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Winning Federal Government Contracts

Posted: 2016-04-11

Working with the federal government is seen by many small businesses as “the land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 33:3). I, like many of my small business bothers and sister, want that milk and honey! We have all heard the stories of small companies landing $5 million contracts with renewals every year for 4 years. However, there is a lot of work behind the curtain that many people don’t see.

I have come to realize that if you sit around waiting on that government cheese, you will starve. Nothing is immediate. I recently attended a pre-meeting for a possible contract that may or may not take place in 6 – 9 months. WOW! The big international consulting firms and small boutique marketing agencies were in the meeting with little ole Scientifically Speaking. After attending a number of these meetings, I have learned if you want a government contract, this is what you need to remember:

  1. Get In the System - The federal government has various systems that vendors must register with before they can start doing business with them. Companies must have a DUNS number and know what NAICS codes they want to be associated with. Once you have this, get registered with sam.gov and look for opportunities in FEDBIZOPPS (Federal Business Opportunities). Before any agency works with a company, they will ask if they have followed these steps. No matter how small / large the company, everyone must do follow these rules.
  2. Patience - Some people think once they get registered, the money will automatically start rolling in. NOT TRUE! Once an opportunity has been identified, submit the associated RFI (request for information), RFP (request for proposal) or RFQ (request for quotation). Even if you don’t get it, try again. Most people will apply for years before they actually get a contract.
  3. Don’t Be Intimidated - The last networking event I attended was like a bunch of high school boys trying to impress the new girl in science class. All of the big companies kept casually dropping the names of the people they’ve worked with: athletes, actors, other corporations, etc. Are their stories true? It doesn’t matter! A lot of government agencies are looking for small businesses. Have a story to tell them about the results you’ve achieved. That’s what matters.
  4. Business Cards - Companies who work with government agencies have distinct business cards. Companies who do work with the federal government have “busier” business cards.  They list their NAICS codes on the back. They list their all certifications: 8(a), SMB, veteran, minority and / or woman owned. Finally, they list 3 – 4 bullet points about what they do. The first time I saw it, it seemed excessive. Then I noticed everyone was doing it! When you go to a 4 – 5 conferences per year for people trying to do work with the federal government, you do what it takes to help them remember you.
  5. Relationships Do Matter – I just spent $250 going to a presentation that lasted 30 minutes! The most valuable part of the day was the 2 hours afterward talking to other vendors and the federal government employees. As with any other aspect of business, relationships are the most valuable tool a company / vendor possesses. Go to workshops and conferences. The federal fiscal year ends in October, so “prime hunting season” is the Summer and Fall.
  6. Size Doesn’t Matter - Seeing big consulting companies like Deloitte and Touche at the meeting was intimidating at first, but my REAL competition is the smaller, boutique agencies. They will, like me, slip in under the radar with a lower price than the big boys. They are also more likely to partner with other agencies to help meet demand. Small companies are not bound by the bureaucracy that large companies have. They are like the Navy Seals of contracting.

Approximately $500 million of the government budget goes to small businesses. WOW! The waters of federal contracts are tricky to navigate, but if you know how to sail them, the pay off can be BIG. Remember that preparation and patience will be your best friends.

Scientifically Speaking, of course.

5 Most Common Twitter Mistakes

Posted: 2016-02-10

The four C’s of social media success are: content, creativity, consistency and commitment. No where is this more critical than for Twitter? I occasionally watched the Twitter feeds of various companies to see what they are doing right and where they can improve. Marketing success in the digital realm is expressed through the business continuum, from sole proprietors to enterprise accounts.

Content marketing levels the playing field. Every person and company can express themselves and build relationships using inbound techniques and Twitter provides a powerful platform to do this. However, stay away from these common mistakes.

1) Nothing Useful – I was recently following a management consulting company who asked for my help with their social media campaign. As I looked at their tweets for the past few months, I noticed they were nice, sincere, and complimentary. However, I stopped following them because their was no relevant and useful information. It was like eating cereal for every meal night. You can only dress it up so much before you start to ask yourself, “Is this it?” Give your followers a link to your blog, someone else’s blog, or information they can use for their business. Cereal can be used as a filler, but not the main meal.

