Archive for the ‘government contracting’ Category

Don’t get Hung Hanging Out

August 14, 2013

Women in business, small business, business development, business travel, federal government contractingYears ago, a mentor told me that to be successful in business you have to be willing to simply hang out with folks.  You really do!

I started making deals once I started hanging out at:

  • prebid meetings
  • small business conferences
  • chamber meetings

… and just plain old-fashioned asking for face to face appointments and scheduling phone chats.

However, what start-up business owners are not told is to watch your expenses.

Trade dues, chamber memberships, parking and lunches can get expensive.   One year I spent $10,000 in trade dues and membership directory ads.

I recently talked to a small business specialist in a federal government agency.  Read more…

Approaching Sales with Positivity – Building a 10 Step Sales System

February 12, 2012

If you have been following my online posts over the years, you know that my least favorite thing to do in business is sales. My favorite tasks are marketing, research, writing, and customer service. But, there’s one thing we all know for sure. Without sales, there is no business.

Another thing I know for sure is that if we keep telling ourselves how much we dislike something, we will never learn how to do it and we will never see the good in it. So, this year I have a new mantra. This year, I am determined to be a better sales person. My focus is shifting because I am reminding myself that:

  • Sales is a way to connect with great folks and build great, long lasting relationships!
  •  These folks have needs that our products and services can meet!
  • Sales-Time is Fun-Time! Rah Rah!

The key for me is to make it a fun, social activity rather than drudgery.  This takes me back to when I was a kid and helped with a political campaign for a Chicago alderman.  I worked the phones.  I mailed things out.  What I enjoyed most was the whirl of activity and positive energy. So, I create a whirl of activity much like a political campaign room. Here’s how I do it:

  • First, I start with my contacts list.
  • Second, I visit the person’s website to see where we have synergy. I ask myself what products and services my firm offers that might help this person out.
  • Third, if I am connected with the person online in Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter, I reach out to them for an appointment.
  • Fourth, if I am not connected with the person online, I send them a friend request on Facebook, an invitation on Linkedin, and/or follow them on Twitter …and then, ask for an appointment.

Where’s the fun in this? The challenge is to “get in there”. Social media provides valuable access and a peep into my new friend’s world.

  • Fifth, I schedule two mailings. On this day, I mail out a post card. I also print a customized cover letter, relevant flyers, a brochure, and business card to mail out 2 days following the post card. I prepare it and lay it in my desk calendar on the day that it needs to get mailed. I use a desk calendar that has loose daily sheets in a 3 ring binder.

So far, I have completed about 3 touches with this person.

  • Sixth, I schedule a phone call for one (1) week out. The key for me is the scheduling. I use a form and list the folks that I need to call.
  • Seventh, if I have not talked to the person yet, I make the scheduled call. Yes, it’s a sales call. But, no – it’s not a “cold call”. Now, it’s a “warm call”. Now, I feel ok about it because we know a bit about each other. I’m getting further in there!
  • Eighth, I visit the person if they are local. I either meet them at their office or join them at a restaurant. I bring another packet of information and a promotional gift.
  • Ninth, I send a thank you note card.

Now, I have completed 6 touches with this person.

I keep the system physically very organized. I have a long sales table in my office. It contains a contacts binder with my contact list. My table contains address labels, envelopes, presentation folders, stamps, post cards, brochures, flyers, thank you note cards, business cards, and promotional items (small candy filled jars, tea lite candles, mini-calendars). I’m ready to crank it out!

  • Tenth, I send a retainer agreement. This is the 7th touch. I let them know that there is no obligation or pressure, but I would love to help them out. I list the products and services that are relevant to what we discussed.

My contacts database has about 7500 people and it grows whenever I attend trade meetings and other events. It also grows when I work on a sales campaign idea and build or buy a list of contacts that are ideal to pitch to. The key for me is to not feel overwhelmed by the numbers. I spend a few hours each morning on sales. I am usually up at 3am. I will buzz about, have fun, and plow through my list until coffee time at 6am. I do not really have a numbers goal. I just do as much as I can in 3 hours – which is pretty substantial.

The old saying is customers first, then sales first, then marketing. I am most energetic first thing in the morning. So, I do sales first. I reserve the 9 to 5 for work. Most of my marketing is online using social media and I do that at night from my bed. I write all of the government contracting bid proposals that are due the upcoming week on the weekend. I pick 3 to 5 to submit each week. Know your biorhythm and implement routines that work best for you and your lifestyle. But, be consistent and work on it every day. Having a sales system in place is also critical if you want to scale and grow. Now, you can easily train others to pitch in, follow your system, and help you with your firm’s sales.

