Written by John Hackwood on July 2nd 2020

News stories like this one are very rare indeed. If accurate, the enormous contract invitation amount of $450 million dwarfs the total value of ALL US government-commissioned tree work across Federal, State and Local departments in 2019. Does such a report give false hope to tree service firms struggling to find business? Or is there more to the B2G market than meets the eye? Why would you want to include government work in your tree service marketing strategy?

Our comprehensive reference article explores these questions and the market in some depth. We’ll also reveal a smart way to take advantage of government contracts that NO-ONE is talking about. Skip to the section you’re interested in by clicking on the article sub-headings if you wish:

 

The Role of B2G in your Tree Service Marketing Strategy

We believe that the B2G opportunity for tree service businesses is far bigger than implied by recorded contract awards to the industry. We firmly believe that the B2G opportunity dwarfs even the unusual contract award story pictured above.

The B2G opportunity can help tree firms pursue both these valuable marketing aims:

1. Even out the seasonal nature of your tree service business cash-flow by becoming a prime bidder

2. Target specific inter-industry collaboration opportunities by subcontracting - HUGE!

Make Hay!

It’s summertime! Nearly everyone in the tree service industry is busy (at least 82% of you from my mid-May research) despite COVID-19. Your diaries are full to bursting. Make hay while the sun shines safely, I say.

At some point during the long hot days at work, some tree service business owners might be wondering what is going to happen in late fall when calls start to fade. Will that 'war chest' be enough to get you by in winter?

What else can your business do in the winter? In the Northern States, there's always a spot of snow removal to do in the darker months of the year. But tree firms located in states in the mid-to-southern latitudes suffer with phone calls drying up every winter. Yes, trees grow all year round in Florida with their semi-evergreen oaks and whatnot. But is it practical to move the business ‘lock, stock and barrel’ to Orlando, say, for the winter?

Instead, what if you had a good, long term tree maintenance contract to keep the cash flow rolling? What if you could look forward to a few more jobs to help pay winter bills and keep your crew together?

And some of you may be looking ahead more strategically and asking 'How can I take my business to the next level?', 'Can I provide my tree services to the Government to grow my business?".

But getting government work is not for every tree service company. Let’s be clear; it takes time, treasure and there will be disappointments. A dose of reality was sent my way when I spoke to a lady from Govwin.com. She confided that small businesses in general are successful in bidding for government work in only 5% of cases. So you'll need help to shorten those odds.

Below, we’ll share no less than 6 free and paid sources of tree services bid information and hands-on advice to boost your chances of bid success.

How Big is the B2G Market for Tree Service firms?

A clue to the low success rate of bidding for tree work can be found in the table below.
Table detailing size of B2G market for tree services
*¹ Extrapolated from US Federal Contracts sourced from 2019 data supplied by the official https://www.usaspending.gov website. Raw data for Federal-only spend on tree service shared in Appendix 1
*² US State and Local spend data calculated at 45% of total spend (cf. 55% for Federal Government spend). So all government spend and contract numbers calculated by applying a factor of 1.81 on federal spend on tree services.
*³ ‘Long term’ government contracts for tree work that are still current in 2019 but were commissioned and awarded before 2019. Long term contracts calculated by deducting New Contracts data (row 1) from All Government Contracts data (row 3).

With an estimated 183,000 US businesses delivering tree services across USA (ref. IBISworld) and a 5% win rate, are 1005 Government new contract awards each year worth fighting over? Maybe not.

However, the figures reveal the longer term nature of much higher value Government contracts for tree services – see ‘Long Term’ Gov Contract in the middle row of the above table. Yes, there are only 407 of them in any one year but each contract’s $ value is 5 times the average contract value of new contracts. Their benefit to any tree firm is multiplied further by their longer term nature.

So when considering whether it would be worthwhile to spend time and treasure pursuing government work, bear in mind the potential future value of those tree contracts that last longer than just one year.

Just one of these 400, longer term contracts could end the highly seasonal nature of tree work for your tree business. Know that 39% of Government contracts MUST be awarded to smaller business concerns (SBCs) like yours. Your chances of success are increased further as many of these larger contract awards are conditional upon the prime (main) bidder subcontracting some of the work to SBCs.

Small Tree Service Businesses are Favored by Government Procurers

The vast majority of US tree service firms are *small businesses employing two or three people. With this in mind, it’s comforting to realize that the Government places much emphasis on making sure that smaller enterprises get a fair ‘crack of the whip’ when bidding for government work.

