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Context and terminology can and will hinder market research efforts, even inside the Capital Beltway.

Posted By Guy Timberlake, The American Small Business Coalition, LLC, Saturday, March 30, 2013
Updated: Monday, April 01, 2013

This business has no shortage of information and sources of that information. The trick, in part, is knowing which information to track, and which to dispense of, forthwith. What does this particular data mean? How does this information impact me or my company? The thin line that separates companies in the know from those not in the know is often the ability to get answers to both questions. It helps tremendously if those answers are both accurate and timely.

Many companies in and around the DC Beltway believe they have a lock on understanding and using the lingo that references everything from a specific organization or function within a government agency, to a program name or method by which agencies make contract awards.

I'm here to tell you it's just not so.

Yes, those of us who reside and/or work in the belly of the beast are exposed to far more related information than those well beyond the outer loop, but that is mostly due to the offline activities that happen here every day, several times a day. I know because my organization directly contributes to those activities. It's just part of the way business has and continues to be done. Living and working here does not mean our context or understanding is better.

Where this most often presents itself is in the development of market intelligence. 

Industry veteran and thought-leader Bob Davis recently cited in a Washington Technology op-ed that market research today, is mostly done ad hoc, and that most companies get the same market data from the same sources. If this is true (and I firmly believe it is), when combined with my belief many don't understand what they are looking at when they do conduct market research, it's little wonder it is frequently misunderstood and is not taken seriously by many companies engaged in government contracting.

Wiping my brow and coming down from my bully pulpit now. Sort of.

Information is king. Without a plan for acquiring and utilizing information, it is very difficult, if not altogether impossible to engage in efficient decision-making. The information needed to achieve significance and success in this industry includes definitions of very basic to sophisticated government contracting terminology, and clarification, timeliness and relevance of ideas, statements and seemingly random data points. Some can be validated by a simple web search while others may require expending political capital.

The other part of the trick is knowing what to do with information and having it collected and managed consistently, and continually.

Here's my point. Since 2004, by way of the conferences, seminars, webinars and workshops where I have facilitated information, and other general conversations with very smart, experienced and inexperienced business owners, executives and industry professionals, I have discovered a knowledge gap. This gap is partly due to the incomplete information and misinformation that floods the ears and email inbox of every company that registers in CCR/SAM, or expresses interest in opportunities on FedBizOpps ( This gap limits the ability of companies to identify customers, influencers, teaming partners, opportunities, etc. If more companies adopted a process for getting and using information, much of the language of this business would not be foreign to them. Even those with years of doing business in this industry, and even in this town.

Think about it, the tipping point for your company's next viable opportunity may rest on your ability to solve the riddle of "delivery order" versus "purchase order" and the relevance of either or both terms to the agency your are stalking right this minute.


The Chief Visionary

"The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it."


Tags:  government contracting  information  intelligence  market research 

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