What is your sales routine?

By Clovia Hamilton, President, Lemongrass Consulting, Inc.

Clovia founded Lemongrass Consulting in 2005 with nearly 30 years of government work experience and has served as a procurement counselor in the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC). Lemongrass Consulting provides strategic planning solutions including organizational assessments, government contracting strategic marketing plans, intellectual property, social media marketing strategic plans, and other services.

Contact Clovia at:
■ Web: http://www.lemongrassplanning.com/
■ Follow us on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/company/lemongrass-consulting-inc.
■ Follow us on Twitter: http://twitter.com/lemongrassplans

■ LIKE us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LemongrassConsultingInc

10 Tips for Biz Card & Networking Savvy

October 7, 2011

I dusted off a card scanner to begin scanning biz cards as a form of therapy (a light duty, stress free, painless, easy, no brainer). I began to scan away at about 700 business cards. Many were great and many woefully planned and designed. I also made some awful mistakes when networking. Here are 10 tips I jotted down while scanning away:

1. Do not take a business card that does not have the person’s name on it. Read the card before they get away. Write down their full name.

2. Write the date you met the person and the event on the business card. I had some cards where I put a partial date (forgot the year); put the date and not the event; or put the event and no date.

3. Have a business card that can be scanned. Some of the business cards in my stack were made of thick plastic; the same as a credit card. Some were all black and the text could not be scanned. One card was made of a weird vellum paper and it would not feed into the scanner.

4. Be sure to get the person’s cell phone number. Be sure to put your mobile phone number on your business card.

5. Think of us forty-plus something business people when you choose a font. One of the business cards was in a 4 point font. I could not read it without a magnifier. Luckily, the scanner could scan it. Nevertheless, be sure people can read your card without squinting.

6. If your company name is inserted in your logo, have it typed somewhere else again without the graphic. Company names in graphic logos did not scan.  I put it on the back of the card. Be sure to scan the front and back of business cards you collect.  Make great use of the back for listing your licenses, certifications, tag line, etc.

7. Choose paper that folks can write on. You cannot write on plastic or vellum or slick glossy paper.

8. Save a list of your notes from the business cards you collected into a word document. It will remind you of your marketing journey – all of the events, all of the networking. Study the list and ask yourself which events resulted in work, teaming, or other collaborations.

9. Ask yourself, which events are you drawn to? My firm is 6 years old. I looked back over the past 5 years. I am primarily drawn to small business development events such as trade fairs, match making/ partnering events, and government vendor outreach sessions. Next, over the years I have made my rounds to visit with decision makers in government agencies – procurement staff, program directors, department directors, project managers. Third, I lean toward urban planners, civil engineers, and economic development specialists. So, I have attended their trade meetings (annual conferences, luncheons).

10. Lastly, use this intelligence to develop your marketing plan for 2012. Plan out the entire 12 months. Make your rounds. Attend trade meetings, conferences, etc. What will it cost to participate? Registration fees? Travel transportation and hotels? Budget for it now!
By Clovia Hamilton, President, Lemongrass Consulting, Inc.

Clovia founded Lemongrass Consulting in 2005 with nearly 30 years of government work experience and serves as a procurement counselor in the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC). Lemongrass Consulting provides strategic planning solutions including government contracting strategic marketing plans, intellectual property, social media marketing strategic plans, and other services. Contact Clovia at:
■ Web: http://www.lemongrassplanning.com/
■ Blog: https://cloviahamilton.wordpress.com/
■ LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/cloviahamilton
■ Twitter: http://twitter.com/lemongrassplans
■ Email: chamilton@lemongrassplanning.com

5 Tips on How to Market to Government Agencies

March 7, 2011

Many businesses have lost their private sector work. Businesses with any relation to real estate were hit hard by the recession. These businesses include real estate brokers and agents, construction concerns, interior designs, architects, land surveyors, civil engineers, and building permit expeditors. I went to a doctor visit and my doctor was hit hard too. When her clients got laid off, they no longer had health insurance. A lot of my colleagues in the insurance industry were hit hard too because insurance was dropped by many as they trimmed their budgets. Therefore, going after government work may be the only viable option to survive this down economy.

My business Lemongrass Consulting helped with zoning applications, community outreach, and permitting large commercial private sector building developments. We were hit hard in 2008 and shifted gears in 2009. I turned to teaching business law and contracting. I re-engineered and turned my firm toward offering customized, affordable strategic plans to small businesses. I now teach government contracting for the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC).