The Program Office of the Government’s Small Business Administration (SBA) has your back in at least three ways:
  • It’s law – The Small Business Administration (SBA) ensures that small operators always win their fair share of Government Bids as the main (prime) contractor. In fact, 39% of all government buys are destined to be awarded to Small Business Concerns (SBCs) of various types, as enshrined in the Small Business Act.
  • ​Subcontracting quotas - In addition, many Government bids stipulate that the prime bidder must subcontract a portion of the work to SBCs.
  • ​Positive Discrimination - The bid system also actively favors other small business categories for such work. SBC’s run by disabled veterans (SDVOSBs), socially and economically disadvantaged small businesses (SDB’s), women-owned businesses (WOSBs) and HUBZone small business concerns are positively encouraged to participate in bidding for federal, state and municipal projects.
The breakdown of the small business types favored by the US Small Business Act to receive no less than 39% of the total value of all prime contracts awarded in each fiscal year is as follows:

SBCs - Not less than 23%
SDBs - Not less than 5%
WOSBs - Not less than 5%
SDVOSBs - Not less than 3%
HUBZone SBCs - Not less than 3%

These percentages apply to all government contracts (federal, state and local).

*Small businesses in the US tree service sector are defined as those having an average annual sales turnover over the last three years of less than $8,000,000 p.a.

Pushing On An Open Door

There are reports that Federal, State and Local Government sometimes fail to meet the 4 smaller quotas comprising the 39%. So if you’re a small business in these minority categories looking for government work, often you’ll be pushing on an open door.

At the time of writing, the General Service Administration which oversees the government’s various procurement programs is streamlining the bidding process. No less than 10 online resources are being converted into a ‘one-stop-shop’ website for businesses interested in supplying their goods and services to the government. 

This new and important US government website can be found at https://beta.sam.gov .

Where to Find Government Tree Service Bids

Your starting point should be the US government's newly consolidated database (#1 in the list below).

It’s a tricky database to search manually with its many search filters. And when you do figure it out, the search results often leave a lot to be desired. For example, there’s a contract invitation for Runway Rubber Removal in the search results for the phrase “Tree Removal”.

Despite the database’ shortcomings, it’s important that you interact with the information available and register your business if you’re serious about B2G tree service marketing. Right from the start, you can set up notifications and watch-lists so you can see what contracts are being awarded nearby.

The tricky-to-use government search site is probably why there are several paid solutions which do a better job of presenting government bid search results, presumably using the same data. These are listed and numbered  2 to 6 below. Simply copy the links into your browser to access each search facility.    
  • The FREE, official database of awarded and new government contracts can be found at                     
                        https://beta.sam.gov/search


  • ​https://findrfp.com - lists 400 tree service RFP's, Bids and Government Contracts across all states in USA over the last 10 months. 

  • ​https://governmentbids.com – contains comprehensive bid information info but some of their written articles need updating owing to recent government restructuring in this area. You can sign up for free bid notifications tailored to your business. But to access information about each bid, you’ll need a monthly subscription.

  • ​https://www.bidprime.com/bid/category/tree-maintenance details 56 separate tree service projects from federal, state and local government sources where bid invitations are currently active.

  • https://bidcontract.com very simple user interface, searchable by type of work and by state too.

  • https://govwin.com – they help aspiring vendors to identify relevant, expiring government contracts. This advanced notice gives the vendor time for ‘business development’ to boost chances of winning bids. Govwin says that tree firms should start to share their business capabilities with local and state decision-makers before the bid comes up for renewal. This could be a useful tactic to identify higher-value, longer term tree work contracts before they come up for renewal.

What Type of Government Contracts Are There for Tree Service Companies?

GovernmentBids.com states that their Grounds & Landscaping bids category is the 3rd busiest of all. This is where you will find land clearance, tree removal and tree trimming contracts. There were over 11,900 Grounds & Landscaping bids published last year alone. Within this category, tree removal, tree trimming and tree service work comprises the 3rd busiest cluster of bids.

Governmentbids.com also show there were 653 tree removal bid(s) published in the last 365 days as at end June 2020. 28 of these are currently open. There are 418 tree trimming bid(s) published in the last 365 days, of which 26 are currently open. Note there is some overlap between the two. For stump grinding contracts, there are 85 bid(s) published in the last 365 days, of which 4 are currently open. Arborists have a total of 65 bids in the last 365 days, of which 9 are currently open.

Interestingly, government construction bids is the class which has the most bids of all with 176,500 bids in the last 12 months, albeit in the very broad construction, electrical and roadway related fields.

We’ll return to the area of structural & facilities construction contracts, specifically, later in this article. This is because tree service business owners can benefit greatly from subcontracting opportunities here.

First B2G Tree Service Marketing Strategy as Prime (Main) Bidder

You should pursue this first strategy if you want to be the main (prime) contractor for specific government contracts in the tree service market.

