Identifying Key Words


During this class we will identify all of the key words that could be used to describe your product or service, so that we can use those words to collect information on who is buying those things. This exercise is a bit tedious, but your ability to identify the most promising customers for your business is predicated on getting accurate data in so please invest some time into this step.


By the end of this class you should have a formatted list of keywords that looks a bit like this:

Step 1: First, we are going to think of all the ways that we can to describe what we do, so open your Customer Identification Worksheet, and navigate to the “Key Words” tab.

Step 3:  Try to come up with at least 3 or 4 other ways of describing each product or service while being specific and avoiding ambiguous word combinations

Step 2:  List the major products or services you are considering and write each in the top of each column. You want these to be pretty specific. For example, don’t list ‘IT services,’ that’s way too big, even ‘cyber’ is too big. Instead try to be specific, you want to minimize ambiguity here, so if in doubt break a broad topic into two or three more specific ones

Note: We need to avoid ambiguity in the words we choose because it can cause us to download misleading data. One of the best ways to avoid ambiguity is to use multi-word phrases in quotes (“XYZ”) rather than single words, also consider adding specifying words to the quoted phrase, so in our example, we’ve listed “penetration testing”, which might, for example, be misinterpreted as body armor testing, but by pairing it with a word or two related to cybersecurity we make it pretty certain that the contract is referring to cyber “penetration testing.”

Note on Products: Products tend to have definite names, part numbers, or some other identifiers; so, if you are thinking about selling specific products make sure you find out their “official” name or designation.

Now we are going to look for more key words that we can use by going outside our own heads to look at how other people describe what we are considering selling

Step 5: Go to Thesaurus.comand putting in some of your key words or Google your key words with the word “define.” Either way see if what comes back inspires you to think of other ways to describe your product or service.

Step 9:  When you open each company’s webpage look for an “our services” or “about us” section, and as always, add any promising key words you find to your worksheet. So in the example we can see all the different ways that this cyber training company describes what they do.

Step 8: Another source of inspiration for key words is how similar companies describe what they do, so put a couple of your key words into google and see what kinds of companies pop-up. Even better add “government services” or “government contracting” to your google search to see how government contractors in your space describe themselves. If you only get commercial companies don’t worry, take a look at how they describe themselves

Step 10: The last place to find key words is by search for what the government and large businesses have written on your topics to see how they describe it. To do this search for a few of your key words/phrases plus the phrase “federal government” and “*.pdf.” This will bring up white papers related to what you do written by the people who are also releasing the contracts, so the verbiage they use should be pretty instructive.

Note on Agencies:  Different agencies may ask for the same thing using different words, for example the DOD may say “cyber training” while State prefers the term “cyber curriculum” so if you only used one in your searches you’d get the sense that only one agency was buying your stuff. Be aware of this and try to get key words from a variety of agencies.

Note on Common Terms:  Be cautious about using very common key words, even in quotes. If you use “project management” as a key word you are going to get just about every contract the government puts out. If you do “project management” or “systems administration” please pair it with another word so that you get more relevant data

Output: By the time you are done you should have a list of all the different ways each of your products or services could be articulated in a contract. Notice that in almost every entry below there is at least one two word phrase in quotes, and that there is at least one other word there to particularize it.

With these key words we should be able to get a representative sampling of data that will direct us to our most promising customers.

Interview With Founders

Meet three of the most successful government contracting CEOs that we have worked with and hear them describe their path to success:

Amina Elgouacem, NEOSTEK CEO

Lloyd Osafo, 2Twelve Solutions CEO

Christopher Worden, Worden Technology Solutions CEO

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Topic:  Why did you decide to start a government contracting company?