Tuesday, November 26, 2013

GovCon Directions for 2014: Yahoo, Katie Couric, PlanetGov and Contractors

Yahoo announced that it hired Katie Couric as "global anchor".  Yahoo's CEO, Marissa Mayer, has said all along that the end user experience would drive her decisions. Ms Mayer is a data-driven executive who happens to be a social media maven, so it's safe to assume she knows what she is doing.

Some will undoubtedly see the hiring of Katie Couric as simply bringing on a celebrity. This would be selling both Ms Mayer and Ms Couric short. Couric is a media savvy content maven who happens to be a celebrity. She is smart and deep.

What this does for Yahoo is provide a deeper, broader content bench.

So what does this have to do with GovCon?

I open Selling to the Government with the "Tale of Two Companies", vignettes about two companies from the dot bomb era. (http://www.amazon.com/Selling-Government-Compete-Worlds-Largest/dp/047088133X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1385502961&sr=8-1&keywords=amtower)

One of the companies, PlanetGov, got venture funding to create an information and sales portal for the government market. PlanetGov hired about 20 journalists, including Mike Causey from the Washington Post (now with Federal News Radio) to create an information portal that would attract all Feds, then have an e-commerce side which would supply those Feds with everything they needed to buy for work.

The plan was interesting, but did not make it past the demise of the dot-bomb crash.

But the company survived, and emerged as APPTIS, and now IronBow.

Content is deservedly huge in our market, and with some of the publications in dire straits, it has become necessary for contractors to generate more of their own content. This content takes the form of white papers, enews programs, webinars, podcasts, even TV and radio shows.

If the content is germane to the buyer, and helps them makes decisions about what to buy and perhaps where to buy it, the company generating the content wins.

Perhaps it wasn't the PlanetGov plan that was bad - just the timing.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Amtower's Dilemma - Making an agency reco to a Fortune 200 company

So here's my dilemma. I get a call from a friend and occasional client at a top tech firm, well inside the Fortune Top 200. They need an agency that can help with public sector content, social and qualified lead generation. I tell my friend I will send them a short list within 48 hours.

A couple of companies come to mind quickly as their content is extraordinary.

Then I look them up on LinkedIn....

Content may be a strength, but social, at least LinkedIn, is really weak. I see execs at these companies that should have profiles with SOME information on who they are and what they do, but it isn't there. Their web sites are nice, and populated with some decent content, but they look like the cobbler's children, or worse, the emperor with no clothes when it comes to LinkedIn.

While I admire their ability to generate great content for some clients, it doesn't appear that they leverage social for dissemination of that content.

LinkedIn is my #1 venue for vetting those I recommend. Web sites are #2.

So the list got shorter.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Looking for 12-15 small companies in Maryland, DC NoVa ready to become thought leaders!

Who would you rather read about in (fill in in with your favorite business publication)?

Some company you’ve never heard of?
Your top competitor?
Your company?

When it comes to visibility, there is no “level playing field”. You need to create your own advantage wherever and whenever you can. That is especially true when it comes to getting noticed in ways that pay dividends:

- being known by a prospect before your first meeting;

- getting interviewed in a trade publication, on TV or on the radio;

- leveraging social networks to get noticed by decision makers in your market;

- writing your own blog or writing a “guest column” on someone else’s blog;

or getting a key speaking engagement.

If you are tired of seeing your competitors’ quotes in trade magazines, or their CEO speaking from the podium at a big conference, keep reading.

This is Your Invitation to the 2014

Amtower GovCon Thought Leadership Program

Small business owners in the government contracting arena have to wear many hats and fulfill many roles. Among the most important of those roles is to get your company noticed by the right people in the market, to stand out as a subject matter expert or thought leader in your niche and capture more business.

In order to get on and stay on the radar of

government contractors, potential partners, customers,

press and investors

you need to stand out in a very crowded field.

Standing out in any market is difficult, and probably more so in the hyper-competitive government contracting market. Regardless of whether you are selling to the government or to selling to contractors, there is no un-crowded niche.

So how do you stand out in a way that resonates with the audience you want to reach and influence?

Isn't it time to invest in the future of your company?

Want more info? Send me an email for details on this six-month program --


Make 2014 YOUR year to stand out!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Linkedin SitRep: Group Grope (The Waldo Factor, part 24)

So what is the Situation Report on LinkedIn? What new changes have come down the pike to confuse and abuse members?

When they changed the look and feel of the groups, they sent out this infographic as part of the announcement. While it didn't explain why the changes were made, or how they might help you (as opposed to confuse you), it did offer some data.

