Friday, February 26, 2010

Bloomberg & BGov take 5 - what are they DOING?

These two posts are from January 27 FishbowlDC posts. FishbowlDC provides the inside scoop on DC media. You should subscribe if DC media is of interest to you (if you have PR responsibility or are just a media junkie, FishbowlDC is a great source). My personal thanks and kudos to FishbowlDC for following this so closely.

1/27/10, 4:59 PM
"Sources tell FishbowlDC that an underground project, slated to put a hurtin' on NJ, CQ-Roll Call, The Hill and Politico is underway at the Washington bureau of Bloomberg News. Rumor has it that the project's aim is to specifically report and track Cap Hill news using a dashboard site similar to Bloomberg's existing technology. "

Few details about the initiative have surfaced but the competition has already begun in the HR department. Reportedly led by former CQ Editor and VP Mike Riley, we hear that recruiting efforts have already snagged several CQ folks including top salesperson Joanna Matthews.
At the time of this post, Bloomberg could not comment on the project or specific hires but a rep tells FishbowlDC, "We are hiring globally and Washington is increasingly important to our subscribers, readers, listeners and viewers. Naturally we are adding staff in the DC bureau."

"Bloomberg News still isn't talking about the development of their new product, designed to take on The Hill, CQ-Roll Call and other Cap Hill pubs but details about the venture have started seeping out since FishbowlDC first reported this afternoon.
Sources at the organization say the initiative is being overseen by execs
Chris Walters and Don Baptiste who have traveling to Washington on a weekly basis. Additionally, Chris Roush from UNC's "Talking Biz News" tells us that the project is expected to have a $100 million budget, will create 40-50 editorial positions and is being referred to as "BGov" internally."

Amtower analysis (see my previous posts on this over the last 10 days): Bloomberg is looking to become a major paid information provider on multiple fronts.

- On one front, they will take on the Capitol Hill pubs (National Journal, Roll Call, etc), which includes the Hill and K street (lobbying) audience.

- On another front they will apply their traditional market expertise (finance/investment) to the complex government contracting community and provide an investment service to Wall Street that focuses on Global One - selling to the government (Federal, state and local). Input already announced they were providing an investment tool, Government Investment Advisor (GovIA), providing. Frankly a product like this is long overdue. "

- On yet a third front, Bloomberg will compete against Input, Federal Sources, Onvia and others in providing emerging contract opportunity data to the contracting community.

An Napoleon and others found out, fighting wars on multiple fronts is not a winning proposition.

Bloomberg does have deep pockets and can buy some of the competition, and this is what I expect to happen. With their apparently aggressive growth goals, the "purchase the competition" method is most likely.

Stay tuned....

Thursday, February 25, 2010

More on Bloomberg & BGov, take 4

This story gets more interesting every day. has a couple interesting posts regarding Bloomberg's foray into the B2G marketplace

"Ex-CQ CEO on Bloomberg BGov Board

The buzz is true and painful. Bob Merry, former CQ CEO, has accepted a position on the board of advisors for Bloomberg's BGov enterprise, FishbowlDC has learned."

This post is from Feb 2, and predates my first post by over 2 weeks. If I had been reading my daily emails from Mediabistro/fishbowl every day, I'd have been on this sooner! I knew Bloomberg was interested in B2G late last fall, but didn't think much of it. With the addition of Bob Merry to the advisory board of BGov, we know there is now some adult supervision. It would be interesting to know who else they have for this board.

"CQ-Roll Call Group Freezing Out Bloomberg -
Relations are getting icy between Bloomberg News and CQ-Roll Call Group.
A source at Bloomberg is saying that the CQ-Roll Call Group has refused to renew Bloomberg's subscriptions to CQ's congressional reporting services because, according to the source, "they now consider us a competitor."

Now this is more interesting, as it indicates more of the breadth and depth that Bloomberg may be interested in pursuing, or at least the paranoia they are causing by entering the market.

The paranoia is legitimate. It is not yet known how broad a net Bloomberg/BGov will cast over the market, so anyone providing government information may have cause for some alarm.

Upside: If Bloomberg makes the market more popular, more companies may be interested in entering the market and investors will may find it a more attractive market segment. Bloomberg would not be the only beneficiary from this.

What is known is that budgets are tight, information sources abound on the web for much of this data (often in raw form, but it is there), and that the true value comes from the added value current information providers bring to the table. The value-add comes from the ability to make sense from the data, make it usable, then useful. This comes from being a proactive student of the market over a long period of time. You have to know what is important to the market and be able to bring those tiny nuggets to the surface and delveier them to the right audience.

