COVID lockdowns have impacted business development routines. It’s harder now to get in front of your Government customer – which presents a real obstacle to getting noticed. This has given new life to a belief that submitting a proposal is a great way to market to a potential Government customer.
Spoiler Alert: It isn’t.
Marketing is a method of introducing your firm, or an idea, to prospective customers.
Proposals are explicit offers to prospective customers to purchase your solution. In the federal market space, proposals involve substantial effort to prepare, write, and present your approach in a specific format for a given opportunity.
As you can see, marketing and proposals are nothing alike – yet some people and companies seem to believe that one can serve as the other. Here’s why marketing strategies and proposal submission are not interchangeable:
If you submit a proposal against a Request for Proposal (RFP), then the Government is obligated to review and rate your proposal against a specified set of criteria. If the RFP is issued under the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR), then the reviewers must evaluate, score, and report on your proposal according to their acquisition plans. Afterwards, you are entitled to a debriefing based on their review, whether you win or not. This review and selection process takes a substantial amount of time, resources, and multiple layers of review from the contracting, legal, technical, and program management personnel involved. It is not light work and typically takes several weeks to complete; it can be arduous.
So, imagine, if during their review it becomes clear to Government evaluators that your intent was to ‘introduce’ your firm to them for the ‘next opportunity.’ Are they likely to be impressed and tell one-another – ‘Hey, if only XYZ firm had been able to do this work …” or “I can’t wait for XYZ’s next proposal”?
Spoiler Alert: They won’t.
Their impressions are more likely to be one or more of the following::
- Incredible – XYZ had no clue what they were doing
- Wow – there goes three days I’ll never get back
- I hope I never see a proposal from XYZ again
- Why would XYZ think that we’d want their solution … when they can’t even follow directions or respond to our actual requirements?
Government evaluators are looking for serious competitors that understand their requirements and can offer a solution that can solve problems they have now. They spend months preparing detailed solicitations explaining exactly what they need and expect to receive serious proposals in return.
If you really want to impress your prospective customer – take the time to learn about their needs and challenges and begin a relationship. Send them a thoughtful, detailed white paper sharing your ideas and detail how those ideas might benefit them. You can even submit the white paper instead of a proposal – and explain to them that you cannot submit a proposal now but want to get their attention.
They’ll appreciate your honesty and your respect for their time. Now, they can set aside your White Paper for a more appropriate time and look at in proper context – and your efforts to be noticed won’t gain your company the wrong kind of attention.