Your team has spent the past several months polishing and perfecting the proposal you just submitted to a firm with whom you have already done business. An opportunity for which your past relationship and business focus leads you to believe you have the inside track. It was a solid business plan; you ran and re-ran numbers; you confirmed that staff and reserves were ready for action; you even schmoozed the entire team behind the RFP.
The award date comes and goes without a peep. No calls, texts, or emails; no replies when you inquire. Have you been ghosted?
Eventually, a letter arrives bearing bad news: “We went with Company X…” – some unknown upstart! – “…we felt they were a better fit with our strategy at this time.” What? How did this small company you had never heard of swoop down out of nowhere to take the contract that should have been yours? You were the only contractor the Buyer would sensibly consider, right?
After calming down, you start parsing possible explanations. What about an inside connection?… or was there something critical in the RFP that better aligned with their expertise than with yours? OR: did it just come down to the winner explaining themselves better when it came to current capabilities, past successes, and future plans? This last possibility essentially describes the role Branding plays in shaping the perception of what kind of contractor your clients understand you to be.
Your own perception of the companies you seek to do business with is more complex and layered than you may think. But it is their perception of you that matters most for you. Forget the past work you have done together – the only important thing with competitors bunched up at the finish line is how each is perceived. All the companies that survived the first cut were doubtlessly qualified, but what differentiated the eventual winner from the rest? Communicating their true expertise, i.e., branding.
The Emotional Part of Your Business
In a competitive environment, amid the standard operational challenges of managing costs, capabilities, and personnel, it is easy to lose sight of something else that needs your regular attention, and that is the careful cultivation of the way the outside world sees your firm. Branding is more than just a nicely designed logo or a catchy slogan. These tangible aspects of your company are also an important part of any branding strategy, but branding also encompasses the emotional response that is triggered whenever someone familiar with a company sees its logo or hears about it in the news. Branding is what stirs a particular feeling about a company based on multiple factors over time which cumulatively form a general impression of competence and trust. And for the final decision-maker with a stack of competing proposals with objective timelines and cost targets, the purely subjective feeling about a company’s overall competence becomes a key secondary factor in the mind of the decision-maker.
Marketing is a critical portfolio skill that every high-tech company must financially commit to. The game requires it. Your competition has already embraced it. When you win a contract, the Grantor makes your company their Partner. A Partner who helps complement their own industry leadership. Consistent marketing of your firm’s expertise and industry accomplishments confirms to your partner their own good judgment in teaming up with you. It reinforces to them that you are battle-ready with your expertise.
A Call to Action
- Businesses spend tremendous sums of money building their expertise. Ignoring the marketing investment behind that is like not setting aside gas to drive a Ferrari (you must drive it to show it off). It is the one spending category that can unravel the expense and effort made in all the others.
- You must be determined in seeking to build a solid marketing investment plan. Your competition is already doing just that! Companies that refuse to sharpen their branding are coming to battle poorly armed.
- AMG Defense Tech can help you stay in the game! – With over 8 years in the defense space, we are experts in dealing with the very companies you are targeting; wherever they may be in the U.S.
- According to an August 2022 procurement specialist study in the defense and government industry, 28% of respondents said paid/organic internet searches were their top channels used. Second, at 26%, was social media like LinkedIn and Facebook. Trade shows/conferences were actually at #4 at 11%. Question: What percentage of your marketing budget goes to tradeshows, sponsorships, and conferences vs. your digital presence?
Your next step…
Losing a contract to an unknown competitor is both surprising and an opportunity wake-up call. Surprising, because you thought you had a good handle on the strengths and weaknesses of your competition; a wake-up call, because a loss like this not only makes it clear you might not fully know your market, or you might not have a good handle on what your firm’s status was within it.
This is an opportunity to reassess and learn. By doing so, you will not only become well aware of how precisely your capabilities align with each RFP that comes your way, but you will also understand the most effective way to consistently communicate this. As a result, each proposal you submit will arrive at the decision-maker’s desk already branded and trusted in their minds.
Want to see where you sit versus your competition? Ask AMG Defense Tech about their Digital Identity (DI) analysis, today!