Last week I shared some tips for getting certified as a woman-owned business, whether a Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE), Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB), or Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Business (EDWOSB). But once you’ve gotten your certification, the journey isn’t over—in fact, it’s just beginning.
Now you need to toot your own horn as a woman business owner and let potential customers and clients know you’re “official.” Here are some tips for how to market a certified woman-owned business.
Take advantage of resources from certification organizations
Third-party certification organizations offer resources and benefits for WBEs and WOSBs/EDWOSBs beyond just certification. For example, WBEs certified by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) can network with more than 10,000 other WBEs to do business or to partner on joint venture opportunities. WBENC holds MatchMaker Meetings twice a year where you can have a prescheduled, one-on-one meeting with WBENC’s corporate members and federal, state, and local government members.
Are you under 40? Then you can join WBENC’s NextGen networking group for millennials.
The National Women Business Owners Corporation (NWBOC) holds conferences throughout the year that also offer the opportunity to meet with corporate and government suppliers individually. In addition, NWBOC has a mentoring program as well as training tools and webinars to help you market your woman-owned business.
Get started marketing to the government
Newly certified WOSBs or EDWOSBs hoping to do business with government agencies should begin with these steps:
- Determine your North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) code. This identifies your industry and is used by various contracting agencies to help you find relevant opportunities.
- Get a DUNS number if you don’t already have one. You request this ID number from Dun & Bradstreet.
- Register your business in the System for Award Management (SAM), the primary database used by government agencies to find contractors.
- Register with the FedBizOpps database to get notified about new government contracts and subcontracting opportunities.
- Search for federal contracting opportunities with USA.gov’s Contracting Opportunity Finder search tool.
Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) assist small businesses in all aspects of government contracting. You can also get help from your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC), SCORE office, or the Office of Small Business Utilization (OSBU).
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Spread the word about your business
Be sure to make your certified woman-owned business status part of your business marketing efforts. For example:
- Use the WBENC certified WBE seal on your marketing materials, including your website, social media accounts, and email signatures.
- Get found online and on social media by adding relevant keywords to your website and social media accounts, such as woman-owned, diversity, small business, WBE, WOSB, and other search terms that corporate and government contractors may use when looking for companies to do business with.
- Get on the mailing list of third-party certification organizations. Private sector companies and government agencies often send information about contracting opportunities to these organizations’ lists.
Network with potential clients and partners
- Join networking organizations that your corporate or government prospects belong to.
- Connect with them on social media, particularly LinkedIn, and share useful information targeted to their pain points.
- Go to conferences and events that your target prospects attend.
- Team up with other woman-owned small businesses to bid on contracts. By partnering, you can expand your capacities to handle bigger contracts while also spreading the risk. (Just be sure to put your agreement in writing.)
- Look into subcontracting first. Subcontracting to prime contractors of corporate or government clients is a good way to learn the ropes before attempting to bid on a prime contract. It will also help you build a track record of success.
Getting certified as a woman-owned business can help level the playing field for your company. After that, whether you score or strike out is up to you.
(Disclosure: SCORE is a client of my business.)
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