When small business wins city contracts it is a great stimulus to your local economy. However, the vast majority of businesses never participate because they are unaware of opportunities in the first place and put off by registration and bidding procedures.
Put yourself in the shoes of a small business owner and ask:
- Would you know that you can even do business with the city?
- If you did know, how would you find out what opportunities are available?
- Even if you knew where to look, might your preconceptions about doing business with the city stop you from bidding?
We have created three small experiments to help you evaluate how easy it is to do business with your city. They should not take more than 10 minutes to complete. And should you detect hick-ups, we have some simple tricks to get better results below (that will not cost an arm and a leg, promise!).
“Find the opportunities”
Look up where procurements are posted in your city. Is there a single online resource that aggregates all procurements? Are you sure the Port, Airport, Parks Department is not running their own list? And now ask yourself: As a small business owner, would I have found them all?
Good looks like this: A single searchable webpage with all opportunities.
“Read the opportunities”
In most cities today, you have to register to a procurement portal to see the list of procurements or access the actual opportunities. This adds a further known barrier to participation and discovery. But other barriers are all too common: some procurement sites require users to install special browser plug-ins like Adobe Flash, unsupported by modern devices, just to see the list of open opportunities.
Good looks like this: You can freely browse and read all opportunities.
Registration should only be required to electronically submit bids, but in most cities registration is required just to read opportunities. In many cases, small businesses have to complete extensive profiles just to see open procurements. And, regrettably, many electronic procurement portals actively market premium services to the process which can confuse and scare businesses.
Good looks like this: Registration is only required to submit a bid, and no one asks for payments.
What did you find?
Did you glide through the experiments with no obstacles?
Eureka! Tell us where you are!
If you struggled at any point of the way, a good proportion of small business would have likely dropped out. Your city has lost a potential bidder, a small business that could win a contract to grow.
Many cities have worked to lower the entry barriers to small business by making it easy to discover and learn about procurements. You don’t have to change your e-procurement platform to get better results - Pittsburgh Beacon is a great example of presenting all opportunities in an open and easy to use format.
Targeted marketing of opportunities is another effective approach. Businesses show highest engagement rates when they are invited to participate in a specific, relevant procurement opportunity through proactive outreach marketing the city as a business partner. BidSpark is a one-click service to match, engage, follow-up and track vendors even if they have not yet learned about doing business with your city.
Create a great reputation! Cities like Dublin have made it their mission to create excellent procurement experiences for vendors. An A+ rating from a vendor builds trust and a reputation for being an amazing city to do business with.