Disabled Vets Finally Get a Federal “Fair Shake”

President Obama on Monday signed the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act, changing the law to help level the playing field for service-disabled veterans (SDVOSB).  Before this act was implemented, a business operating in a Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) or an (8a) Disadvantaged Business held a sizeable advantage over Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB); this Act will help level the playing field for SDVOSB’s who are competing for contracts with the federal government.

President Obama Signing Small Business Act

Before this Act, HUBZones had mandatory federal contracting award preference over other businesses submitting proposals in response to a federal contract solicitation.

SDVOSB’s on the other hand were made at the discretion of the Contracting Officer who was responsible for a particular proposed contract.  This disparity created an unfair distribution of contracts, with SDVOSB’s consistently falling short of the 3% of awarded contracts mandated by law for most agencies and their operating divisions.

Federal Law seems to move at a snails pace at times, but in this case we are seeing some progress toward the goal of a “fair shake” to the servicemen and women who have given of themselves and who should be compensated for their sacrifices and valor.

R/S,
PrepFire Solutions

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VIEWFINITY PARTNERS WITH PREPFIRE SOLUTIONS TO DELIVER A BEST-IN-CLASS PRIVILEGE MANAGEMENT SOLUTION

Reseller to Deliver Viewfinity Privilege Management Compliance Solutions and Services to Customers –

Waltham, MA – September 20, 2010Viewfinity (www.viewfinity.com), the innovator of privilege management solutions, today announced a channel partnership with PrepFire Solutions to deliver best-in-class privilege management solutions for desktops and servers.

The partnership will allow PrepFire Solutions (www.prepfire.com) to resell and provide services for the Viewfinity Privilege Management solution suite. For organizations who lock down its desktops, or who are planning to move to a locked down desktop environment, Viewfinity provides privilege management and role-based account access control for desktops, laptops and Windows servers.

“At PrepFire Solutions, we pride ourselves in working with leaders at the forefront of innovation and thought leadership and Viewfinity personifies all of these ideals,” said Michael Kozeliski, President and CEO of PrepFire. “Their ability to address the entire scope of managing a locked down environment without creating unnecessary restrictions on the end user, regardless of worker location, allows for endless opportunity to meet our clients’ privilege management needs.  Viewfinity truly lets us bring our customers the leading solution for managing compliance issues.”

John Hamilton, Chief Operating Officer, Viewfinity, stated, “We are happy to welcome PrepFire to our growing channel program. PrepFire’s expertise in government compliance management paired with its ability to recognize and offer the best technology solutions, allows them to provide maximum value to their customers.”

About PrepFire

PrepFire Solutions was founded in 2008 as a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) with a focus on Cloud, SaaS and COTS solutions.  PrepFire’s goal is to bring the latest technologies to government and commercial organizations – securely and at a lower cost – to better serve their users.

PrepFire’s core capabilities include full spectrum solutions in the areas of cloud computing, SaaS, project management, enterprise planning, security, compliance, network management, CMS and CRM.  But more importantly, PrepFire consultants understand a solution is more than just a set of technical tasks. Every PrepFire solution includes a review of organizational success factors, marketing and communication planning.  PrepFire will not only deliver a solution, they will make it successful. For more information on what PrepFire Solutions has to offer, visit www.PrepFire.com.

About Viewfinity

Viewfinity provides privilege management and role-based account access control for desktops, laptops and Windows servers. We empower enterprises to meet compliance mandates, reduce security risks, and lower IT costs. Viewfinity introduces granularity to desktop permissions and privileged access management by offering solutions to manage and control least management rights based upon segregation of responsibilities.

Viewfinity provides IT security and operations with identity access and intelligence via compliance validation reporting and privileged account activity auditing. Viewfinity solves IT’s greatest headache–management of mobile workers— through its web-hosted model by providing absolute network independence, eliminating reliance on corporate network connectivity or VPN. For more information, visit http://www.viewfinity.com.

How your SDVOSB can better sell to the Federal Government

Government, like all other business, is built on relationships.  Cost (of course) is also of primary concern, but not the only criteria for bids to be awarded.  Knowing how to negotiate the myriad rules that enable the federal procurement process to operate in a fair and transparent fashion has the downside of being difficult and slow to navigate.  To ensure your SDVOSB’s place as a player, you need to follow some important steps, from the basics, to those contacts your have built relationships with.

Some of these steps will make the government a lucrative client for your business.  Learning what the government wants, finding the key people that make purchasing decisions and make it easy for Uncle Sam to buy from you (sounds easy right?).

