Sunday, August 27, 2017

Are you a small contractor in need of some advice and direction?

Amtower GovCon Advisory Program 

FY 2018 will be challenging: definitely another continuing resolution, possible a shutdown, further changes in agency programs and policies, additional changes in procurement policy, and more. These will impact small businesses in a big way, so be prepared.

Leveraging your current contracts, especially direct or indirect access to MACs, IDIQs and GWACs can help you weather this storm. I expect agency use of  IDIQs and GWACs to continue to grow through 2018. Your access as a prime or partner on these contracts can be critical.

But you need a plan.

If your company is not performing up to expectations, or if you feel that your marketing program is not paying adequate dividends, we should talk.

My guidance to client companies has helped hundreds of companies grow. My advice can save you time and money, lead to new opportunities, identifiy key differentiators leading to significant market share, create media coverage, and generally help companies establish a more viable presence in the government market. I have helped my clients to dramatically increase the dollar value of their contracts, often spending less on marketing.

If your marketing and business development efforts are not paying significant dividends, we should talk now.

Friends, clients and former clients have suggested I develop a program that offers advice over an entire FY, so I am offering a year-long GovCon Advisory Program. Rather than charge an hourly fee to companies tapping into my expertise on a semi-regular basis, I have created an advisory program that small companies can afford.

The Amtower GovCon Advisory Program includes    

             - An initial planning session defining goals that align with your current needs. This will provide the overall program guidance for the year, including developing a targeted visibility plan that makes the most sense for you and your company. We can make alterations along the way as necessary; 

           - A detailed web site review with recommendations;

              - A LinkedIn company profile review with recommendations or editing;

               - Customized monthly training sessions (30-45 minute sessions), content to be determined in the planning session. Training modules offered include LinkedIn training; content development; developing a subject matter expert platform; social selling; PR/media training; market research and more. Each session tailored to the client and all sessions pre-scheduled;

              - Email alerts when warranted with news about your niche, competitors and other topics addressed in the planning session. I will monitor Google Alerts and selected trade publications for each participant;

            - Monthly update calls with each participant to track progress, address problem areas, discuss opportunities and more;

             - Strategic introductions to primes, OEMs, experts, media and government managers;

              - Unlimited email and short call Q&A;

             - Advice on selecting outside services (events, associations, bidding services, proposal assistance, etc).

Please call 301 854 9493 or email with any questions or to sign up. 

We are only accepting eight participants.

The program runs from 10/1/17 until 9/30/18. Sign up now and get Sept, 2017 as a bonus month.

The investment for this program is $2,495 down, and $995 per month for an annual total of $13,040.

Mark Amtower     Amtower & Company

Thursday, August 24, 2017

IDIQ/GWAC Panel at 930Gov Sept 6

Once again I will be hosting an IDIQ/GWAC panel at 930Gov on September 6 at the Washington DC Convention Center. This has been a lively panel in past years and promises to be informative once again this year. I always enjoy hosting this session.

This year my IDIQ panel will have

   - Bridget Gauer, NITAAC
   - Joanne Woytek, SEWP
   - Cheryl Thornton, GSA
   - Omar Saeb, Alliant

Now in its fifth year, 930Gov is a unique end-of=FY event. It has five tracks covering

   - Cyber and IT Security
   - Records Management
   - IT Modernization
   - Government Customer Experience
   - Knowledge, Data and Information Management

This event always has top-notch sessions and speakers.

I hope to see you there- and at this session!

Mark Amtower


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Is there real value in measuring your social media activity?

There are multiple ways to measure your social media engagement, but is there really any value to having a high score beyond bragging rights?

LinkedIn added in the Social Selling Index (SSI) when it changed the paid membership format, pushing the most useful functions to the Sales Navigator platform.

The SSI measures four factors and only measures within LinkedIn. Each factor has a 25 point scale. The four factors are:

-        “Establish your professional brand”

-         “Find the right people”

-         “Engage and insights”

-         “Build relationships”

You can make an argument for  including these in an index, but as the exclusive measurements, I think not.

First, brands have set components, but the value of each component and how you present it can vary from market to market, and from niche to niche within a market.

Second, these do not and cannot factor in the quality of connections you are making and the value of each viewer you are getting.  All profile viewers are not created equal.

Third, how you engage goes back to my niche statement above. Certain elements of the Government Contracting community will necessarily do less on public platforms because of the nature of the client and the business associated with that client.

Fourth building relationships in this GovCon is predicated on who you need to know: if you are focused on a single agency (account or agency based marketing - ABM) and a specialty area within that agency, your relationship building activity will taper off as you become more pervasive, and your SSI score in this category will probably fall.

Are you less successful? No.

The SSI is predicated on perpetual activity and growth. While I am in favor of a steady flow of activity, once you maximize the penetration into a specific account or agency, you will level off.

