Did You Know? Taking Advantage of Networking Opportunities

By: Justin Niceswanger

In my role as a counselor for Iowa businesses seeking government contracts and subcontracts, I’ve noticed how it can be difficult for some of our clients to move forward in using direct marketing efforts, and begin building relationships with government personnel and prime contractors.  These actions aren’t easy for everyone: Even if you’ve gathered information about which agencies are historically buying your products and services (or who holds the prime contracts), found points of contact, read the agencies’ or primes’ mission statements/activities they’re involved in, and developed a general script of what you want to say or ask your contacts…you STILL have to make the phone calls.

Marketing your business to the government, or to a prime contractor, doesn’t have to be a scary prospect.  In fact, many of these entities welcome communication from those who can provide solutions to their needs!  Yes, it can take a lot of work (and multiple communications) to effectively market your business to a government customer, but did you know there are occasions that make it easier to connect with them?

There are both in-person and virtual networking and matchmaking opportunities for your business to connect with government agencies, resources, and other businesses – many of these are available to attend at no cost.  CIRAS has been busy as of late either facilitating or supporting these types of events: In the past few months, we organized matchmaking sessions to connect with three different large businesses, and we also participated in events that provided opportunities for businesses to connect with the Department of Defense, transit-related agencies, and the City of Des Moines.

Did you take advantage of these recent offerings?

If you’re looking for more in-person networking opportunities, I have some good news: The CIRAS PTAC will be holding three Meet the Buyers events in the upcoming months, featuring a different lineup of participating agencies at each location:

We believe these sessions provide value to those who participate.  Rather than provide you with a list of what I think is important about the events, I thought it would be good instead to share a few of the comments we received from businesses after attending our previous Meet the Buyers offerings conducted earlier in the year:

  • “We will be following up with a number of people we met at the event to see if there is a chance to do work together!”
  • “Even the other vendors (not just the government agencies) could use my services. Please do this event again!”
  • “I enjoyed being able to meet the presenters and having each individual be given the chance to speak.”

The most common questions we receive from our clients prior to these events are, “How do I prepare?” and “What do I bring?”

  1. Be prepared to share a quick summary of your business that conveys your best values. Our Meet the Buyers events provide businesses a chance to introduce themselves – you can make the most out of this opportunity by telling attendees about your capabilities.  If you provide products, you may want to highlight a few particular brands you carry or some of the more impressive specifications you can meet.  For services, you may want to highlight the years of experience you have in your industry or the certifications you hold.  If your business has past government performance, you could also highlight a few of the agencies you’ve previously sold to.
  2. Do a little homework. As I mentioned at the beginning of the article: When involved in direct marketing efforts, it’s a good idea to do some research into your potential government customers.  The same is true for in-person networking events.  Which agencies and prime contractors are exhibiting at the event?  Would your products and services support their mission/activities?  If you need guidance on how to do some intel work, our PTAC program can help!
  3. Distribute your Capability Statement. Capability Statements are one or two-page marketing forms you can share with government personnel.  The form is intended to provide your government customers with an overview of your Core Competencies, Past Performance, Differentiators, and Company Data.  When meeting with government exhibitors at our event, you can end the conversations by providing a copy of your Capability Statement to them (or you can email a copy to them later).  If you haven’t developed a Capability Statement, our PTAC program has editable templates available for your use.  If you have a Capability Statement, but it’s been a while since you’ve used it (or you’ve never used it?), feel free to send it to your PTAC counselor for review.  If you don’t have a Capability Statement ready in time for the event, you should at least have some business cards available to pass out (they’re also good to have if you connect with other businesses in attendance).

If you’re looking for assistance before attending one of our Meet the Buyers events, please fill out our Request for Counseling form and someone from our program will respond.

For a full list of upcoming CIRAS events, click here.