Selling to the Government: Amtower on B2G


Selling to the Government: Amtower on B2G

Recently I recorded an interview with Mike O'Connell for 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
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
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

If you are getting this page, you are using the Internet Explorer browser to reach 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 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,, was also affected by the attack in the same manner.

The cyber attack that compromised our web servers injected code into and, 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."
In recent studies from Market Connections ( 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.
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.
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!

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.

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

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 ( 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.
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.

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, 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.

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 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!


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.

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.

In the best of times you need to stay current on what works in B2G sales, marketing business development, social media and management.

These are not the best of times.

Since my first public seminar in January 1991, thousands of people have attended my sessions or seen me speak at other others. Over that same period I saw many people who were experts in various niches in our market.

Now many of them will join me as "faculty" members of the Government Market Master (tm)continuing professional education program at Capitol College in Laurel, MD.

We will be announcing the full Q1 and Q2 curriculum by the end of January - get your GMM professional certificate by June!

All sessions will be held on campus at Capitol College.

The GOVERNMENT MARKET MASTER™ (GMM) CERTIFICATE PROGRAM provides comprehensive best practices, processes and methodologies for gaining invaluable insight on how to develop and sustain meaningful business relationships with the Federal Government. Delivered by top government, business and thought leaders, the Capitol College-GMM program is specifically designed by Business-to-Government (B2G) experts to benefit executives, managers and professionals who seek to successfully target, engage, win and sustain business with the Federal Government.

Register here;

Q1 Classes:

           Government Marketing Best Practices (GMM 100) Feb 21

            PR for Small Government Contractors (GMM 207)  Feb 27

            The Competitive Edge: Market Research for Small Contractors (GMM 205)  Feb 27

            B2G "Go to Market" Strategy, Planning and Execution (GMM 201)  March 15


            Simplified Acquisitions  (GMM 230)  Feb 28

            Selling IT Summit: Top Contracts & Sales methods ( GMM 231a) March 12

Summit on Selling Products to the Govt    (GMM 231)  March 13


           Business Development: Strategy, Planning and Execution (GMM 215) Feb 26

            LinkedIn for Government Contractors (GMM 208)  Feb 19

            B2G Social Media Summit: LinkedIn, Blogging, Webinars, etc (GMM 206) March 14



Small Business Set Aside Programs (GMM 224) March 20

Register here;

Email me with any questions –
LinkedIn announced on January 9 that it had reached 200 million members.

LinkedIn launched in May 2003 and was on a slow growth curve for several years. By Q1 2009 LinkedIn had reached 36 million members; Q1 2010, 64 million; Q1 2011, 102 million; Q1 2012, 161 million; and Q1, 2013 it reached 200 million - with 74 million in the U.S.

An article by Wyatt Kash came out earlier this week from AOLGov and highlighted the results of a Forrester study commissioned by LinkedIn. The study looked at the role of social media in the IT buying process.

Among the results :  "That 85% of those surveyed have used at least one social network for business was not surprising. What was surprising, said (Mike) Weir, was that three out of four had engaged directly with an IT vendor through a social network. (Also not a surprise: 95% of IT decision makers report using LinkedIn.)

What's evolved over the past two years, however, said Weir, is the extent to which the use of social networks has grown from a way for professionals to connect with their peers, into something deeper and more dynamic." (from the AOLGov article)

The article goes on: "The study, which polled 400 IT decision makers across North America, asked what's causing IT decisions to turn to social networks? According to their responses:
  • 58% said to learn from trusted peers
  • 49% said to access a broader network of peers
  • 40% said to quickly find reliable information
  • 37% said networks provide relevant context to connect with vendors."
Rather than keep quoting from the article, I suggest you read it, and I'll get to my point: what was the tipping point for LinkedIn? When did it cease to be a place where you had a profile and visited occasionally and become the site that gets 160 million unique visitors each month?

When did people start using LinkedIn to seriously share information and build communities?

The reality is, since the first groups were formed this has been happening. The numbers simply increased year-over-year until sometime between late 2010 year and mid/late 2011 when critical mass occurred. I base this purely on empirical observation, being a perpetual monitor of LinkedIn from a GovCon perspective.

I have monitored the growth of key groups in our market and to an extent I have monitored the discussions. There are some groups with many discussions, but not all are germane. The better groups are well-managed and the discussions can be lively and have multiple participants.

The activity in the groups I belong to has been improving in both quality and quantity. The membership in some key groups has been growing as well.

LinkedIn can be a sales tool, a business development tool, and most certainly a marketing tool.

But the major function is communtiy builder.

There are three types of people: those who make things happen; those who watch things happen; and those who wonder what happened. Need to get better on LinkedIn and make things happen? Attend my LinkedIn for Government Contractors seminar February 19. Use code "GMM" for a 20% discount.

During my July 2008 Government Marketing Best Practices seminar I stated that publications and associations without a robust social networking presence were going to loose marketshare. The same certainly applies to businesses.