Actually, some useful data, as well as some misleading data. While over 2 millions groups have been started, not all of them are still there. Currently there are about 1.8 million active groups.
The average number of groups is also a little misleading. Many people belong to no groups, which brings the average down. Others, like me, belong to 50.
Posting in groups makes you more visible- this should be no surprise.
8,000 groups are added weekly. This is a healthy number, but would be in better context if they mentioned how many people joined every week.
200 conversations per minute is also a neat stat until you figure that with 230 million members, it is not a high percentage on a daily basis. But is certainly explains why those posting are more viewed than those who don't - the % is not that high.
While the sudden changes are annoying, and seem to occur with no member input, LinkedIn remains vital for business professionals.
Hang tough. LinkedIn is still a great investment of your time.
And remember, if you need some help navigating LinkedIn  and making it pay higher dividends, help is only a click away!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Are CEOs exempt from participating on LinkedIn? (The Waldo Factor, part 23)

Many CEOs feel they are absolved from participating on LinkedIn and other social networks. They ignore it, post a minimal profile, or have someone do it for them.

These are all poor strategies.

Ignoring LinkedIn or taking it lightly is akin to ignoring all of the people in your niche, including your customers and prospects. By any measure, LinkedIn has become one of the most viable and accessible business marketing tools available – and it is largely free to use.  

A minimal profile buys you absolutely nothing and offers no reason for anyone to pay attention. It shows a lack of respect for yourself and is a waste of time for those viewing the profile. It offers absolutely no reason for people to connect with you.  The assumption seems to be that as a CEO, the “right” people will want to connect with you.

Having someone manage your profile for you runs the risk of statements that don't reflect who you are and what you think, and eliminates the interaction of discussions on any social media platform.

I have discussed this with CEOs that fit into each category and they gave a variety of "reasons" for non/minimal participation. Among these are the time factor, the relevance factor, and the "I think it's a waste of time" factor.

The time factor is simply that they feel "too busy" to do it, so they put up a minimal profile, join no groups, and wait for something to happen.

The relevance factor goes a little deeper. They don't feel that social media deserves attention as it is not relevant to 'their circle" and/or their niche. LinkedIn is a business network that proves over and over Chris Anderson’s “Long Tail” theory (you can find virtually any niche group on the web).

The "waste of time group" is identical to the "relevance" group, just more blatant, though still very wrong. This group feels that online social networking is nothing but a complete waste of time.

My friend Carl Dickson (www.captureplanning.com) takes the sarcastic, contrarian point of view: CEOs should not be involved in marketing, business development, sales and other granular activities, so they don't need to be on LinkedIn or any other social media. Carl feels that if they believe any of the above reasons, they really shouldn’t be allowed online or perhaps out of the building.

Many studies over the past few years from Forrester, Market Connections and others indicate the importance of leveraging social media, especially LinkedIn, in B2G.

LinkedIn affords savvy users the ability to position themselves and their companies as thought leaders in virtually any niche. It provides a platform where you can reach out and build a network of those important to your success: partners, prospects and customers. It delivers the venue where you can stay on the radar of the network you build. All this if you take the time to learn how to use it well.

Those government contractors and CEOs not leveraging LinkedIn will lose new business in direct proportion to their inactivity, because your competitors will be here taking that business away from you.

If you need a little push to really start to leverage LinkedIn- go here:



Monday, August 26, 2013

The Real Estate Analogy (The Waldo Factor, part 22)

I was talking to my friend Roger Dunbar of Industrial Medium (http://www.industrialmedium.com) today about an upcoming presentation for the Northern Virginia Tech Council (www.NVTC.org). We were discussing  the particulars of what I should speak about.

The general topic was leveraging LinkedIn and Roger made an interesting analogy, one that really resonated. He said, "Using LinkedIn often reminds me of real estate agents. About 80% of the listings go to about 20% of the agents."

BINGO! What a great analogy to illustrate the point of standing out on LinkedIn.

Regardless of where you go in the DC area, and probably across the country, in every piece of turf, be it a county, city, but a defined region, you will see a small group, of realtors who seem to dominate the listings. When I drive around Howard county in Central Maryland, there is one dominant player, a strong (but small) second tier, then everyone else.

The same is basically true of LinkedIn. While no one "owns" the market, certain players in each business niche tend to stand out because they have figured out how to leverage LinkedIn. From what I see, less than 10% have figured this out.

The main way you see these people is in the groups. Group discussions are open to all group members but used only by a few, and those that use them well stand out and stand well above the crowd.