Uncle Sam wants to buy from your SDVOSB

You need to be completely accurate in your attention to detail – Your application can be rejected for the simplest things, like wrong font size!  Visit http://www.business.gov for examples on proposals that will help guide you through the maze of rules and regulations and access resources to help you succeed in your business.

You have to have patience and realize that the government can work at what seems like a turtles pace, taking a couple of months to 2 years or more to make decisions.

You need to spend a significant amount of time searching the internet – this time will pay off because you will find tons of useful government market information at no cost to you.

Along with the very important SDVOSB networking events, conference attendance, and submitting proposals, also be aware of the government’s use of  acronyms in their procurement process, if you learn their meanings you will boost your legitimacy.

No, the Government Does Not Operate Like Other Businesses.

Private companies use many different criteria for purchase decisions, from seat of the pants, to textbook precision.  Government on the other hand, must follow rules found in the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) document – 1 book with no less than 1,600 pages.  Obviously this will complicate the process, but set a standard the make procurement decisions fair, transparent, and of value to taxpayers.

Because of their huge buying power, government also has the ability to make your business margins very tight, including having profits on some of their contracts capped by law.  The reason that buyers are willing to sell at these often extreme margins is VOLUME.  If you deal with a company whose typical contract is $10 to $20 million dollars, you can still make a tidy profit at a small margin.

What Do You Have that the Government Wants?

You may want to start with Procurement Technical Assistance Centers:  PTA Centers are local resources that provide assistance to business firms, at little or no cost, on marketing products and services to all levels of government.

Next, become familiar with fedbizopps (www.fbo.gov) , the government listing source for proposals (RFP’s) for most competitive bids over $25,000.  Also on the site are forecasts for all governmental agencies, detailing what they plan to buy, when to buy, and how much they plan to spend.

Other good sources for Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses are SBA/Government Contract and Business Development, which list key people at the SBA who are involved with government contracting; Firstgov.gov, where you can search millions of web pages from federal and state governments, D.C., and US> territories, many of which are not available on commercial Web sites; and GovWorks, which maintains a vendor registration database that government officials can search.  GovWorks is a service-for-fee acquisition center under the US Department of the Interior Franchise Fund/

As you do searches, focus on procurement officers and key purchasing agents long term goals.  For example, see what problems they are having and bring them solutions that your company can provide; anticipate future business opportunities by watching bills working their way through Congress to find what their priorities are, and if your expertise will help;  and again, use your relationships to talk about forward thinking ideas that will help the government run better, budget better, or make processes go smoother a key to making the government want to buy from you, instead of the competition.

Learn about the General Services Administration’s (GSA) Schedules Program.

After you have procured a contract from the government, you will be introduced to the world of GSA, the governments purchasing agent, also referred to as Multiple award Schedules (MAS and Federal Supply Schedules.  GSA Schedules help realize cost savings, save time, and control the procurement.

GSA Schedule - it's that important

Note: GSA has delegated authority to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to procure medical supplies under the VA Federal Supply Schedules Program.

The GSA can make long-term agreements to buy from a business at “most favored customer” rates.  This lets the government buy quickly without going through competitive bidding, and can be very profitable, and just as important, prequalifies you for whatever type of work you are interested in doing, including competitive bids.

Profit and prequalification aside, the process of getting the schedule contracts is a difficult road; it can take months to process because you will be vetted for finances, operation quality and references.  They will do a very thorough examination of your business; so you need to be prepared.  Study the criteria on the GSA site to avoid surprises.

The schedules program is not a guarantee that you will get any contracts.  It just gives you a head start.  You may not receive any sales orders, and if no business is generated over some time, you can even be canceled.

The Devil is in the Details.

Remember the above referenced attention to detail?  If you want to win contracts from the government, you need to understand that federal agencies are very detailed and precise in what they need and you have to follow the rules carefully.  11 point font does not mean 10 point font, no phone calls to the procurement agent, means just that.  Read all of the fine print and find out how they want to be contacted.

Government Business is Based on Relationships, Just Like Other Businesses

Cultivating connections with people inside the government is very important a number of key ways; you build credibility, create awareness of what you have to offer, and let them know that you are a serious contender in the marketplace.  Ultimately, your connections will allow you to be prepared before Request for Proposals (RFP) or Request for Quotes (RFQ) are issued, so the process of preparing bids will have already begun.  Having those connections, you will have a better understanding about the agency or department’s mission and requirements.  How do you cultivate these connections?  Lots of networking, such as trade-shows, hosted events, even cold calls/cold emails to key personnel.

Why Didn’t Your Proposal Win the Bid?

