Find Your Top Government Contractors with Information as Your Superpower
Conducting market research and gathering market intelligence is a critical part of any acquisition and procurement process. It can also take a good amount of time that most procurement professionals don’t have, given they are overburdened with all the other demands of the acquisition lifecycle.
Market research and intelligence was front and center in a recent webinar presented by Public Spend Forum (PSF) and NIGP, the National Institute for Public Procurement. Hosts Raj Sharma and Frank McNally of PSF covered key principles and practical tips for conducting effective market research in as little time as possible. Based on extensive research and experience working within procurement across public and private sectors, attendees were treated to insight on asking the right questions early in the acquisition process, knowing where to find information on their product and service needs, and then market research strategies that promote best value outcomes.
Key Principles for Developing Market Intelligence
Raj Sharma, co-founder of PSF, started the session by sharing how information and expert sources helped him obtain an exotic item (of which he knew very little) for a most important customer. We listened as he shared key principles for developing market intelligence and tactics for overcoming some of the challenges to conducting effective market research, even in a foreign land.
While information asymmetry can be a barrier to developing market intelligence, it is not a challenge that cannot be overcome. Raj shared four key principles to unlocking the power of information and leveling the playing field for contracting professionals intent on procuring best value goods and services. First, it is never too early to begin strategic market research and is something that should be done early in the requirements development process.
Engage Industry In A Strategic Fashion
Ideally, market intelligence is part of a broader strategy to becoming an expert in the products and services your customer needs to fulfill their mission. It uncovers information that is critical to deploying his second principle, which is to ask the right questions about industries of interest and the government contractors that operate in those markets.
The topic of government and industry communications sparked questions and concerns from the audience, and both Raj and Frank urged everyone to be mindful but also creative when talking to suppliers. A good rule of thumb is to consider the solicitation as a triggering event; prior to it’s release, sharing information with industry and listening to their feedback is a terrific way to design a rock solid solicitation. They also described new and innovative ways to obtain industry feedback through a technique called “reverse” industry days.
Use Every Resource At Your Disposal
Raj’s third principle, finding a mix of resources to incorporate in the market research process, covered secondary sources like internet research, industry research and analysis entities (eg, Public Spend Forum, Gartner, and Forrester), and industry associations like NIGP and the National Contract Management Association. Primary sources of market research include the suppliers themselves (see above), through surveys and requests for information that can enable all interested parties to share information of relevance.
These three preceding principles lead up to the fourth principle, which is to engage suppliers throughout the process of market research. Typical government-industry relationships are often one-sided, with government informing industry of their needs and limited dialogue during the requirements development phase, when it’s too late to inform statements of work and services. Instead, strategic market engagement can solicit productive feedback from industry in a more collaborative manner, leading to stronger requirements that reflect current industry innovation, processes, and new technologies.
Tactical Tips To Conduct Your Best Market Research
Raj then passed the mic to Frank McNally who shared several techniques adopted from his recent blog post, Six Tips For Your Best Market Research, which is jam-packed with useful, actionable ways to be a market research rock star. Understanding the challenges of effective market research is top of mind for Frank, who spent his career as a contracting professional and taught these concepts to new professionals during his tenure at the Department of Veterans Affairs Acquisition Academy.
First, in order to conduct effective market research, the contracting professional must use their knowledge of the customer’s requirement to identify and refine effective keywords that make the process more productive. A favorite tip for doing this is to use Google. Professionals can start with a general search term and then review their results, many of which will include additional keywords and phrases that can be extremely useful to finding the top government contractors that offer your desired products and services.
And don’t forget to scroll all the way to the bottom of those search results. Google recommends related search terms based on your initial keyword or phrase!
Category Codes & Contract Vehicles Are Excellent for Market Research
Product and service hierarchies like NIGP codes and Product Service Codes are another phenomenal resource for uncovering high quality keywords. Public Spend Forum recently launched GovShop, a free, browser-based, one stop shop for government market research. GovShop includes information on over 180,000 companies dedicated to doing business with the government, but that’s not all: contracting professionals can use the searchable registry of category codes to learn more about how industry and government describes commonly purchased items.
Finally, it’s important to remember that contract vehicles like federal supply schedules, multiagency contracts, and cooperative purchasing programs aren’t just for task and delivery orders. They offer a wealth of information and keywords that can be used in market research. GovShop has you covered there as well, with all GSA Schedules loaded into the tool and more being added every day.
Tune In for More Great Market Research Events and Content
Thank you to everyone who attended the webinar. We appreciate your interest in the topic and the excellent questions you shared with us during the session. This is just the first part of a multi-part series we’re running here at Public Spend Forum on this very important topic of market research, so stay tuned for more events and webinars from us to help you do your best market research EVER!