Wyoming Business Tips for Aug. 26

August 17, 2012

A weekly look at Wyoming business questions from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (WSBDC), part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.

By Natasha Stahla, Wyoming Entrepreneur procurement specialist

“Can you please provide information explaining how I can market my business to the federal government?” Wes, Cody

If you are interested in doing business with the federal government, one thing you will want to learn is how to market your business to the different agencies. Marketing to the federal government is a whole different ball game than marketing to the general population. The federal government must purchase products, services and construction in accordance with the FAR (Federal Acquisition Regulations). Agencies must follow a process that the FAR provides at different dollar thresholds.

Knowing how agencies make their purchases is the first step to knowing how to market to them. If you sell supplies or services under the micro-purchase threshold (generally under the dollar amount of $3,000, but under $2,500 for services and under $2,000 for construction), the purchase can be paid by credit card, and competition is not required. 

To market your business, you might start by calling the agency to identify purchase card holders who routinely buy the supplies or services you are selling. You also could send the agencies information on the product or service you are selling. 

Your goal is to make them aware of the products or services your company offers, and encourage them to buy from you the next time they need it. The information could be in the form of a government-directed business card (with information such as DUNS#, CAGE codes, and socioeconomic group, if applicable – the PTAC team can help if you are not familiar with these terms), brochure, capabilities narrative, flier or a marketing piece. 

Below the micro-purchase level, the agency does not need to use a competitive bidding process. Therefore, marketing your product or service to the federal government at the micro-purchase level is fairly similar to marketing to the general public. If you need assistance with creating any marketing materials, contact the Wyoming Entrepreneur PTAC at http://www.wyen.biz/.

When the purchase amount is between the micro-purchase level and $25,000, a purchasing agent or contracting officer must have competition before buying  a product or service from a business. For purchases more than $25,000, it is mandatory, according to the FAR, that a solicitation be posted on the Federal Business Opportunities website at http://www.fbo.gov. 

At both levels, a business must be registered in the CCR (Central Contractor Registration) in order to sell to the government. Please note that the CCR is in the process of being replaced by SAM (System for Award Management), so this will change slightly during the next few weeks. For more information about SAM, see last week’s blog post at http://www.wyomingentrepreneur.typepad.com/.

However, it is very important -- for purchases at the micro-purchase level up to $25,000 -- that a small business doesn’t overlook the SBA (Small Business Administration) Profile that is at the end of the CCR. The SBA Profile goes into a database called the DSBS (Dynamic Small Business Search).

The DSBS, a free marketing tool, is only offered to small businesses. Within the DSBS is a capabilities narrative. The narrative gives you the opportunity to explain your business and what you have to offer.  A contracting officer that is looking for a product or service to purchase may use this database to find two or more businesses to bid on the purchase that they are seeking. This database is often overlooked by small businesses. The Wyoming Entrepreneur PTAC can help you complete your profile at www.wyen.biz .

The DSBS can link to your website. A business website is another prime location where you can focus your marketing efforts to the federal government. Elizabeth Parks, information specialist with the Wyoming Entrepreneur Market Research Center (MRC), is a great resource and she provides free website optimization services for small businesses in Wyoming. It is important that your website has the necessary information for which the government is looking.

While conducting market research, government agencies often rely on websites to find contractors. Are you making it easy for them to find you on the Internet?  Do you have the information on your website that is needed to match your products or services with their needs? 

The MRC will evaluate your website to ensure that it is functioning as a marketing tool that will attract government agencies looking for contractors. They also will review your Dynamic Small Business Search (DSBS) profile.

A general analysis of your entire website is included in the service. Areas reviewed include usability, content, keywords, loading speed, online search and social media.

To schedule your free Web optimization report, contact Parks at eparks@uwyo.edu or (307) 766-5405. For more information about marketing to the federal government, contact Natasha Stahla, procurement specialist at the Wyoming Entrepreneur Procurement Technical Assistance Center, at (307) 637-5029 or email nstahla1@uwyo.edu.

A blog version of this article and an opportunity to post comments is available at http://www.wyomingentrepreneur.typepad.com/blog/.

The WSBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, email wsbdc@uwyo.edu or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY, 82071-3922.

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