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.

Matchmakers - ICBS

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.


Preparing for Matchmaking Events and other Government Expos

Government Matchmaking Events and Expos – They are what you make them

PTAC sponsored conferences and matchmaking events as well as federal, state and local government trade shows/expos offer opportunities for small business vendors to connect with government agency and prime contractor buyers.

How they can small businesses gain a competitive advantage by attending such events? The answer lies as much in preparation and follow-up as it does in actual attendance.

These kinds of events are what you make them. If you go to just listen, you may come away disappointed. If, on the other hand, you go to make something happen, you can come away with some good contacts, valuable insights, and solid business leads.
Here are a few tips …

  1. Establish some objectives for yourself – what do you hope to accomplish by attending? State this in concrete, quantifiable terms.
  2. Think about the specific kinds of opportunities you want to go after and be prepared to explain how you represent the solution to the government’s contracting objectives.
  3. Identify who is going to be in attendance and research in advance as much as you can about who will be there and those persons you want to meet. Think about why they are going to the show and what they want to accomplish there – align yourself with their objectives.
  4. Familiarize yourself with all details of the show so that you can envision how you are going to use the structure of the show to accomplish your objectives.
  5. Be prepared with marketing materials, including business cards, brochures and/or product/service fact sheets, product samples/portfolio, and a detailed capabilities statement. Tailor at least one of your handouts to the expo or show itself.
  6. Be prepared to talk about pricing. You may not need to, but be prepared just in case someone asks.
  7. Begin to envision how your competitors at the show can be potential partners as a result of the show.
  8. Develop and be prepared to deliver a 30-second “elevator speech” which explains in layman’s terms exactly what you are an expert at doing. Don’t be shy to explain what’s special about your company and why your products/services are the best.
  9. Remember that buyers don’t have time to waste. Buyers want specific information, and buyers want to know what’s special about you (that’s your competitive advantage).
  10. Preparation is essential. It’s better not to go at all than to go unprepared – you never have a second chance to make a good first impression.
  11. Dress to impress. And wear comfortable shoes!
  12. At the show, listen to how your competitors are selling themselves and learn as much about their marketing as possible. Also learn from their mistakes.
  13. Understand that follow-up after the show is critical. Gather all the business cards you collected, write follow-up notes or emails – promptly. Set-up follow-up meetings/conference calls, if possible and appropriate. Send more marketing materials.
  14. Write yourself a report on lessons-learned. Review this report before planning to participate in another event.

Your PTAC Counselor can elaborate on this topic and provide you with additional advice at no cost. Click here to Find your PTAC today!


More about Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs)

Ninety-eight PTACs – with over 300 local offices – form a nationwide network of procurement professionals dedicated procurement professionals working to help local businesses compete successfully in the government marketplace. Funded under the Defense Logistics Agency’s Procurement Technical Assistance Program through cooperative agreements with state and local governments and non-profit organizations, PTACs are the bridge between buyer and supplier, bringing to bear their knowledge of both government contracting and the capabilities of contractors to maximize fast, reliable service to our government with better quality and at lower costs.