Saturday, March 22, 2014

Are CEOs exempt from participating on LinkedIn, part 2 (The Waldo Factor, part 25)


"The most important thing is to forecast where the customers are moving and be in front of them."  Philip Kotler


Last September I posed the question "are CEOs exempt from participating on LinkedIn" and I'd like to revisit that and answer the question - http://blog.federaldirect.net/2013/09/are-ceos-exempt-from-participating-on.html.

The simple, direct answer is no.

At this point, no one can successfully dispute the fact that LinkedIn has integrated itself into not only the B2G market, but the entire business landscape. This is not to say that some won't try to dispute this, but arguing against using LinkedIn more fully across your company is simply not defensible. 

The market is here,
your competitors are here, 
your customers and prospects are here, 
and if you have a minimal presence you will lose marketshare.

In my 29 years as a B2G marketing consultant, I have never seen or envisioned a platform as robust as this: 

- a marketing tool that can be used for sales and business development support; 

- a platform for positioning you or your company as a subject matter expert or thought leader; 

- a mechanism that allows you to grow, manage and communicate a targeted network of business professionals; 

- a lead generation and appointment making machine; 

all this and more.

In the September blog post I pointed that some executives still ignore LinkedIn, have minimalist profiles or have someone else manage their social networking. Each of these is dangerous and short-sighted.

Executives have a definite role on LinkedIn, different than that of their sales, marketing, BD and HR people - all of whom need to be active on LinkedIn and encouraged by executives to use it well.

The role of the executive in social networking is to look and act like a leader, to showcase what your company offers and the quality of leadership that company has in your market. A bad profile and little or no legitimate activity diminishes your role in the market.

A minimalist profile shows a lack of respect for the market as if you are assuming they know who you are and what your company does. This is dangerous ground to tread.

LinkedIn is the ideal platform so showcase your company and your role at the company. As you leverage LinkedIn to display areas of expertise, not only can you solidify your position with companies and agencies that you already have relationships with, you can develop relationships with other executives and federal managers who may require what your company brings to the table.

You can do this online and for minimal expense.

This is not a plea to get you active. It is a shot across the bow of your ship, warning you that if my clients are your competitors, prepare to lose customers.

To paraphrase Philip Kotler, "LinkedIn will create the winner(s) and bury the laggards."

Friday, February 14, 2014

Does Your LinkedIn Profile Have a Pulse?


Is your LinkedIn profile working for you while you sleep? Is it a tombstone or a cash register?

Every marketing research study I have seen over the past three years has shown a steady increase in people relying of social networks when it comes to researching employees, employers, business partners, suppliers, consultants, clients and more. The more recent studies show social media in the top two or three. 

Hinge Research (www.HingeMarketing.com) will be releasing a new study shortly called Beyond Referrals: How Today's Buyers Check You Out. The research clearly shows the rise of social media as a research tool and the dominance of LinkedIn in that category.

LinkedIn had 5.7 billion internal searches - searches inside LinkedIn - in 2012. 5.7 billion!

Now I am not a math major, but that is a pretty big number. And I am anxiously awaiting the stats for 2013.

I hear you out there muttering - What's your point, Mark?

My point is simple. If we are all using LinkedIn more and more, why is it that so many profiles are written so poorly?

Are some so vain that they think everyone knows them? 

Are there those who still don't realize how important LinkedIn can be for them and their company?

Or are many just too lazy to be bothered by actually thinking before they write? 

I have seen hundreds, perhaps thousands, of profiles that look more like tombstones than profiles of professionals. 


They simply don't have a pulse.

Here is my point: if you are not fully leveraging LinkedIn and other carefully selected social media, you are losing business to those who are, and they hope you still don't get it.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Lessons Learned: Amtower & Company - 29 years and counting

I started Amtower & Company January 1, 1985. After stints at Government Computer News (circulation director), the Gary Slaughter Corporation (management consulting and training), Earle Palmer Brown (ad agency), I had come to two conclusions:

    - I did not like working for other people, and
    - no one was treating marketing to the government as a distinct discipline.

So I thought I'd go to work for myself. Not that I had a choice...

I started by compiling lists of key feds in certain disciplines: IRM (now known as CIO), financial, procurement, training and a few others. None of these lists were huge (the largest was about 1,200). I had a dBase software package written so I had a way to deliver the data (floppy discs!). The software produced 3 different label formats. I kept these lists up-to-date via telephone and a few key government connections, and sold them as annual subscriptions, with updates for each.

In the 1980s, direct mail was a mainstay in marketing, even in marketing to the government. After a few years of doing this I discovered a few more things. I had developed a very narrow knowledge base that few possessed- I knew how to get mail delivered inside federal agencies and I had developed a bit of a reputation ( I was the "government direct mail guy") and had started meeting a few key movers in the government contracting arena.

