Predicting Municipal Contracts – The What, When & Why of Municipal Procurement

December 24, 2019

This guest post first appeared on muniSERV.ca 

No one can predict who’s buying what, when and why, but there are some key markers that can help you be strategic about reaching municipalities at the times they typically buy goods and services.

What they’re buying:

First, do your homework and research! Watch the news stories – are they mandated to get something completed by a certain time (i.e. asset management plans, accessibility regulations, etc.)?

Research and find out the contact person(s) for any municipal buying consortiums and then reach out and speak directly to them to let them know you’re interested in applying to be on their Vendors’ List and/or being notified of their procurement/bid documents. Once they know about you, you many even get them sending you a “heads up” about a bid solicitation they have coming up.

When they’re buying:

Municipalities purchase goods and services year round. But as a general rule based on my experience, in a calendar year;

  1. Construction RFPs typically are posted as soon as the budget is finished – so January to March each year, so that construction can begin once the snow is gone. Contracts for winter salt and sand of course are posted in the fall. Infrastructure projects are also posted in the first months of a new year, but generally not awarded until government funding has been confirmed. (In Ontario, after the provincial year end of March 31st) Check the fiscal year of the province/municipality you’re interested in working with and adjust your timing appropriately.
  2. More complex projects with contracts that take longer to assess and award are often posted in the spring. (new software, consulting projects, etc.)
  3. Contracts like strategic planning are often be posted after a municipal election when a new council is elected. As part of council orientation, strategic planning is a great way to familiarize new council members with any current strategic plan and then work to update it based on their goals for the next term of council.
  4. Many municipal councils take the month of August off so municipalities slow down over the summer. From my personal experience, often the month of August is a good time to reach staff because they have more time because they’re not having to prepare reports, etc., for council meetings. I don’t mean to run out and start calling them all in August – but now is a great time to publish articles on our muniBLOG because municipal staff members often have a bit more time to read in August.
  5. Municipalities start budgeting in the fall for the next year. This is also when they will be looking at what they have left to spend in the current budget – and if they are underspent, they will be looking to finish projects or add new purchases, if they are in need of something. This means they will be putting out RFPs, RFQs etc., in the fall in order to spend the remainder of the budget before year end. Now’s a good time to register for a service that keeps you notified of RFPs – like our partner bidsandtenders. (and don’t forget new muniSERV annual members get 10% off a new bidsandtenders subscription)

Why they’re buying:

There is a multitude of reasons municipalities procure goods and services. Most are purchased for regular operational needs, while professional services are often purchased to research the feasibility and determine the need to purchase in the future.

Still other purchases occur because the municipality has been mandated to do so or because they have been granted funding. For instance this year in Ontario, municipalities received a one-time “efficiency” grant. Again, this comes down to doing your research and being in tune with what is happening in municipalities because if you have a product or service that will improve efficiency for municipalities be sure you tell them about it in a blog post or provide a free demo of it. muniSERV is here to help you spread the word directly to our municipal subscribers!

No one is a mind-reader so no one can predict with certainty or guarantee if they’re going to win a contract, but doing your homework and being prepared with the proper marketing strategy geared to the municipal calendar year and the ever-changing needs of municipalities, can help put you ahead of the pack!

Susan Shannon is Founder & Principal of muniSERV.ca & muniJOBS.ca.