Here are five (5) tips for going after government sector work:

1. Develop a strategy – Based on work you enjoyed doing in the past, figure out the type of work you want to do and with what government agencies. You do not want to shot gun your approach and bid on anything that comes your way. You want to be credible. You want to do work that you will likely deliver on time and within budget because you love what you are doing. Given your past work experiences in product sales or service offerings, figure out which agencies buy what you sell. Also, make the agencies that have a nexus to your background a priority.

For example, if you served in the military, then military bases should be a priority if they buy what you sell. My background is in planning – urban, transportation, community outreach, strategic planning. So, government agencies with planning departments are ideal. With respect to transportation, more specifically, agencies in the transportation horizontal construction of road and bridge work are ideal.

Your strategic plan can be as simple as a list of government agencies to target. Start close to home and branch out – your city, county, state agencies, and federal agencies. Target about 5 agencies at first and then branch out.

2. Aggressively go after work – Armed with your strategic list of government agencies to target, look for bid opportunities and forecasts of purchases that they intend to buy. If you do not bid on work, you will never win a government contract. You must be appropriately aggressive in going after government work. You have to read bid solicitations and follow through by preparing bids for submittal. You also need not wait until a bid opportunity is advertised. Drill down through each target agency and figure out what type of work you want to help them with or which products you sell that they will likely buy. Then offer those products and services to the agencies. Send them print materials and emails and make offers.

3. Build relationships – This is the most important part of government contracting. It is all about people. Once you stop focusing on contracts and dollars coming in, and begin to see contracting officials people with real world people needs, then you can build the kind of relationships you need to have to do well in government contracting. Just like you, each contracting official has a name, maybe a family, they have a past, and they have future aspirations. Get to know them. Ask for face to face appointments or conference calls and chat. One of my mentors told me that I needed to learn how to hang out. He hangs out and network at trade functions, on the golf course, and at parties. You have to make time to build a network of people you can count on for leads and assistance.

4. Follow up – As you build relationships with government officials, follow through on any leads they give you. They may tell you to talk with a prime that already has a contract with them. Perhaps this will lead to subcontracting work for you. They may tell you which end users to meet – e.g. department heads or project managers. You need to make sure you are reaching decision makers. For services, find out how vendor selections are made and who have typically sat on selection committees. For products, you want to get to know the contracting officials, the purchase card holders, and the end users with budget. These are individuals that you need to get to know.

5. Show appreciation – Whenever someone helps you, be sure to thank them. Be careful about gift giving to make sure you do not break any rules.

Speaking of rules, you need to study the rules of the game of government contracting. You cannot play a game when you do not know the rules. So, you should be sure to take government contracting classes to learn more about vendor registrations, certifications for set aside work, and other topics.

By Clovia Hamilton, President, Lemongrass Consulting, Inc.
Clovia founded Lemongrass Consulting in 2005 with 25 years of government work experience and serves as a procurement counselor in the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC). Lemongrass Consulting provides strategic planning solutions including government contracting strategic marketing plans. Contact Clovia at http://tinyurl.com/32cqcj9 or follow Clovia on Twitter @lemongrassplans

Dispel the Noise and Develop Strategies

January 17, 2011

We small business owners get a lot of advice from a lot of sources. We have friends, family members, mentors, coaches, trade articles, and blog posts. A friend of mine said that all she is hearing is “noise”.

Small business owners can choose to get stuck in the quagmire or sort out the bits and pieces and develop a Strategy.

I believe that every business owner should have a Strategic Marketing Plan, an Intellectual Property Protection Strategy, and a Sales Plan with clear sales goals. This article describes how to develop a Strategic Marketing Plan in 5 easy steps.

1. Decide on your geographic markets – which states, which cities
– target the familiar
o consider your past history – pull out the photo albums, scrap books, year books, resumes
 Education: elementary, high school, college,
 Family: where your family resides
 Work: where you’ve lived and worked
o Consider your travel budget

2. Conduct Research to Develop a Network of people in your geographic market
– Go after fans – develop a fan base of folks to cheer you on
o alums from elementary, high school, college, past jobs
o past co-workers
o family members
o close friends

– Go after prospects with budget
o Inc 5000 or better
o Government agencies that have historically bought the products and/or services you sell
 Research what these agencies call the products and/or services – learn “government speak”
 Research who the small business advocates and buyers are

– Go after teaming partners
o folks with extensive networks
 established business coaches, mentors, counselors
 clergy
o media
 journalists, writers
 radio
 magazines

3. Develop a List – all organizations should have a list of prospects. If you own a nonprofit, the prospects are philanthropic agencies and individuals. If you own a for profit business, the list contains potential clients.