The more value each of these people add in the discussions, by posting pertinent information or commenting on ongoing discussions, the higher they become on the radar of that group.

Name recognition, standing out from the crowd, should be one of the goals you have on LinkedIn.

So what is your level of activity?

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Amtower Uncertainty Principle (The Waldo Factor, part 21)

The Amtower Uncertainty Principle, or the Law of the Food Chain

             The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle states the more defined the location of an object, the less certain we are about the momentum.

The Amtower Uncertainty Principle states that most people do not accurately know or define their real market position, their position in the food chain. Some publicly and privately overstate their position in the food chain and their respective momentum, thereby misleading potential friends, employees, employers, partners, prospects, customers – even their family.

This will inevitably lead to poor delivery on the promises and to the slowing of whatever momentum that person might have, thus deteriorating their market position.

Each of us has had the co-worker who claims responsibility for anything that goes right, the hindsight prescience to humbly seek kudos for work performed by others. I have seen resumes that could indicate the Second Coming.

Most of us recognize hype for what it is, but there is always someone willing to buy the Brooklyn Bridge. Unfortunately, some of those in the gullible category are in positions of responsibility.

On LinkedIn this principle comes into play in a couple ways. If your profile is stagnant, everyone knows where you are and can assume you do little or nothing.

Or, if your profile is full of hyperbolic assertions, people will assume your methane production is much higher than your work output.

State your market position clearly. Knowing and accepting your current market position allows you to accurately plot a course for higher things.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Connecting Dots in the Dark: The Waldo Factor, part 20

Recently I recorded an interview with Mike O'Connell for www.itsalljournalism.com. I know Mike from Federal News Radio where he is the web editor and he is adept at social media. The interview focused on the many uses of LinkedIn, including why it is important for journalists and others.

During the interview I used a phrase that shows up in many of my live presentations on LinkedIn: connecting dots in the dark. The dots are things you know or suspect are "out there", you are just not certain where and who.

Even by itself, this is an interesting metaphor. In the context of LinkedIn it means several things, among them-

   * the ability to find people who share their discipline, but people you did not previously know

   * key people at companies you want to do business with

   * finding people you have not seen in years

   * finding groups (communities) of like-minded thinkers

   * ideas - coming across interesting discussions that are pertinent to what you do, started and commented on by people you probably need to know

   * and so much more.

I view LinkedIn as one of the coolest, most useful and versatile marketing tools I have run across in my thirty-plus years of marketing, with literally something for anyone in business.

You can read the interview (it's not long) at www.itsalljournalism.com.

Monday, May 13, 2013

SmartPay Update on Amtower Off Center

David Shea, Director of the Office of Charge Card Management, FSA,GSA appeared on Amtower Off Center on May 13 (Federal News Radio, 1500 AM) to discuss the state of the government charge card, SmartPay(tm).

If you have an interest in the government charge card program, listen to this show. Here is the link:


During the hour long show Mr Shea shared the following:

- during 2012 the card was used for $29.3 billion (this includes purchases, travel and fleet). Of that, $18.1 billion was on the purchase card.

- 2013 year-to-date (first two quarters reporting): $18.1 billion

- Top agencies using the SmartPay cards:
     - VA
     - DOD
     - DOJ
     - HHS
     - DHS

- top merchant categories (a merchant category is how the credit card companies categorizes vendors):
     - Miscellaneous retail
     - Dental, pharmaceutical
     - Industrial supply
     - Office supplies;
     - Education/colleges;
     - Business services not elsewhere categorized;
     - Health practice;
     - Government services;
     - Computer/IT.

- Level 3 processing on cards is required for all Strategic Sourcing Initiatives on the GSA Schedules;

- 20% of the purchase card activity in 2012 was over $10,000 per purchase, well above the "micro-purchase" level;

- There are approximately 280,000 purchase cards in use;

- Due to travel restrictions, there is a migration of charge card training programs to virtual training events.

Advice for vendors from Mr Shea includes:

- shop around for your acquirer (card processor) to get the best rates;
- make certain you get the proper merchant (MCC) category when setting up your account;

And much more.

You can find more information on the SmartPay program at


Friday, May 10, 2013

Broadcast media web sites, including www.federalnewsradio.com, hacked

In case you've missed it, you can't listen to Federal News Radio on the web, at least through Internet Explorer. In order to access the site, it is recommended that Chrome, Firefox and Safari be used.

Here's the message from www.FederalNewsRadio.com

If you are getting this page, you are using the Internet Explorer browser to reach FederalNewsRadio.com.

