low win rate of 5% or less.
Successful companies understand that the government or prime-contractor decision-makers want to hear from qualified vendors on a regular basis, as frequently as once a month. The challenge is to create a marketing plan that is relevant to the right decision-makers, contains specific information regarding upcoming needs and is timed appropriately.
Myth # 2: Email is all you need
Because email is easy and non-stressful, too many companies rely only on sending mass emails that do more harm than good. Buying mass email lists and sending generic mass spam emails will immediately result in, at the least, the recipient filing it to their junk email never to even see another, and at the worst, a company being blacklisted and prohibited from sending any emails.
When using email effectively as one of the communication tools, it is mandatory that every email is tailored to the recipient, with appropriate information that pertains to his/her upcoming needs. Know that most government agencies automatically strip HTML coding from incoming emails to eliminate malware and viruses, so the emails should be created in a plain text format, with no embedded links or graphics.
Other acceptable and expected tools include tailored capability statements, case studies, white papers, social media, attending government-hosted conferences and outreach sessions and scheduling in-person capability briefings.
Myth # 3: Outsourcing works fine
A huge mistake is to use a third party to make calls, send emails, or attend events and meetings representing the company. Government and prime contractor decision-makers despise when a person represents one company today and tomorrow a different one. Or worse, represents more than one company in a single email, call or visit.
Decision-makers do business with people they know, like and trust. It is extremely harmful to have an off-shore company call decision-makers to attempt to make in-person appointments. It is critical that the contractor have their own employees perform the marketing tasks and be consistent enough to start to build trusted relationships.
Myth # 4: There is only one decision-maker
Since it is relatively easy to locate names of contracting officers, most vendors only focus on marketing to them. In fact, there are three layers of decision-makers, and there may be six, nine, twelve or more people involved in the decision process depending on the size of the contract. It takes time and effort to identify all of the relevant people, and longer to market effectively to them.
Myth # 5: Start marketing when you see the opportunity posted
It is too late to make an impact when the opportunity is posted as a bid or RFP. And in the federal government, it is improper and even illegal for the decision-makers to meet with, email, or speak to contractors individually at that time. However, when sources sought notices (SSN) or requests for information (RFI) are advertised, one may have time to begin a marketing and sales process depending on the projected timeline before the actual RFP is publicized.
Trackable, measurable and effective marketing that results in more awarded contracts will follow a year-round contact plan that involves all of the mentioned tools and reaches the full range of decision-makers.