For you and the government to come together and make a contract, there must be joint awareness of the value of each party to another. Put simply, the government needs to be aware of your tree service business and your capabilities as an interested service provider. And you need to become aware of the various bidding and contract opportunities that prevail in your county state and federally too.

Compiling the information for the bid online can be time-consuming. However, unless you’re ready and aware of the opportunities, you will have little reason or motivation to submit your business details in order to bid. So start with the easy stuff and work your way into B2G at a pace that suits you. Remember that you’ve ‘got to be in it to win it’.

Tree service owners interested in contracting with the government must have an active, valid, and complete SAM Registration. Bear in mind that this registration is good for only 12 months. After this, contractors must re-verify their information and renew their registration annually. Tree firm owners who let their SAM registration lapse also risk delays in getting paid for the contracts they have performed and completed.

We therefore suggest the following five steps for B2G success (copy any web links into your browser for access):
  • i). Register your business in the right place. Go to https:beta.sam.gov and punch in your details.
    Complete your System for Award Management (SAM) registration as a business for federal contracting or grants here:   https://usfcr.com/sam-registration/ 

  • Set up notifications of upcoming bids in your field. Your NAICS code is 561730. It covers landscaping as well as tree removal, trimming, arborist, stump removal. Even if you cannot bid directly for landscaping work there could be many indirect and subcontracting opportunities for you firm as we’ll explore in a moment.

  • Explore the Small Business Administration (SBA) website for advice and support: https://www.sba.gov/federal-contracting        They ARE your friends in the battle to win valuable government work. They want your small business to win as many of the contracts as possible as they have those quotas to meet!

  • ​Talk to or meet your local procurement expert at your nearby ‘Procurement Technical Assistance Center’.  To find one near you check out:         https://www.sba.gov/local-assistance/find/?type=Procurement%20Technical%20Assistance%20Center&pageNumber=1

  • ​Prepare all the information you might need to make a winning bid. The https://beta.sam.gov site has relevant points of contact for help and support here, in particular. Use this information before your competitor does to give your tree firm an advantage.


Second B2G Tree Service Marketing Strategy - Subcontracting

This is the bigger opportunity in my view, especially for smaller tree firms. First of all it’s a great entry strategy to the B2G market. By registering yourself as open for subcontracted work, it opens more growth possibilities for your young business. For the first time in the tree service industry, we have estimated the massive subcontracting opportunity for service providers with real numbers. The following graphic reveals the scale of the opportunity compared directly with prime bidding:   

B2G Contract Opportunities for US Tree Service Companies

Remember, too, that the larger tree removal bids are often shared with tree firms that are SBC’s (Small Business Concerns). Here’s a recent example of a shared tree removal contract in Placer County, California:

Tree Removal Contract Award in Placer County
Shared Tree Removal Contract Award
We see that there are 3 main subcontracting opportunities for tree service business owners:

i) Network with Larger Tree Service Companies – Using the resources already outlined, find out which large tree company is winning the lion’s share of government tree work in your area. Then explore whether you can team up as a registered subcontractor on future bids. Their bid can be strengthened by having an SBC on board. Also, mark your registration in the System for Award Management as being open for subcontract work where possible.

ii). Network with Landscaping Bidders - Check out the bottom row in the Appendix below. See how much government work there is for ALL Landscaping Work? Yes, US$ 2.46bn spread over 10,500 contracts. That’s 10 times the value of government contracts for specific tree services only. So if you’re interested in picking up subcontract work for the tree element of many of the landscape bids, use the government database and notifications available here (https://beta.sam.gov/search) to find out the landscapers in your service area who are winning local, state and federal landscaping bids.

We know that the landscaping profession covers a multitude of sins from lawn-care to cemetery maintenance to indoor landscaping and land clearance etc. Some landscaping activities will have tree care elements to them for which the landscaping bidder is not equipped as well as your firm. Remember too that sometimes bids lazily use the one-word ‘landscaping’ descriptor to cover a range of services that include tree work once you delve into the bid invitation wording. This has the effect of understating the tree services element of government work and concealing it from immediate view.

iii). Network with Construction Bidders – This is huge. There were 51,722 US government contract awards specifically for "construction of structures and facilities" in the past year according to beta.sam.gov/search site. This is 36 times the number of government contacts specifically for tree services in the same period.

To state the obvious, there is often a tree work requirement to many construction projects. Mature trees may need removing, protecting, moving or replacing depending on city codes, the construction site and the project itself. Construction companies themselves will not have a full-time tree crew at their disposal so will often subcontract this work out to local tree experts. IBISWorld state that the year-on-year growth in the tree service industry over the last decade is partly due to strong economic activity in the construction industry. So the mutual dependency between builders and tree service firms is clear.