Around 1989 one of my list clients said she really enjoyed talking to me because I never sent a bill. Apparently my knowledge of direct mail was important to more than a few people So the consulting side of Amtower & Company was born.

In January 1991, I hosted my first B2G seminar.

The four major components of marketing in the 1980s through the early 1990s were space advertising, PR, events and direct mail.

And along the way we had FASA, FARA, ITMRA - all manner of procurement reform and the advent of the purchase card program, each of which impacted B2G marketing.

In 1994 I was retained by PRC to advise on the marketing of the 2nd GWAC ever awarded, Supermini, a 9-year $11 billion contract.

By the mid-1990s my lists started including email addresses, and my best seller became the IMPAC (now SmartPay) mailing list, which became quite large. The web was pushing its way into B2G. Netscape changed everything in August, 1995. Not only did web sites become important, but email and e-commerce gained a foothold, led by Dendy Young and Falcon Microsystems.

Fast forward to the dot-com bubble, where venture capital firms were looking for B2G portals that offered a "one-stop" shop for feds. Bad idea...

Then the bottom fell out and we started over. Except that for many in this market the bottom did not fall out, because most government contractors were not fascinated by the shiny rocks of the dot-com era, knowing full well their biggest customer was a slow adopter and would continue doing business the usual way.

My skills, however, were morphing. Lists were becoming a much smaller part of my business and the consulting side, helping companies figure out the best ways to reach key audiences, was growing. Over the years I have advised hundreds of companies and helped them earn tens of billions of dollars.

So what about those "lessons learned"? Here are a few of them:

    - There is no marketing magic bullet. Each client and situation is different, defined by the nuances that occur with the passage of time, people involved on both sides, the current procurement and budgetary environment and more. So "one size" does not fit all and never has.

    - Differentiation is now and has always been key. Your company has to demonstrate superiority in one or more ways that resonates with the customer.

    - It is possible to develop a "subject matter expert" status in virtually any niche.

    - "Content is king" is not new and has been important all along. Hardcopy newsletters to key federal audiences were used by several companies as early as 1984, and probably before that. Bohdan's TechLetter helped Compaq grow quickly in the federal arena in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

    - GSA Schedules have never been a panacea, even for products, and will be less so now.

    - Being "#1" is not a lifetime gig. Witness GTSI, the major reseller for more than a decade (1982 through the mid 1990s).  GTSI developed an attitude that bordered on arrogance. They got lazy, were bumped out of the #1 spot, then bought.

    - Marketing methods morph, and you have to provide information to influencers and buyers in multiple formats.Web 2.0 tools are critical moving forward- learn to use them.

    - Often it is necessary to tell the CEO that his concept of marketing is literally from a different era- the Montgomery Ward catalog model is dead.

    - White papers will never die.

    - Doing anything here without first doing the research is just plain dumb. Stay educated on the market nuances and trends.

    - Even with the difficulty we are currently experiencing with conferences and other events, face-to-face remains a key ingredient and events will not go away.

    - Social networking has come of age and is now an integral part of the B2G marketscape. LinkedIn especially has been adopted by feds and contractors alike and is now not simply a "must do", but a "must do well".

    - Educated salespeople are the best marketing tool. And as Fred Diamond says, if marketing is not aligned with sales goals, you are wasting money.

    - This is, and always has been, a relationship driven market. Your relationships and reputation are key to your growth as a company and as an individual.

    - The biggest lesson is not to become myopic, stuck in a marketing rut. Watch what is happening in B2C and B2B and be prepared for it as it is adopted into B2G.

And as my friend Bob Davis once said, "marketshare is rented, never owned".

29 years is just the beginning- I am not yet done...

If you are interested in seeing what works in B2G now, the now 15 year-old Government Marketing Best Practices seminar is back in February- and I hope to see you there!

Feb 11 – Government Marketing Best Practices 2014, Columbia MD -https://www.govevents.com/details/2984/government-marketing-best-practices-2014

Feb 12 – Government Marketing Best Practices 2014, McLean VA https://www.govevents.com/details/11681/government-marketing-best-practices-2014


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

GovCon Directions for 2014: Yahoo, Katie Couric, PlanetGov and Contractors

Yahoo announced that it hired Katie Couric as "global anchor".  Yahoo's CEO, Marissa Mayer, has said all along that the end user experience would drive her decisions. Ms Mayer is a data-driven executive who happens to be a social media maven, so it's safe to assume she knows what she is doing.

Some will undoubtedly see the hiring of Katie Couric as simply bringing on a celebrity. This would be selling both Ms Mayer and Ms Couric short. Couric is a media savvy content maven who happens to be a celebrity. She is smart and deep.

What this does for Yahoo is provide a deeper, broader content bench.

So what does this have to do with GovCon?

