With nearly $450 billion in federal discretionary funds available to them every year, government agencies are prime groups to do business with when the end of their fiscal year rolls around. Any unused funds they have at this time aren't rolled over into the next year but instead go back to the Treasury, giving agencies an incentive to spend their loose change. "That's when the government market is attractive for just about anybody," says Mark Amtower, founding partner of consulting firm Amtower & Co. Here are some easy ways to get a piece of the spending pie for your startup.
- Promote your services directly to the government. Government agencies buy just about every business service or product. They do this by making micropurchases (any purchase less than $3,000) through the SmartPay program, which is essentially a credit card with a government logo. If your business takes MasterCard or Visa, you can take SmartPay. Download the logo from gsa.gov and display it on your website, marketing materials or anywhere else your credit card logos are shown. "This shows you are government-friendly," Amtower says.
- Time your communications. The federal fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, and Amtower says you should begin promoting your business to agencies 90 days before the end of the fiscal year. During this period, make phone calls to potential government clients, or send out brochures and e-mails.
- Make yourself stand out. Amtower says it's important for startups to "figure out what their differentiators are and clearly enunciate them." Go the extra mile and offer delivery to local clients or establish a guaranteed response time to inquiries. Avoid offering free gratuities, however; while these are common in the B2B world, government agencies aren't allowed to accept them.