The Waldo Factor series of blog posts is designed to help those in the government contracting arena understand the power and importance of differentiation (determining what you do exceptionally well), then being found by the right people and companies once you have determined and enunciated what makes you different - the skill that makes you stand out.
Thought leadership is high on the list of marketing and business development topics lately, and much of what is being discussed as "thought leadership" revolves around content: generating content in various formats to share.
Being a subject matter expert or thought leader truly means being in the top 2% in your field and to have a documented history in that niche. Generating and sharing good content is part of the puzzle; having performed in the niche (past performance in gov-speak) is the ultimate key.
At numerous venues over the past year I have heard prime contractors address the issue of selecting sub-contractors.
Invariably one of the top criteria is the potential sub-contractor being a recognized subject matter expert and/or thought leader in a niche that matters to the government and to the specific contract, preferably a niche that is important to the program.
Ed Swallow, VP of Business Development for Northrop Grumman (Civilian) discussed this on my radio show April 9: he had four criteria:
1) having a killer app or skill needed for a specific program
2) a strong customer relationship where NG does not have one
3) geographic presence (being in a location near a customer where NG has no office and where it makes more sense to partner with a company that has that presence)
4) socio-economic status.
Dan Mintz (COO of PowerTek) was also part of the interview and introduced the concept of "the enduring value proposition" - does your company have a unique process or suite of tools that adds value? Do you reinvest in that process to stay on the cutting edge?
You can listen to that show in the Federal News Radio archives:
My advice to the small business out there seeking sub-contracting opportunities is
1) determine your area of expertise;
2) demonstrate this skill through your work;
3) work hard at staying on the cutting edge;
4) clearly enunciate it when you have the opportunity in person;
5) clearly state it on your web site, collateral material, and your social networking activity.
Now you are ready to meet prime contractors that pursue contracts that involve your area of expertise.
These are topics that you need to address before you pursue sub-contracting opportunities.
Being found before you determine your area of expertise is akin to crying "wolf": you may get attention once or twice, but after that people will ignore you.