I open Selling to the Government with the "Tale of Two Companies", vignettes about two companies from the dot bomb era. (http://www.amazon.com/Selling-Government-Compete-Worlds-Largest/dp/047088133X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1385502961&sr=8-1&keywords=amtower)

One of the companies, PlanetGov, got venture funding to create an information and sales portal for the government market. PlanetGov hired about 20 journalists, including Mike Causey from the Washington Post (now with Federal News Radio) to create an information portal that would attract all Feds, then have an e-commerce side which would supply those Feds with everything they needed to buy for work.

The plan was interesting, but did not make it past the demise of the dot-bomb crash.

But the company survived, and emerged as APPTIS, and now IronBow.

Content is deservedly huge in our market, and with some of the publications in dire straits, it has become necessary for contractors to generate more of their own content. This content takes the form of white papers, enews programs, webinars, podcasts, even TV and radio shows.

If the content is germane to the buyer, and helps them makes decisions about what to buy and perhaps where to buy it, the company generating the content wins.

Perhaps it wasn't the PlanetGov plan that was bad - just the timing.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Amtower's Dilemma - Making an agency reco to a Fortune 200 company

So here's my dilemma. I get a call from a friend and occasional client at a top tech firm, well inside the Fortune Top 200. They need an agency that can help with public sector content, social and qualified lead generation. I tell my friend I will send them a short list within 48 hours.

A couple of companies come to mind quickly as their content is extraordinary.

Then I look them up on LinkedIn....

Content may be a strength, but social, at least LinkedIn, is really weak. I see execs at these companies that should have profiles with SOME information on who they are and what they do, but it isn't there. Their web sites are nice, and populated with some decent content, but they look like the cobbler's children, or worse, the emperor with no clothes when it comes to LinkedIn.

While I admire their ability to generate great content for some clients, it doesn't appear that they leverage social for dissemination of that content.

LinkedIn is my #1 venue for vetting those I recommend. Web sites are #2.

So the list got shorter.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Looking for 12-15 small companies in Maryland, DC NoVa ready to become thought leaders!


Who would you rather read about in (fill in in with your favorite business publication)?

Some company you’ve never heard of?
Your top competitor?
Your company?

When it comes to visibility, there is no “level playing field”. You need to create your own advantage wherever and whenever you can. That is especially true when it comes to getting noticed in ways that pay dividends:

- being known by a prospect before your first meeting;

- getting interviewed in a trade publication, on TV or on the radio;

- leveraging social networks to get noticed by decision makers in your market;

- writing your own blog or writing a “guest column” on someone else’s blog;

or getting a key speaking engagement.

If you are tired of seeing your competitors’ quotes in trade magazines, or their CEO speaking from the podium at a big conference, keep reading.

This is Your Invitation to the 2014

Amtower GovCon Thought Leadership Program

Small business owners in the government contracting arena have to wear many hats and fulfill many roles. Among the most important of those roles is to get your company noticed by the right people in the market, to stand out as a subject matter expert or thought leader in your niche and capture more business.

In order to get on and stay on the radar of

government contractors, potential partners, customers,

press and investors

you need to stand out in a very crowded field.



Standing out in any market is difficult, and probably more so in the hyper-competitive government contracting market. Regardless of whether you are selling to the government or to selling to contractors, there is no un-crowded niche.


So how do you stand out in a way that resonates with the audience you want to reach and influence?

Isn't it time to invest in the future of your company?

Want more info? Send me an email for details on this six-month program --

mark@federaldirect.net

Make 2014 YOUR year to stand out!
 


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Linkedin SitRep: Group Grope (The Waldo Factor, part 24)

So what is the Situation Report on LinkedIn? What new changes have come down the pike to confuse and abuse members?

When they changed the look and feel of the groups, they sent out this infographic as part of the announcement. While it didn't explain why the changes were made, or how they might help you (as opposed to confuse you), it did offer some data.

 
Actually, some useful data, as well as some misleading data. While over 2 millions groups have been started, not all of them are still there. Currently there are about 1.8 million active groups.
 
The average number of groups is also a little misleading. Many people belong to no groups, which brings the average down. Others, like me, belong to 50.
 
Posting in groups makes you more visible- this should be no surprise.
 
8,000 groups are added weekly. This is a healthy number, but would be in better context if they mentioned how many people joined every week.
 
200 conversations per minute is also a neat stat until you figure that with 230 million members, it is not a high percentage on a daily basis. But is certainly explains why those posting are more viewed than those who don't - the % is not that high.
 
While the sudden changes are annoying, and seem to occur with no member input, LinkedIn remains vital for business professionals.
 
Hang tough. LinkedIn is still a great investment of your time.
 
And remember, if you need some help navigating LinkedIn  and making it pay higher dividends, help is only a click away!