There are hundreds of different ways to market a business to the consumer sector, and just as many ways to approach the business to business sector too. One of the quickest and most cost effective way to reach a large international audience is via online marketing, and many businesses have been successful at growing their sales via online marketing. Those businesses that have a strong marketing strategy and a capable sales team will always do well, providing that there is an audience waiting to buy.
However, if competition is fierce and consumer purse strings are tight, some businesses might find they have run out of potential customers before hitting their sales targets. But, one area for potential sales that is moderately untapped is the Public Sector.
Most small businesses are unaware that public sector contracts go out to tender, or that procurement is open to standard suppliers. Some business owners believe that internal regulations and red tape at local councils, medical services and the like mean that they have no chance of trading with the public sector, but this is not the case. Public Sector work can be very lucrative with large budgets to be spent, and is well worth investigating for any sized private company.
Know your Local Authority
Before beginning to bid and tender for local authority work, it is important that there is a basic understanding about the structure of the local authority, the type of suppliers and contractors that it already works with and the successes and downfalls of the recent years. Being equipped with this knowledge will help a business provide a well-considered, bespoke proposal.
It is also important to know how the local authority advertises its available contracts. Many local authorities have an internal bidding system that can be accessed by logging in to their website. In some areas, it might take a letter of application or a company summary in order to be signed up to be notified of alerts for work opportunities. Either way, local authorities tend not to make this sort of information easily accessible so any business wanting to work with a local authority should be prepared to communicate via phone, email, letter and websites in order to provide what the council is looking for.
Participate in Local Business Awards
A great way to draw attention to a business and to accredit the quality of a business’s work is the nomination for and winning of local and industry business awards. Winning awards adds to the prestige of a business and can help to raise its status in the local community. Often local mayors or business councillors are invited to or take part in the selection and hosting for the awards so this is a great way for a business to become known by the local authority. Often businesses that have won awards will be invited to take part in local business events in the future such as providing an expert speaker or becoming a sponsor of a local authority event.
Schools and colleges often have business and careers events that they invite well know business people to attend to support the local community and to inspire students. This is a very effective way to raise not only one’s personal profile, but the profile of the business too.
Having a pre-existing relationship with a local authority and local educational establishments is an excellent reference when bidding for public sector contracts.
Be Accessible to All
The introduction of this article touched on online marketing as a great way to trade and market a business to all audiences. This is indeed the case for reaching the public sector too. Medical services, local authorities and other public institutions all have their own procurement departments. Procurement staff will always be on the lookout for new less expensive or more trustworthy suppliers and the internet is the quickest and easiest way to do this.
A fantastic example of this is in action is the medical supplies industry. The structure of the NHS means that each GP surgery, dentist surgery and opticians is responsible for purchasing its own supplies from its own budget. By researching and purchasing supplies online, surgeries can save large amounts of money on sundry items, meaning that more of the budget can be used towards building improvements, staff training, system improvements and other important facilities. Medical supplies company e-supplies Medical is an example of an e-commerce company that offers items such as blood pressure monitors, swabs, thermometers at a lower price than GPs can find elsewhere – all of the items stocked are specific to the medical industry therefore it is likely that this company trades purely with the public sector. There are similar websites that have been created purely to provide furniture and stationery supplies to schools and colleges.
Any business with a product to sell can enjoy similar success. Having a well presented, easy to find e-commerce platform on a company website creates a professional and trustworthy image. Being easily contactable by a form or by displaying phone numbers will make it easy for public sector staff to get in touch to enquire about services too. For website only companies, extra marketing such as buying online advertising specifically targeting the public sector can help to raise awareness of the e-commerce site too.
Lara Waller is a small business owner and was a finalist for Business Person of the Year in her local community. Lara regularly speaks at educational events.