Finally, an advantage to you as a potential, but losing bidder is that the government, unlike the private sector, has to be much more transparent for their reason in choosing another company.  If you lose a contract in a private endeavor, you may never know if it was due to a lower bid, a golfing friend getting the job, or just bad timing, but with Uncle Sam, you have the right to a debriefing to find out exactly why you lost the bid.  The agency has to let you know what areas you may have been weak in, and what areas showed up your strengths.

So you lost your first government bid....get in line.

Debriefing requests to the federal government are actually quite common; can be helpful for your next bid, and are even useful if you are the winner of a particular bid, so its always helpful to request one, in either case, to keep you apprised of the thinking process that went on, and what strengths you led with, or weaknesses that held you back.

Obama Calls for More Small Business Contracting.

More and more attention is being focused at this time in making SDVOSB’s and VOSB a larger part of the procurement process since President Obama’s Executive Order on the Interagency Task Force on Veterans Small Business Development Act of 2008.

President Obama on small business

“In recent years, the federal government has not consistently reached its small business contracting goals,” Obama wrote in the executive order.  He went on to say “I am committed to ensuring that small businesses, including firms owned by women, minorities, socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, and service-disabled veterans, have fair access to federal government contracting.  Indeed, ….we should strive to exceed the statutory goals.”

S/F,
PrepFire Solutions
A Verified Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business

Direct your contracting officer here for sole source justification.

http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/2010-15902.htm

[Federal Register: July 2, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 127)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Page 38687-38689]
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION

NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
 
48 CFR Part 19
[FAC 2005-43; FAR Case 2008-023; Item IV; Docket 2009-0017, Sequence 1]
RIN 9000-AL29
 

Federal Acquisition Regulation; FAR Case 2008-023, Clarification
of Criteria for Sole Source Awards to Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned
Small Business Concerns
 
AGENCIES: Department of Defense (DoD), General Services Administration
(GSA), and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
 
ACTION: Final rule.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: The Civilian Agency Acquisition Council and the Defense
Acquisition Regulations Council (Councils) are issuing a final rule to
amend the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to clarify the criteria
that need to be met in order to conduct a sole source Service-disabled
Veteran-owned Small Business (SDVOSB) concern acquisition.
 
DATES: Effective Date: August 2, 2010



Federal Acquisition Regulation

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For clarification of content, contact
Rhonda Cundiff, Procurement Analyst, at (202) 501-0044. For information
pertaining to status or publication schedules, contact the Regulatory
Secretariat at (202) 501-4755. Please cite FAC 2005-43, FAR Case 2008-
023.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:
 
A. Background
    The Councils published a proposed rule in the Federal Register at
74 FR 23373 on May 19, 2009, to revise the language in FAR
19.1406(a)(1) to clarify the criteria that need to be met in order to
conduct a sole source SDVOSB concern acquisition. The final rule
contains language that more closely mirrors the Veterans Benefit Act of
2003 (15 U.S.C. 657f). The final rule revises the language in FAR
19.1306(a)(1), which deals with sole source awards to Historically
Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) small business concerns based on
15 U.S.C. 657a(b), to match the language in FAR 19.1406(a)(1) to
alleviate confusion on the appropriate use of the criteria needed to
conduct a sole source SDVOSB concern acquisition.

[[Page 38688]]
 
    The public comment period for the FAR proposed rule closed July 20,
2009. Eight respondents submitted comments to the proposed rule. A
discussion of the comments and the changes made to the rule as a result
of those comments is provided below. Three respondents concurred with
the proposed changes to clarify the criteria that needed to be met in
order to conduct a sole source SDVOSB concern acquisition.

    1. Comment: Increase knowledge of the marketplace and SDVOSB
advocacy. One respondent expressed concern that the contracting officer
does not have sufficient knowledge of the marketplace to make a sole-
source determination without the advice of the U.S. Department of
Veterans Affairs, the Small Business Administration (SBA), or other
entities that advocate for the veteran community. The respondent
further added that the regulatory language needs to mandate that the
contracting officer exercise a higher level of advocacy for service-
disabled veteran-owned firms to ensure these firms receive greater
representation in the procurement process.

    Response: The purpose of this regulatory change is to clarify the
circumstances under which a contracting officer may award a sole-source
contract to a small business concern owned and controlled by a service-
disabled veteran. This case does not address market research or
advocacy; therefore the respondent's comments are considered outside
the scope of this case.
   
     2. Comment: Correction to FAR 19.1306(a)(2). One respondent
requested an additional review be conducted regarding FAR
19.1306(a)(2), because paragraph (c) does not exist.
   
    Response: The reference to paragraph (c) is deleted.
    

    3. Comment: Revise the language in FAR 19.1306(a) and 19.1406(a).
Two respondents recommended revising paragraph (a) of FAR 19.1406 Sole
Source Awards to Service-disabled Veterans-owned Small Business
concerns to match the language in paragraph (a) of FAR 19.1306 by
adding the language: ``(a) A participating agency contracting office
may award contracts to a service-disabled Veteran-owned small business
concern on a sole source basis without considering small business set-
asides provided-''.
   
    Response: FAR 19.1406(a) has been revised to be consistent with FAR
19.1306(a).
   
   4. Comment: Revise the SDVOSB language to mirror the 8(a) language.
One respondent recommended that the language in the FAR for SDVOSB sole
source criteria mirror the language of the 8(a) criteria.
   
   Response: The SDVOSB program and the 8(a) Business Development
Program were established under two separate statutes with different
sole-source award requirements. The statute for the SDVOSB program does
not require the FAR language to be similar to the FAR language for the
8(a) Business Development Program.
   
   5. Comment: Raise the prescribed $3 million threshold to $3.5
million. One respondent recommended that the dollar limit for the sole
source awards to a Service-disabled Veteran-owned small business be
raised to $3.5 million from the prescribed $3 million to be consistent
with the dollar limits for non-manufacturing 8(a) awards.
  
    Response: Threshold changes are based on statute. Federal
Acquisition Circular 2005-013, FAR Case 2004-033, published in the
Federal Register at 71 FR 57363 on September 28, 2006, was based on a
statutory requirement, raising thresholds in the FAR due to inflation.
The escalation calculation for the inflationary threshold for sole
source awards to Service-disabled Veteran-owned small businesses was
not eligible for an inflationary increase (see http://acquisition.gov/
far/facsframe.html). However, FAR Case 2008-024 is the case handling
the next round of inflationary increases, and when that case is
published as a final rule, the threshold may be raised; the Councils
note that the inflation calculation is different for SDVOSB than for
8(a) and HUBZone because these statutes were enacted at different
times.
   
    This rule is a significant regulatory action and, therefore, was
subject to review under Section 6(b) of Executive Order 12866,
Regulatory Planning and Review, dated September 30, 1993. This rule is
not a major rule under 5 U.S.C. 804.

B. Regulatory Flexibility Act
 
    The Department of Defense, the General Services Administration, and
the National Aeronautics and Space Administration certify that this
final rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial
number of small entities within the meaning of the Regulatory
Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. 601, et seq., because this rule clarifies the
intent of the existing language and is not a change in policy. The
Councils did not receive any comments on the Regulatory Flexibility Act
or a perceived burden on small business.

C. Paperwork Reduction Act
 
    The Paperwork Reduction Act does not apply because the changes to
the FAR do not impose information collection requirements that require
the approval of the Office of Management and Budget under 44 U.S.C.
chapter 35, et seq.

List of Subjects in 48 CFR Part 19
 
    Government procurement.
    Dated: June 25, 2010.
Edward Loeb,
Director, Acquisition Policy Division.
 
0
Therefore, DoD, GSA, and NASA amend 48 CFR part 19 as set forth below:
 
PART 19--SMALL BUSINESS PROGRAMS
0
1. The authority citation for 48 CFR part 19 continues to read as
follows:
 
    Authority:  40 U.S.C. 121(c); 10 U.S.C. chapter 137; and 42
U.S.C. 2473(c).
0
2. Amend section 19.1306 by revising the introductory text of paragraph
(a), paragraph (a)(1), the introductory text of paragraph (a)(2), and
paragraph (a)(3) to read as follows:
19.1306  HUBZone sole source awards.

    (a) A contracting officer may award contracts to HUBZone small
business concerns on a sole source basis (see 19.501(c) and 6.302-
5(b)(5)) before considering small business set-asides (see subpart
19.5), provided--
    (1) The contracting officer does not have a reasonable expectation
that offers would be received from two or more HUBZone small business
concerns;
    (2) The anticipated price of the contract, including options, will
not exceed--
* * * * *
    (3) The requirement is not currently being performed by an 8(a)
participant under the provisions of subpart 19.8 or has been accepted
as a requirement by SBA under subpart 19.8.
* * * * *

0
3. Amend section 19.1406 by revising the introductory text of paragraph
(a), paragraph (a)(1), and the introductory text of paragraph (a)(2);
redesignating paragraphs (a)(3) and (a)(4) as paragraphs (a)(4) and
(a)(5), respectively, and adding a new paragraph (a)(3) to read as
follows:

