Evaluating Market Potential

Plan for the long term

Entering the U.S. government market requires long-term commitment and strategic planning as the process is much longer than traditional commercial standards. In order to succeed in the U.S. marketplace, plan for a multi-year commitment.

Evaluate your potential market and associated costs

  • Attend sector-specific networking opportunities.
  • Plan for market entry costs. They may support research, marketing and sales, bid/proposal preparation, accounting, and contract administration.
  • Factor in regulatory compliance issues and costs associated with the U.S. environment, employment and labour laws that may apply to your contract.
  • Anticipate additional costs you might incur as a result of U.S. government contract requirements, such as additional employees, overtime, increased taxes, and additional insurance coverage.

Understand the needs of your potential U.S. customers

Familiarize yourself with purchasing practices of individual agencies. The Federal Acquisition Jumpstation, links to procurement and acquisition sites listed by agency and contracting activities. Government-related publications, such as the United States Government Manual, the Leadership Directories Federal Yellow Book, and agency how-to-sell guides provide information on agency operations. Use these sources to learn which purchasing centers buy what you sell. Anticipate additional costs you might incur as a result of U.S. government contract requirements, such as additional employees, overtime, increased taxes, and additional insurance coverage.

  • Contact the agency directly. Many program managers will tell you exactly what they need, want, and dislike -- if you ask.
  • Read FedBizOpps. The awards sections list contract winners that could be prospective teaming partners or opportunities for subcontracting. FedBizOpps is the single government-wide point of entry for nearly all planned procurements over $25,000.
  • The Trade Commissioners Service can provide you with market reports for specific sectors.

Get the procurement history

Learn the procurement history of the federal departments and agencies relevant to your business. In doing this, you can identify procurement trends and target specific agencies, allowing you to promote your product early, receive appropriate pre-solicitation alerts and focus when searching FedBizOpps.

  • Federal Procurement Data Center (FPDC) maintains an extensive database (Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation, or FPDS-NG) of procurement-related information. The Center publishes free reports and will prepare specialized reports for a fee to help you identify procurement trends for your product line, identify competitors, and locate Federal markets for classes of products or services.
  • Commercial providers, such as Bloomberg Government, (BGOV, formerly known as Eagle Eye Publishers, Inc.) also sell searchable databases of government procurement data.
  • The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) gives any person the right to request and receive any document, file, or other record in the possession of Federal agencies, subject to certain exemptions. Through a FOIA request to the agency's FOIA office you can obtain an incumbent's contract, modifications, and contract administration data.

Buy American – "The attitude"

Despite trade agreements, a preference for American-made products exists. Agency officials may be sensitive to pressures from incumbents, lobbyists, and competitors to continue to "Buy American". Your best defence is to understand how the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Buy American Act (BAA), and the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) work (see Acquisition Laws and Regulations). As a well informed seller, you can protect your own rights, as well as help inform potential buyers as you move through the procurement process. If you experience difficulties due to Buy American restrictions from a Contracting Officer, request a copy of the restriction in writing, and seek assistance from your nearest Canadian Trade Commissioner – In Canada or Abroad.

Establish a presence in the U.S. government market

If you were doing business in Europe or Asia, you would want to have a local presence. A U.S. presence is just as practical for your business. Contact the nearest Canadian Trade Commissioner – In Canada or Abroad to discuss what might work for you and, to suggest key local contacts. Common choices are:

  • local representative;
  • U.S. address/contact forwarding to Canada; or
  • U.S. subsidiary company and local office.

Take advantage of the General Services Administration's Supply Schedules

The General Services Administration (GSA) administers the Multiple Award Schedules (MAS), from which U.S. government agencies purchase everything from boats to computers to services. Agencies must consider GSA's schedules before using "non-schedule" commercial sources. Under this program, GSA enters into contracts with commercial firms to provide over four million commercial off-the-shelf products and services, at stated prices, for given periods of time. Awards are made based on commercial product descriptions.

Getting products or services on a schedule is done by application to GSA, in which a price, including a significant discount, is agreed to in exchange for the volume purchasing possible through the schedules. Once on the schedule, every agency can purchase your product or service at the discounted price offered.

To identify the correct schedule for your product or service, visit the GSA Schedules and the GSA Schedules e-Library webpages, for lists of all the current schedules.