Wednesday, February 29, 2012

If you build it.... (The Waldo Factor, part 9)

When I do public seminars and workshops or private sessions on using LinkedIn, one question that invariably comes up is, "Yeah, but are my customers here?"

For government contractors the short answer is a resounding Yes.

Whether you are targeting prime contractors for partnering, teaming or sub-contracting, or if you are looking for Federal managers, you can find them on LinkedIn.

How do I know?

As you may suspect, I spend more time on LinkedIn than most in our market (yes, this is the second most asked question in most of my sessions).

I have looked up each of the top 100 contractors according to Washington Technology and they are all here- in force, and I am connected with most of them.

For the last few years I knew Feds and other government officials (state and local) were on Linkedin because I saw them in various groups and many have connected with me.

But I needed more and decided to do a little digging to see what some of the actual numbers are.

Here is a sampling of what I found for Federal agencies on LinkedIn:

USDA:   5.982
DOC:     5,225
DOD:     21,679
DOE:     2,876
GSA:     11,314
HHS:     5,120
NASA:  7,298
OMB:    252
VA:       31,079

And these are only the people who list the HQ as the employer, not the sub-agency. NIH, for example, lists 11,229 employees on LinkedIn, more than 2x the number of members than HQ.

The more intelligently active you are on LinkedIn the more likely it is you will find the people you are looking for. If you look in groups that should be germane to their professional interests, you will probably find them. If you participate in the groups, they will notice you.

If you had any doubts about Federal employees or managers using LinkedIn before, I suggest you take another look.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

It all begins with your profile...The Waldo Factor (part 8)

First, the news: On Feb 9, 2012, LinkedIn announced it had reached 150 million members.

Now, a short tour of a past post: (from this blog: The Waldo Factor part 1, August 30, 2011)

Here’s the scene, and I think we’ve all been here: You are at a conference and the person on stage speaking to 1,000+ people is somewhere between adequate and pretty good, but you are thinking he/she is not as good as you. My usual thought is along the lines of “where did they dig up this clown, and why is he/she talking about last year’s hot ideas as if they were new?”

So why is that person on the stage and you are sitting, frustrated, in the audience? What got them up there and not you?

While there are no easy answers to that question, the biggest factor is they are better known for what they do than you are. It may be because they wrote a book or some articles, they had some other speaking engagements, they were recommended by someone advising the event producer, or maybe they “knew somebody” or probably some combination of these and other factors. Somehow they were able to get in front of the right people at the right time and get the speaking engagement.

Regardless of the factors that created the situation, the fact is they are on the stage and you are in the audience. People are looking at and listening to them, and you are one of those faceless people in the crowd. Again, we've all been there.

Think of the person on the stage as Point B, and you as Point A. How do you get from Point A to Point B?


That's what I wrote last August. And here is the short answer:

It all begins with your LinkedIn profile.

LinkedIn is the best place for business professionals to post information about themselves, regardless of your discipline.

As a business professional, regardless of what your function is, you need to be findable to those in your field. To be findable among 150 million other professionals will take some hard work, but it is do-able.

A good-to-great profile can make the difference between you getting your next job, consulting assignment, or that elusive speaking gig. This is the place where you need to define and discuss the value you bring to your profession without hyperbole.

To become more "findable" by those who need your expertise, here are the top 5 elements for your profile, in order of importance.

1- The Photo: this is the first thing people gravitate to as we are all visual beings. A professional looking photo, with you smiling, is usually best. Nobody needs to see your boat, your dog or your family- just you.

2- The Headline: this is the tag line under your name and it is valuable real estate. The default mode is your current job title. A good tag line gets people to read your profile.

2- The Name: this is your name. We have all seen people with email addresses, professional designations and more in the name field. Use your name- just your name.

4- The Summary/Specialties; view this as your first conversation with your profile visitor. Make it an interesting conversation and talk about what you bring to the market. The "specialties" (2nd part of the summary) is where you enumerate each of your skills.

5- Experience: this is the job section. Don't simply list the job title- tell people what you did and what the company does.

There are several other facets to the profile, but these are the biggies. Do these right and you will start attracting attention from the people you want attention from.

Your LinkedIn profile is always a work in progress. Check out OPP- other people's profiles- and get some ideas on how to improve your profile.

Remember, a good-to-great profile can make the difference between you and your next job, consulting assignment, or that elusive speaking gig. A bad profile is the difference between your next job.....

Need help with LinkedIn? Drop me a line ( I host a monthly LinkedIn Blackbelt Workshop (near BWI ariport), one-on-one coaching and company coaching (both via teleconference), and I also offer a profile analysis. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

My 2004 Predictions - and a 2012 Fed 100

Prior to my blog and my Washington Technology columns, throughout the 1990s until 2008 I published my e-newsletter, The Amtower Report  (it was a snail mail newsletter in the early 1990s).  During that same period I also published 24 "Off White Papers" (1998-2004).