19.1406  Sole source awards to service-disabled veteran-owned small
business concerns.
 
    (a) A contracting officer may award contracts to service-disabled
veteran-owned small business concerns on a sole source basis (see
19.501(d) and

[[Page 38689]]

6.302-5(b)(6)), before considering small business set-asides (see
subpart 19.5) provided none of the exclusions of 19.1404 apply and--
    (1) The contracting officer does not have a reasonable expectation
that offers would be received from two or more service-disabled
veteran-owned small business concerns;
    (2) The anticipated award price of the contract, including options,
will not exceed--
* * * * *
    (3) The requirement is not currently being performed by an 8(a)
participant under the provisions of subpart 19.8 or has been accepted
as a requirement by SBA under subpart 19.8;
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2010-15902 Filed 7-1-10; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 6820-EP-P

S/F,
PrepFire
A Verified Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business

Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) Contracting Guide – A 10 Step Process to contracting with Civilian Agencies and DOD

1. Get Registered!!!!

Register your SDVOSB with the IRS. Obtain an EIN – Employee Indentification Number from the IRS – Do it online!!!!  Fast and Free!!!   www.irs.gov

Stop here before you pass "GO"


Register the Domain name of your SDVOSB
– www. “Your-SDVOSB-Name-Here”.com

– Ours is PrepFire Solutions, we registered www.prepfire.com There are a lot of different companies that can register your domain name, we have used www.godaddy.com and www.1and1.com – they can also help you develop your website and host your email for very low cost.

Obtain a DUNS Number. The Data Universal Number System (DUNS) Number is a unique nine character identification. Contact Dun and Bradstreet to obtain your DUNS number if you do not have one.

Register with Central Contractor Registration. In order to be awarded a contract from the DoD, you must be registered in Central Contractor Registration (CCR). CCR is a database which stores information relevant to procurement and financial transactions. CCR also allows you to receive rapid electronic payment of your invoices. CCR assumed all of SBA’s PRO-Net search capabilities and functions on January 1, 2004, so small businesses now need only to register with CCR.

2. Separate your SDVOSB from the pack

By identifying your product(s) or services as something unique or of good valve to the government, you separate yourself from the competition.  Knowing the Federal Supply Class or Service (FSC/SVC) codes and North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes for your products or services is of the utmost importance.

Separate Yourself From the Pack

3. Focus your attention on your target market or agency

Identify Your Target Market Civilian Agency or DoD. Researching DoD Personnel & Procurement Statistics will be very helpful to your SDVOSB. Pay particular attention the Standard Tabulation (ST) 28 report of products and services purchased each fiscal year by the DoD. The information on the ST28 is sorted by FSC/SVC code and provides name and location of DoD contracting offices. The ST28 report is located at the bottom of the Procurement Statistics page and can be cross-referenced with the list of Small Business Specialists within each service organization.

Aquire Your Target

4. Look for Opportunities!

Identify Current Civilian & DoD Procurement Opportunities Check the electronic version of the Federal Business Opportunities website to identify current procurement opportunities for your products or services. This site will assist you in identifying DoD, as well as other Federal procurement opportunities.

5. Familiarize Yourself with DoD Contracting Procedures

Make sure you are familiar with the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) and the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS).

6. Investigate Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) Contracts

Many DoD purchases are actually orders on Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) contracts. Contact the General Services Administration (GSA) for additional information on obtaining FSS contracts.

7. Seek Additional Assistance as Needed

Take advantage of the resources available to assist you in the DoD marketplace. Here are just a few to get you started:

Procurement Technical Assistance Centers – Most states have Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) that are partially funded by DoD to provide small businesses with information on how to do business with the Department of Defense. These PTACs provide training and counseling on marketing, financial, and contracting issues with little or no cost to the SDVOSB.

Electronic BusinessElectronic Business (eBusiness) provides guidance for SDVOSBs new to the DoD electronic marketplace.

Small Business Specialists – Some Defense Agencies and the Military Services have small business specialists at each of their procurement and contract management offices. These business specialists assist small businesses, service-disabled veteran-owned, in marketing their products and services to the DoD. Among the services offered, the business specialists provide information and guidance on the following:

– Defense Procurement Procedures
– Solicitation Mailing List Placement
– Identify Prime Contract and Subcontract Opportunities.

The Army, Navy, Air Force, and Defense Logistics Agency maintain the names of Small Business Specialists associated with their organizations. Links to these websites are below.

The official web site for the Department of Defense is DefenseLink. DefenseLink is the best place to find links to the Military Services and ODAs.

