We have written a lot about the changing needs of cities and the importance of engaging the best partners to meet those needs. Change is accelerating transportation, economic development, climate change, social care, food systems, and digital services — to name just a few areas. How then, will we find and excite the best partners to work with us? I will share what two cities did, to break new ground and give you four easy steps to get started (and yes, one in the ‘granny test’!).
More and more cities are reaching beyond their aging vendor pools. They combine market research with good communications to recruit better partners. Cities are well equipped to do this — communications is a big part of providing services and engaging residents. What is new is that cities are putting more effort into applying these skills to public procurement.
High return on that little extra effort
Taking the effort to extend market research beyond your procurement platform pays. Our analysis has shown that market research can deliver ten times the number candidates for across procurement categories. Once you’ve found the vendors, use good communication to make their decision easy. Simple and clear messaging creates better outcomes and will lead to exponentially higher participation rates, especially among small businesses.
At Citymart we obsess about removing every barrier in public procurement. That is why we get more quality bids from a high proportion of small business. The logic is simple: If it is hard to find, access or participate in opportunities, small businesses are the first to miss out.
Citymart BidSpark is a great tool to achieve these outcomes, but today I want to inspire you couple of ground-breaking examples of cities that raised the game on procurement communications.
Barcelona Open Challenge
This was the first public procurement to run a mass communications campaign. Barcelona combined direct outreach to vendors, videos, a website, social media, radio, print, and outdoor media. Adverts on public transit screens invited residents to participate and win a $250,000 contract.
The result? 55,000 people accessed the procurement. More than half the viewers (2% of the population) came from Barcelona. Not only did the city attract more bids, but said, “we are open for business, new ideas and new partners”. Businesses submitted 119 qualified bids. Citizens incorporated 12 new businesses to respond to the opportunity. In the end, more bids meant better quality and a 30% cost saving. And Barcelona even won the Grand Prize in the Bloomberg Mayors Challenge for its solution to tackle social isolation.
Long Beach ‘Launch, Do, Grow’
Ever been to an RFI launch party at City Hall? Well, get there early! All seats were taken when Long Beach Mayor Garcia invited the city’s business to learn about innovative contract opportunities under the “Launch, Do, Grow” initiative. Over the course of two years, Long Beach combined open procurements with public procurement events including a resident vote to select the best furniture for Harvey Milk Promenade.
Excellent communications helped Long Beach build trust in its small business support programs. Residents felt empowered in procurement decisions. And it was good market engagement that helped Long Beach procure an innovative and sustainable partnership for its new Innovation Center.
Here is how you can get started
Don’t worry, you do not have to advertise procurements on every corner. The following tips will get you a long way to better outcomes.
1. Stand out from the crowd
Make your opportunity exciting for participants. Offer support and advice. Attach the right references and resources that make it easy for a first-timer.
2. Pass the “Granny Test”
Your procurement text should clearly explain the opportunity to a small business owner. Pass it through a readibility analyzer to make it work for 8th-grade readers. Or ask your gran or kids to read it. I edited this post 4 times to pass that test.
3. Who will help you reach the right audience?
Involve the people and departments in your city that can spread the word beyond the usual suspects. Your economic development team will have great connections to universities, start-ups, chambers of commerce.
4. Use Citymart!
Try BidSpark to engage the entire market effortlessly. Our communication experts will help communicate clearly to each and every possible participant.
If you have any questions about BidSpark, or just want to chat procurement, then shoot us a message! We’re happy to talk.