2) No Pictures – With more than 300 million tweets / day, there is a lot of information moving across this platform. How do you capture people’s attention? Pictures! When attending a special event, workshop, seminar or lecture, try to capture and post pictures of the you shaking hands with the speaker, your team, or unique activities. This will give people the chance to see the fun and excitement from the event. It also shows a personal side to the business.

3) No Analytics – After tweeting all day and week, it’s important to know who your audience is, where they are from (geographically) and what their interests are. Capturing this type of information tells you the type of content to post. It also tells you where your audience is located: US or outside of the US. I run Twitter analytic reports (free with the platform) to find out the interest of my followers. Twitter is a powerful marketing tool, but you need to know who you are marketing to.

Analysis

4) Randomness – I see people send 10 tweets in a day, go silent for 2 weeks, and then start sending 1 tweet a day for the next month. In addition to marketing, Twitter is also a powerful communication tool. I wouldn’t call my  clients 10 times in a day, stop for a few days, and then start calling them once a day. This called “random tweeting.” Have a Twitter strategy and follow through.

5) Themeless – Why are people following you? The majority of the information my company publishes is about social media and mobile technology. I also share information on presentation skills for technical professionals. I don’t post anything political, racial, or religious. Businesses need to have a focus and theme on Twitter. People need to have an expectation when they read your tweets: management advice, entrepreneurship, classroom best practices.

Twitter is a convenient and effective way to start and maintain conversations with clients and potential clients. Just like speaking to people at a party or networking event, follow those simple rules and engage with your clients.

Scientifically Speaking, of course.

Why I LOVE Shoe Shopping!

Posted: 2016-01-28

My wife loves shoes. My three daughters love shoes. My sister loves shoes. Most of the women I know love to shop for shoes. It’s a group activity and team sport. This phenomenon should not surprise a lot of people. Some people are surprised when I tell them I know the difference between flats, pumps, T-Strap, sling backs, espadrilles, peep toes and wedges…and the NEED for all of these in one color.

While sitting in the shoe section of Nordstrom one day, I realized I LOVE shopping for shoes too! Why? Most men hate shoe shopping, so why was I getting caught up in the excitement? I realized, I still didn’t care about the shoes. The shoes are just a product. They are functional and, at times, a commodity. However, the experience was eliciting a feeling in me I wasn’t prepared for. How can I duplicate this same feeling in my customers and clients?

  1. Experience – When people attend a SciSpeak workshop, I make sure it is a fun and memorable experience. They can go anywhere and learn social media, mobile technology or presentation skills. However, when they attend my workshops, they leave wanting more. When my wife leaves a shoe store, she doesn’t think, “I’m done buying shoes.” If she could stay longer and buy, she would. That’s the experience you want your customers to feel about your product.
  2. Emotions – Shoes make people feel a certain way. Some shoes make you feel pretty / handsome. Some shoes make you feel powerful. Some shoes make you feel athletic and strong (even if you don’t go to the gym). Even Apple designs it’s products and stores to elicit a certain emotion. How do your customers feel after they buy your products or services?
  3. Total Package – My customers always ask me for a package. Their question is not always based on price. A package indicates that it is “complete.” When I go to the Men’s Wearhouse to buy a suit, they lay out a suit with a shirt and tie and socks and shoes. They know I don’t just need a suit. As a good salesperson, we need to understand the package needs of our customers.
  4. Community - My wife loves when other women notice her new shoes. She has spent good money on them and she wants recognition. ALL people want recognition for the work they have put in to something. If a quarterback throws an amazing pass, they expect people to cheer and yell. Fitbit Exercise bands have done an amazing job of building a community around steps taken, calories burned and fitness. Build a community around your products and the sales will increase.

I probably have more shoes than most men. I have four pairs of black shoes. I have 3 pair of boots. I have loafers, lace ups and wing tips. My shoes are for different occasions and each makes me feel a different way when I put them on. Don’t judge me for my sense of fashion. Think about how you want your customers to feel after buying your product or service and strive to design for that.

Now about those purses… :)

Scientifically Speaking, of course

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