Marketing to the DoD
Throughout the past nearly 20 years, I have had the opportunity to serve as an Air Force Contracting Officer and in that capacity, I’m often asked “How does my company do business with the Department of Defense?” Specifically, I was recently asked by a childhood friend to participate in a telecom with a Silicon Valley entrepreneur interested in bringing his product to the federal government marketplace; naturally, I was happy to assist.
The entrepreneur had launched a new and exciting product and was getting a tremendous amount of exposure in the press. He identified an opportunity for his product to support military personnel and wanted to learn how to crack the federal procurement code.
The objectives of this engagement were as follows:
1. Create platform to introduce and engage military members to the product (developing demand for the requirement); and
2. Educate military personnel about the professional and social benefits of this new product.
To this end, we identified the following opportunities:
1. Register with the System of Award Management (SAM), register for a DUNS number, select appropriate NAICS code for your business, and complete the On-Line Representations and Certifications Application (ORCA)
2. Engage Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) stores targeting
military training bases (this recommendation was unique to this product).
3. Introduce product line (via free product distribution) to military via existing non-profit organizations to get product included into deployment care packages for use by military personnel around the world.
4. Engage the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) and get included in their Prime Vendor Program.
5. Secure a General Services Administration Schedule contract. These are pre-negotiated contract vehicles used by virtually all federalgovernment procurement officials.
6. Pursue marketing opportunities at annual Service conferences (i.e. Air Force Association, Association of the United States Army, etc.). At these conferences, major defense contractors leverage a plethora of give aways branded with their company information (think pens, stress balls, multi-tools, ect.).
7. Target your marketing on the specific demographic desired via group facebook pages, BLOGS, etc. These sites have the added benefits of generating the discussion and getting people talking about the specific product and associated benefits.
8. Identify stakeholders, influencers, or champions for “capability briefings” (i.e. Informal conversations & presentations on the benefits of the product line).
9. Engage and educate military agencies positioned to advocate and champion your product (i.e. doctors, maintenance professionals, etc.)
10. Develop military unique web presence to offer discounted products or services to military members — military members are very brand loyal. For example, Oakley has a dedicated website exclusively for military and law enforcement professionals.
11. Get educated on and attend SBA, GSA and DLA procurement workshops.
12. Recommend considering a “Tom’s Shoes” model. For example, for every
unit sold, one unit is donated to an enlisted military service member.
The bottom-line. Marketing to the federal government is challenging but it is not impossible. It takes commitment to, and education of, the process. The process involves a fundamental understanding of both supply side (you must crack the code in obtaining a federal government contract) and demand (there must be a valid government requirement for your product/service) side processes.
Admittedly, there are many other considerations and I encourage readers to add to the discussion by posting to comments.