Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Three Common LinkedIn Mistakes


LinkedIn is the #1 venue where business professionals are vetted. That first impression your profile makes can either lead to more business, or to being passed by without a second glance.

In many instances, it is your first chance to gain credibility for yourself and your company.

There are several tactics to get more people to view and read your LinkedIn profile. These are often overlooked because too little time and planning has gone into the profile development. 

Here are a few things for you to consider. 


The first mistake is the photo - a picture of you. LinkedIn has been pretty consistent over the past several years saying that profiles with photos are viewed 11x more than those without. 


A professional head shot is always best, business attire with you smiling. Avoid photos of pets, boats, group shots (which one is you?) and stick to the basics. Selfies don't cut it, nor do bar, wedding or party pics. 


Be professional. 


The second mistake is not using the background (banner) area, the space behind your head shot.  


Here you have several options, including your company logo, a company "team" photo (depending on the size of your company), a word cloud displaying the areas of expertise you and your company bring to the market, or in my case, a photo of me speaking at an industry event. 


The default is something you see frequently: the pale blue background with the dots being connected.

The background/banner area is great, free advertising space that is grossly underutilized on LinkedIn. 


The third mistake is the headline, the line under your photo. 

Too many people have the default, which is your current job title.

Unless you are the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, your headline should convey more than a nebulous job title. 


Tell people what you do and who you do it for. If your company sells cybersecurity tools or services and you are the marketing manager, why not say "Cyvbersecurity Brand Strategist" instead of "Marketing Manager"? If you sell trade show give-aways, you are a "Corporate Brand Ambassador", not a trinket merchant.

Each of these areas is on your opening screen shot. 


When someone pops in to view your profile, and each tactic will lay a role in determining if your profile visitor stays to read a little more, or moves quickly to the the next profile. 


Developed with careful planning and used properly, these three tactics will make your profile stand out from your competitors. 


I welcome your feedback.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

That was the week that was...

I really don't get out much, even though I preach that networking and relationships are key in our market. You will see and hear this on my radio show, in my books, articles and blog posts.

And it's true- this is a relationship-driven market.




This past week, October 9 through October 13, was an exception  for me, and it illustrates why we- you and I - need to get out more.


Monday at 7 AM I got the newsletter out, and had a few client calls during the day. I also worked on LinkedIn for GovCon, my next book. And I walked 5 miles.

Tuesday I was out the door at 6 AM heading downtown to 1101 K Street, Bloomberg Government HQ, for an Army budget briefing coinciding with the AUSA conference. Good information, good networking, and ideas and guests for two upcoming radio shows.

Three of my main criteria for me going to an event of any kind are:

    - who is the producer?
    - will there be good information?
    - will there be good networking/

BGov delivered on all counts.

Several client calls during the day back in my home office in Columbia MD. I got in a 2 mile walk.

Then out the door again at 3 PM to go to the 20th anniversary party of SpeakerBox, one of my favorite PR firms. I've known Elizabeth Shea for a long time and I do not make an afternoon rush hour appearance in Virginia often. Though the 2 hour return drive to Columbia was not fun, I would do it again for Shea.

Once again, great networking.

Wednesday I was out the door before 6 AM again on my way to the Renaissance on 9th Street for the Washington Technology HHS IT briefing. I attended this last year and once again Nick Wakeman and WT delivered solid information with presenters, panels, and great networking.

I got in a 3 mile walk that afternoon.

Thursday I slept late (6 AM), walked 5 miles and had lunch with a guy I met through LinkedIn, Vincent Goldsmith. Although we live maybe 10 miles (max) apart and have been connected on LinkedIn for nearly 7 years, we had never met.

I found Vincent's profile when I was doing research for a company that wanted to do business with CMS.  Nearly every person I found was connected to Vincent, whose headline reads: "CMS Program and Capture Management - feel free to connect with me. I'm looking to expand my CMS network." Need to explore CMS? Vincent is your guy.

