Market Intelligence as a Competitive Edge

  |  April 1, 2009

Sadly, the most obvious competitive edge a company can gain is often overlooked. And this competitive edge is the most easily achievable for all companies, regardless of size, in the federal marketplace. That “competitive edge” is to know the government agency you are pursuing. This requires you to understand the issues, the players both government and industry involved, and the “rules of the road”.

The most common complaints I hear from government officials who deal with vendors are:

  • “Vendors come to sell us technology”
  • “They don’t understand the agency”
  • “They don’t know who our customers are”
  • “They don’t know our mission”.

There is no excuse to be uninformed about the prospect you and your company are pursuing. There is tremendous amount of data and information available. A company and its sales and business development organization just need to know where to look and how to use it. Where do you start your search for market intelligence? Let’s start with some easy and obvious sources: 

 

Subscribing to the industry journals is quick, easy and free; but more importantly, many have daily or weekly emails that can quickly alert you to events and issues of importance. Industry events are key, not only because they normally feature key government speakers, but they are also excellent opportunities to network and pick up market intelligence.

The web is a tremendous source of data and information, and the federal government websites are improving daily. Many agencies have set-up areas specifically designed to help the business community to do business with them. They provide information on upcoming procurements and key contacts. The FAA and Department of Homeland Security are two good examples.

The key to associations is not just to attend their events and special programs, but also to be actively involved. By participating on committees and holding offices, you have an excellent opportunity to meet and work with key government officials and hear first hand what their issues and concerns are. This will provide you and your company excellent insight and contacts when you work in that agency.

There are a number of market research firms that track and monitor government contracts and opportunities through on-line database services as well as performing market research. The database services are normally offered on a subscription basis and vary in price based on the number of users, size of company, and number of databases subscribed. Market research is done on a custom consulting basis, except in cases where the level of interest is high, and the research firms can generate reports on a topic or market of wider interest.

The sources I mentioned above are a good start to developing a process of gathering and developing good market intelligence. As you develop your practice of collecting data through the suggestions recommended above, other paths and doors will open to you as sources of information. This is just the start in beginning to understand the issues, challenges, and the people that shape the federal marketplace. Except for the subscription services, very little financial investment is required, but it does require a commitment of time and a disciplined approach to the marketplace. The knowledge and understanding you gather will be the foundation of your success and you will become your company’s “competitive edge”.

In a future issue, I will discuss how to use the information you have gathered to make effective sales calls.
 

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