FederalNewsRadio.com is currently dealing with a malicious cyber attack, which attempts to use our site to infect computers with malware when using the Internet Explorer (IE) browser.

To help protect our website visitors and prevent any further damage, we have blocked access to FederalNewsRadio.com from Internet Explorer. We believe Chrome, Firefox and Safari are safe alternatives, and suggest you use one of these browsers to access the Federal News Radio website.

Federal News Radio's sister website, WTOP.com, was also affected by the attack in the same manner.

The cyber attack that compromised our web servers injected code into FederalNewsRadio.com and WTOP.com, redirecting vulnerable browsers to rogue websites, which spread the FakeAV malware or a variant of it.

If you have been on either site recently using IE, you should perform a malware scan to check for an infection and get it cleaned.

Additional information on the malware and how to respond to an infection can be found here and a removal tool, which may help, can be found here.

Federal News Radio is still in the process of performing a thorough analysis to ensure our systems are free of malicious content. We will update readers and listeners with new information on the situation as soon as it is available.

"We take cybersecurity very seriously, and ensuring that our listeners and readers can safely come to our site is of the utmost importance," said Lisa Wolfe, program director of Federal News Radio. "Federal News Radio has been and will continue to be the most trusted source of federal news for more than a decade."

Federal News Radio is one of several media websites that "were compromised and redirecting user traffic to an Exploit Kit serving the same FakeAV malware variant..." according to a blog post by Eddie Mitchell, a security engineer with Invincea.

Mitchell wrote the attacks against Federal News Radio and its sister station, WTOP, are "likely an indicator of a larger more widespread attack against online media sites."

Monday, April 29, 2013

Your Tipping Point on LinkedIn (The Waldo Factor, part 19)

In recent studies from Market Connections (www.MarketConnectionsInc.com) and others, there are two topics that keep rising to the top for government contractors:

   - the need to develop a thought leadership/subject matter expert platform and position;
   - the use of LinkedIn throughout the government contracting community.

These two concepts work well together, and each is very important to those seeking to move their company to the next level.

LinkedIn has become perhaps the most important marketing venue for BtoB and BtoG companies to position themselves, to define and defend an area of thought leadership, to demonstrate a clear subject matter expert status.

Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point was a huge success (deservedly so) when it came out in 2000. I highly recommend the book for anyone seeking to understand how small fads become big trends, and how small things come together to make a big impression.

The subtitle of Gladwell's book is How Little things Can Make a Big Difference.

For those of us leveraging social media, there are some very big lessons in this, things we can learn and apply to help our respective businesses' stand out on platforms link LinkedIn.

There are many things I could point out about the book that would be pertinent, but I will limit myself to three.

First is context: where things happen. Context makes little things become big things. As they accumulate in a  particular venue, they stack up and start to move.

Several of the more active people on LinkedIn share ideas, comment on discussions, post articles or links to blog posts- things that are pertinent to a particular group, or to selected groups. The more they do this, the higher their respective value rises in those groups (communities) and the more visible they become.

Second is the stickiness factor. If the right message is placed in the right group at an appropriate time, it becomes "sticky" and resonates within the group(s) where it is posted. Most of us have seen posts in groups that accumulate many comments and stay active for weeks or even longer. Not only is the person who posted the original comment a beneficiary, many of those adding value by commenting are as well. They benefit by adding value to the group, and the group benfits from that action.

The key people are the third and final point I wish to make. The kinds of people that make a difference in The Tipping Point and on LinkedIn are connectors, mavens and salespeople. Gladwell talks about them on the chapter title "The Law of the Few". My definitions are slightly different than those of Gladwell and are used as they apply to LinkedIn.

Connectors are the people in a group/community who know large numbers of people and who are in the habit of making introductions. These are people on LinkedIn you see in multiple groups, who have hundreds or thousands of connections, and who help you make connections when asked.

Mavens are subject matter experts, the people we rely upon to connect us with new information.  Think of mavens as thought leaders.

Salesmen  are "persuaders", charismatic people with powerful selling skills, often seen supporting the ideas of others.

Note that the chapter in Gladwell's book is titled the law of the few. It is Gladwell's premise that it only takes a few people to make a big difference, but it has to be the right people. It is the law of the few primarily because only a few people actually engage in a regular, positive manner. While few in number, there is always room for a few more.

Connectors, mavens and salespeople are all active people, but active in different ways. When they are active around the same subject, it can go viral, or at least viral in a defined community, like a group on LinkedIn.

If that group has people you need to influence, people you want to know better and do business with, you need to be part of that overall information sharing process that occurs on LinkedIn.