There is a major difference between making data usable and making it useful. Technically, FPDS (Federal Procurement Data Service) data is usable, but it has not been made useful (actionable). In the more raw form, it requires analysis from someone familiar with the nuances of the market to add true value. Top flight talent with B2G contracting experience on this is not readily available. It is a small club.

It will be interesting to see

- if Bloomberg/BGov will make more purchases,
- what kind of products and services they roll out,
- who will drive the BGov group,
- how the BGov group will be populated
- who Bloomberg will add to the BGov Board,
- how the competitors respond.

This is a long-term market. Companies entering with visions of near-term market domination predicated on a "brand" name are not only disappointed, but often end up as chalk outlines on the sidewalk. Bloomberg and BGov may have a real play, but if they enter with attitude and visions of near-term radical growth, it will be interesting to see if BGov becomes BGone.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Bloomberg enters B2G, Input enters Wall Steet - take 3

Among others, Talking Biz News reported in January that Bloomberg was preparing to launch a competitor to Congressional Quarterly (aka CG, not to be confused with GQ, if that is still around). The other publications in that arena is the National Journal, The Hill and Roll Call.

Each of these news services/publications is quite expensive, so the circulation base (# of subscribers) was never huge.

CQ is currently owned by the Roll Call Group. I had the opportunity to consult with the original owner, Congressional Quarterly, on the waning circulation of the publication several years back. When I went to my first meeting there, they were trying to grow the circulation base for the publication while it was shrinking. The web was providing much of the news previously not available to the general public. This was several years back: factor in now the use of all the web 2.0 tools and news sources and the ability to get the info without the expensive publications is very real.

My advice back then was to shore up the base rather than to look for new subscribers. The logic was simple: after many years of publishing, they had exhausted most of the sources for new subscribers. The best use of the marketing funds was to keep those who were already subscribers and try to get those back who had recently cancelled. These publications, while fun and interesting, are difficult to sell on a one-to-one basis.

The market for exclusive information sources is shrinking because the "exclusivity" of the information is disappearing - there are literally hundreds of web-based sources that are free or cheap providing similar information.

The key is adding value for the subscriber. Bloomberg will certainly be able to add value considering the number of information sources it has to draw on, including BusinessWeek and the other Bloomberg sources.

In the meantime, Input has not been idle. On February 8 they announced the launch of Government Investing Advisor (GovIA). Quoting form the press release, Gov IA is "a new research offering designed to deliver unique data and insights to the investing community on government spending and contractor activity. Available immediately to subscribers, GovIA provides hard-to-find information and insight on the largest, publicly traded companies serving government, as well as government market data, spending analysis and forecasts."

To focus on this market Input hired Julie Santoriello Chariell as Vice President of Financial Services. She is a financial industry analyst formerly of Morgan Stanley.

Federal Sources is not sitting and waiting either. In a conversation with Ray Bjorklund Friday afternoon, he indicates Federal Sources is focusing on the core business of making their clients successful in their pursuit of government business. Sounds like a good move.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Cisco v HP, Round 1

Washington Technology (through 1105 affiliate reporter Jeffrey Schwartz of Redmond Developer News) reports that Cisco has severed all ties with HP.

As the WT article points, both companies have started to encroach on the other's turf with new products, or the threat of new products, so the split should not surprise anyone.

But what does it mean for the B2G market overall?

Cisco, like Microsoft, is every one's "big partner", and it has a huge influence on the B2G market.
Cisco has a well-directed B2G efforts which has been in place for several years, and they are truly pervasive in the Federal arena and throughout Washington DC. Their channel program has been consistent and well managed, which is a really big plus is a market where long-term relationships between companies are difficult to maintain. The channel program has allowed Cisco to identify and nurture many VARs and small IT companies that are now closely allied to Cisco.

HP, on the other hand, has had an inconsistent Federal program for years, sometimes favoring the channel, other times trying to go direct. During that same time, companies like CDW (and CDW-G) and GTSI have done well by and for HP in the government market.

What does this mean for HP in the federal market? Frankly, word on the street for a while has been that HP lacks a coherent and cohesive federal sales and marketing plan. There is HP presence in DC, but it lacks senior leadership. In a relationship driven market, this does not bode well for HP.

HP needs to put a senior director back in place in Washington DC and give him/her the clout to do what it takes to build a consistent B2G federal program.

In the WT article Gartner analyst Tiffani Bova said "she wouldn't be surprised to see the two companies iron out their differences eventually and come up with a more mutually acceptable pact."

