Friday, October 30, 2009

Making the Most of Industry Days

Working with the government requires a significant resource investment in marketing your products or services to program offices that buy what you sell. One of the most valuable resources available to you is the industry day. Many government agencies host regular industry days to meet with the business community. These events provide an opportunity for business representatives to network and gain insight into government agencies.

Some industry days follow a lecture format with agency officials providing information on how to do business with them, while others will have a more conversational style where contractors can talk with potential customers. The "style" or format of a given industry day will ultimately set the tone for the event, and can impact the openness of attendees towards networking. However, being prepared will help you get the most out of these events. Here are some tips to guide you in preparing for your next industry day:

Target the Right Agencies. The agency's OSDBU office can help you identify which industry days specifically target small business. Visit the agency's web site for additional information. Industry days are also often published on and on industry/association sites.

Review the Agenda. If an agenda is available, review it in advance. If the agenda has multiple sessions with at least an hour between sessions, then you should be prepared to use this time to network. An agenda with a limited number of sessions and/or time between sessions is likely to be more informational in nature. Use your time to talk to the agency's representatives. Get business cards of potential teaming partners and follow-up at a later time.

Do Your Homework.Understanding the agency will provide you with the necessary foundation to 1) understand the environment where you want to do work; 2) allow you to effectively discuss relevant topics and participate at the event; and 3) allow you to create a game plan to follow up on the information provided. Remember, industry days provide you with an opportunity to speak directly with agency representatives. You should be prepared to hold a productive conversation with them. This means having an understanding of their environment and upcoming opportunities; and knowing how your products/services are relevant to their needs.

Prepare to Network. Situate yourself so you are in an area with plenty of people around you so you can introduce yourself. Be prepared to discuss the agency with others and to talk about your company and its products/services. Unless it's an absolute emergency, leave the outside business for later. It is impossible to network when you are on the phone discussing other business. Be sure to bring plenty of current business cards and brochures!

Keep these tips in mind the next time you sign-up for an industry day. It's a great way to start building new relationships and reinforce existing ones.