Live from the MeritDirect Co-op: Government Sales a Huge Opportunity

White Plains, NY–Looking to sell to a huge, recession-proof market with deep pockets? Try selling to the federal government. In fact, most business-to-business direct marketers already have some government customers who pay via SmartPay card, the government-issued credit card, said Mark Amtower, partner of Highland, MD-based Amtower & Co., during a session at MeritDirect’s Fifth Annual Business Mailers’ Co-Op and E-mail Marketing Conference.

“This is a wonderful market to sell,” Amtower declared. “Hundreds of billion of dollars are being spent annually. There’s plenty of low-hanging fruit out there that does not require a contract.” The federal government considers purchases of less then $2,500 “micropurchases” and does not require a government contract with the supplier. “But $2,500 is right in the sweet spot of most business-to-business catalogers,” Amtower added.

To get started, Amtower suggested running a sales report for credit-card purchases with the prefixes of “4716,” “4486,” and “5568” to determine your current government sales. These prefixes are unique to Visa and MasterCard credit cards issued to federal employees.

To understand how much the government spends on your product or service and who the existing players are, Amtower suggested starting your research on the Website of the General Services Administration (http://ssq.gsa.gov). “This will help you define realistic expectations,” he said, “especially if you keep in mind that this is a glacial market—sales will increase incrementally, not geometrically.”

It also helps to work closely with a list broker in defining pockets of government buyers, Amtower said. “Because they are out there. For any business-to-business direct marketer, how to get from point A to point B is a $1 million question.”

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