8. Explore All Sub-contracting Opportunities

No matter which products and services your SDVOSB offers, be sure to check out the DoD guide “Subcontracting Opportunities with DoD Prime Contractors”. This directory provides, by state, the names and addresses of DoD prime contractors, the names and telephone numbers of Small Business Liaison Officers (SBLOs), and the products and services supplied to the DoD.  Also research “The Fed 100” – which is the largest 100 Federal Government Contractors.

Sub-Contracting

The Small Business Administrations’s (SBA’s) SUB-Net is another valuable resource for obtaining information on subcontracting opportunities. Solicitations or notices are posted by prime contractors as well as other government, commercial, and educational entities.

9. Investigate Civilian & DoD Small-Business Programs

There are several DoD programs that are very helpful. Programs such as Veteran-Owned, Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned, HUBZone, Small Disadvantaged, Woman-Owned, Small Business Innovation Research, Small Business Technology Transfer, and other Minority Institutions are of particular interest. Information on these and many other DoD Small Business Programs can be found on the DoD Office of Small Business Programs website.

10. Marketing, Marketing, Marketing

After you identify your customers, research their requirements, and become familiar with DoD procurement regulations and strategies, you will be ready to market your product or service. A good way to get the attention of your target audience is to present your capabilities directly to the DoD activities that buy your products or services. Additional helpful DoD marketing resources are posted on the DoD website, including “Government Contracting: The Basics” and “Marketing to the Department of Defense: The Basics”.

Marketing Funnel

Optimizing Overlooked Search Engine Opportunities for Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses

With more than 120 million Internet domains and indexed pages for potential customers to browse, it takes a new approach to generate interest to your website, especially as a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business.  Here are some basic steps to take that will help boost your web presence.

Search Engine Opitimization

All companies, big or small, struggle to be noticed by Google users.  But every company can attract a larger audience of Google traffic, and every company, big or small, can draw more Google traffic by using search-engine optimization – SEO for short.  This optimization process improves the visibility of a web site or page via the “unpaid” or “organic” search result and in the world of SEO, that is key (or at least it is according to Carter Raines and Erik Arnold at Prepfire).

This market strategy is directly related to your site’s rank among Google’s search results – the higher the rank, the more “hits” you get….it is simply that easy.  Google and other search engines have “secret” formulas that rank websites, but the basic components are widely known.  SEO rules tailor your website to optimize your site with specific ideas to up your ranking.  Traffic is directly related to your site’s rank among Google’s search results – the higher the rank, the more you get.  SEO involves tailoring your website to satisfy as many of the ranking criteria as possible.

SEO vs SEM (Search Engine Marketing)

Two of the more important ranking factors are illustrated next.  These factors alone should improve website search performance to a great extent as long as your website offers value to customers and relevant content.  These visibility improving factors are:  1. How well you address the organization and functionality of the website and 2.  The strength of keywords associated with a page on your site.

Once you have determined the best keywords to use on your site, you need to consider their placement.

In the HTML code.  The search engine ultimately associates a keyword with a webpage, and the first place it looks to read a page is at the top of the page’s coding – within the so called head tag that defines the pages overall characteristics.  (This code isn’t normally visible in a browser window; to see it, use the “source” or “page source” command.)  Incorporate the keywords you have chosen in the title, description, and keyword tags.  These are often called meta tags, and the code often begins with that word.

The title tag may be the most important place on the page to use your main keyword.  The title shows up across the top of a Web browser and is also the text that many search engines use as the hyperlink on their results page.  Therefore, use your keyword near the beginning of the title.  The title should be coherent and concise – and be six to 12 words, and the description, 12 to 24 words.  Your title and description should reinforce each other and the page’s visible content.  If you have a lot of keywords, choose judiciously, because search engines look for natural sounding language.  You can load all your keywords, even misspelled variants, into the keywords tag field.

Visible content.  Your keywords should appear frequently in the text of your website to improve SEO.  You also need to include keywords in the descriptive “alt” tags that underlie images and in the headlines and subheads atop a section of text.  Place your main keyword as close as possible, preferably in the first sentence, of your first paragraph.  Search engines like Google and Yahoo appear to give a slight preference to bold words, so bold one or two instances of your keyword.  A good rule to remember – if people find your copy worth reading, a search engine will too.

The basic premise of keyword optimization is simple:  Discover the search words that potential customers are using to find products or services like yours.  Start with Wordtracker or Keyword Discovery, which will give you insight as to what people are searching for.  The best keywords will show up on many of these searches,; then build your Web content around those words.  Choosing the best keywords is complicated also by the fact that other websites are trying to do the same thing.

