Too Much Information! Finding the Lowdown on Federal Contractors

As you probably know, the amount of information available about federal government contracts sometimes seems infinite. 

There is no one simple method for hunting down marketing intelligence.  You need information that is better than the data that every other potential bidder will find.  Perseverance and a little time will yield rewards.

In this post I am going to concentrate on only one source regarding federal contractors—i.e. those firms already doing business with the feds.  I have also provided a case study that will provide step-by-step instructions for using this source.

The federal government site  USAspending.gov is an almost bottomless well of business intelligence. 

This massive database is a bit intimidating, but with a little effort you will be rewarded with a lot of information that you can use to find business opportunities.  

So why would you want to find federal contractors?  This source will enable you to:

  • Find government contractors in any geographical area, including congressional districts
  • Learn who holds a contract that you want to bid for ( You should NEVER pursue a contract without first learning the name of the incumbent and how long they have been doing the work or supplying the product.)
  • Learn the amounts previously awarded on a product or service
  • Discover the names and types of prime contractors who have used subcontractors
  • Find out what kinds of contracts your competitors and/or customers are winning
  • How much of a contract has been completed  ( So you can guess when the agency will need to put it out to bid again.)
  • Explore the variety of product or service needed by specific government agencies and who has provided these
  • Detect government spending trends. ( You can select to look at types of contract or grants spending, or configure your own type of trend for the last 12 years.)

Be creative.  Once you realize what data is available, you will find lots of uses.  I once used this database to put together a call list for a retired colonel who needed donors for a fund raiser.  I got him the list for all significant U.S. Army contractors in the area.

 So, there are many possibilities waiting to be uncovered in this database.  It will take some time to pinpoint, or even recognize, the opportunities. 

Once you learn to search the database you can create reports, identify trends and download data for your own spreadsheets or reports.

It is best to set aside some time to explore the web site to familiarize yourself with its capabilities.  Then you won’t be tearing your hair out when you need something.

( This is a great time to polish those search skills I mentioned in the post  To Infinity and Beyond!  Finding Really Useful Information. )

The 2006 Transparency Act requires the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to establish a single searchable website, accessible to the public at no cost, which provides information for each federal award.  ( Contracts to individuals and for classified projects are exempt.) 

You can search for any combination of:

  • Name and type of the entity receiving the award
  • Amount of the award, contract number and type
  • Information on the award including transaction type, funding agency, etc.
  • Location of the entity receiving the award and the location of the service, including congressional district, zip code, city, etc.
  • Category of product or service—these filters include NAICS code ( for an explanation of how to use this code go to www.census.gov/eos/www/naics/), or a product/service category used by most federal solicitation services ( these are broad categories such as Research and Development)
  • Fiscal year
  • DUNS code
  • Funding source—funds awarded as a result of a specific legislative directive, such as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

 

Federal Spending Trends

Want to see how money is being spent over time? 

The trends feature can show you various ways the U.S. government has used money.  Finding trends can help you decide if you should spend your time marketing your service or product.

The Trends tab takes you to a straightforward search page that enables you to define parameters easily. 

I selected to restrict the data to Texas and sorted by agency.  This revealed some surprising trends ( at least to a non-Texan ). For example, Department of Energy awards have increased exponentially in recent years, while the Department of Agriculture’s have decreased steadily.  

For a step-by-step guide to hunting federal contract information, go to the Case Study: Searching USAspending.gov.

 

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