When it comes to doing your best government market research, it’s not enough to simply rely on Google or web-based search. You need to use a mix of resources to find your top government contractors. Whether it’s a list of government contractors or a database of labor rates paid, you can find many great resources beyond company websites and capability statements, but only if you know where to look.
When you’re looking for information on suppliers, several resources exist. There’s the Product Service Code Manual, NIGP Codes, the Federal Procurement Data System, GSA’s eLibrary representing the Federal Supply Schedules, and countless state listings of government contractor companies. Fortunately, you don’t have to search every single one of these sites to get information on suppliers. GovShop has aggregated all of that data into a single, easy to use interface.
You can search by keyword, supplier name, or category code and GovShop will return all company profiles that match your inquiry. Each profile has all the information you need for supplier research, in one page! And best of all, it’s free!
Non-Traditional Sources for Market Research
Sometimes though, your market research will take you beyond simply looking for suppliers that sell what you are buying. Because sometimes, your customer doesn’t exactly know what they need, they just have a vague idea of something and are reliant on you to go find a solution that works. I know from experience; early in my career as a federal contracting specialist at the Transportation Security Administration, one of my customers came to me with a specific need. They had a budget to purchase hundreds of tables that could be used by TSA screeners to unpack bags whenever it got flagged by our detection systems.
I’d come to learn the specific tables had an industry term (divesting table), but in effect what they really needed was those long steel tables that you see outside of the metal detectors. Had I only focused on searching for “divesting table” we would have paid thousands of dollars more for each item. It was due to our market research and diligence to understand the customer’s need that led us to include food service companies in the quote, and they were able to provide sturdy tables that met our salient characteristics for a fraction of the price.
When you’ve got a requirement and you can’t quite put your finger on the exact solution, you’re going to need to consider all sources for your market research.
- USASpending – wondering what other agencies paid for similar products and services? You can use USASpending for that, but it does require some effort and additional sleuthing if you want to get down to the granular, line-item level for prices paid. Fortunately, our friend and contributor Dave Zvenyach, wrote a detailed blog on how you can find out what companies charge their government customers.
- GSA’s Contract-Awarded Labor Category (CALC) – part of market research is understanding cost and price. If you’re buying services, you probably want to know what constitutes a fair and reasonable price for a given labor category. Look no further than GSA’s CALC tool. It offers ceiling prices, fully burdened costs, services, and data on labor categories from 18 contract vehicles.
- Business Dynamics Statistics – looking for macro and microeconomic data on everything from job creation and destruction, new startups and company closures? Look no further than this resources from Census.gov. Data is current through 2016.
- Pew Research Center – not all market research is focused on finding government contractors of interest. Sometimes, especially for digital services, you’ll be looking to understand user needs or friction points that can be addressed through technology. The Pew Research Center is a terrific free resource that provides general trend data on attitudes, culture, and demographics.
- State Procurement Office Directory – looking for state and local specific resources? You can start with this handy directory of the directors and staff of the central procurement offices in each of the 50 states, territories and the District of Columbia from the National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASPO).
- Green Purchasing Guide – are the items you are buying covered by green purchasing requirements? This guide, also from NASPO, has everything you need to understand the impacts on your eventual solicitation and contract.
- OpenGov Community – Looking for a place to engage and learn from other government professionals, without the prying eyes of industry or oversight? OpenGov’s community is for you; they only approve government workers so you can ask questions and post responses in a “safe” space. This is especially useful for state and local professionals looking to share best practices with one another, without the limitations of geography.
- SAM.gov – if you’re conducting federal government market research, SAM.gov is the official record for suppliers that are authorized to enter into contracts with a federal agency. If you need to be certain that a prospective contractor is a qualified concern, then SAM.gov is your authoritative source, and many agency contracting leads require a SAM.gov record for a company prior to awarding them a contract.
Got a resource that you rely on for government market research? Share it in the comments and we’ll update this list with new items!