I have used (with permission) Vincent's profile in several of my LinkedIn training classes and it will be featured in my next two books (I'm doing one on building a subject matter expert platform, too, and Vincent is definitely a CMS SME).

I had a few client calls and wrote for a few hours.

Friday I was out the door once again before 6 AM heading for Reston and the 2017 GAIN conference. This was the 2nd annual Government Marketing University conference and I was the first speaker after the keynote.



Speaking after a keynote can be an iffy proposition. If the keynoter knocks it out of the park, you have a hard act to follow.

Sales guru John Asher keynoted and was quite good. I will let those who attended judge my performance, but lots of people asked for my slides - always a good sign. 

During my presentation  I was able to reference information I picked up at BGov, WashTech, and I talked about Vincent. I love when a week comes together like that!

This event surpassed my event criteria and would be worthwhile for every marketer in the public sector:

    - producer has credentials and track record
    - event provided great information
    - networking was second to none

I saw lots of people I don't see often, met several new people, and enjoyed each presentation. And I got to speak!

Need to find some events to attend? Take a look at GovEvents, Kerry Rea's great web site. Kerry and GovEvents were at GAIN and I don't get to see her often enough.

And I kept seeing Larry Rosenfeld...maybe it was something I ate.

This week I am speaking at 2 private events, one for CEOs and one for BD professionals, and I have a few private presentations before the end of the year for company sales meetings, but no more public speaking.

However, I will be attending three events in November you should consider.

Nov 2, Market Connections Federal Media and Marketing Study briefing, anther great venue for GovCon marketing, sales and BD professionals.

Nov 6, the DISA Industry Forecast

November 16, the 4th annual immixGroup Governemnt IT Sales Summit

Even if you don't get out much, you should find events that educate and provide great networking.

Look for me out there and say hello. I am the man in black.




Please share your favorite venues for information and networking here in the Comments.

(I try to walk 3-5 miles every day and have lost 40 pounds in the last year.)

Sunday, August 27, 2017

FY 18 is here: Are you a small contractor in need of some advice and direction?


Amtower GovCon Advisory Program 

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).

-       - Access to me for an entire FY.

Please call 301 854 9493 or email markamtower@gmail.com 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     www.FederalDirect.net

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:  https://fcw.com/articles/2017/07/25/oasis-shakeup.aspx

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 - markamtower@gmail.com

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. 



markamtower@gmail.com   301 854 9493

Mark Amtower   Amtower & Company   www.FederalDirect.net

https://www.linkedin.com/in/markamtower/    @amtower


Saturday, March 4, 2017

Some Thoughts on GWACs: An Amtower Off-White Paper (take 2)

(Updated with a few corrections) 

Much has been written about GWACs over the past few years, both collectively and as individual contracts. In the fall of 2016, Bloomberg Government (BGov) released a study stating GWACs hit a record $10 billion in 2016. 

I agree it was a record year, but my tally shows about $15 billion. I got my data from the GSA GWAC dashboard, a call to the SEWP office and from having worked with NITAAC most of FY 2016. GSAs combined GWACs are nearly $6.2 billion, NITAACs 3 GWACs almost $5 billion, and SEWP came in at about $4 billion.

Regardless of the actual total, GWAC the dollars and growth are real. Everett Dirkson would be impressed, because now we're talking real money.

So overall a good year across the board for the eight GWACs. But before we proceed, here’s…


A Brief History of GWACs

As things go in GovCon, GWACs are a relatively new contracting method, the first being SEWP, a pilot GWAC awarded in November 1992, but the awards were delayed due to the Presidential transition until Feb 1993. This was a primarily single award contract, with one category having more than one awardee.

It was awarded as the pilot GWAC (a test case) under GSA delegation of procurement authority; Clinger-Cohen created the official Executive Agent designation for GWACs under OMB.

The second GWAC came in 1996, the HHS/NIH contract, ECS, was the first multiple-award GWAC that got significant traction for small businesses. ECS was awarded to three large companies, seven small companies and seven 8(a)s, and according the Federal Computer Week from a 1996 article, the smalls did pretty well.

