Wednesday, February 15, 2017

LinkedIn Black Belt Workshop returns to Columbia March 7, 2-5PM

If you have the new LinkedIn user Interface, you are probably wondering where some of the functionality disappeared to. This is one of may topics that I'll address int e the March 7 LinkedIn Black Belt Workshop.

Seating is limited to the first 18, so register now!

If this is your year for LinkedIn, this is your workshop. Only 18 seats per session. Real info from the front lines of LinkedIn - stuff you can use today, tomorrow and going forward.

Learn the tactics that make you and your company stand out in your niche.

Without a doubt, LinkedIn is the premier social network for business professionals. With over 465 million business professionals and over 11 million individual company profiles, LinkedIn is the place to be found, and to find and connect with influencers in your market niche.

However it is estimated that fewer than 20% of LinkedIn members use it effectively, and less than 10% truly maximize the value this powerful tool can bring to you and your company. It is time for you to migrate to LinkedIn power user!

LinkedIn has
-      465 million+ members
-      1.6 million federal managers, IT profiessionals and employees
-      Millions of seaches every day are done on LinkedIn
-      Almost 12 million company profiles
-      Over 3 million groups representing every imaginable business niche
-      All Fortune 500 are represented
-      YOUR PROSPECTS (they are here)!

And you have the opportunity to stand out!

Attend the LinkedIn Black Belt Workshop and you will learn how to

-      Design a strategy that fits your business goals
-      Create a powerful LinkedIn profile that attracts targeted prospects and encourages people to connect with you
-      Find and connect with those who can help your business grow- prospects, partners, media and more
-      Select the groups that will pay dividends
-      Find and develop content to share in those groups that makes you stand out
-      Get more recommendations and endorsements
-      Get on the radar of decision-makers who buy what you sell
-      Develop and defend a “subject matter expert” platform
-      Create a company profile that attracts the right people
-      Stand out in your market niche
-      Q&A  and much more!

Questions?  email

Registration is $195 - and seating is LIMITED!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Welcome to LinkedIn Lite

Ever try putting together a jigsaw puzzle only to find several key pieces missing?

Welcome to LinkedIn Lite - tastes like crap and is less fulfilling of your business needs than ever before.

Over the past few years LinkedIn has been removing features that many found useful, including

- the Q&A forum
- the events calendar
- the group statistics
- getting introduced (part of the messaging)
- BCC  removed from :bulk" messages
- the ability to reply to connection requests before accepting
- the "advanced search" capability
- the ability to view people's entire profiles without having to click "see more"
- seeing the groups your connections belonged to
- and now, the ability to post

This is far from the entire list, but you get the point.

Some LinkedIn members may not know all of these, but those who've been on the platform for a longer time may recall some or most of them.

Bottom line? The overall functionality of LinkedIn is going down in a big way for those not willing to pay $900 a year for Sales Navigator. 

In my market, U.S. government contracting, government employees are not going to pay the $900, nor will the agency they work for. This will drive the value down the value for federal managers, and they will use the platform less. This, in turn, will reduce the value for contractors, who will then use it less.

My market is measured in $Trillion$, and LinkedIn is trying to get the federal government to use the HR platform for recruiting. With the reduced functionality AND the ridiculously high price for the Sales Navigator, Federal and state and local governments will find much less value in using LinkedIn.

For over a decade, LinkedIn worked hard to build a great for social networking platform business, and largely they succeeded. However over the past few years, much of the value for active LinkedIn members has either evaporated or migrated to Sales Navigator.

As LinkedIn approaches year 14 (it launched May 5, 2003), 460+ million LinkedIn members are asking "WTF?!?!?"

So, welcome to LinkedIn Lite -tastes like crap and is less fulfilling of your business needs than ever before.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Why the Era of Big GovCon Shows is Past...

Someday soon you are likely to get an email invitation to the next BIG THING, the GovCon event to end all events.

Be wary of such missives, regardless of where it comes from.

In the 1990s hardly a month went by when there wasn't some large IT focused event in DC: the Federal Computer Expo, the GCN Expo (Government Computer News tried it's own), ComNet, AFCEAs TechNet, GovTechNet (FCW & AFCEA), GovSec, Government Video, FedMicro, FedPro Expo, eGov, and many more.

Marketing budgets were healthy then, as real margins existed for both products and services. 

The shows were big, often fun, and occasionally useful. I have pens form those shows older than my children.