If you are part of a company where employees act in unison on LinkedIn, without being too "sale-sy", you can start raising the visibility for your company, evolving that subject matter expert platform your company needs to move to the next level.

Developing a thought leadership platform requires positive, regular action. LinkedIn provides one of the major venues where this can and should take place.

By developing and sharing great content, you can help your company reach its own tipping point.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Facebooking of LinkedIn- part 2: LinkedIn changes "Contacts" functionality

Yet another change on the LinkedIn front are the changes that occurred over the past week to the Contacts page.

The previous Contacts configuration allowed you to search quickly, send emails, sort by geographic and more. While the new set-up may do the same, I cannot as yet figure it out. And I don't see how to send emails.

It seems as if LinkedIn is making it more difficult to do the things that many like to do and are used to doing, and continues to make changes that baffle current users.

Now, down the left side (left navigation) we have

All Contacts (which includes any "saved" profiles)

Your Day (stay in touch with these people): I don't need LinkedIn to tell me who to reach out to today or any other day.

Connections (self explanatory)

Saved  (self explanatory)

Tags (self explanatory)

Companies (self explanatory)

Titles (self explanatory; but in my market, government contracting, job titles of Feds & other govies have no uniformity, so this does not help at all)

Locations (self explanatory)

Sources (LinkedIn wants you to import contacts- don't do it)

Potential Merges (not sure what this is and when you click nothing happens)

Hidden (not sure what this is, 632 people show up as "hidden", with me leading the list. Not a clue what this is for)

On the top right we have

Add contacts (self explanatory)

Settings  - which allows you to

     - sync your email program to LinkedIn

     - apply 3 apps: CardMunch, Evernote and TripIt

     - import contact files (except Google....)

And on the right side there is a non-functional "Send feedback" button....

While some of this can certainly be beneficial, LinkedIn would be better served by getting more "buy in" from current users before implementing changes that removes some functions we like and use.

My guess is they have a group of 18 -20 year olds in a room with a ton of soda. This group is now in charge of the "Facebooking" of LinkedIn.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

LinkedIn Changes Search Function

Last year LinkedIn had 5.7 billion internally searches- 5.7 billion searches inside LinkedIn. To me, that is an indicator that the "search" function was working pretty well and was a popular tool.

Sometime over this past weekend I noticed that there was no drop-down box next to the upper right Search box. Initially I did not think much about this. The drop down box allowed you to search on companies, groups, people and more.

This morning I took I deeper look and if you type in anything in the search box, it pulls results from people, groups, companies, but not deeply.

To search for other things, you need to go to "Advanced" search, which has changed as well. It does not offer the same functionality that I was used to, and it has made some of the things I would search on impossible to do.

Take a look. If you used search regularly before, I am very interested in your feedback.

I do not like this new way of searching at all, and if I had a vote in the matter, I would vote to return to the old search method.

4/24/13: DUE to the many comments I have received on this, it appears that I may be an "alpha" test subject. Most others still have the old search intact - and I wish I was one of them!

Friday, April 19, 2013

April 19, 1995 - Please take a moment today to recall

the tragedy that occurred at the Alfred P Murrah building in Oklahoma City.


We come here to remember those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever. May all who leave here know the impact of violence. May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Power of PR and Media Coverage for Small Biz

When it comes to PR, most small business owners wonder how other companies get it: how do they end up in the story in the trade magazine that everyone reads? Why them and not me?  I have often marveled that some people are quoted even though they really don't know that much about the topic.

Increased credibility and visibility are the result of getting media coverage.

Being quoted in the media, print or broadcast, makes you the expert. The upshot is most people who read the article or hear the interview simply assume the one being interviewed is the expert.

I can tell you for a fact that getting press does not involve brain surgery or rocket science. I know. I have gotten a TON of media coverage since March, 1994 when I got my first major interview. I have been interviewed for and quoted in over 200 publications in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. I have been profiled in Entrepreneur, Marketing Computers (no longer with us) and Federal Computer Week. I have also been on television in Baltimore and D.C., and on over 50 radio stations.

I have accomplished this without a PR agency working on my behalf, through my own efforts.

I have a few thoughts to share , then a suggestion. First, the tips.

So, how do you get from POINT A (not getting any press/media) to POINT B (having some coverage, maybe more than some)?  A direct route is best.

What it takes is some time, a plan, and some patience - basically the same three elements it takes to start a business.