SEWP I offered a category for multiple awards, but it was not until SEWP II that the MAC version was more fully implemented.

In the late 1990s there were several agencies trying to launch GWAC experiments, including Commerce, Transportation and Interior. They soon found that the successful management of a GWAC was not simple. Commerce punted COMMITS to GSA and to the best of my recollection, the others just folded up and went away.

So in the early 2000s, three agencies emerged from the quagmire with viable vehicles: NASA, NIH and GSA.

In the summer of 2006 I interviewed Max Peterson about selling to the government. In a four hour CD interview one of many stand-out quotes was as VP of Sales for CWD-G, his team had the “IT product trifecta: SEWP, ECS and GSA Schedule 70.” This, he said, covered all the agency bases.

Fast forward to today 25 years later, and there are still only three agencies authorized by OMB to award GWACS: GSA, HHS/NIH (NITAAC), and NASA. GSA contracts are Alliant II, Alliant II Small Business, 8(a) STARS II, and VETS. NITAAC contracts are CIO-SP3, CIO-SP3 Small business, and CIO-CS (formerly ECS). NASAs contract is SEWP V.

Eight GWACs and billions of bucks.

Back to the Present

Why the seemingly "sudden" growth in the popularity of GWACs? 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 GWACs usually offer lower fees for agencies than the GSA Schedules, are very easy to use, have vetted providers, 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. Red River is also one of several contractor to hold both SEWP V and CIO-CS.

World Wide Technology, a SEWP contractor for 3 iterations and now also on CIO-CS, has leveraged these vehicles very well over the years.

Which leads to factor two: OEMs and service providers love GWACs. OEMs without access to GWACs or other IDIQs 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-contractors 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.

Alliant’s Casey Kelley and his team have taken spending time with agencies to a new level, getting agreements with some agencies (after mutual vetting for a good fit) to use Alliant as a preferred contract.

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, NITAAC and SEWP all held events in early 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, who are being held more accountable for IT purchases.

Where Does the GWAC Growth Come From?

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.

Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity (IDIQs) are contracts that have no money assigned specifically to the contract, but that are open to audiences defined by the type of contract. GWACs (Government-wide Acquisition Contract), for example, are IDIQ IT contracts open to all federal agencies, but like GSA Schedules, are simply a hunting license. 





The companies that win the coveted spots on each of the GWACs are pre-vetted through the award process, technically making them more attractive to all federal buyers. The bidding and award processes are vigorous, weeding out the contractors that are not ready for prime-time.

The dramatic growth for GWACs over recent years has caught the attention of many, making these coveted vehicles even more popular for both the contract holder and the buying agencies.

The question is how does the growth occur?

There is no question that the NITAAC GWACs growth during the Rob Coen years (2009-2016, and being PM from 2012-2016) was nothing short of spectacular. NITAAC is now under the direction of Acting PM Bridget Gauer with basically the same team, so growth should continue. The three NITAAC GWACs (CIO-SP3, CIO-SP3 Small Business and CIO-CS) combined for nearly $5 billion in 2016.

SEWP, under the guidance of Joanne Woytek for the last 18 years, has always been a great performer and sought after vehicle for contractors. Joanne has the most experience running a GWAC and the SEWP program is deservedly the best known GWAC in the GovCon arena. SEWP had its best year ever in 2016 with nearly $4 billion.

Casey Kelley and his Alliant team have another growing GWAC that has introduced a unique process for awarding contract wins. Alliant and the other GSA GWACs (Alliant II, Alliant II Small Business, 8aSTARS II, VETS2) combined for almost $6 billion in 2016.

Each of the GWAC Program Managers works hard for their contracts, but does that lead to the growth?



The answer is yes, with a caveat. The caveat is that like the GSA Schedule contracts, the GWACs and other multiple-award IDIQs have super-performers, adequate performers, and not-so-great performers. Companies with well-managed contracts help the GWACs grow.