No explanation required

Learning about the competitive ratio.  Generally, if a search term is popular, more websites compete using it to rank high for that search term. Yes, you want to rank high on popular terms – but realistically you should only target the search terms which you have a shot at.  The best keywords are words and phrases that are being searched by people on Google and Yahoo but that may have been overlooked by your competitors.

How do I do it??? First, draw up a list of the keywords – or keyword phrases – a potential customer might possibly search if he or she were looking for your product.  Calculate the ratio of the number of pages a search returns to the popularity of the search term.

Then, see how often users search for these terms by plugging each into keyword-tracking sources like Wordtracker, and Keyword Discovery.  Besides showing how many times these phrases are searched on average in a day or month, these tools will also suggest other relevant terms.  You may learn, for example, that blue widgets is more popular as a search term than widgets blue.

Next, run each phrase through Google.  The more websites returned, the more competition you will have with that phrase.  Then, divide the number of indexed pages by the number of daily searches; the lower the result, the more promising the term.  Most sources say the ratio should be 500 to 1 or less.

Restricting keywords.  If your ratio is higher than 1000 to 1, you will probably want to choose narrower or more specific keywords.  Blue widgets Washington DC for example, uses a geographic term for a business that deals locally.  The search may be less popular, but the competition to win it is also less fierce, and is more likely to generate a better ratio.

Because each page of a website has a different focus or objective, each should have its own keywords.  The homepage should have the most general terms, and the keywords become more tailored and specific as you burrow deeper into the site.

How your site is organized, designed, and built will affect its search-engine ranking.  Organize content into themed or “silo” categories.  Imagine how people will search for content and line up your content on that basis.  You can group similar pages together into separate directories of folders and subfolders, or you can create “virtual silos” by using links that guide a user from page to page.

Learning the basics of SEO isn’t difficult, it’s time-consuming, so you may need to rely on a Web developer for assistance.  SEO consultants can offer a variety of services, especially the more technical services, but Web site owners should educate themselves on the fundamentals.  The site should be hosted on a fast server and the page code should be debugged and comply with the website structure standards set by the World Wide Web Consortium.  Include in the site’s code a special protocol known as Sitemap, which makes it easier for visiting search engines to scan the site.  Sitemaps can be submitted directly to the search engines.

In closing, SEO isn’t a magic formula.  Nor will it drive traffic to a site that doesn’t offer anything of value to the end customer.  Still, you should be able to increase traffic dramatically using the more important of the SEO principles which we outlined above.

Thanks,
PrepFire Solutions
A Verified SDVOSB

The Service Disabled Veteran Own Small Business Guide to Google Apps

Google Apps for Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses has a number of benefits over traditional business IT and desktop software. Using the full suite essentially places all of your data and entire workflow in the cloud, meaning you can access it all anywhere, any time, from any Internet connection (mobile phone, hotel, gas station, etc)

At $50 per year per user, the fully integrated apps system is certainly cost-effective and even adding the free versions of Gmail, Calendar, Tweet, and Google Docs into your workflow can keep your employees coordinated.

For more casual users, or even those who might not be acquainted with Google Apps, here’s a guide to how the software can benefit your small business.

GMAIL:

The many advanced features of Gmail make it really leap forward in the web-based e-mail space, and a lot of these are ideal for Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSB).

If you’re not ready to take the full plunge into the paid Google Apps suite, you can still configure Gmail to function as your business e-mail client through your existing domain name by following the steps outlined by Google under their “Help” section with Gmail.

The first big advantage of Gmail, like all the apps discussed here, is that it functions in the cloud. You don’t have to worry about downloading messages to multiple locations or syncing various devices. Your inbox will look the same from any web or mobile connection. And with 25 gigs of e-mail storage per user (with a paid apps account), it’s unlikely you’ll ever have to clean your inbox or delete old messages.

Gmail works a bit differently than traditional desktop email clients and webmail services by using what Google calls “threaded conversations.”  This means that e-mails with the same or related subject lines are grouped together in a thread so you can see all the messages sent and received on a topic in one place. When a new message is received, the entire thread is bumped to the top of your inbox, making tracking complex and multi-party conversations easy.

Gmail also has a chat feature built right into the interface that lets you send a quick update or discuss a project with an employee if you’re not in the same office. Chats are also stored in Gmail so that you can search and refer to them later.

Google search, the asset that started it all for the company, is of course built right into Gmail, which makes finding information from e-mail conversations (even very old ones) extremely efficient.