Find local construction bidders by accessing and searching the https://beta.sam.gov/search database. Discover which local construction firms in or near your service area are winning some of the 51,722 US Government building and renovation projects every year. Use this data intelligence to list specific building firms. If the government trusts them to build their buildings, then you should trust them to pay you, right? Well OK but before reaching out to them, suggest you run your credit management checks to be sure. Then when you’re comfortable doing business with them, introduce your firm and declare your willingness to accept subcontract work for your tree services when they are next awarded a project.

Meeting Prime Bidders For Subcontract Tree Work - Best Practice

Whether for tree removal, landscaping or for construction contracts, the subcontracts can be sought either before the bid is made or after the contract has been awarded. It depends on the prime bidder and any conditions made by the government.

The prime bidders (main contractors) could be VERY interested in listing your small business firm as a subcontractor to an upcoming bid. For example, if the subcontractor is one of the special categories mentioned earlier - WOSB, SDBs, SDVOSBs then this would most likely strengthen the chances of winning the award. This applies even if the prime bidder itself is not a Small Business Concern as they are still helping the government (SBA in particular) meet sometimes difficult to meet award quotas.

All the prime bidder asks is that when you have your meeting with them, is that you:
  • 1. Be Clear About your Meeting Objective e.g. seeking tips for bidding success, contributing to an upcoming bid of theirs, sharing your firm's capabilities . Prepare accordingly.

  • ​Do Your Home-work on the Prime Bidder (Main Contractor) e.g. check the bids database beforehand for relevant bids, find out some of the government contracts they perform/ bid on, check the prime contractor's website, talk to other subcontractors they work with.

  • ​Know Your Company's Value to the Prime Bidder e.g. be clear about how your firm can benefit future bids by the prime contractor, be aware of your SBC category, what cost advantages can you bring to the party, up-to-date training and certifications, knowledge of local tree removal codes, crew size and flexibility, compliance with OSHA and CDC guidelines etc.

  • ​Take An Ethical Approach e.g. if the meeting discussion turns towards a bid where you are already teaming up with another main contractor then steer the conversation to another topic and explain your conflict of interest. Your ethical stance will be appreciated and your business reputation enhanced.

Overcome B2G Marketing Challenges

The main challenge that some tree service owners have told me they face is that they or their teams do not have enough time to compile effective responses to Request for Proposals (RFP’s) or Requests for Information (RFI’s).

The answer lies in taking the necessary steps at a pace that suits you. First, build up your registered profile and create your online bid notifications and watch-lists. Then get all the information you can and talk to local experts as advised. Build up the bid information likely to be sought beforehand steadily. In this way, you’ll be ready to act when the perfect bid drops in your lap. Again, your local Procurement Technical Center can help you with many local contacts, information and can help you shape your company’s Capability Statements in a way that will help your bid stand head and shoulders above your competing bidders.

Appendix 1. US Federal B2G tree service market size
                       (spend data from usaspending.gov)

US Federal B2G Tree Service Market Size Table
*¹ Tree Work includes mention of specific tree services in the contract award description
*² NAICS Code 561730 includes Landscaping, Lawncare, Mowing, Grounds & Cemetery Maintenance, Roadside Vegetation Clearance, Land Clearing, Arborist, Tree Removal, Tree Trimming, Tree Pruning and Stump Removal
*³ US State and Local spend data calculated at 45% of total spend and 55% for Federal Government spend. So all government spend and contract numbers in row 5 calculated by applying a factor of 1.81 on federal spend on NAICS Code 561730 services in row 4.

John Hackwood

John Hackwood helps tree service business owners get new customers. He is an expert at helping them get new business using proprietary methods and making things super simple to understand. He has been a marketing professional since 1988 and is using this considerable experience to help small businesses in the US tree service sector.

His agency, MarketingDirector.com, only serves the US tree service industry. MarketingDirector.com’s marketing solutions drive live phone inquiries from prospects in specific local areas direct to tree service clients. The highly-qualified live calls are raised by a unique cocktail of digital marketing tactics.

Unlike other lead generation companies, MarketingDirector.com only sells the live calls to singular clients in each ‘fenced’ geographic service area. In this way, every client enjoys exclusivity in their own area, safe in the knowledge that their calls will not be addressed by other local businesses.

The service is suitable to those tree service companies wishing to add more customers and grow their business. Fully 12% of those tree businesses surveyed in May 2020 say they are experiencing fewer calls and lower demand from customers. MarketingDirector.com can put all these tree businesses at the front of the queue for tree-related inquiries in their localities.

If you're interested in learning how John can help you grow your tree service business then click on blue button below.
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