Expert: “Federal buying season” can be a revenue-booster to vendors
Uncle Sam is a major buyer of goods and services. According to a July 2009 forecast from St. Louis-based consultants Macroeconomic Advisers (MA), the value of government purchases of goods and services could reach $3.02 trillion this year, with federal purchases (consumption and gross investment) accounting for almost 40 percent of total government purchases. Federal purchases, according to MA, could rise 8 percent in 2009 over 2008 levels.
More importantly, the federal government’s fiscal year ends September 30, and that means loads of selling opportunities for savvy government marketers between now and September 30.
Brian Grainger is one such savvy marketer. He is vice president and general manager of Spectra Logic Federal. Spectra Logic Corp. is a Boulder, Colo.-based data storage manufacturer, and about 30 percent of the company’s North American revenue is generated from federal business. Grainger established the federal division of the business — Spectra Logic Federal — in 2004.
GovPro.com got Brian Grainger’s insight on the federal fiscal year-end.
GovPro.com: What federal spending trends are you seeing as we head to the end of the fiscal year?
BG: Historically, Spectra Logic Federal has seen approximately 35 percent to 40 percent of federal programs awarded and funded in the August-September timeframe. While it is extremely beneficial financially to vendors, it does heavily burden our manufacturing and shipping organizations. I would advise that companies be prepared for the increase in demand this time of the year.
GovPro.com: Will the federal stimulus program impact federal buying at the end of this fiscal year?
BG: Honestly, it’s difficult to say. With as much bureaucracy involved when it comes to large spending bills, it slows the process down. What I have seen is that money has been flowing to the states at a steady pace.
GovPro.com: Do you have any advice for government marketers on federal fiscal year-end buying practices? What strategies work?
BG: For companies to maximize sales during the “federal buying season,” they need to understand that this is only half of the equation. While the government may award the majority of programs in August-September, your company will fare much better if the specific agency has already had interaction with your sales/marketing groups throughout the entire year.
Many companies only focus their attention on federal agencies for two to three months a year instead of 12 months, and customers do notice. People like buying from vendors they feel truly understand their market and needs.
GovPro.com: Are there any information tools you rely on for landing government business, including federal?
BG: A great way to “get in on last-minute RFPs” is to subscribe to services like governmentbids.com or bidnet.com. These types of services alert your sales/marketing team when an agency has a requirement for a type of product that you can supply.
GovPro.com: Any other advice you can offer to government marketers as we near the end of the federal fiscal year?
BG: If you have a federal GSA schedule, update it regularly with correct products and pricing. A large part of Spectra Logic Federal’s business is with the GSA contract, and having outdated or incorrect information really slows down the process when agencies go to procure products.
If you are considered a small business, make sure you are “registered” with the small business group at each federal agency. Most agencies have them, and in some cases, an agency is required to spend a certain dollar amount with small businesses per year. This enables a very small fish to co-exist in a very large pond.
GovPro.com: Can Twitter and other social networking tools be useful at the end of the federal fiscal year? I see your firm has a presence on Twitter.
BG: Yes, Spectra Logic has been very much involved with several different social networking tools for some time now. It’s been reported that federal agencies are loosening up the restrictions of access to some of these sites. Twitter, for example, has been a valuable asset in “getting the word out” to tens of thousands of people in a very short period of time. In my opinion, I believe we will start seeing different aspects of Homeland Defense incorporating these types of social media tools.
GovPro.com: Thank you, Brian Grainger.