Matchmakers: Bringing Small Businesses and Government Buyers Together

Matchmakers are invaluable opportunities for making connections

Meeting face-to-face with potential buyers is an invaluable component of marketing, whether in commercial or government contracting. But meetings with government purchasing officers can be difficult to obtain, especially for small firms. A great place to gain some exposure –and some experience – is at Government contracting “Matchmaking” events. Many Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) sponsor or participate in at least one major Matchmaker each year, and many government agencies hold their own events as well. Upcoming events around the country can be found on APTAC’s Training Events calendar.

Also known as Procurement Conferences or Government Expos, matchmakers typically bring together acquisition officers from a number of agencies or buying activities to meet with aspiring vendors. Major prime contractors are usually in attendance as well, seeking capable subcontractors to help them meet their requirements. Small business owners and their staff are the primary audience, with workshops offered on basic contracting issues as well as “How to do business with…” specific agencies. Networking opportunities – such as receptions, breaks or luncheons – are often part of the agenda, allowing participants to connect informally with both buyers and potential teaming partners.

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But the highlight of the event is the “matchmaking.” A series of “round-robin” meetings – sometimes called speed partnering – is held, during which small businesses owners can have brief (usually 10-15 minute) appointments with agency or large prime contracting personnel to learn more about how they buy their goods and services and to showcase the company’s expertise, leaving the buyer with marketing materials for reference.  It is a rare chance to meet with multiple customers at the same time and place.

 

Matchmaking events can be tremendously beneficial for small contractors, and those that come prepared can gain a competitive advantage by attending. In short, these events offer a structured opportunity to practice all of the components necessary for successful marketing to the government, including:

 

  • Researching ahead of time which agencies are buying what you have to sell, and then further focusing on how you can help them meet their objectives
  • Honing your elevator speech and Capabilities Statement to highlight how your company fills their need
  • Listening closely to buyer requirements and purchasing processes
  • Observing and learning from your competitors – both their strengths and mistakes – and being alert to teaming or partnership opportunities.
  • Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up.

Attendance may not directly lead to a contract award (most often it won’t), but the lessons learned and relationships begun can be essential stepping stones to multiple contracts in the months and years ahead.

Your local PTAC can not only alert you to Matchmaker opportunities in your area, they can help you prepare to make the most of them. Our previous blog post, Preparing for Matchmaking Events and Other Government Expos, offers some general tips that your PTAC counselor can assist you with applying to your business and your specific circumstances.

Some small business owners find value in attending several events a year, traveling out of state – or even across the country – for the opportunity to meet with a specific, target agency. Once again, your PTAC counselor can help you determine if this is the right strategy for you, and information on a wide range of PTAC and federal agency events can be found on APTAC’s website at: http://www.aptac-us.org/contracting-assistance/ptac-training-events/ .

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To receive assistance with any aspect of vendor registration with any government agency at no cost, please feel free to contact a PTAC near you.