Last year I received a lot of door-to-door visits and direct mail pieces from companies promoting replacement windows for my home. A credit on 2010 taxes was available to homeowners that would cover a percentage of the cost of an energy-savings upgrade. Letting people know about this government legislation and helping them to qualify for the tax credit is a smart sales technique--one that benefits the window business, its customers, and public interests for energy efficiency.
Though tax credits aren’t technically government spending and do not cover the entire cost of the window installation, a similar concept applies to tapping streams of government funding. Your business does not have to be a government contractor to benefit from government spending.
A couple of examples come from the education and technology fields. For many years, federal grants have been made available to qualifying childcare centers for early childhood education programs. More recently, government funds in the form of incentive payments have been promised to qualifying healthcare providers as incentives for the adoption of certain technology.
As you craft and update your marketing strategy, look for a match between your business’ product offerings and public policy initiatives. Take these steps if you discover possibilities for benefiting from government spending.
Monitor Government Legislation, Programs and Initiatives
Focus on federal legislation, which is likely to have the biggest impact on funding dollars, but pay attention to state and local activities also.
If your company does not have the resources to keep up with public policy and legislative nuances, hire an outside consultant. The consultant should be able to provide your business with information on specific opportunities to serve your target customer as well as insights into industry direction, research studies, and potential growth areas.
Sources of information include:
- Government websites, such as the U.S Department of Educationand U.S. Department of Health & Human Services for early childhood education (such as Head Start or Title I preschool programs); or Recovery.gov for spending related to the economic stimulus (such as incentives for Medicare and Medicaid healthcare providers that use qualifying electronic medical record [EMR] technology).
- Vendors that create products and package solutions for an industry niche relevant to government programs.
- Customers that monitor government activity and analyze initiatives in order to receive funding.
- Experts who research and interpret government legislation, and write and publish online content about funding opportunities.
Define How Your Business Will Help Customers Receive Government Money
This money will fund purchases or reimburse expenses for purchases from your company. Generally your business will need to contribute to solving a problem or improving results in a way that benefits the public interest (e.g., preschool children will be better prepared for kindergarten and school performance will be elevated, or Medicare/Medicaid billing will become more efficient and costs will be contained). A specific product, such as an educational curriculum or EMR software, may serve as a core element of the solution. Customization, implementation, and integration of the product or products with customer operations will likely be part of the entire solution so that specific results can be achieved.
Your business may have complete solutions already; if not, develop new or refine existing products, and create processes for assuring proper installation and use. If your business doesn’t have the resources to provide a complete solution, partner with a vendor that can either supply the products or provide the integration.
Get a Sense of Funding Possibilities and Timelines
Determine the total budget dollars for certain programs, methods of allocating dollars, qualifying processes, and timeframes for disbursing funds. Be ready so that your customers can act when government money is made available.
Identify Target Markets and Specific Accounts Within Those Markets
Start with customers that meet basic eligibility requirements to qualify for government funds. Develop and refine a list of prospects based on criteria that makes sense for your company, such as projected lifetime value of the customer.
Educate prospects on government programs. Show how your company can help them reach their goals and receive funding for successful implementation. Note that qualified customers may already be on your list of active accounts; provide support so that they can receive funds for which they are eligible.
Selling to customers that receive government funding is very similar to reaching customers that do not receive these funds. Assess needs of customers, define challenges about the markets or populations that they serve, develop an understanding of their purchasing processes, verify financial stability, and manage relationships through regular communications. Key differences are:
- Funding opportunities are made public, though interpreting details generally requires industry knowledge.
- There is often a limited timeframe for implementation.
Closing the sale, delivering solutions, and working with customers to get government funds may initiate long-term account relationships and entry into new markets. Extend the success by continuing to develop products that help your customers achieve specific outcomes.
Julie Rains is a senior writer at Wise Bread, a leading personal finance community dedicated to helping people get the most out of their money. Get daily money tips by following Wise Bread on Facebook or Twitter.