Frankly I don't see that happening. Short of one company buying the other, this has as much chance as Steve Jobs showing up at Scott McNealy's birthday party.

If it becomes an all-out war, the channel players, especially smaller resellers, may be caught in the middle. These smaller channel players may have to choose between Cisco and HP.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bloomberg buys Eagle Eye, take 2

So the news is official- Bloomberg is entering the government market by purchasing government contract & grant data publisher Eagle Eye Publishing.

Now the speculation is...... will they directly target Input and Federal Sources, or will they go after a different slice of the market? Where will marketshare occur?

Will they be able to differentiate themselves in a way that will appeal to whoever their audience is? Where will the value-add be?

Do they have someone or will they find someone of the caliber of Kevin Plexico or Ray Bjorklund to make the data (a truly vast trove at Eagle Eye) useful and usable?

I have heard from more than one source that Bloomberg has aggressive sales goals. But what are they selling and who is buying?

Those of us who have studied the market for more than a few years have all seen many companies come in with unrealistic expectations predicated on tea leaves and wishful thinking, the absolute knowledge that your brand will make the phone ring, and other equally unreliable forecasting tools.

This market is driven by relationships, and the relationships are backed by being able to deliver.

Watching what happens with Bloomberg over the next several months will be interesting.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Bloomberg Enters B2G Market

I heard rumblings late last year that financial news giant Bloomberg was looking for a play in the B2G market.

Today I heard that Bloomberg bought government contract and grant research firm Eagle Eye Publishers. While the details are blurry, here is what I hear:

1) Bloomberg bought the data, and left founder & owner Paul Murphy with the name;
2) Mr Murphy will stay as a consultant for 6 months;
3) Bloomberg may not be done buying stuff;
4) Bloomberg has very aggressive sales goals.

What this means to the B2G world:

1) Onvia, Federal Sources, Input, Carroll Publishing and others now have another competitor - well actually the same number, as Eagle Eye is gone. But Bloomberg will be better financed and more aggressive.

2) Contractors will be getting sales calls from a new player that will be merciless in its pursuit of marketshare.

3) Maybe Washington Technology and WFED will have a new advertiser!

What value does Bloomberg bring to the market? That remains to be determined, but suffice it to say they have the resources to be a real player. If they can jettison any attitude that might accompany their entrance ("We're Bloomberg and you're not" a la Chevy Chase on Saturday Night Live from the old days), they should do well.

If they come in with the attitude, many of us will be available to point it out.

Regardless, this will be fun to watch unfold.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Reading more than is there

Sometimes you can read between the lines and get something others might miss.

I got a call the other day from someone I had advised a few years back. They had just read an article in the Wall Street Journal (Feb 2) entitled “Funding for Education Would Get a 9% Increase.” The article came with a chart of “Winners and losers” in the federal budget (the federal agency winners and losers).

The call was in reference to the increase in the Education budget and my friend wanted to know how much more they should focus on the Department of Education and the education market in general.

The article focused on the Obama plan to revise the Bush “No Child Left Behind” program, which has operated with very mixed reviews since its inception. This means the money would be going out in the form of grants to local jurisdictions predicated on meeting some new criteria (not germane to our discussion).

So I asked my friend these questions:

· How much of your business is the education segment?
· How many of the 13,506 school districts do you currently sell to?
· How are you planning on reaching the decision makers in each of those districts who are interested in what you sell?
· What makes you think that increase will be spent on what you sell?
· Would this mean you will spend less money marketing to the agencies that spend more with you?
· Now, do you still want to increase your marketing to the education segment?

I don’t know what my friend will end up doing, but here are the real issues:

· A 9% increase for the Department of Education translates into $4.5 billion, pocket change in terms of the federal budget.
· Even if the money is divided equally amongst the districts (which will not happen), the increase will not amount to a large pot to go after.
· If you have a limited marketing budget (and most companies do), you are better off making certain current customers are better served first before going after new customers.

Sometimes there is something to read between the lines, and sometimes there isn't.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

GWACs Demand Leads! What new B2G Lead tactics will you be using in 2010?

Contrary to the belief of some GSA Schedule holders, GWACs do not automatically cause an influx of qualified inquiries. There is a common misconception on the part of new contractors that GWACs sell themselves. If you have any GWAC (SEWP, GSA Schedule, ECS, etc) you need to generate leads.

Some traditional lead generation methods may still work, but are probably more expensive than they used to be. For example, direct mail was popular from the 1970s through the early 2000s, but the price has skyrocketed.