The first step should be obvious. You should know the publications that address your market niche: traditional trade publications like Government Executive magazine, Washington Business Journal, Baltimore Business Journal, Maryland Daily Record, Federal Computer Week, Washington Technology, and so on.

There are also popular e-publications (FedInsider, Washington Executive, Bisnow, Fierce IT and others), blogs and other news sources that have become popular.

And, of course, radio- especially Federal News Radio and www.FederalNewsRadio.com.

Make a long list and give each media source an A, B, or C, with A being most desirable, and C being towards the bottom of the list, but still on the list.

For each media outlet, you need to understand a couple things: what audience the publication or radio station/show serves and what you bring to the table that serves that audience. You need to be a tight fit for whichever media you target.

What you bring to the table needs to include some distinct elements. You need to be an expert in your field, preferably a legitimate exert. It helps if you have a track record of sharing your knowledge in other venues: speeches, articles, books, blog, videos, and so on.

It also helps if you have a distinct point of view, a slant on your market niche that offers a somewhat unique perspective. The more you study and learn about your area of expertise, the more likely you have a point of view.

You also need to know what the editorial schedule is for publications. Print publications have these; e-publications may not. Match your expertise with the editorial schedule. Then start your campaign to be included in that issue at least 90 days before the issue is due out.

A key element in all of this is knowing the editors and reporters, and knowing their work. Before you pitch any idea to any editor or reporter, read the last 3 months of their work. This helps you to understand what they cover and how they cover it.

You need to know who to develop relationships with in the media and understand what the media person expects from that relationship.

But what you really need to do is get some PR for you and your business!

Confused? Overwhelmed? Now it may be time for the suggestion.

At least twice a year the Government Market Master program at Capitol College (www.capitol-college.edu/gmm) will host our PR for Small Business Workshop. PR pro Bill Holleran acts as the facilitator of this session and he will have guests from the media, from a PR firm (Joyce Bosc in April), and me.

The next session is April 16 from 8 AM-noon.  You can register at the above URL or email me for more details.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Tag Lines from the Abyss and other Business Card Mistakes (The Waldo Factor, part 18)

First impressions are huge. They always have been and they always will be. That's why, when I teach my LinkedIn Black Belt sessions, I tell people that when the screen opens on your profile, your story begins at that moment. No story, fewer connections, fewer profile views, less business.

For many the first impression they get of a company is on the business card of the company representative. When you meet in a business setting, part of the etiquette is to exchange business cards. If you meet several people, remembering what each person does may be a chore.

So when you get back to the office and actually look at the cards, what is on that card becomes very important. What that card says or does not say about the company can determine whether not business will occur, and whether the card is scanned or trashed.

FYI, rather than scan a card I invite the person to connect on LinkedIn.

A cool logo and a name that means nothing does not make people look you up. "Oh, what a cool logo - I better check out the web site to see the bigger version..." Not gonna happen...

Your business card, like your LinkedIn profile, has to start working for you from the very first second people look at it.

Most company names do not explain what the company does, and unless you are with Lockheed, Northrop or CSC, you better have some explanation if you want the card to work for you. The smaller your company is, the harder that business card has to work.

So, tip # 1: avoid meaningless tag lines!

Avoid slogans like "Exceeding customer expectations", "Excellence through quality", "We do IT all" (IT, information technology - cute, right?), anything with "transformational" in it. You get the idea.

These slogans could have been borrowed and re-purposed from Chinese fortune cookies, and if you paid an ad agency for them, get your money back.

So what should your business card have?

First and foremost, your name and contact information in a readable type size.

Secondly, your business card needs to define your area of expertise: healthcare IT, network security, facilities management, and the like. Short, sweet and to the point - the more niche the better, especially for smaller firms.

Third your NAICS and business status could be helpful, especially in government contracting. If you are an SDB, woman or veteran owned business, or some other small business, say so - but don't lead with that.

If you want results from a business card, skip the hype and offer some real information. You might even want to include your LinkedIn url.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Entering Year 10 on LinkedIn … and the Point of The Waldo Factor (The Waldo Factor, part 17)

LinkedIn celebrates its 11th birthday  on May 5 (launched 5/5/03),  and I am entering my 10th year on this evolving platform.

I joined LinkedIn on February 11, 2004 as member # 222,445. By that time Frank Araby had invited me to join at least 5 times, starting in 2003. I knew Frank was not one to waste his time, so I joined. I joined one week after Facebook was launched at Harvard. At that time LinkedIn was already 9 months old.