The difference between the top performers and other contract holders comes down to how the program is managed on the contractor side. This includes several factors, among them:

-      -  The relationship between the contractor and the GWAC contract office, the teams on each side, is critical to growth. The government team can show no preference for any contractor, but each GWAC PM and their team is open to working with any contractor to help them be successful. SEWP’s Woytek personally visits each contract holder to ensure they understand the value of the vehicle and how to leverage it. This has been a trademark of SEWP for at least the last two iterations of the contract. Not all contractors take full advantage of this.

     -  Each GWAC has agencies that prefer their respective vehicles. While technically any agency can buy off any of these contracts, some agencies prefer CIO-CS over SEWP V and vice versa, some agencies have signed agreements with a GWAC to declare them a preferred vehicle, and so on. The contract holders that understand which agencies prefer which contracts, and grow deeper relationships with those agencies, tend to win more business through the contract. Not brain surgery, but also not a method employed by all.

-      -  The contractors willing to push the bounds of the contract into new agencies also find allies in the contract Program Managers. The PMs will help educate an agency on the value of their contract without endorsing any particular contractor. When a contractor takes this approach, it could be for several reasons, including their current relationships with that agency, or perhaps they uncovered a specific opportunity where a certain GWAC would be best used. In any case, this is a longer term tactic not employed by chronic under-performers.

     -  The approach by the contract holders on the sales, business development and marketing part of the equation differ widely. In part this is a resource issue (smaller companies have fewer resources to draw on) and in part it is because some companies with multiple contracts market all the contracts together, not each separately. Other companies still suffer under the misguided notion that winning a contract makes the phone ring. Not so. Aligning your marketing, BD and sales and creating specific programs to target specific opportunities increases sales. A separate Off-White Paper on this topic is forthcoming.

     -  The ability for contractors to respond quickly and accurately to the RFQs that come from the GWAC contract office is the most obvious part of the puzzle. However as we all know, responding to RFPs and RFQs is part art, part science, part reading between the lines and part knowing the customer and his/her preferences on both the responses and the bidders knowledge of the agency and how that plays out in the response by the contractor.

While this is not a complete inventory of factors for why some companies perform better than others, it does touch on some significant points.

My point is winning a spot on a great contract is just the beginning of the process.
Growing the contract business is the job of the GWAC PM. Growing your share of that business is up to you.

That combination makes the GWAC more attractive to government buyers.


Why some GWAC contractors are better at monetizing contracts




Here are a few final thoughts on why some GWAC contractors do better than others.

First, contractors with good relationships to OEMs often have an easier time with vendor registrations. Which leads to…

Contractors that know the target agency better than others are more likely to know when something is coming to fruition. One of my contractor friends has a DHS rep second to none. Consequently, this rep surpasses his goals and drives significant business through various contracts, but does so because of a deep knowledge of the agency and knowing exactly when to get his contracting office to register a deal.

Third, knowing when to take your executives to client meetings is critical in building a relationship with the customer. I’ve seen too many smaller companies where this simply does not occur.

GWACs are only as good as the GWAC program office. SEWP has been a leader in this realm, but NITAAC and Alliant have closed the gap.  The Alliant team is the best of the GSA GWACs. (1)

In the end, it’s relationships: contractor of GWAC program office, contractor to agency, contractor to OEM.



Back to the Future


Given the uncertainty about the budget (perpetual continuing resolution and civilian agency spending) and the direction the new administration might take on both program and procurement issues, I think the use of established GWACs and IDIQs like OASIS will rise dramatically over the next few years.

Not that I have an opinion.


***

(1): there was nothing about VETS and 8(a) STARS in this because neither seems to have great traction, and I don’t hear much about either contract from media or industry. If you have details on either, drop me a line.

* This article is a combination of two recent blog posts and one newsletter article. I merged them into one piece to organize my own thoughts, then share them. This version was first published in my newsletter, The Amtower Report.

If you need help maximizing the dollar value of your GWAC, email me at markamtower@gmail.com