Then the shows started dropping off, one by one, until only FOSE remained, although it was far from healthy. Then FOSE passed away after 35 years.

But wait, on the horizon, son of FOSE emerges- ACQUIRE- a show with such a broad focus (federal employee info, IT products, home goods and more...) that it was doomed from the outset. It lasted only one year.

(There is nothing like an empty exhibit hall in prime time.)


The era of the big show is gone. Even if the contractors and the feds needed it, there are few available funds to support it. The margins are thin and federal audiences are more frugal with their time, going to events that offer specific information.

Small, very focused events have largely replaced the mega-shows for government contractors. Producers like the Federal Business Council. Digital Government Institute, and select others produce more targeted events. Hosky Communications produces events for contractors that target a specific technology audience. Associations like GITEC, ACT-IAC, AFFIRM and the Professional Services Council Produce excellent events.

FISSEA, out at NIST, produces an annual event for IT professionals inside federal agencies responsible for security training. They have their annual event in March, 2017- not too late!

Contract program offices sponsor great event: NITAAC, SEWP and Alliant have all held successful events for their respective contractors recently. If you aren't on one of these contracts you can always call and ask if you can attend to learn more and network.

National associations like HIMSS produce events where many feds will attend even though the focus is not federal.

Why? They are more focused. They offer great networking opportunities. They offer continuing education credits, and more.

Sponsorship may cost a fair amount, but you don't have to sponsor to attend.

Your marketing funds are limited, from the largest contractors down to those small companies. If you are thinking about exhibiting at an event or event sponsorship, be very careful with your selection.

Remember, someday soon you are likely to get an email invitation to the next BIG THINGthe GovCon event to end all events.

Do not share, forward or respond. Just delete it.

Comments are always welcome!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Amtower Off Center begins year 11

Weekly since February 2007, Amtower Off Center has offered a forum to discuss the contracting side of government. 

The show airs Monday at noon in DC on 1500 AM, is simulcast on, and is downloadable from the station web site and iTunes.

I strive to offer information that is timely, educational and interesting, as well as occasionally amusing. The show is like nothing else on air.

The topics range from sales, marketing, business development, GWACs, IDIQs and GSA Schedules, creating a subject matter expert platform, mergers and acquisitions, creating an advisory board, LPTA and category management, small business issues, contracting and procurement, interviews with business authors, marketing lessons form military history and more.

Often I have guests who help analyze current issues, shedding light on the good, the bad and the ugly, warning contractors of landmines and roadblocks, or offering tips on how to win more.

I've enjoyed having many of brightest people in government contracting on my show, as well as other thought leaders, including Jill Aitoro, Larry Allen, Anne Altman, Brad Antle, Betsy Blakney, Lou Anne Bradley Brossman, Steve Charles,  Alan Chovotkin, Robert Coen, Bob Davis, Kevin DeSanto, Lisa Dezzutti, Fred Diamond, Carl Dickson, Michael Fischetti, Lee Frederiksen, Hal Good, Bob Gourley, Kimberly Hancher, Ann Handley, Maria Horton, Claudia and Peg Hosky, Peter Jacobs, Martha Johnson, Wyatt Kash, Michael Keating, Casey Kelley, Stan Krejci, Bob Laclede, Dee Lee, Cameron Leuthy, Robert Lohfeld, Christina Morrison, Lisa Pafe, Kevin Plexico, David Powell, Joe Pulizzi, Kerry Simon Rea, Todd Richards, Allan Rubin, David Meerman Scott, David Shea, Mike Smoyer, Barry Strauss, Stan Soloway, Emma Sopko, Simon Szykman, Guy Timberlake, Nick Wakeman, Rita Walston, Beth Wingate, Joanne Woytek, Kevin P Young, and many others.

Below are a few photos of me and various guests.

Above, with Lisa Pafe of Lohfeld Conulting

Amtower on air

                        Above, with best selling author and speaker David Meerman Scott

Above with David Shea, GSA Charge Card Program Director

With Wyatt Kash

With Deidre (Dee) Lee

With Fred Diamond

At the Tower Club with Bob Laclede

With Peter Jacobs and Christina Morrison

Friday, December 30, 2016

2017 - The Year of the GWAC

Recently Bloomberg Government (BGov) released a study stating GWACs hit a record $10 billion in 2016. 

