The days of the $1,300 toilet seat and the $800 screwdriver are long over. Today, government procurement is an intricate process that ensures government agencies have the tools, resources, products, and services they need to serve their constituents, and that providers are offering the best combination of price and quality.
Whether driven by patriotism, the American dream, or something much more tangible, millions of companies have chosen to conduct business with government entities, in hopes of snagging a piece of the $8.5 billion that the U.S. government spends daily.
Welcome to the world of B2G – business to government – a specialized field with numerous and often confusing rules and regulations, but with an immense upside when pursued correctly. Similarly, marketing your business to attract government contracts can be a nuanced affair -- but completely manageable, with the right guidance.
For companies that are more familiar with business to business (B2B) or business to consumer (B2C), a first foray into B2G might seem daunting. Even seasoned business marketers tend to stay away. That has left a relatively small number of dedicated B2G marketers -- companies that have found innovative ways to reach their target audience, to build their company’s brands, and to contribute to the financial success of their company while playing by an extensive set of rules. These rules are designed to level the playing field and to ensure fair competition, with multiple companies bidding on the work.
To successfully market to government, a solid understanding of the procurement process is needed. Most federal agencies and some states and localities receiving federal grant, loans, and aid must comply with the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) requirements when spending those funds. The FAR is the principal set of rules regarding government procurement in the United States and at more than 2,000 pages, provides detailed rules around every aspect of procurement for both the government buyers and commercial sellers.
Many of these rules impact marketers directly. For example, there are very specific limits on what constitutes a “gift” to a government employee, including the dollar value ($25 or less) and number of “gifts” a company can provide to a government employee in a 12-month period. Most Requests for Proposal (RFP) prohibit the inclusion of marketing or advertising material. And, to maintain the fair competition, many government acquisition personnel will refuse to meet with potential bidders individually once an RFP is in the draft stage.
The long sales cycle is another challenge, with an 18- to 24-month decision process not uncommon. This can be extended by months or even years when a contract award is protested by a losing bidder.
If you have read this far, you’re probably wondering why anyone would want to market to the government. The upside of landing government contracts is a prospect that, for many, outweighs the negatives and complexities. Benefits include:
And, in addition to the enormous budgets and potentially significant dollar value of individual contracts (GovWin estimates the top 20 opportunities in 2021 alone to be cumulatively worth $307B), there are the intangibles – namely, the ability to have a direct role in solving some of the country’s most challenging problems. Your company can improve the lives of citizens and soldiers by providing products and solutions that are mission-critical, like tablet computers for USDA inspectors or, designed with a specific purpose for government, such as heat shields for NASA spacecraft.
With more than 4 million companies vying for government dollars, the need to demonstrate value and stand out from competitors is critical. B2G marketers craft strategies that closely align with CEO objectives and sales leaders to target broad groups of agencies with a common mission such as healthcare, defense or infrastructure.
Individual agencies may require an account-based strategy and even deal based for specific opportunities. Thought leadership is an important part of the B2G toolkit as is an appealing, easy to navigate website; strong differentiated messaging; case studies and testimonials and evidence of great past performance. Corporate social responsibility is another core aspect of B2G marketing. Government customers want to see that the companies they do business with are giving back to the communities where employees live and work.
One essential way to kickstart your B2G efforts is to align with an experienced B2G marketer, who can position the company for sales and reputational success with government customers while steering clear of the very real risks that are inherent to this market.
For the past 30 years, I have helped companies navigate the complexities of B2G and helped to foster success. As a Chief Outsider, I can deliver my expertise as part of a fractional engagement, helping you to develop your B2G savvy and a center of excellence around government contracting.
If I can be of assistance to you, please reach out.