Like many then and now, after joining I waited for something to happen. And waited…. Most of us have been here at one point. I had minor notoriety in the early 2000s from my activity in the GovCon community, and I probably expected some people to find me. That didn't happen. Between 2004 and 2007, the vast majority of the GovCon community was not on LinkedIn.

In early 2007 I read David Meerman Scott’s The New Rules of Marketing and PR. While he did not discuss LinkedIn in the first edition (there are currently 3 editions), he did open my eyes to the rapidly expanding influence of the new tools on the web. He opened them wide.

I took his guidance but applied it directly to LinkedIn, where I felt my market had the best chance of developing. By March 2007, I had only about 100 connections and was a member of 2 or 3 groups.

After reading David's book, I developed a simple LinkedIn strategy and started working.

By early 2008, I started writing and speaking about using LinkedIn for B2G. Anecdotally, at this time maybe 10% of those in my audience when I was speaking were on LinkedIn. Today, it is not under 90% in any business venue. Coincidentally, as I was writing and speaking about this tool, the  growth curve of LinkedIn started on a significant upward trend. I am not claiming responsibility for that growth, but I was addressing the subject at an opportune time, well before many others.

Since 2008, I have written over 75 articles and blog posts and have presented nearly 150 public and private seminars, speeches and coaching sessions on LinkedIn.  Both talking and writing about LinkedIn makes me work harder at being good at using it. When I talk about LinkedIn I will often get questions that make me think hard before I answer. Sometimes the answer is, “I’ll have to get back to you on that.”

Between the fall of 2010 and summer of 2011 LinkedIn hit its tipping point and went from a "nice to be on" to a "must be on"  social network. In 2012, 5.7 billion searches were conducted on LinkedIn, and it averaged 160 million unique visitors a month. The GovCon market is now on LinkedIn in big numbers, federal employees and managers and almost all of the major contractors. There are hundreds of groups for this community.

According to Alexa.com, LinkedIn is one of the most visited sites on the web, almost always ranking in the top 15 sites with the most traffic.

LinkedIn is a great tool, but it is not a panacea. Scott talked about many new tools in New Rules, but he also emphasized generating pertinent content. Content is something I’ve been talking and writing about for over 20 years. Having new places to share pertinent content was great.

To further educate myself and others on the potential of social networking I started writing The Waldo Factor posts on 8/30/11. I started the series for several reasons, among them are to:

-          demonstrate the importance of generating pertinent content

-          show where and how you could share the content in venues that pay dividends

-          prove that by doing so, both your credibility and visibility would rise

-         validate that LinkedIn is the premier venue for connecting and sharing for business professionals. Good-to-great content leads directly to really good connections.

Here is the first Waldo post from 8/30/11. I find it more valid today then when I  first wrote it.

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, 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?

In the book series Where's Waldo, a tall guy with glasses dressed in blue pants, a red and white striped shirt and matching hat is always somewhere in a scene so crowded with other things and other people that it is hard to find him. The reader’s (really, viewer, as there are no words) job is to find Waldo.

In the speaking scenario above, the only person easy to find is the person on the stage. Unless you are wearing a red and white striped shirt with a matching hat, you will be hard to pick out in that audience. That's not usually the way you want to stand out in a business crowd.

Your job is to intellectually stand out and stand apart in your business niche, and to be easily found by those who need to find you because of your expertise. Only then the people you want to meet and know will have an interest in knowing you and having as part of their online and offline network.

Growth in any market niche is predicated on building relationships with key influencers in that niche, and then becoming an influencer in that niche. Those influencers can include prospects, partners, press, investors, C-level execs and others influential in your market.

To build the relationships and maximize your presence, you need to develop credibility in your market, then build your visibility. Visibility without credibility has no value or worse, negative value.

Credibility is developed by being good at what you do and working at getting better, being among the best at what you do, and adding value to the community. Then you find ways to share some of your knowledge and opinions with others.

Once you start this process, you are already creating visibility, but it is necessary to continue to build your knowledge base as you expand your visibility. Markets evolve and you must evolve with them to retain your credibility.

Traditionally we have face-to-face events for networking, seminars and conferences where we share or receive knowledge, publications where we read, write or be quoted. These are still excellent venues.

But wait!!! There's more!

With the advent of web 2.0 tools, we have the ability to either bypass traditional methods or enhance them by incorporating them into our web-based activity.

For business professionals, LinkedIn has become an incredibly valuable tool for developing credibility and visibility. Your ability to stand out in a crowd is now predicated on your ability use both the traditional and web-based tools and coordinate the activity between them to make you among the most “findable" experts in your niche. Think of it as "findability".

So here is the initial equation:

credibility + visibility = findability.