– Who to include in your List
o include alums from elementary school, highschool, college
o include Inc 5000 or better firms
o government buyers
o teaming partners
– What to include in your list – set up fields
o Contact’ s name, organization, profession, email address, birth date, trade organizations you share, whether you are connected online (Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook), mailing address
o Any other helpful information you can gather

4. Develop ad copy

There is a lot of sample sales copy and ad copy online. New copywriters can use the samples, go it alone, or hire professionals.

5. Distribute ad copy

Let the folks on your list know what you are trying to sell or about your fundraising efforts. The worse thing to do is to not work the list and let folks know what you are in business doing. Small business owners can let prospects know by email marketing; microblogging (posting information in Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter); blogging; and using direct mail.

Yes, this may all be painstaking. But, it will save time and energy in the end. Years ago when I first started my business, two small business counselors told me not to shotgun it. It is easy to fall into the error of going into a lot of different directions seeking sales. So, kindly dispel the noise by having a strategic plan and implementing the plan. No one has a magic pill to give you to alleviate the pain of building a business, or a magic seed that will instantly grow your business.

Madam C.J. Walker wrote that “There is no royal, flower-strewn path to success. And if there is, I have not found it. For if I have accomplished anything in life, it is because I have been willing to work hard.” Henry Ford wrote “The competitor to be feared is one who never bothers about you at all, but goes on making his own business better all the time.”

So, work hard and go on to make your business better. You can do it yourself or hire help.

Clovia founded Lemongrass Consulting in 2005 with 25 years of government work experience and serves as a procurement counselor in the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC). Lemongrass Consulting provides strategic planning solutions including government contracting strategic marketing plans. Visit us at: http://www.lemongrassplanning.com – Follow Clovia on Twitter @lemongrassplans and LIKE Lemongrass on Facebook at http://tinyurl.com/6cuu28o

How to Plan Strategically to Market to Government Agencies

September 17, 2010

The purpose of obtaining a Government Contracting Strategic Plan is to target your efforts to create interest in your company. Like private industry buyers, government buyers buy from people they know like and trust. Government buyers cannot buy from your company if they do not know that your firm exists. To gain visibility, it is important to target your efforts rather than take a shotgun approach.

You can create interest in your company to increase sales by marketing your business with advertising, promoting, publicizing, and engaging in public relations. A strategic marketing plan should outline what you will do; where you will do it; what you will say; and how to match your marketing and messaging to the way your customer already thinks and operates.

First, you should build the foundation of the Strategic Government Contracting Marketing Plan by asking yourself:

1. What do you provide of value?
2. Who are your target government agencies?
3. What do your target care about and need?
4. Where do you find your targets?
5. Who influences your target?
6. How do your target agencies want to engage?

With respect to what you provide of value, ask yourself:
1. What do you want to sell to the government? What products? What services?
2. Next, look up your product and services codes in the classification systems used by government agencies.

Product and service codes can be found in the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS); National Institute of Governmental Purchasing (NIGP); and Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS) by conducting key word searches.

With regard to who your targets will be, identify a few government agencies to target. You can start at home with the city, county, and state your business is located in. Then venture out into other counties and the cities in those counties in your region. Next, if you choose, you can expand into other regions in your state and eventually into adjacent states.

A strategic marketing plan need not be complex. It can simply be a list of federal, state, county and city agencies that need what you sell. You will need to identify the players in these agencies that you plan to contact by email, mail and phone to request face to face meetings. Your list should include:

1. Contracting Officers and Specialists
2. Contract Compliance Officers and Small Business Liaisons
3. Influencers such as End Users (Department Heads, Project Managers)
4. Influencers such as Elected Officials, Legislators
5. Winning Prime contractors

You can find these individuals by using Google Unclesam and conducting key word searches. Your goal will be to find government agency websites. The contracting and small business staff may be in the contracting, procurement, purchasing, or finance department web pages. You can also pick off contact information from bid solicitations and contract award notices for work related to the products and services you sell. To find end users and elected officials, you will need to venture onto their web pages.

Create a Contacts Relations Management (CRM) database. You can use Microsoft Excel or Access; or purchase a more robust software program.

With regard to how your targets want to engage, you may be asked:

1. to submit information by email or fax;
2. to attend a Vendor Outreach Session or Trade Fair;
3. to present your capabilities before a panel of agency representatives.

The key is to have a strategy so as to not waste your precious, valuable time and energy. You need to be organized and prepared.

Have the following marketing items at hand:

1. Website
2. Capability Statement
3. Trifold Brochures
4. Business Cards
5. Promotional Items (eg Calendars, Pens, Envelope Opener)

When you meet with government buyers and influences, ask “Do you have any requirements that are a good fit with what my company sells?” and “What are your needs?” Deflate the focus on how great you are, and shift the focus on how you can help the players achieve their goals.

Marketing will grow your business! So, NEVER, NEVER stop marketing!!

By Clovia Hamilton, President, Lemongrass Consulting, Inc., http://www.lemongrassplanning.com (@lemongrassplans)
Clovia founded Lemongrass Consulting in 2005 with 25 years of government work experience and serves as a procurement counselor in the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC). Lemongrass Consulting provides strategic planning solutions including government contracting strategic marketing plans.

Mad Men on Advertising

July 11, 2010

I watched a Mad Men marathon July 4th weekend. I had to prepare for the new episodes that begin July 25th. This was a must do. I love this drama as much as I loved Law and Order; and the Sopranos.

Well, I took notes whenever the advertising team actually worked on ad copy. Here is what I learned:

 Advertising is based on one thing – i.e. happiness!
o Freedom from fear
o Whatever you are doing, it’s ok – and you are ok
o Mad Men Example #1 – instead of revealing that cigarettes are poisonous, state that cigarettes are toasted tobacco leaves (say whatever you want)
o Mad Men Example #2 – instead of revealing how dangerous it might be to travel to Israel, exploit a land of exotic luxury

 Ads create want!

You know I studied civil engineering and law. I also learned city planning on the job and became a certified city planner. I have three (3) degrees but I do not have a MBA. So, I am no advertising or marketing expert if being an expert requires college degrees, licenses, or certificates. As with most small business owners, we wear all of the hats until we can hire the credentials. So, I have had to learn advertisement, promotion, marketing, public relations, and sales – and more importantly, the difference between them all. What has always been fascinating to me is that there are MBAs and PhDs in businesses that were not trained in these subject areas in a practical way. They were taught theory; and some learned via case studies. But, you only really learn when you have to actually do it!

Well, although I do not have a MBA, I do own a neat little book called The Portable MBA Desk Reference. I dusted it off and read the sections on Advertising. Here, I reflect on what the Portable MBA teaches and compare that text to what I have experienced as a small business owner over the past five (5) years:

(1) Advertising is the promotion of an idea, a product, or a service by an identified sponsor or organization that pays to have the message printed or broadcast by the mass media, including television, radio, newspapers, magazines, direct mail, telemarketing, billboards, transit cards, and the Internet.

Well, as a small business owner, there was absolutely no money for print or broadcast by the mass media other than the Internet. Mass mailing cost a minimum of nearly $0.50 per piece of mail. So, to mail 100 letters a week costs $50 per week or $200 per month. Back in 2005, I also hung a shingle for a law office. I paid for Martindale and other paid directories. It was VERY expensive! My phone did not ring once. It was hard earned money flushed down the toilet.

Unless there is cash flow, this nominal sum could crush a small business. Start ups absolutely need to take advantage of free advertising sources on the Internet (microblog on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Youtube, etc).
Macro blogs (e.g. using WordPress) and the conversion of blogs into published articles, teleseminars, webinars, and ebooks are also helpful ways to advertise in a frugal way. These activities help small businesses position themselves as experts. These activities need to be viewed as ad campaigns and they need to be taken just as seriously.

(2) An advertising agency is a company specializing in the production of advertising campaigns and strategies to help clients target and promote their products and services. There are three types: full service (advertising, public relations, marketing research, promotion, media buying, and publicity), specialty service, and in-house.

Well, few startups can afford a full service or specialty service advertising agency. They have to handle their own ads in-house. Further, the small business owner has to either learn how to advertise or hire help. I learned “some” advertising by studying what others were doing. I select what I like and I mimic it. Just take notice and replicate what you can afford!

(3) Advertising frequency is the number of times during a specified period that a member of a targeted audience is exposed to an advertisement – in popular magazines, television, radio ads. Frequent advertising can strengthen brand loyalty and help drive them to a product or service.

Well, I had to learn how to “get out there”. I am old enough to remember entering into the big, black hole called the Internet back in the 90s. I remember a group of us at work saying: “she is going to go in there” with excitement and astonishment. Well, I felt the same way about going into Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin worlds.

Social media is a great free way to achieve advertising frequency. The hard sell is not recommended. But, the soft sales of just letting the masses know what your passion is recommended. My passion is planning. I post famous quotes about the importance of strategic planning (vision, mission, goals, taking action). I am my firm’s brand and I am building brand loyalty.

As a planner, I realize the importance of creating ad campaigns. As a business woman, I realize that people buy from others that trust and like. Social media is a great way to share information, and to become trusted and liked. It is also a great way to use word of mouth advertising where satisfied customers refer products or services to prospects.

(4) Behavioral segmentation is the subdivision of the market according to consumer behavior variables such as their status, brand loyalty, product usage, benefits sought, lifestyle, social class, and economic standing. Markets can be divided by age, gender, income, and geography. None of this gives marketers insight into consumer motivation. Consumers look for benefits and they make their choices on the basis of a single value which vary depending on the product.

This is loaded. My interpretation of all of this is that put simply, the market research cannot predict consumer gut reaction to what you are selling. In consulting, we are selling our talent and who we are as people – our individual images or the corporation’s image. The benefits would be our ability to impart what we know and who we know onto our clients. The key value is our ability to get the job done on time and within budget. With respect to promoting image, our charitable work is also very important.

Nevertheless, as a planner, I do believe in strategic marketing plans. This is actually one of the services we offer. We offer a strategic marketing plan for government contracting. It is important not to shot gun the approach – but rather, to laser target which agencies may be best to market to.

(5) Point of purchase advertising uses eye catching displays near the location where customers pay for a product in an attempt to trigger impulse buying.

Here, I would have recommend that small businesses invest money and hire professionals if necessary for professional graphic design. Even for banner ads online which are posted in locations where our prospects visit – hire a professional graphic designer to achieve a great first impression.

In conclusion, small businesses need to be frugal and maximize the use of online social media for advertising. But, they need to be sure to follow Donald Draper’s advice and be positive, create happiness, and create want! Also, point out the pain and fear of pain – but be sure to point out that your product or services can alleviate the fear of pain.

Clovia founded Lemongrass Consulting in 2005 with 25 years of government work experience and serves as a procurement counselor in the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC). Lemongrass Consulting provides strategic planning solutions including government contracting strategic marketing plans. Visit us at: http://www.lemongrassplanning.com – Follow Clovia on Twitter @lemongrassplans and LIKE Lemongrass on Facebook at http://tinyurl.com/6cuu28o

How to Get the Most out of Conferences

July 5, 2010

How to get the most out of conferences

July 5, 2010 by Clovia Hamilton

Lemongrass Consulting advocates strategic planning.  I lead this charge and I advocate strategic planning in all things that we do – including conference attendance.

As a procurement counselor at the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC), I give vendors notices about upcoming business to government (B2G) conferences routinely.  I also give advice on how to prepare for conferences and for following up after a conference.

Recently Beth Goldstein posted an article “To Get the Most Out of Conferences, Follow Up” in Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s smallbiz tips.  Beth states that the goal is to make solid connections.  Beth advocates that conference attendants should:

  • Thank the connection
  • Send the connection an article
  • Invite the connection to an upcoming event
  • Send the connection a copy of your newsletter
  • Introduce the connection to your other connections

The topic of what to do with business cards has been underway in the Linked in Woman 2 Woman Business Group.  Here are some suggestions that I like from this discussion:

  • Use a virtual assistant to help you add names into a contacts database (Jennifer Dixon)
  • Write a note about the person, the date, and the event on the business card (Eileen J Kennedy, Nanci Benefiel)
  • Follow up with the person you met the next day or within the next few days (Eileen J Kennedy)
  • Use Microsoft Outlook contacts and sync your Blackberry to Outlook (Eileen J Kennedy)
  • Scan business cards into your email address book as Vcards (Louise Leduc)
  • Invite your connections to Linkedin and your newsletter (Diane S Turner)
  • Keep business cards in clear plastic sheets (Gwen McCauley)
  • Select a few networking groups that you attend routinely (Nanci Benefiel)
  • Send the connection a greeting card (Gayle McKearin, Mary Kathryn Ewart, or Send Out Cards per Nanci Benefiel)

I noted in this discussion the importance of leaving white space on the back of your business card and do not use glossy card stock that cannot be written on.

I do all of the above – and I sort cards by the first name of the connection and keep the clear plastic sheets in a binder with alpha dividers A thru Z.  I also make copies of cards of potential teaming partners and keep them in a binder sorted by dividers labeled for each type of potential teaming endeavor we might pursue.

Try to connect with everyone or just a few?

Stephanie Robertson and Diane Turner stated that she usually only has 2-4, or 3-5 people that they connect with.  I have been advised by mentors to set a goal for 3 people.  This approach is to promote quality over quantity.

While the 3 people goal may be productive and may keep you from feeling overwhelmed, I have learned over the years that you will never know where your next lead, prospect, or referral will come from.  So, I try to meet as many people as possible. I do not devalue anyone.  I try to connect with as many folks as possible.  This is not really shotgunning – because out of the batch, I will target a few to follow up with immediately.

Clovia founded Lemongrass Consulting in 2005 with 25 years of government work experience and serves as a procurement counselor in the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC). Lemongrass Consulting provides strategic planning solutions including government contracting strategic marketing plans. Visit us at: http://www.lemongrassplanning.com – Follow Clovia on Twitter @lemongrassplans and LIKE Lemongrass on Facebook at http://tinyurl.com/6cuu28o

Government vs. Corporate Contracting

June 28, 2010

In this economy, businesses need not put all of their eggs in one basket.  They should seek public government contracts and private deals.  There are set asides in government contracts for small businesses, woman owned businesses, veteran owned businesses, and minority owned socially and economically disadvantaged businesses.  In order to be eligible, these businesses have to get registered and certified.  Businesses that do not meet these categories can team with businesses that do in order to take advantage of set asides.

I worked in government for more than 25 years and began the business development journey in 2005.  I have met thousands of business owners.  One topic that seems to confuse some business owners is whether their government business registrations and certifications can be used in corporate contracting.  Well, no.  Corporations have supplier diversity programs and look for Women Business Enterprise (WBE) and Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) certifications which differ from those in federal, state, county and city programs.

Government Contracting

Federal Contracting – No cost to get started!

Step 1) If 51% woman owned, begin to use Woman Owned Small Business (WOSB) and Small Business (SB) designations for marketing purposes. Put on your website, business cards, brochures, etc now!
 These merely require self-certification.
 A goal of setting aside 5% of government contracts to WOSB is underway.
 There are bid opportunities currently being set aside for SB’s.
 Check your small business status with the Small Business Administration using your North American Industry Classification System (NAICs) codes, annual receipts, and number of employees. Visit:
http://www.sba.gov/contractingopportunities/officials/size/index.html
 Determine your NAICs codes at : http://www.naics.com/search.htm
 Military agencies use Federal Supplier Codes (FSC) and Product Service Codes (PSCs). Determine your FSCs and PSCs at: http://www.outreachsystems.com/resources/tables/pscs/
Step 2) Complete the
Central Contractor’s Registration (CCR) at https://www.bpn.gov/ccr/default.aspx
Step 3) Be sure to complete the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Dynamic Small Business Registration
 You will be prompted to enter this registration process at the conclusion of completing the CCR registration.
Step 4) Consider the SBA 8a certification program.
 But, bare in mind that few WOSB owned by Caucasians get certified.
 You must prove both a social and an economical disadvantage.
 Certain races are presumed to be socially disadvantaged (Black American, Native American, Hispanic American, Asian Pacific American, Subcontinent Asian American).
 Must be in business for 2 years
 The net worth of the individual claiming disadvantage must be less than $250,000.
Step 5) Consider getting prequalified with the General Service Administration (GSA) by submitting a GSA schedule contract proposal to the GSA for the products and services that you sell.

Step 6) Check if your business is located in a Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) zone.
 Visit http://map.sba.gov/hubzone/init.asp#address to find out if you are in a hub zone.
 If so, apply for HUB Zone certification and be eligible for Hubzone set-asides
Step 7) If your business is 51% owned by a veteran or service disabled veteran, you may be eligible for Veteran Owned Small Business (VOSB) or Service Disable Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) certification.
o Visit http://www.va.gov/vetbiz/index.htm
o Self Certify or get Verified (preferred)
State Contracting
Note: There are no set asides in Georgia other than the US Department of Transportation federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program with the Georgia Department of Transportation and MARTA

Step 1) States use the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing (NIGP) product and service codes. Determine your NIGP codes at:
http://doas.ga.gov/statelocal/spd/procurement/pages/home.aspx

Step 2) Complete vendor registration applications for any city and county that you want to do business in. In Georgia, it is the Team Georgia Marketplace registration:
https://saofn.state.ga.us/psp/sao/SUPPLIER/ERP/h/?tab=DEFAULT

Local Government Contracting (Counties, Cities)
Step 1) Complete vendor registration applications for any city and county that you want to do business in.
Step 2) Complete small business certification applications for any city and county that you want to do business in. The designations are Small Business Enterprise (SBE), Female Business Enterprise (FBE), Woman Business Enterprise (WBE), or Minority Business Enterprise (MBE). In Georgia, there are programs at:
 City of Atlanta
 Atlanta Public Schools
 City of Roswell
 City of Savannah
 City of Augusta
 Fulton County
 DeKalb County
 Cobb County

Corporate Contracting

Corporate Certifications – Fee based

Step 1) If 51% woman owned, submit a Woman Business Enterprise (WBE) application with the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)
 Visit http://www.wbenc.org
 The application fee is $350
 They will conduct a site visit
 It typically takes 30-90 days
Step 2) If 51% minority owned, submit a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) application with the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) at a state chapter of your choice.
 The application fee is $500 in Georgia (GMSDC)
 They will conduct a site visit
 It typically takes 30-90 days

I urge businesses to get a Strategic Marketing Plan to determine which agencies buy what they sell; which certifications and registrations to pursue; and to find teaming partners.

Clovia founded Lemongrass Consulting in 2005 with 25 years of government work experience and serves as a procurement counselor in the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC). Lemongrass Consulting provides strategic planning solutions including government contracting strategic marketing plans. Visit us at: http://www.lemongrassplanning.com – Follow Clovia on Twitter @lemongrassplans and LIKE Lemongrass on Facebook at http://tinyurl.com/6cuu28o

15 Government Contracting Tips

June 21, 2010

I love this Wall Street Journal article “Government Contracts a Lesson in Patience” by Emily Maltby: http://tinyurl.com/24qpy2o

Here are some tips:

1. Although winning an initial contract can require more time, energy and money than some business owners can afford…[s]till, the federal government is an attractive source of money for many businesses that have lost private-sector work or clients…[use it] to counter the ebb and flow of their business…look hard at the federal market because it has money.
2.  Documentation is required to prove small-business eligibility and to obtain a number of certifications and registrations.
o Have a strategic plan of which government agencies you want to sell to
o Submit your vendor registrations to your target agencies
o Get any small business set aside certifications that you are eligible for
o Submit your certifications to your target agencies
3. Owners need to learn which agencies are best to target.
o Research which agencies are buying what you sell
4. Send your product and service codes (NAICS, PSC, FSC, NIGP) in a Capability Statement to the small business liaisons at the agencies and ask them if they have any requirements that you can help them with
5. Search GTPAC Bid Match results, iSearch, and FBO.gov to find out which agencies are buying what you sell.
6. Owners need to know how to write a government proposals.
o There is no bid proposal template because you need to follow the instructions in the solicitation
o Also, pay close attention to the evaluation criteria used to rank bid proposals and to select contract awardees
7.  Owners need to know how to network with procurement agents.
o Using your research about which agencies buy what you sell, start a contacts database
o Create a Sales process – Systematically email, call, write and visit agency contacts that buy what you sell.
o Bid on jobs you can do as a prime or subcontractor.
o Always be closing (see Running a successful sales office by Michael K McKean at Reuters Small Business website: http://blogs.reuters.com/small-business/2010/04/30/running-a-successful-sales-office/)
8. The process requires lots of patience.
o Learn the process slowly.
o Take a smaller job and don’t get frustrated by the relatively small price tag of a first government assignment.
9.  You may have to rebrand your firm.
o You want to be taken seriously as a government contractor.
10. List your product and service codes, DUNs number, and CAGE number on all of your marketing materials and on your website.
11. List your small business certifications on all of your marketing materials and on your website.
12. List your vendor registrations on all of your marketing materials and on your website.
13. Mention any work you have done for government agencies in your marketing materials (include work you have done as a employee of another firm or government agency; include testimonials and references).
14.  If you have no government work experience, consider volunteering on a job to get experience that you can list in your marketing materials and on your website.
15. You may have to tweak your business model.
o Use the research you have collected to consider whether there are products and services you should expand into or discontinue based on what you now know the government buys and sells
o But, be careful not to put all of your eggs in one basket – diversify and sell both to the private and public, government sector.

By Clovia Hamilton, President, Lemongrass Consulting, Inc.

Clovia founded Lemongrass Consulting in 2005 with 25 years of government work experience and serves as a procurement counselor in the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC). Lemongrass Consulting provides strategic planning solutions including government contracting strategic marketing plans. Contact Clovia at http://www.lemongrassplanning.com or follow Clovia on Twitter @lemongrassplans