Free Bid Lead Sources
If your company only bids on government procurement solicitations in your local area you may not need a bid lead service if you want to invest the time into searching your local newspaper each day and visit your local agencies for the bid advertisements they may have not advertised.
When you consider whether or not to do-it-yourself or use a paid bid lead service you should consider the value of your time and what you might be doing if you were not searching for bid leads. Using a paid service may be ultimately less expensive and result in better opportunities with higher profit potential. It is safe to assume that if a bid lead is easy to find on the Internet then there will be more competition whereas if the bid lead is not easy to obtain there will be less competition and therefore a greater profit potential.
If you are willing to invest your time and energy into searching for bid leads on a wider level there are many free online sources:
Keep in mind that not all agencies post their solicitations in Fed Biz Opps (FBO) nor do they accurately categorize their data. The FBO website can take a significant amount of time to monitor properly.
You need to be registered here before you can bid on most federal contracting opportunities. You will need a number from Dunn & Bradstreet (D&B). They are required to provide you with one at no charge but can make it difficult for you to update your company data.
Please note that some states may have more than one site and each state agency may or may not publish their data in a central state system.
County, City, Town and other Govt. Agencies
There are approx. 5,000 non-state or federal agencies in the US and Canada with procurement solicitations online. You can find them by doing a web search for the agency of interest and then checking the site carefully. For some agencies you can also find some procurement information in meeting agenda and minutes.
Reprographics and Designers Sites
For construction bid leads there are a few engineers and architects who have bid advertisements and in some cases bid packages on their web sites. Some reprographic firms (blue-print printers) also list projects in online plan rooms.
Some newspapers publish bid advertisements online but most don't . The general trend is for smaller newspapers to be purchased by large conglomerates who then remove public notices from web sites.
Bid Lead Services
If you don't want to spend all the time and effort to track down online and newspaper bid advertisements you can consider using a bid lead service. Even if you count your time at a low value the cost of searching for bid leads on your own usually exceeds the cost of letting someone else do it for you.
The quality of service and pricing varies greatly but there may be a service that fits your needs. When evaluating any service be sure that they offer monthly pricing or an easy way out of a longer contract and that they let you try their actual service for at least a week for free. You should always do a side-by-side comparison of services for yourself and not accept the promises of a sales person. Never sign up for a year to an expensive service you haven't tried for at least a week. You should also be able to reach a real person for Customer Service or get a call back within a few hours.
Buyer Beware! A few sample bid leads or a demo site is not sufficient to truly evaluate a service. Insist on trying the actual service with current data for at least a week so that you can compare it to other services and make the best decision.
US National Bid Lead Services
Probably the best and most affordable service. Users report that the service is easiest to use, has more hard-to-find and lucrative opportunities and has the best customer service. They have coverage of all solicitation types in the US and Canada plus cover the oil & gas industry, wind energy, solar, hydro-electric, hydro-kinetic, biomass and other private construction projects. In side-by-side comparisons Bid Ocean had significantly better coverage than other bid lead services and offers to beat any competitor's price for comparable services. Bid Ocean also makes it easy for users to post their own solicitations for goods or services, which means more opportunities for all users. If you are a member you also get access to their Buyers Club and can buy over 150,000 different items at just above wholesale. Savings on purchases more than cover the subscription cost for most users.
The oldest and generally the most expensive bid lead service. Does not offer coverage on purchase of goods or non-construction services. They do have a basic monthly service that allows access to a limited amount of data on a pay-per-view basis.
Offers coverage on US only with all solicitation types. Onvia has gotten substantially more expensive over the last couple of years but has also improved their service a bit. Their website may be getting a makeover in 2009 and may be easieir to use then than at present.
Focuses primarily on commercial building construction and does not publish bid leads for non-construction services or goods. This service is generally good for companies that don't mind spending money to track private building projects.
Some of the additional bid lead services your company may, or may not, want to consider:
In business since 2006, the RFP DB has nearly 30,000 registered users and has posted more than 7,000 RFPs. It does not charge a subscription fee or take a percentage of contracts.
US Regional Bid Lead Services
Covers mostly commercial building bid leads in parts of Texas and the East Coast. Rather expensive and misses a lot of projects they should have. Be sure to try the actual service before you subscribe.
Covers the public construction industry in the Southeast states and Missouri only. Considered to be a high-quality, easy to use but expensive service. Be sure to try the actual online service before signing up.
Covers some private commercial projects and owner contact data in Texas and California for a minimal fee.
Canadian federal tenders can be found at www.merx.com. Most Provinces have their data online on their own sites and may also publish tenders in Merx. Larger cities do a pretty good job of posting their data online but most smaller towns do not make their data available online at all. Many towns in Canada do not actually put their procurement out to tender and instead pick suppliers based on personal relationships and mutual benefit. The few tenders which are publicly advertised may be found in small local papers and in some larger newspapers. Most newspapers in Canada do not publish tenders online.
State Bid Networks
The North America Procurement Council operates free bid lead sites for every U.S. state and will have other sites for North America coming online soon. The bid networks are owned by the people of each state and have simple functionality. Registration is not required to view bid advertisements but is required to view bid documents.
Other North American Free Lead Sites
There are a number of low-end services which claim to offer national coverage but usually don't. Some of them simply republish federal data which they have setup on an automated data import. Many of these services offer virtually no customer service and no guarantees. If there is no real information about the parent company and no telephone number listed then don't risk your money. Companies that hide from their customers do so for a reason.