Additionally, Gmail Labs offers some extra settings for your inbox that can be extremely valuable for business use:

  • Signature Tweaks – puts your e-mail signature before the quoted text in a reply the way that Outlook would.
  • Title Tweaks – is a great feature that puts your unread message count first in the title of the inbox web page. If you have many windows open while you’re working, you’ll still be able to see when new messages arrive.
  • Default ‘Reply to All’ –  allows you to reply to group e-mails with one click, instead of from a drop-down menu.
  • Forgotten Attachment Detector – will notify you if you’ve mentioned an attachment in an e-mail, but forgotten to add one.
  • Undo Send – gives you a few seconds after sending a message to click “undo” in case you forgot something, or sent it to the wrong party by mistake.

Google Calendar

Google Calendar provides an efficient and intuitive way to keep appointments and events synced across your entire business. With calendar sharing and permissions (similar to those in Docs), you can add other employees’ calendars to your own, and vice versa, in order to see and manage the big picture of your team’s time.

For example, if an executive has an assistant, their calendars may be shared so that the assistant could manage his boss’s appointments remotely from his own account. It’s also a smart tool for coordinating meetings, calls, and shift staffing for multiple employees to avoid scheduling conflicts. Sharing multiple calendars with one “master calendar” creates a color-coded scheduling table for the coordinator that updates automatically when users make changes or additions.

The Calendar app can also be used to create events through Gmail. By adding your employees’ e-mail addresses to an event, they will receive an invitation to respond. Responding ‘yes’ automatically adds a shared event to your calendar that each invitee can view and add notes to. It’s a smart way to coordinate meetings and keep everyone in the loop.
Google Docs

Google Docs is a web-based suite for word processing, presentation building (similar to PowerPoint), spreadsheets, and web forms. All the work is done in a web browser, and all the data is saved in the cloud.

The software can be a bit quirky at times, which may frustrate users of more stable products like Microsoft Office, but the payoff in online storage, share-ability, and collaboration options may be worth the adjustment for many SDVOSB’s.

Because the data is online, streamlined document sharing and collaboration are big perks with Google Docs. Any file you’re working on can be shared with individual team members, or the entire group within the apps system. You can also set permissions for specific users to view and edit documents. And, multiple users can simultaneously view and edit documents, which can be useful for real-time collaborative projects or presentations during conference calls. You can also grant permission for those outside your office network to view and edit documents, which can be especially useful for sharing information and presentations with clients or colleagues.

As you create and share documents, your Google Docs dashboard may start to get a little messy. Be sure to create folders to keep your work organized just as you would on your desktop. You can also share entire folders if you need to collaborate on multiple documents related to the same project.

Google Sites

Google Sites is a drag-and-drop web development tool that you can use within your business’s apps to create online information hubs for employees. The websites you create exist within your Google Apps domain, can be public or private, and permissions for employees to add, change, and contribute information can be set from the main account.

Beyond simply being a WYSIWYG web editor, Sites makes it easy to integrate data from other Google Apps into dynamic pages that team members can use to collaborate on projects. Integrating spreadsheets or data charts from Docs, a deadline schedule from Calendar, and team-specific messages from Gmail could essentially create a one-stop project dashboard full of dynamically updating information.

Sites here can be purely functional or informational, or with the aid of some built-in templates or a good designer, a full-fledged dynamic public website for your business that team members have easy access to.

Google Groups

Google Groups have long been public forums where users across the web gather to discuss specific interests or get technical support. Groups for small business brings that same functionality into your private internal network.

E-mail can sometimes be cumbersome when coordinating a team. When you need a central space to collect ideas and share documents (but you’re not interested in building a web page in Sites), Groups offers a solution.

Employees can create discussion groups on their own and subscribe, either by e-mail or via a Groups dashboard, which lists new posts like a news reader.

Rather than e-mails going out to individual inboxes, a group thread remains visible to all of your subscribed team members, and users can go back to it for reference, to add more information, and even share docs and calendars.

Using Groups for business discussions and project management creates a communal and searchable database of information that employees can go back to whenever needed.

Google Apps Marketplace

Google’s recently launched Google Apps Marketplace allows developers of other business web apps to integrate their offerings with Google and sell software directly to Google Apps users. The marketplace currently has over 50 partners, including Intuit, Zoho, and Aviary This additional space for third-party software means that Apps users will have even more options to tailor their suite for specific business purposes.

Great Integration Across All Google Portals

While each app has worthwhile features, perhaps one of the best advantages is the way that they all integrate with one another.  Documents and appointments can be easily shared via e-mail, and your inbox can be used as a portal for productivity via embeddable widgets, chat, and other notifications.

If your SDVOSB (service disabled veteran owned small business) is ready for a web-based, collaboration-minded IT solution, Google Apps is certainly a cost-effective way to go, and you can investigate the free versions simply by signing up for a Gmail account to determine if the suite is right for your workflow.