Government contracting veteran Lisa Martin opens up her playbook
The U. S. government spends hundreds of billions of dollars each year buying everything from roads to commodes. And yes, that includes professional services. For example, in the government, marketing is called education and outreach. It includes just about every type of promotional service you can think of including, branding, website development, focus groups, advertising, marketing collateral, trade show support, public relations and more. Lisa Martin knows because her firm, LeapFrog Solutions, has been winning and fulfilling contracts with the federal government for 20 years.
“We’ve worked with nine different agencies—both as a prime contractor and subcontractor—and have provided the government with a full gamut of marketing services,” said Martin, Founder and CEO of LeapFrog Solutions. “Government contracts can be a great source of revenue for both new and established businesses. But to get those contracts, you have to understand the process and how to navigate it.”
With that in mind, Martin provides these tips for doing business with the government:
- Learn the government alphabet soup. There are scores of acronyms that are commonly used in government business—GSA, OSDBU, COTR, SDB, etc. Learning the federal lingo makes the process that much easier.
- Know where to look for opportunities. Start with FedBizOps.gov, GSAAdvantage.gov , GSAeLibrary.gsa.gov and SBA.gov/contracting . Chances are pretty good that you’ll see some opportunities there that are just right for you.
- Find a good—make that great—proposal writer/manager. As you read your first request for proposal (RFP) from the federal government, the process can seem daunting. Proposal writing is a specialty and an experienced proposal writer is invaluable. They will plan, layout and write the proposal specifically for the government evaluator. If you want to take the DYI approach, don’t get caught up in the number of pages there may be in the RFP. Skip to the evaluation criteria and determine if it’s something you want to go after, then read the “legalese.” You’ll come to realize fairly quickly that a lot of the RFPs are from templates.
- Register your company to do business with the federal government. The System for Award Management (SAM) Registration (formerly CCR Registration & ORCA certification) is a third-party registration assistance service that was created to address the needs of businesses looking to do business with federal, state and local governments. small, disadvantaged, 8(a), HUBZone and women-owned businesses. It’s free to federal and state government agencies as well as prime and other contractors seeking small business contractors, subcontractors and/or partnership opportunities. The site is open to all small firms seeking federal, state and private contracts.
- Get on the GSA Schedule. The GSA Schedule is a contract vehicle that you can use to sell goods and services to the U.S. government. There many steps to getting on the GSA Schedule, so consider taking an online training course. Keep in mind that getting on the GSA Schedule doesn’t guarantee work; it’s just a hunting license. The websites GSAAdvantage.gov and GSAeLibrary.gsa.gov are good places to start.
- Attend a few workshops. Once you have your GSA Contract, you’ll start receiving email for workshops on how to market to the federal government. They’re held all over the country.
- Determine which agency or agencies to target. Go to a few agencies’ websites, review their “Forecast of Procurement Opportunities,” and check out potential business. Schedule an appointment with the OSDBU (that’s the Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization), present your capabilities, and tell them what you can do for them.
- “To thine own self be true” was good advice in Shakespeare’s time and it’s good advice in government contracting. If you are a small business, woman-owned or minority-owned business, define your company so that you are eligible for those set asides. Additional information is available at SBA.gov/contracting .
- Consider 8(a) certification, as it was designed to assist small disadvantaged businesses with better access the federal procurement market. In fact, in order to comply with the Small Business Act, certain government agencies need to complete their federal contracts with 8(a) participants. Meaning, getting an 8(a) certification can be extremely advantageous. Participants can also receive sole-source contracts valued up to $3 million for goods and services. To learn more, visit SBA.gov/sdb .
- Look for prime contractors with whom to sub. Unlike the commercial sector, competitors can also be your allies. Teaming with the competition is not only advantageous, it’s a way of life in federal contracting. “Frenemies” can give you opportunities to obtain small business set-aside contracts valued between $5-6 million a year. And these contracts can last for up to five years before having to be re-competed.
Lisa Martin is the president and founder of LeapFrog Solutions, Inc., a strategic communications firm dedicated to solving complex communications challenges for the government, business and consumer markets. Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, this certified woman-owned small business provides a comprehensive range of services — from branding to internal and external communications — that transform perceptions, inspire change and drive action. Formed in 1996, the Fairfax, VA-based company continues to deliver high-quality communications with strategic impact that Make Your Message Matter®. For more information about the company or government contracting visit LeapFrogit.com or call Todd Usher at 703-539-6623 . Connect with LeapFrog Solutions on social media: LinkedIn, Twitter , Instagram and Facebook .