Competitive Advantage and the GSA Schedules

Companies new to the GSA Schedules often believe that getting on Schedule will automatically win them work. While getting on Schedule can provide many advantages to your company and make it much easier for Government agencies to buy from you, you’ll still need to actively market your firm to potential Federal customers. Think of it like getting a better credit card reader for your storefront: a better card reader means faster transactions and happier customers—but only once you get the customers inside your store in the first place.

The Small Business Administration’s Learning Center offers a variety of free online courses that can provide valuable insight on marketing your firm. “Competitive Advantage” is a good course with which to begin. It’s designed for business owners in general (not exclusively Federal contractors) but the content applies well to GSA Schedule marketing. Below, we give an overview of some of the course’s highlights, with added commentary specific to Federal contracting and the Schedules.

Defining Your Brand. The first step in marketing your firm is defining your brand. What makes your firm unique? What is your niche? How is your reputation? Is your branding consistent across all marketing materials, social media platforms, etc.? There are many, many companies on Schedule, and many of them never make a sale. Will your branding and reputation help you stand out from the rest?

Understanding the Competition. Again, there are many companies on Schedule competing for the same work. In order to understand what separates you from the competition, you need to understand the competition well. Fortunately, your competitors’ Schedule pricing and labor category/product descriptions are publically available—so you can gain valuable insight into what they’re offering. GSA’s CALC Tool allows you to compare competitors’ rates by labor category. In addition, pay attention to other publically available information such as their mission and vision, capabilities, major customers/awarded contracts, marketing strategies, and current offerings.

Identify Customer Preferences. Every Federal agency is unique, with its own set of preferences, challenges, and hot button issues. Which agencies are buying what you’re selling? What are their unique needs and wants? What do they care about, and what don’t they care about? What motivates them? These are questions answered through consistent Business Development efforts; knowing the answers can help you position yourself well ahead of the competition.

Develop and Implement Strategies to Gain Competitive Advantages. SBA rightly states that “you cannot be everything to everybody, but you can decide on your specific dimensions and establish your unique selling proposition.” Make sure your efforts are targeted and designed to align your core competencies with the needs of the customers with whom you most want to work.

Maintaining your Brand. Successfully developing your competitive advantage and positioning yourself well with Federal customers is not a one-time task but an ongoing process. As a result, your branding needs to reflect changing conditions. For example, as technology changes, so should your approach—for instance, while just a few years ago a company could get away with not having a mobile-optimized website, that’s no longer the case. In addition, keep in mind that your performance evaluations on Government projects are readily available to other Government agencies. As such, it’s crucial that you maintain customer satisfaction: the quality of your work today will have a huge impact on your ability to win work tomorrow.

Maintaining your GSA Schedule. Once you receive your GSA Schedule, you’ll need to maintain it. Over time, you may wish to add new products or labor categories, or pursue new Special Item Numbers to reflect changes in your offerings and make yourself more marketable. It’s important that you know exactly what you can and cannot sell under your Schedule, and keep it updated to reflect your current offerings and to entice potential customers.

Ready to get on Schedule? Or need to update an existing Schedule? Contact Global Services today!