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Feel The Pain, Heal The Pain

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Federal cuts point to opportunities

To call the effects of sequestration on federal agencies "uneven" is an understatement. But creative contractors can also spot opportunities in the confusion and uncertainty.  Classic marketing advice is to look for your customer's pain points. Here's four kinds of pain that you might be able to turn into profit: Service levels, savings, meetings, and small business outreach.

Service Levels: Agencies that serve the public feel pain when furloughs force lower levels of customer service. What innovative ideas do you have that could fill those gaps?  If the agency is extremely unlikely to hire temporary staff, then are there options for additional web-delivered service or call center support?

Savings: Can you do the job in a proven, innovative way at a lower cost than the incumbent? Federal buyers and primes want three things: To save time, save money, and lower risk.  If your approach can save money while maintaining quality and meeting the deadlines, you've got a triple-threat advantage over your competition…and the makings of a unique value proposition that should at least get you a first meeting.

Agency internal meetings: We've already seen the toll that sequestration and other agency directives are taking on federal employee travel. When I hear a Fed refer to his agency's "Travel Prevention Department," I know he's not really joking. I think that while those requirements may bounce back some, they're never going to recover completely.

That doesn't change the fact that people still need to talk to each other, coordinate and collaborate. Furthermore, agency policies or firewalls limit use of video or social media platforms that are readily accessible to the private sector. The contractors who offer creative alternatives to traditional meeting planning and event organization will thrive.

Next, consider the challenges of small business outreach. If you attended the 23rd Annual Federal Procurement Conference last week, did you notice which agencies weren't on the show floor? No Navy. No Air Force. No Department of Commerce. And no General Services Administration, either -- at least, not among the exhibitors. But those agencies -- and all the others -- count on effective outreach to meet their small business contracting goals.

What alternatives can your company offer to make up for fewer in-person meeting with vendors at conferences and events? And who might be your target customers? First, of course, the agencies' small business specialists who are the front line contacts with vendors. But consider how you could help the small business specialists serve THEIR clients. Got some ideas for ways to make it easier for contracting officers and program managers to connect with qualified vendors in your industry niche that the small business specialists have already vetted?

Goodness, that might make it easier for your competitors!  Try it anyway, and watch what happens: what comes around goes around. People remember who makes a difference.

© 2013 — Washington Business Journal. Used by permission.

Thu, 05/02/2013 - 5:00am

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