Finding Work in Your Own Back Yard: Doing Business with State and Local Government

If you’ve considered doing business with state and local government, but haven’t taken the plunge yet, now might be the right time. Despite a gloomy economic forecast in other sectors, analysts still forecast that the local government market will remain strong through 2009.

While the U.S. federal government remains the largest buyer in the world, state and local governments also make up a large percentage of their respective marketplaces, often employing more people and buying more products and services than any other entity. 

If you operate a small business and want to take advantage of this lucrative and relatively recession-free marketplace, here are some pointers that can help you connect with state and local government opportunities:

Know Your Market and How it Operates

Market research can help you identify opportunities for your product or service and help build an understanding of the actual process of doing business with the government. Start with researching some specifics:

  • Know Your Market – The state and local government market is fragmented and diverse. Research current funding, procurement and government plans. What contracts have been awarded in the past? What is the agency’s budgetary cycle and procurement code? Find this information on a state-by-state basis via this central portal.
  • Know the Process – Take time to know and understand state budgetary processes and calendars. Network and plan on introducing your product or service three to nine months before the state drafts its upcoming fiscal year budget. Then be patient. It can take up to six months after funds are appropriated before an RFP hits the street!

More market research tips and tools that are specific to small businesses can be found here.

Get Connected to Small Business Resources

To help you take advantage of contracting opportunities, state governments offer a wide variety of avenues through which small businesses can compete for government contracts. You can find a list of state procurement agencies, and information on how to register as a contractor and bid on opportunities here.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) also offers a wealth of information on how your business can get ahead in local government contracting.

If you are a woman-owned or minority-owned small business, visit the SBA 8(a) minority-owned and woman-owned business website. By obtaining an 8(a) certification, your company will have a more solid disadvantaged business standing.

Market Your Company Aggressively

Once you have established that your company meets a state’s contractual and bidder’s list requirements, start identifying ways to build your profile and attracting prospects.

Marketing to the government is quite different than marketing to businesses or consumers and requires a dedicated approach.

Attend government conferences, join government associations, and develop messaging and collateral that “speaks to government” (how is your product going to help the agency serve its mission and its constituents?). Lastly look for repeatable successes – what opportunities can you replicate from state-to-state? 

For more general marketing tips and advice checkout these online resources