Depending on your industry, an average SSI score seems to run between 20-28, which does not seem very high. But factor in how many people do little or nothing on LinkedIn and it makes sense.

I see the SSI as a quantity over quality tool, and therefore not as useful as it perhaps could be.

Another popular social activity measurement tool is Klout.  Klout measures your social activity on multiple networks (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest, FourSquare, Flickr, Tumblr, Instagram and others), and has multiple touchpoints for each that measure the level of your engagement.

There are some other social engagement measuring tools, but many ignore Linkedin and each seems to be limited in some way.

While I am a huge fan of LinkedIn, it is the not the only place you need to be active.  

LinkedIn still includes Twitter in its “share” function. Why? Because it will lead people back to LinkedIn. It no longer has a Facebook share, and I'm not certain if it ever had Google+. Not having these is myopic on the part of LinkedIn.

I found that as I did more writing on my own blog as opposed to writing on LinkedIn (sharing the same way, through groups, Twitter and posting the link on other networks) my Klout score went up, but my SSI went down. My Klout score runs in the low 60s (up from low 50s) and my SSI runs between 71-75 (down from mid-to-high 80s)

My issue with Klout is that it measures your activity, but again not necessarily the quality of that activity. It does make up for this by taking into account views, shares and other factors, which LinkedIn barely touches on.

The final answer on measuring social engagement must come from you. 

What are your criteria for success? Have you achieved your goals? Have you met key people and set up meetings? Have you won new business?

Neither the SSI, Klout nor any other tool can measure this for you.

Knowing your SSI and Klout scores is nice, but it may not be measuring your real impact on LinkedIn and social media in general.

Bragging rights for a high score does not necessarily translate into success.

Feedback is welcomed and appreciated!

(This post is adapted from LinkedIn for GovCon, which will be available soon via Amazon)

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Myopic Management at GSA whacks OASIS

The government often says it wants to operate more like business. Business knows that when the market chooses a particular way of doing business (in this case buying professional services), you push that venue and you reward those in charge for a job well done.

It seems GSA wants the market to buy more professional services from the Schedule and less from OASIS, regardless of the success of OASIS, amply demonstrated by the migration of government buyers.

The result: a surprise "voluntary" total turnover of the OASIS management team, occurring late Friday, July 22. Remember Nixon’s Saturday night massacre, done late on a Saturday to avoid news cycles?

Todd Richard's team is the repository of  OASIS's institutional knowledge. Removing and replacing the team that created the success at OASIS is a poor business decision, driven by myopic management.

Are there other factors at play here? Yes- but the bottom line is removing an entire management team- especially in the 4th quarter -  is not, as GSAs Tiffany Hixson wrote, "(As with all programs, personnel changes and departures are) a natural part of professional development and program evolution."

No, this is a most unnatural move at a very awkward time.

Not that I have an opinion.

Read Nick Wakeman's article on this:

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Social Selling as an end-of-FY (and year-round) tactic

Social selling: the process of getting and staying on the radar of potential partners and prospects in a positive way via social networks; positioning your company in a manner that makes it stand apart from and above the competition; solidify and expand relationships with existing customers.

Social selling is not a hard-sell tool; it is a soft-sell, stay on the radar tool. And it works.

It should be a year round process, but it could be especially useful at the end of an FY when your customers and prospects just got their budget approval. 

Nothing like getting your full budget in the last third of the FY!

LinkedIn is ideal for end-of-FY as there are at least 1.6 million Feds on LinkedIn (from my 2016 research), with a significant percentage in management positions. You can find key people by searching for their agencies (listed just like company profiles) and scrolling through the employees.

All federal agencies, including the IC, are represented on LinkedIn.

Having reviewed all federal agencies on LinkedIn, and having scrolled through thousands of profiles, my empirical research shows that at least 15% of federal employees on LinkedIn have IT-related job titles. About 35% have program, project or general management functions, and between 5-10% have executive level job titles.

For any government contractor, this is a gene pool worth looking into.

Looking for more business at CMS? Try scrolling through the 3,125 employees on LinkedIn until you see a job title that gets your attention. 

How about DISA? There are 4,320 employees on LinkedIn.

Looking for current or former SEWP employees or contractors? I can find 1,399 LinkedIn members who have SEWP in their description. I found a proposal expert with SEWP experience for a client bidding on SEWP V. 

Looking for contacts in the systems integration community? GDIT has 14,616 LinkedIn members. CACI taps in at 12,775, and Raytheon at 39,967.

The GovCon community, Feds and contractors, are on LinkedIn.

However, the vast majority of contractors have a "drive by" mentality when it comes to LinkedIn, using it only when they have a specific inquiry (who is the person that wants to connect, or who is the PM for SEWP at Red River).

We all use LinkedIn that way, but the more intelligent companies are using it to map out strategic connection strategies, meet key players, set up meetings, for account/agency-based marketing (ABM), for content sharing and much more.

LinkedIn should be a part of your end-of-FY marketing, and part of your year-round sales, marketing and business development efforts.

< I offer customized training on Social Selling for GovCon nationwide via webinar. Drop me a line for details -

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

VAR WARS continues - Art Richer moves to DLT

Holy guacamole Batman- Art Richer, president of the immixGroup for 18 years (1998-2016) has moved over to competitor DLT Solutions.

In February of 2015, international IT distributor Arrow bought immixGroup . In my LinkedIn post I said this would change the face of GovCon IT products sales over time.  Apparently the current investment bank owner of DLT agrees, at least to a point.

There have been numerous changes at the top levels of DLT over the past few weeks, but I have to say I was surprised to hear that Art Richer, one of the three architects of immixGroup (along with founder Jeff Copeland and Steve Charles) was moving into the top spot at DLT.

There are three major value-added distributors (VAD) in GovCon: Carahsoft (by far the largest), immixGroup (now owned by Arrow), and DLT. While DLT technically was first into this category, they have not experienced significant growth since Craig Abod (founder and CEO of Carahsoft) left in 2004.

Each of these VADs represents a suite of OEMs in the GovCon arena. Each has a good array of contracts (IDIQs, GWACs, BPAs and GSA) and each sells direct to Feds (and SLED) as well as working with other resellers in the channel.

So here's my take on why DLT has hired Art.

1) The owners are tired of being third in a three-horse race. Art is arguably the most talented person available and if anyone can spur growth, he's the one.

2) LPTA has made the channel tough for everyone, Each of the VADs has to work closer and more productively with OEMs and VARs to make this model profitable. I think Art will expand DLTs influence with the VARs.

3) There are other international distributors out there (Ingram Micro, TechData, Synnex and others) who are paying close attention to this as it develops.

Is Art at DLT to grow the business, sell the business, or both?

It makes me wonder why Arrow let Art go....

And it makes me wonder if Bob Laclede might end up at DLT as well. He knows the GovCon  VAR community better than anyone I know.

(I do not currently advise any of the companies in this post. These are my thoughts as a market observor.)

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Small contractor with an IDIQ not making much $? We need to talk...

Are you a small contractor that has a GSA Schedule, or prime spot on a GWAC or other IDIQ and you are not getting traction?

We should talk.

Winning business from an IDIQ is part art and part science, but requires planning, execution and making the right decisions.

Sometimes you need to make quick decisions and may not have sufficient data or the experience to make the best decision.

**When a major GovCon trade conference was announced two years ago, I advised my clients not to participate due to the event's lack of focus. Only one client did not listen and they spent over $35,000, plus time and personnel, in an event that was a three-day total flop. Prep time, staff time, cash spent and three days on-site at the event down the drain.

**One of my clients was considering joining a major trade association simply for exposure, and the fee to join was in the mid 4-figures. She brought this up during our regular call and I asked her if she had heard of a small group of contractors that targeted the agency where 80% of her work was performed, primarily as a sub-contractor.  She hadn't but after joining, she developed relationships with other small contractors and a few larger primes, and won more business.

The wrong decision can waste time and money.

The right adviser can help you make more money from contracts you already have.

My advice to client companies has saved time and money, led to extraordinary opportunities, identified key differentiators leading to significant market share, created media coverage, and generally helped companies establish a more viable and profitable presence in the government market. I have helped my clients dramatically increase the dollar value of their contracts, often spending much less on marketing.

If your marketing and business development efforts are not paying significant dividends, we should talk.

Due to requests and advice from a few friends, clients and former clients, I am offering a year-long GovCon Advisory Program. Rather than charge an hourly fee to companies tapping into my expertise on a semi-regular basis, I have created an advisory program that small companies can afford.

The Amtower GovCon Advisory Program includes:

- An initial planning session to map out your growth strategy

- A detailed review of your web site

- Monthly training on social selling techniques leveraging LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook

- Strategic introductions to subject matter experts, OEMs, channel partners, other contractors, federal managers, media and others

- Low-cost content marketing techniques

- Advice on selecting other outside services (events, associations, bidding services and more)

- Regular news alerts on your niche

- Regularly scheduled teleconferences for advice, updates, tracking progress, address problem areas, discuss opportunities and more

- Immediate access to advice from one of the most savvy government marketing professionals -when you need it.

Having an experienced government marketing adviser on call can save you money and help you make more money.

If this resonates with you and you want complete details, drop me a line NOW as we only have a limited number of openings for this program.   301 854 9493

Mark Amtower   Amtower & Company    @amtower