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  1. #1
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    Web design group targeting .orgs and .govs

    Hi, all. I'm starting a Web design group, and I hope to be able to target NPOs, government organizations, professional organizations, and the like. It's a plan that I think makes sense given that I live in the capital city (Lansing) of my State (Michigan). There just isn't a lot of money in the private sector here. I was wondering if anyone else serves similar clientele, and if so, could you please offer any advice on gaining and doing business with these types of customers? Thanks.

  2. #2
    Santos L Halper Zenith's Avatar
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    One note about government organizations: never underestimate the effect of bureaucracy. It's a very, very long process to go and sell services to an organization like that. Even if you get them convinced after few months they have to have meetings and ask for permission from above etc etc. You have to have very good relationships and reliable reputation to get deals from them.

  3. #3
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    I worked for a shop that attempted to just what you describe- in fact, for a while, that was the focus. This was in a second-market West Coast city with a bigger tech base than Lansing, but no Silicon Valley.

    * As the poster above noted, the contracting process is very long. You will need to be laser-accurate with your proposals and get every detail.

    * Insurance or special certifications may be needed on a project-by-project basis.

    * Expect a very open contract process. You will see the other shops, hear their pitches, and see their bids.

    * Many agencies have a lowest bidder policy in effect.

    * Municipal agencies at the City level (COC's, Development Corps, Water districts) pay very low and often have contracting phases as long as county / stats. They will bleed you.

    * State / County / Federal contracts are very hard to get but often have huge scope. You may want to start as a subcontractor on a project like this.

    Personally I don't reccomend the non-profits on a regional / local level- they are often good for pro-bono works. There is a shop here which focuses on NP stuff, they are more software-oriented and less service-oriented.

    Since you're in the state capital I think you have as good a shot as any to hit the state circuit.

    * Get an office and a professional demeanor.
    * Get out there and schmooze. It's an old boys club.
    * Do pro bono for comittees, NPO's and ad-hoc govt services with no budget
    * Network in bars, lectures, council meetings
    * Register with your state's GSA office or equivelant
    * Be woman-owned, minority-owned, disabled-veteran owned, or in a disadvantaged business zone. (great for taxes too)
    * Did I mention network?

    Good Luck.

  4. #4
    SitePoint Enthusiast
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    also agree with Zenith 100%. Reputation matters BIG.

  5. #5
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    Thanks for the replies, folks. It sounds a little daunting, so at the risk of sounding naive, let me lay my logic out briefly:

    1. Michigan, Lansing especially, is about 5 years behind the times IT and otherwise.

    2. Hence, most of the Web shops focus on bloated rich-media sites, garish table based designs, and they over charge for implementing server side technologies. Woo-hoo, letís party like itís 1998.

    3. I've heard through the grape vine that some organizations are beginning to find this frustrating and looking elsewhere for shops to work with.

    4. Hey, that sounds like a niche that needs to be filled!. I design standards compliant, accessible, user tested sites, and I'll throw in a fairly robust CMS for just a little extra. It's a match made in heaven.

    Any thoughts, especially if you currently run/work for a shop that has the same design philosophy? Have you found a particular market sector that recognizes the value of IA and usablity?

  6. #6
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    TicTac-

    It seems like you are pretty grounded in the tech and you have a good understanding about what makes a "good" website- but be aware that government agencies don't necessarily care. They are as easily swayed by glitz as anyone. You have to educate as you sell.

    On the tech side you should use CMS and Sec 508 compliance as selling points for govt clients- make them understand that accessibility is not optional for them.

    The thing to remember is that dealing with the gov client is a much more formal business process. Gov agencies are much less able to make judgement calls- they have to follow procedure- this is why it takes so long to deal with them.

    Concentrate your efforts on keying into the biz processes rather than expounding on the tech- in the end, most small govt agencies care very little about tech- they're more interesed in service, reputation, reliability.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by tictac778
    Thanks for the replies, folks. It sounds a little daunting, so at the risk of sounding naive, let me lay my logic out briefly:

    1. Michigan, Lansing especially, is about 5 years behind the times IT and otherwise.

    2. Hence, most of the Web shops focus on bloated rich-media sites, garish table based designs, and they over charge for implementing server side technologies. Woo-hoo, letís party like itís 1998.

    3. I've heard through the grape vine that some organizations are beginning to find this frustrating and looking elsewhere for shops to work with.

    4. Hey, that sounds like a niche that needs to be filled!. I design standards compliant, accessible, user tested sites, and I'll throw in a fairly robust CMS for just a little extra. It's a match made in heaven.

    Any thoughts, especially if you currently run/work for a shop that has the same design philosophy? Have you found a particular market sector that recognizes the value of IA and usablity?
    Grand Rapids is the same way. Though it's getting there. Grand Rapids is kind of becoming a hub for web development companies though. Either way, it's a market that I want to tap into and therefore started my business. Best of luck to you.


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