- The Washington Times - Monday, August 2, 2004

August and September, traditionally, are the busiest months of the year for those who sell their services to the federal government. These months mark the end of the government’s fiscal year when agencies must “use or lose” allocated budgeted money before the new fiscal year begins in October.

With all this money available, companies of all shapes and sizes will be vying for these opportunities. Competition is fierce and the chances of small businesses getting noticed — when going for the same dollars as a larger, well-known behemoth — are slim but still possible.

Recently, I spoke to Joyce Bosc, CEO of Silver Spring-based, Boscobel Marketing Communications, Inc. (www.boscobel.com). Over the last 26 years, she has navigated her boutique PR and marketing firm through the federal contract work space as a small business owner. Below are her suggestions and tips on how other small businesses can stand out amongst a crowded field. If you have additional questions, please email her at [email protected]

What can small businesses do to position themselves for the August and

September Government buying season?

If you’re just starting, do your homework to strike next year because my 26 years of experience has told me that people like to work with companies they are familiar with, especially those working in the federal government. Although doing business with the government isn’t as difficult as it was years ago, marketing to the federal government is still time-intensive. So there’s a good chance that if the government doesn’t know your company by now, you’d be better off taking whatever resources you have for marketing and planning for next year.

So, if they don’t know you yet, what can small businesses do to get noticed?

Our experience with government vendors has shown it can take up to two years to establish a level of familiarity, which leads to trust and, eventually, to business. Therefore, companies need to start laying the foundation now. They need to arm their business development folks with promotional material that clearly and concisely conveys their messages.

What types of promotional material are the most effective?

Collateral that can be left behind after a meeting for further review. From a brochure to a fact sheet — even small, inexpensive give-aways — can be promotional materials. To be seriously considered by a Federal agency, companies need promotional materials that can effectively speak to their qualities, their services and their successes. Spoken words are quickly forgotten but a brochure, a CD-ROM with a compelling story or an effective Web site can be repeatedly reviewed by key personnel and decision makers throughout the process.

What does Boscobel recommend to its clients?

Frequency and repetition. Print media coverage can be re-printed and packaged to show those with buying power that someone else believes in what you’re doing and finds you newsworthy. And, in addition to your promotional matter, a stack of articles gives you another compelling

tool to bring to your business development meetings. Know what your customers are reading and plan your PR strategy accordingly. Additionally, case studies (getting your customers to go on the record) provide proven “evidence” of your effectiveness.

Using your above tips, the story is told, but how can a company tie everything together?

It’s all in the messaging and branding — how others perceive your company, its services, etc. For printed materials and Web sites there must be a consistent use of the same colors, images, graphics, fonts, etc. Make sure your company’s messaging — what you want potential clients to know about your company — is consistent throughout all of your material. The messaging can also be conveyed through all of your press releases and media relations. And, remember, your messaging to reporters should mirror your messaging to potential clients. Consistent messaging in all of your materials and in the media will make your company more recognizable and help separate you from your competitors.

How do you take all of this and market to the Government?

Even with increased privatization and more services being outsourced, the government won’t come to you … you have to go them. The first step is to find out what they need and then determine if you are the right company to make it happen. Find out all you can about the agency, the decision makers, their historic purchasing and contract awards. It is imperative to learn about you for them to be interested in learning about you.

Jay Whitehead is America’s most-read, most-watched and most-listened-to expert on workstyles. Email your questions to [email protected]

Listen to Jay Whitehead on web-radio every Tuesday 5pm to 6pm EST when he hosts Won on Won with Whitehead on www.businessamericaradio.com. This week, join Jay and his guest Shawn Colvin, three-time Grammy winner. Email questions in advance to Jay Whitehead at

[email protected]

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