Research firms see more demand

As new companies enter the federal market, firms that specialize in government market research and business intelligence are getting more inquiries. Companies such as Input and Federal Sources Inc. (FSI) provide resources that newcomers need.

Small businesses come to Business Research Services Inc., which publishes newsletters and online services for small businesses seeking contracting opportunities. Many of them are newcomers to the federal space, said Tom Johnson, the company's president.

"They're casting around to some extent," he said. "Our service assists them greatly. We help them understand the issues, and we provide a lot of information about events like trade shows, where they might get one-on-one counseling."

"What we are seeing is a number of smaller technology players that have a product or a narrowly defined service that has had some great success in the commercial world," said Ray Bjorklund, vice president of market intelligence and chief knowledge officer at FSI.

But that success doesn't automatically carry to the federal market. "In a number of cases, the offerings we're seeing out of these small specialized companies, it's harder to communicate the value proposition to the government," Bjorklund said. "So the other information they're looking for is how to structure their messages."

The need for knowledge has fueled one company, epipeline Inc. in Herndon, Va., to form partnerships with information providers. Epipeline draws information about government opportunities from various sources and offers its subscribers a single online view of all the jobs.

"You have to get the contacts," said Tim Walsh, epipeline's president and chief executive officer. "You have to know who the players are, who the contracting officers are. Once you decide you're coming into the game, it is very important to get to know the contracting officers. Just turning in a bid, it's going to be hard to win."

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