Industry ring of influence graph.

Is Your Industry Structured?

Is Your Industry Structured?

When you look at your competitive landscape, it can be helpful to organize your thoughts. In other words, put some structure around how you see things. In a rush to resume industry events, you’ll want to make sure you don’t confuse the activities of attendance with building business relationships. You may already do so, but here are some refresher points for you to consider in your next team meeting.

Who is the Prime?

There are big primes and smaller primes. We tend to know the big primes because they’re the prominent brand names with a Washington presence and an industry presence. They have leadership roles in association events and big marketing budgets to shape association positions and programming. They tend to move the needle on the big things and often help shape policies for the greater good, sometimes at the expense of others. Smaller companies can usually benefit from the broad actions of the big primes, but sometimes are swept up in turbulence.

A small business can also be a prime. Some know this. The prime is the company that is in the lead position of a contract award. There are then subs beneath the prime. So, it could be a big prime with subs, or it could be a small prime with subs, but the prime is typically the one we see as controlling the contract.  

Where Does the New Tech Come From?

I call the R&D and smaller tech companies developers because they are bringing capabilities forward. They might do their research or partner with universities that do research. Developers typically create something new, find new solutions, and solve a challenge in a new way. Often, developers are not interested in the long haul of a federal sale. They hope to develop something the government will buy, but they have an exit strategy in mind from the beginning. In their perfect world, the government might buy their new thing, the developer sells or licenses the new item, and that developer then exits and goes on to the next challenge. Some companies partner with developers.

Partnerships and Joint Ventures

A smaller company may not have the overhead capacity or the resources to go the long distance in a federal sale alone. They benefit from partnering with a company that’s a little bit bigger and more established. Many times, we see international firms come into the US market and partner with a US company. The bona fides of the US company allows the new entrant a way to demonstrate that they comply with all of the US requirements. It doesn’t have to be an international and US relationship. It can be US companies working together, but the idea here is that partnering together allows greater synergy producing outsized effects.

Don’t Be a Joiner

I encourage companies to belong to associations and be in leadership roles in associations, not just members. Most associations are organized and led by a very small staff that relies on volunteers who have the industry expertise to fill board-level or committee seats required for the association to function. There are lots of opportunities for you to participate in those leadership opportunities. You have to be careful not to over-commit yourself across too many of the associations trying to be a leader. It would be best if you were selective. But give due consideration to how you might punch above your weight by using an association platform to build professional relationships.


We all know about suppliers. There may be ten or more layers of a supply chain leading up to a prime platform and prime contractor. Exposure to suppliers can be challenging because they’re spread all over the country. For various reasons established over time, supply chains of large platforms are rarely local. Associations can give you a way to have access to different supply chains and different supplier bases. You might consider how you could change up from where you’re buying your items. It might be something as simple as wiring or a more complex sub-assembly. Sometimes, your only exposure to this part of the landscape is through associations. You can often find elements of the supply chain congregating at association events. How many do you know?

Service Providers

The accountants, the attorneys, and the people who can help you do proposal management or proposal writing provide services to the industry. Those people are in the swim, and they’re communicating with a lot more companies than you are. A service provider typically has many clients within an industry, where you might be looking at the industry through a narrow lens or even a straw. Their relationships are a source of business intelligence you don’t want to overlook. Sure, they have nondisclosure agreements with some of their clients. Still, a nondisclosure agreement focuses on the truly confidential aspects of a relationship—not the industry trends and things that you might pick up in a general conversation. Many service providers are trying to communicate with you, and you may shut them down thinking they’re only trying to land your business. Flip your view of the relationship. Service providers often know things about your industry that you probably don’t know.

Don’t let your view of your industry stagnate. If you aren’t learning something new about your industry every 90 days, you’re calcifying in place. Share on X

My big takeaway for you? Don’t let your view of your industry stagnate. If you aren’t learning something new about your industry every 90 days, you’re calcifying in place. Don’t just look at who’s right next to you, above, or below you. You want to look at the whole ecosystem here. Use this industry ring of influence in every way that you can. When you lay it against the backdrop of your strategic plan, overall marketing plan, or communications plan, you’ll find that there’s a lot of influence happening within the industry ring. Take full advantage.

If you need assistance securing government grants for your policy or product, schedule a call with Gene or click here to learn more about the services available to help companies to improve their positions and achieve significant improvements in federal sales outcomes.

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