I agree it was a record year, but the total was slightly over $15 billion, not the $10 billion reported by BGov. From the GSA GWAC dashboard, a call to the SEWP office and having worked with NITAAC during most of 2016, I knew the numbers: GSAs combined GWACs nearly $6.2 billion, NITAACs 3 GWACs almost $5 billion, and SEWP came in at about $4 billion.

Everett Dirkson would be impressed, because now we're talking real money.

Overall a good year across the board for the eight GWACs: 8(a) STARS II,  Alliant, Alliant Small Business, CIO-CS, CIO-SP3, CIO-SP3 Small Business, SEWP V, and VETS,

Why the seemingly "sudden" growth? There are several factors.

First, and perhaps most obvious, many of the companies that own prime spots on the GWACs are out there actively pushing these vehicles to their customer and prospect base. The contracts offer lower fees for agencies than the GSA Schedules, are very easy to use, and have a broad range of products and services. The companies that are most successful on GWACs - even small companies - are aggressive in promoting those GWACs. Just look at the growth of Red River, a top SEWP perfomer over the past several years.

Which leads to factor two: OEMs and service providers love GWACs. OEMs without access to GWACs have limited access to Federal buyers. When Oracle announced it would no longer make products available on any GSA Schedule, do you think it hurt their sales?

Probably not, as their partners in the GovCon arena own spots on multiple GWACs and other IDIQs. One major partner, DLT Solutions, is on SEWP V, CIO-CS and has an Army BPA for Oracle. Oracle's departure from GSA Schedules will hurt Schedule 70, not Oracle.

I advise hardware manufacturers to talk to both NITAAC and SEWP directly, then to look for key contract holders, preferably companies that have spots on both contracts. Adding new OEMs on SEWP and CIO-CS takes hours, not weeks or months. I often assist OEMs in their search for right channel partners.

Another factor contributing to the growth is the number of sub-contracts for these vehicles is growing. Most of the prime contract holders welcome the new subs if it is a good fit for them and the contract. Joanne Woytek of SEWP, Casey Kelley of Alliant and Rob Coen, then with NITAAC but now at FEDSIM all discussed this aspect of their respective contracts when they were guests on my radio show on Federal News Radio. GWACs and IDIQs are frequent topics on my show.

If you don't have a prime spot on one of the GWACs, look for a partner that does.

Yet another factor is that each of the GWAC program managers will spend time with any agency contract shop explaining how and why to use their contracts, as well as the lower fees and the ease of use. SEWP and NITAAC are quite active in this.

We are also seeing more contract specific training events, a key to educating both buyers and sellers. I have moderated GWAC panels at conferences like 930Gov  and the Government Procurement Conference because of the growing popularity of GWACs. Alliant and SEWP both have major events in January 2017.

Then there is the FITARA halo effect. NITAAC has e-GOS, a dashboard that allows the agency (and the contractor) to see and download their entire transaction history: date, price paid, vendor, product/service, SIN, delivery and much more. This helps the buying agency when it does FITARA reporting. SEWP is launching a similar dashboard in 2017.

As FITARA will probably be with us for a while, the dashboards will make reporting almost seamless, making the contracts more attractive to CIOs.

Although there are other factors at play, when you tally the pluses of GWACs against the mis-adventures of strategic sourcing (FSSI), TDR and other GSA Schedule changes, GWACs come out looking like manna from heaven for both buyers and sellers.


If by chance you will be at the SEWP conference in January, 2017, I'd like to meet with you to discuss marketing tactics for your contract. I will be at the conference on January 11th. Shoot me an email and we can set a time to meet - 

I have been advising companies on marketing GWACs since 1995 and the 2nd GWAC ever awarded- SuperMini.

Have a successful 2017!

Mark Amtower

Thursday, October 13, 2016

NEW DATE: Don't miss Creating Your Subject Matter Expert Platform JAN 12, 2017 in Columbia MD

B2G will be tougher than ever in FY 2017 so you need to leverage every advantage - and create platforms that give you an advantage.

We are offering a workshop January 12, 2017 from 8am until 4pm that will help you define and develop your Subject Matter Expert (SME) platform.

Developing a subject matter expert platform is critical for success in the government market. This session combines elements of three Government Market Master workshops:

LinkedIn for GovCon, 
B2G Content Marketing and 
Creating the Subject Matter Expert Platform.

The workshop includes a 30 minute consultation prior to the session. As a bonus we are offering a post-workshop consultation to answer any questions.

The workshop highlights five stages to developing the SME platform:

1) determining your legitimate differentiator(s);
2) displaying the differentiator on your social profile and your web site;
3) substantiating the differentiator through content development, sharing and curation;
4) social engagement (live and online networking);
5) expanding your network.

