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Dec 14, 2020

Finding Potential Customers Using Government Data

Time to read: 5 min

What we are trying to do: Through this analysis we are going to try to identify the government agencies that are buying a lot of what you are selling.

How to find customers: There are four basic ways that people find their customers

  • USAspending: USAspending has all the government's award data but there are limits to how precisely we can cut the data so USAspending will give us an upper limit for our market size
  • Beta.SAM: Beta.SAM only captures a fraction of all government award data, but we have more search control and the awards that appear here are the ones that we will be able to go after in the near term.  So Beta.SAM will give us a sense for our initial market size
  • Federal appropriations data: We can also use public reports on the amount of money allocated from congress to different agencies.  This data has the advantage of being forward looking while the datasets above just tell us about the past.  But this data is a little challenging to use and there is no easily accessible public database we we will not use this resource in the near term. 
  • News and public statements: Federal officers talk a lot about their plans and buying priorities so a lot of large vendors track the statements of these decision makers to understand future buying patterns.  Unfortunately speeches are endless and it is a real challenge to find the ones that matter (especially as a new entrant).  So for the time being we will pass on the approach.


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Finding customers in Beta.SAM

Beta.SAM is designed to be the central repository for government data, but it isn't' ready for primetime so we will use other systems for some searches.

You may find that some of the fields we reference below are not available to you.  In that case click on the "Change Filters" icon above the search criteria and add the fields you need

  1. Login to Beta.SAM
  2. Go to Contracting Opportunities
  3. If the "Active only" box is checked uncheck it
  4. In "Published Date" Select Custom Range and select a date about two years ago.  NOTE: you will have to hit the "Filter" button below for Beta.SAM to update.
  5. In Awardee Location we recommend choosing a location close to you.  There is no requirement that you focus on customers in your area, but building a relationship with a customer that is a car ride away is much easier. 
  6. In Type of Notice select Awards
  7. Under NAICS and PSC put the NAICS and PSC codes that you've identified are relevant to your work.  If you don't know your NAICS and PSC codes click HERE
  8. Finally put in a keyword or two that will help ensure that you are getting relevant contracts
  9. Now you should have a list of contract awards, and the agencies that issued the RFP
  10. Alternatively you can click the download button in the upper right (if you are logged in) and review the agencies to get a sense for who is buying your products and services.


Searching in USAspending

USAspending is our favorite government website for historical data.  The big pro of USAspending is that it contains every award the government has made while Beta.SAM only has about 20%.  The big con is that keyword searches basically don't work.  And it can be difficult to understand what a contract was actually for.  But if you didn't get enough insight into your customers from Beta.SAM this is a good place to go.

  1. Go to
  2. Go to Advanced Search
  3. In time period select the last 2-3 years
  4. Under location choose Place of Performance and select an area close to you
  5. Under NAICS and PSC put the NAICS and PSC codes that you've identified are relevant to your work.  If you don't know your NAICS and PSC codes click HERE
  6. Now hit submit search and you'll get a list of matches on the right that you can look through for which agency issued the RFP
  7. Or you can download the list and look for customers there. The data that is downloaded is a little challenging to understand so if you are unfamiliar consider learning more HERE


What to look for

Whether you are using Beta.SAM or USAspending data you are looking for government agencies that:

  1. Are issuing a lot of contracts for your type of work
  2. Are spending a lot in your market

To complete this analysis we recommend using a pivot table or going to where much of this analysis has been simplified


Other GovCon & SBIR guides, classes and analysis

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Our resources section has everything you need to:

  • Understand the SBIR program
  • Explore the Government Contracting market
  • Get help registering your company
  • Master key GovCon topics

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