(In case you are wondering why I stopped writing those, I thought the blog and the articles could take the place of the newsletter, but I still get grief from a few people that want the newsletter back in their inbox...)

Both the newsletter and Off White Papers enjoyed some notoriety because I expressed some controversial thoughts and coined some phrases that have become part of the industry jargon, among them "the big bag theory" and "battle of the bags" as a way of describing the main activity at major trade shows. While I always found big bags amusing, I never believed they were a good marketing tool.

Along the way I also made some predictions regarding reseller community. In Off White Paper 23: VAR Wars 2004 - I made some statements and predictions about the reseller community that were not mainstream.

I suggested that the immixGroup was a company to watch. Indeed, it has now grown to nearly $1 billion in sales under co-founders Jeff Copeland and Steve Charles. Founded in 1997, immixGroup was already becoming a significant force, and has grown to powerhouse status. I referred to them as "a cash machine for themselves and their clients". Congratulations, gentlemen.

Further, I postulated that GTSI was stagnating, in part due to a lack of managing the brand and market position. I said that missteps by GTSI would open the door for CDW (CDWG) and others, which is what happened.

I indicated that BestBuy Government would have a very difficult time entering the government reseller battle. Anyone remember BBG?

And I predicted that Craig Abod, then recently departed from one reseller, would emerge as a force to be reckoned with.

This turned out to be somewhat prophetic.  Craig had just started Carahsoft Technology when I wrote that in 2004.  Two months ago, in December, 2011, at the end of the 7th year, Carahsoft hit $1 billion in annual sales.

This is amazing for several reasons, the first and most obvious is that $1 billion in 7 years is a ridiculously fast growth pace. Less obvious is there was no VC or angel money to start Carahsoft, and no mergers or acquisitions along the way: it is all natural growth.

This is an unparalleled accomplishment in the GovCon community.

And there is icing for this cake. Eight years ago Craig started Carahsoft at the end of January. At the end of January 2012, Craig was notified that he was awarded a Federal Computer Week Fed 100 award.

Congratulations Mr Abod, for an extraordinary job. You realize, of course, that now I expect more of the same...

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

There is networking, then there's connecting, then there is being "connected": The Waldo Factor, part 7

In the governnment contracting community there are arguably only a handful of networking events where there are a significant number of "power players" in one place at one time- senior executives from the top contractors, senior government officials, key press contacts and others.

One such event is the annual Deltek holiday party, now held at the Ritz in McLean. Due to Fire Marshall issues, it has become an invitation only (gotta be on the list) event.

This event was started byTom Hewitt when he ran Federal Sources. Of all the people I have ever met in the government market, Tom knew the value of networking and went out of his way to meet people, make introductions, create networking venues and help as many as he could. He is a truly gracious guy. On many occasions I was the recipient of introductions by and invitations from Tom, and I remain grateful for both.

Hewitt was the epitome of being connected. He was the LinkedIn of the 1990s.

He started the annual holiday party in the late 1980s and held it at the McLean Hilton as an open, anyone can attend event.  There was no fee to attend and it remains so to this day, although you need to bring a $20+ toy for the US Marines "Toys for Tots" program.

When I attended this event for the first time (according to my old Day-Timer collection, 1991), I looked around the room and thought, "These are the people I read about in Federal Computer Week, Washington Technology and Government Executive - and here they are!"

My job that evening was to meet as many people as I could, gather as many business cards as possible, and see if I could develop some consulting business. I had some minor name recognition at the time through my newsletter (hardcopy, snail mail), from being on the Board of Advisors for FOSE, a little word-of-mouth, and a few speaking engagements. But I was far from being "well known" in the contracting community.

So I'd gather the business cards, drop people a note (snail mail), follow up with a phone call.

The results were not stellar, but they were OK.

Tom Hewitt may have known many or most of the people in that room but I certainly did not. But everyone in that room knew Tom Hewitt. His rolodex and influence was truly unparalleled in this market throughout the 1990s.

So 20 years later I find myself at the Ritz at the annual holiday party and I'm looking around and I am thinking - "These are the people I read about in the trade magazines, hear interviewed on Federal News Radio, see on LinkedIn - and here they are!" The attendance is around 1,200 of the most influential people in the contracting community.

While I have better name recognition and good overall market visibility, I still don't know everyone I'd like to know. So I still collect business cards.

So my goal with the business cards is to make certain that while I may not know everyone in the room, I want to have most of them in my "network" - so I invite the key players to connect with me on LinkedIn, making certain my business card collection pays some dividends.

There may be 1,200 people in that room, similar to the way it was in 1991. But the difference for me is by connecting to key players (by offering them a reason to connect with me), I have reduced the number of degrees between me and anyone in the room. My network now includes all top contractors, many senior government executives, much of the government trade press, and more.

I may never have the power or influence of Tom Hewitt, but my goal is to emulate certain of his behaviors so my reach in the market is as broad and deep as possible.

So far, so good.