To register, go here: 

There are many ways to differentiate yourself and your company to gain an edge over your competition. The area of expertise can be a technical or process driven differentiator; it can be predicated on relationships; it can be built around a deep knowledge regarding a specific agency, and more.

Defining and communicating your area expertise is critical for your growth and success.

This workshop will include a comprehensive 140 page workbook, snacks, beverages and lunch.

We are limiting attendance to 16.  The $100 discount code is "HTC1".

Reserve your seat today: 

Call or email with any questions: 

301 854 9493

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Marketing Warfare

I have a fascination with military history, especially battles and successful commanders. My library includes Sun Tzu (3 different editions- my favorite is the James Clavell version), the three volume set of von Clauswitz’s On War, biographies of Alexander the Great, the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon, Patton’s War As I Knew It,  Eisenhower’s War in Europe, Marketing Warfare (Trout and Ries), and more. You get the picture.

Recently I’ve been reading Cornell history Professor Barry Strauss, who writes well and extensively on ancient warfare, especially Greek and Roman. Imagine my surprise when I open an email from MarketingProfs and find “Disruptive Marketing Lessonsfrom the Trojan Horse” by Professor Strauss.

So I ask myself, “Mark, what have you seen in GovCon over the years that reflects good military thinking?” Here are a few scenarios that came to mind.

The Importance of Beachheads

Micron PC (MPC) in the mid-1990s produced some great computers, but they were competing against some much bigger companies like Dell and Gateway. All three offered built-to-spec mail/phone order computers. The CEO of Micron at that time was a former Dell executive and he wanted blood, but under the guidance of the late, great Harry B. Heisler a plan was developed and deployed to go after market share in the four agencies where MPC had a strong beachhead, not to attack larger, much better financed companies across the board. Advising Harry was fun; flying to Boise from Baltimore less so, unless I was flying out with Tony Colangelo.

The result of developing the beachheads produced very significant growth in each agency, more than doubling sales in each agency over the next two years. Use your resources where you have that beachhead, and sell where you are known.

Exploiting a Weakness in Your Opponent

CDW launched the “G” division in the early 2000s. In 2004 I was given a tour of the new warehouse in Chicago as part of my introduction to my new client. The warehouse was a true “just in time” delivery powerhouse, as they could get things out the door that day if the order was in by 2:00 pm. My tour guide was the president of CDWG, Jim Shanks. During the tour we were discussing how to differentiate CDWG from GTSI and at the end of the tour I had the answer. At that time GTSI had been the dominant VAR for over twenty years.

“How long do you think GTSI takes to ship products?” I asked Jim. He did not know, but I did: Often as long as three weeks.

The first differentiator was “Order by 2:00PM and get it the next day.” Finding and exploiting the weakness propelled CDWG past GTSI in a few short years. 

While this was certainly not the only tactic that CDWG used (great marketing, sales and customer service were part of the package), it was a great way to kick off the offensive.

Guerrilla Warfare

About the same time CDWG was going after GTSI, Juniper Networks deployed a guerrilla marketing campaign against much bigger Cisco. While it had several elements, the most prominent was Farside-esque cartoons in Federal Computer Week.  The cartoons took maybe one-eighth of a page and were much less expensive that the two-page ads Cisco was buying. However, the cartoons were what people started looking for in each issue, with every cartoon offering a humorous barb. My personal favorite was a cat using a Cisco router as a litter box.

I did not advise Juniper so I don’t know the results, but I do know that there was a TON of buzz around this campaign.

Successful guerrilla warfare involves using unconventional tactics effectively, tactics your opponent does not expect and for which they are not prepared.

Final Thoughts

For marketing tactics to be successful you need to know the goal. I knew the goals of MPC and CDWG and they were successful well beyond the original intent. While I loved the Juniper campaign, I don’t know how successful it was, because I have no clue what their goal was.

Regardless of whether your problem is a limited budget, and well-financed much bigger opponent, or simply an entrenched enemy, there are ways to erode their market share and possibly displace them altogether.

My business development consultant friend Bob Davis once said "Marketshare is rented, never owned."  No one stays on top forever, and with a little help, maybe you can expedite their departure.

History books have valuable marketing lessons, especially military history.

Share your "war story" in the "Comments" area.

Thank you for reading this.

(This article first appeared in Washington Technology: