MBE, WBE, DBE, SBE VBE Advocate
If you have recently been certified by a Government Agency as a Minority/Woman Owned (MWBE) business – congratulations! If you are like many business owners, you may be wondering how to fast track results utilizing your certification and to start generating sales. Here are ten tips to help get you started.
Understand the true purpose of your certification: government certification as an MWBE is all about creating access to opportunities to strengthen the ability for minorities and women to successfully compete in the market place. MWBE Certification is not a guarantee of work although some agencies do have mandatory participation/subcontracting requirements in their contracts; it’s still up to each individual MWBE to be prepared to meet the requirements of doing business with the government. In addition to access to opportunities, MWBE certification often comes with resources including technical assistance, access to information, training, networking opportunities, advertising and free marketing. MWBE certification is an extremely powerful marketing tool that if used properly can help you to differentiate your firm from large competitors.
Identify your target audience: identify government agencies that are either currently using your products/services or looking to procure them in the future. You want to identify buyers, facilitators and MWBE advocates within the agency and learn how they make purchasing decisions. Ideally, you should have no more than three to five agencies that you are targeting per month.
Do your homework: once you have identified your target audience, you will want to focus on your value proposition to the government. What problem issue or could your firm potentially solve? It’s not enough to just sell pencils, you need to think about why should the agency buy from you, and if you thinking that it’s because you’re a certified MWBE, think again. There are already plenty of certified MWBEs that are marketing to the government. Think in terms of how your company adds value.
Identify your competition: as you identify your target audience, you should also take note of who they are currently doing business with and why. Analyze your competitors; look at their marketing materials, website and pricing modules. Don’t forget to check out other MWBE’s that have similar qualifications to your firm. Figure out how you can differentiate yourself.
Networking/Procurement Events: as I mentioned previously, one of the benefits of being a certified MWBE is access to opportunity. The accesses to opportunities are in the form of networking, procurement fairs, and training events. You want to take advantage of every single opportunity there is to meet buyers in person.
Make Marketing a Priority: if you are like most small business owners, you are focused on delivering your product/service and handling the day to day. Unfortunately, handling the day to day won’t bring you new business. You’ll need a dedicated, focused approach to marketing for a minimum of 6-8 hours per week. Ideally, you should have a marketing plan that outlines all of your activity for 6 months to year.
Create Professional Marketing Materials: if you want to do business with the government, in my opinion, you need a professional website, business cards, and a capabilities statement just to get started. If you are fortunate enough to be considered for an opportunity, you should know that without fail, buyers will check your website and they will always ask for a “cape statement”. I also recommend eliminating the use of personal email addresses – it screams, “I am not ready to do business”.
Create your Past Performance History: create and develop three client references that include a description of work performed by you/your company; accurate contact information for the point of contact (telephone number, address and email), value of the assignment, the date the assignment started and ended. Guaranteed you’ll use this information over and over again for a variety of reasons.
Bids/Proposal Pipeline: since most opportunities over $100,000 are required to go out for bid, you want make sure that your firm is properly registered on the appropriate websites to receive bid notifications. In addition, you’ll want to obtain procurement forecasts for your target audience to ensure that you do not miss any opportunities. Finally, being on the bidder’s list does not guarantee that you will actually receive a bid. You need to stay in touch with the agency, and calendar all potential opportunities.
Consider Strategic Partnerships/Alliances/Joint Ventures and Mentor Relationships: in order to strengthen your position with the government you may want to consider developing an alliance with a larger firm that has strong past performance, expertise and financial resources that could be potentially viewed as a value added to the government. Stay away from firms that just want to “use” your status to their advantage and look to partner with a company that can truly add value to your firm by leveraging their past performance. Look to add value to the larger firm by levering your previous experience, your MWBE certification and your unique selling proposition. The relationship should have balance; and you must take responsibility for your role in the relationship.