There are several examples and one great example is Steve Ressler, founder of GovLoop.

Steve was a government IT analyst and program manager at the Department of Homeland Security. While working for the government, on his own time he co-founded Young Government Leaders, which has become a great networking venue for the next generation of public managers.

Then in 2008, Steve started the online community for Feds, GovLoop (“by for and about Feds - the Facebook for government”).

Steve's use of social media, which also led to being featured in traditional media, is a great example of what can happen if you develop an expertise and share your ideas. Along the way he won acclaim and awards from industry groups and trade publications, leading to even more visibility.

Steve stays active through GovLoop, Young Government Leaders and mainly by sharing ideas in as many forums as possible.

None of this happened overnight for Steve, and it all required hard work.

We don't all need industry-wide visibility, but most of us need visibility within a defined niche. And the tactics to gain that visibility are basically the same:

1- be good at what you do and work hard at staying good;

2- find the venues where those in your niche congregate, both online and offline venues, and get involved;

3- participation in these venues involves helping with events, working in special interest groups, developing and sharing ideas, commenting on other ideas, etc;

4- always be on the lookout for ways to share with others who would be interested.

Credibility, visibility and findability are truly keys to success.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

SEWPs On! SEWP V "Sources Sought" is on the Street!

The long-awaited SEWP V looms on the horizon.

Last week NASAs SEWP office announced through FedBizOps that it was seeking sources for SEWP V.


The number of companies responding to the "Sources Sought" notice is growing quickly.

SEWP is arguably the most popular IT contract for Feds and contractors. It offers a wide product selection, low costs, and great service.

A little background: NASA SEWP was the first GWAC in the Federal market arena and the original contract was awarded in 1993. The awarded coincided with the Clinton adminstration procurement reform efforts led by Al Gore. SEWP II was award in 1996, SEWP III in 2001 and SEWP IV in May 2007.

This will be a hotly contested contract which I will be discussing on my radio show (Amtower Off Center Monday's at noon on Federal News Radio, 1500 AM in Washington DC and simulcast on www.federalnewsradio.com. My shows are archived on the station web site). I will also be writing about this in various venues, including here and in Washington Technology.

And btw, marketing ahead of the contract can help your chances of winning a spot., and certainly marketing after wining helps you sell from a GWAC. I have advised several of the currect SEWP contract holders over the yyears and had the honor of keynoting one SEWP conference a few years back.

Stay tuned for more on SEWP V!

From http://sewp.nasa.gov

Providing the latest in Information Technology (IT) products and services, the NASA Solutions for Enterprise Wide Procurement (SEWP) IV contract vehicle has an outstanding track record of serving up fresh technology for Federal Agencies. SEWP is a Government-Wide Acquisition Contract (GWAC) consisting of 38 Competed Prime Contract Holders, including 17 small businesses. Small Business categories include: Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSB); Woman-Owned Small Businesses (WOSB); HUBZone Small Businesses; Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (VOSB); and Small Disadvantaged Businesses (SDB). There are 4 non-competed 8(a) Set-Aside Contracts that are used to complement the competed contracts in providing IT services and solutions.
The SEWP contracts offer a vast selection and wide range of advanced technology, including, desktops and servers; IT peripherals; network equipment; storage systems; security tools; software products; cloud based services; video conferencing systems and other IT and Audio-Visual products along with product based services such as installation and maintenance to all Federal Agencies (including Department of Defense) and their authorized contractors. SEWP offers low prices (generally below GSA schedule prices), the lowest surcharge (0.45%) and the easiest and fastest ordering procedure using pre-competed contracts.
Through SEWP, Agencies can find an exact fit for their needs at the best overall value by searching the Web and choosing the right solutions offered directly by leading hardware and software manufacturers and experienced Government integrators.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Budget constraint hits GSA SmartPay™ Card

For the first time, the government SmartPay™ charge card program has shown a dip in spending, down 4.8% across the board.

Spending on the purchase card dropped from $19 billion in FY 2011 to $16.79 billion in FY 2012. There were also 259,561 purchase cardholders in FY 2012, down almost 20,000 from the previous year.

The major reason for the drop in SmartPay™ spending is the budget problem facing the federal government.




All federal agencies use the SmartPay™ card and the top ten federal agencies in FY 2012 were Veterans Affairs, Defense, Justice, HHS, DHS, Agriculture, USPS, Transportation, Commerce and State.

As you can see from the overall stats, the actual # of accounts in the program went up by about 81,000, but that includes the Travel and Fleeet cards.

More details soon.