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We are often contacted by individuals and businesses that say they want to get into federal contracting, and the first question we ask is whether they have done their market research to find out if there is in fact a market within the federal space for the products or services they provide. Many times, the answer we get is no and the response is generally accompanied by the question "is that something you guys can do for me?" Market research is a critical first step whether you are operating in the commercial or federal market, and is a task that we recommend business owners do themselves, as it something that must be done on an ongoing basis. To get you started, we are sharing some of the specific resources that we utilize when conducting market research.
Usaspending.gov is where we like to start because it is easy to use, you can get a lot of great information in relatively few steps, it gives a good overall picture of spending, and from a visual standpoint it just looks better than some of the other sites. For example, you can do searches based on NAICS Code, contract place of performance, recipient location, awarding agency, funding agency, and recipient type (8(a), HUBZone, SDVOSB, WOSB, etc.). For example, the snapshot below shows that as of October 28, 2016, a little over $1.4 Billion in federal contracts have been awarded in Hawaii for FY2016. You can also see who the top prime contractors and subcontractors are.
Many individuals, including experienced federal contractors are not aware of FPDS, which is interesting considering the wealth of information it provides. While not as easy to use as usaspending.gov, FPDS provides much more detailed information on specific contracts and contract actions. For example, you can see when a contract or modification was signed, the completion date, specific information about the vendor, competition information (whether it was full and open competition, sole-source or set-aside), the identity and location of the contracting officer and funding agency, type of contract (cost plus, firm-fixed price). Because FPDS shows exactly what information the Contracting Officer enters into the system, the information tends to be fairly reliable.
FED BIZ OPPS (FBO) - www.fbo.gov
All federal contractors must be familiar with Fed Biz Opps. Fed Biz Opps is the single point of entry for federal procurement opportunities over $25,000. As with everything, there are exceptions to this general rule; however, for the most part, FBO does provide information on most federal procurement opportunities. Many in the federal contracting industry will tell you that if something has been published on FBO, it's too late and you might as well forget about being awarded that contract. In some situations that is true because the marketing of your company occurs much earlier in the process. On the other hand, monitoring FBO is important for a variety of reasons including, but not limited to: 1) obtaining historical data/information on different opportunities; 2) getting information about and responding to Sources Sought or Requests for Information; 3) learning about what/how agencies want offerors' proposals to look like; and 4) obtaining information about contracting officers and who the decision-makers are for different opportunities.
DYNAMIC SMALL BUSINESS SEARCH (DSBS) - www.dsbs.sba.gov
If you are registered in SAM and you are a small business, you will have a DSBS profile. DSBS is what Contracting Officers use when they do market research for their procurements/contracts in order to determine whether there are small businesses (or other specific categories such as 8(a), WOSB, HUBZone, SDVOSB) that can perform the work. If you have a DSBS profile, you would be wise to ensure that your profile is accurate and contains current information regarding past performance and references. With respect to your own market research, DSBS is a valuable source of information on competitors as well as potential teaming partners.
For more information on this or other issues relevant to small businesses in Federal contracting, please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.