So, what still works?

Trade shows, in-agency & other events: Events, when properly selected to match what you do with what the attendees buy, are still among the top performers. If you select the wrong event for what you offer, you waste both time and money. Speaking as well as exhibiting allow prospects to find you. Simply attending offers a much smaller opportunity to be found. Caveat: there are a number of events that promise much and deliver little. Do your homework, ask questions, and check the pedigree of the event producer.

White papers: White papers have been around a long time, and they continue to produce qualified leads. The white papers can be placed at your web site, on the web sites where prospect traffic will occur (like Government Computer News, Federal Computer Week or Washington Technology), or they can be promoted in other ways.

Email: Email remains a productive way to get messages to targeted audiences as long as you remain well inside the “do not spam” rules. Federal agencies were among the early adopters of spam filters and black lists, and many people choose to ignore this and email away with any list they can get their hands on. Simply having an email address is not permission to use it.

eNews programs: e-Newsletters or ezines are another popular way to share information about your company, products, services and general industry information. Done well, these are excellent customer and prospect communication tools.. While it may take a while to build a subscriber base, the “opt-in” nature of these is a major part of what makes them work. Another facet of this are news releases sent direct out through the web, using tools like PRNewswire

Webinars: Among the fastest growing of all marketing tools is distance learning – sharing information through platforms like webinars. Several things are appealing about webinars. You can attend without leaving your desk, you can ask questions if you attend the ‘live’ version (KZO Innovations offers a tool where attendees of archived webinars can ask the questions), they are available ‘on-demand’ and they are much less costly to produce than live events.

Social networks: Among my favorites are social networks like LinkedIn, TFCN and GovLoop. LinkedIn has over 55,000,000 business professionals as members, and among these are tens of thousands of federal, state and local government officials. If you learn how to use these valuable platforms properly, prospects will begin to find you. TFCN and GovLoop are both under 20,000 members but are focused exclusively on government.

Blogs: Blogs are a great way to share your expertise with the world, get higher web rankings, attract partners, prospects and gain recognition. Done well these are more than worth the time and effort, Done so-so or poorly, and you can destroy your reputation.

Podcasts: Podcasts are usually 8-15 minute audio programs addressing a single topic. Think of them as audio white papers and the value should become apparent. People digest information in different ways, and fewer people seem to be reading as much. Make your information available in as many formats as necessary to reach the broadest possible portion of your niche.

Videos: YouTube has gained enormous popularity and many businesses (including B2G) are suing pithy videos to gain attention.

Too often senior management is reluctant to try anything but the “tried and true” methods with which their business was built: space ads, events, face-to-face networking at association meetings, etc. While these are still valid, the new methods of PR and marketing are surpassing the older ways rapidly. Marketshare can be gained or lost by not reaching those most likely to want your products or services in the ways they prefer to receive information. You don’t generate leads by wishing yesterday’s methods still worked.

Mark Amtower can be reached

this article appeared at

Friday, February 5, 2010

FY 2009 GSA Schedule 70 Sales - Top 100 Rule

For several years my friend Richard Mackey of CapitalReps ( has provided the "top 100 Schedule 70" vendors list to me, and a few years back we started to see what the marketshare was for the Top 10, 25, 50 and 100.

The following info (in italics) is from an email Richard just sent me:

The decline in awardees is likely to GSA routinely termination contracts that have not sold $25k in the first two years or less than $100k after five-years.

In the last year, GSA has recognized the challenges to new GSA awardees and implemented the following:

1. Sales in first two-years after aware are expected to be $25k vs. $50k.
2. Requirement for each new awardee to complete GSA Pathway to Success Training
3. Must have had two years of sales for the proposed products/services to the commercial or government sector (no start-ups).
4. Requires offerors to discuss how they plan to market their schedule, upon award in their submission package

Schedule 70 IT FY 2009 Schedule 70 IT

Top 25 Market Share 41.50%
Top 50 Market Share 54.20%
Top 100 Market Share 65.16%
Total Sales $15,713,948,624
Total Schedule 70 Awardees 5,333
Firms with Zero Sales 1,962 (36.78%)

As you can see, the top 100 took 65% of the $15.7 billion that passed through Schedule 70 in FY 2009, leaving 3,271 companies to split the remaining 35% (I removed the 1,962 companies that made $0). These percentages are very close to the FY 2008 results.

Apparently the top 100 do some things that others don't. My next article at will be addressing some of the things the Top 100 do that others should emulate.

Stay tuned!