I made that statement because by mid 2008 social networks had evolved to the point of becoming important in information sharing and the government trade publications were ignoring them completely.

Since that time groups on LinkedIn like Carl Dickson's Business Development group, Peter Weishaar's GSA & VA Schedule group, and my Government Market Master group have grown into successful online communities largely because they are each well-managed and each provide an active forum where information from GovCon professionals is shared and commented on regularly.

There are several other good groups, but I think these three stand out. These communities have become a vital part of the information sharing ecosystem among professionals that is making "old media" fall behind.

In 2012 over half of my 20+ public presentations either included or focused on leveraging LinkedIn. Further, more than half of my over 60 in-house presentations and webinars also focused on LinkedIn.


Because LinkedIn has become the major hub on online networking for the Government Contracting community. And the GovCon community is here because the government buyers, influencers and managers are here.

Developing and  managing relationships is the true core of success in this market.

In an era where government travel and event participation is down, online networking becomes even more critical.

So here are a few recurrent highlights and tips to think about.

1: It all begins with a good-to-great profile.

A profile is not a presence. A profile with little or no information is worthless, as people viewing the profile have absolutely no reason to connect with you or even remember you.

2: If your photo makes you look like a hooker, psycho, or party animal, you lose credibility.

This happens more frequently than you might think. Prime contractors and government buyers don't need to know about cleavage or your drinking habits. They want to see someone they can rely on.

As we are all visual learners, our eyes go to the photo first. If your photo does not show you in a positive light, your credibility suffers immediately.

This is a professional network, so present yourself in a professional manner.

3: The headline under your name is valuable real estate and should not simply reiterate your current job title.

The headline should be used to highlight the skill you bring to the market, not simply repeat one of the next things that appears on your profile. It should grab the attention of the viewer and encourage them to read more.

4: Groups are there not simply to join, but for participation.

Groups are communities where people of similar interests gather online to share articles, ideas, and opinions. they are superb venues for raising your visibility to a targeted niche by offering your thoughts and opinions.

Among the other changes, LinkedIn removed the applications and plans to replace them with rich media feeds. Stay tuned for that...

There are many ways to leverage LinkedIn to raise visibility for you and your company. Simply being there is not enough.

Those without a robust social networking presence will lose marketshare in direct proportion to their social networking inactivity.

My next LinkedIn for Contractors seminar is February 19 at Capitol College. This 4 hour session is the extended version of my LinkedIn Blackbelt Workshop. Drop me a line for details. or register here

I will also be speaking about LinkedIn at the

APMP dinner speaker series January 16:

and the NVTC breakfast February 22:

There has been some abrupt changes at LinkedIn over the last three months, including a reformatting of your profile. The first big change came with the "Endorsement" feature.

Yet more changes are coming to your LinkedIn profile if you use the (now old and replaced) applications, such as WordPress and SlideShare.

If you and/or your company needs LinkedIn training, contact me (mark AT federaldirect DOT net).

Here is the  are two announcements from LinkedIn:


Applications - No Longer Supported

Why are Applications no longer supported?

Last Updated: 12/10/2012 

At LinkedIn, we want to provide a simple and efficient experience for members like you. So from time to time, we take a look at our set of features to evaluate how they're being used by our members. We have decided to replace the LinkedIn Applications feature with the ability to add rich media directly to your profile.


LinkedIn Applications: Location of 3rd Party Content

How can I access the content from my 3rd party LinkedIn Applications?

Last Updated: 12/11/2012
LinkedIn Applications are being replaced with a new feature that lets you add media links to images, presentations, videos, and documents on your profile. You may click below to see how to access content for some of those applications:

My Travel by TripIt
You will be able to continue to post TripIt updates to your LinkedIn network and profile by linking your TripIt and LinkedIn accounts. Show me how.
Legal Updates by JD Supra
We are actively working with JD Supra to integrate the content from your JD Supra portfolio into your new LinkedIn profile. Expect to hear from JD Supra directly as we make this switch. In the meantime, if you’ve been posting your documents via the "Legal Updates" app, you can continue to update your network with your latest content by logging into your account on JD Supra.
Portfolio Display by Behance
Any of your Behance content you’ve uploaded using the Portfolio Display application will be automatically migrated to the Summary section of your profile once you opt into the newly redesigned LinkedIn Profile. If you were a user of this application, you should receive an invite to opt into the new profile design shortly.
SlideShare Presentations by SlideShare
Any SlideShare content you’ve uploaded using the SlideShare Presentations application will be automatically migrated to the Summary section of your profile once you opt into the newly redesigned LinkedIn profile. If you were a user of this application, you should receive an invitation to opt into the new profile design shortly.
Lawyer Ratings by LexisNexis
With this new platform, applications such as the Lawyers Rating Application by LexisNexis®Martindale-Hubbell® will no longer be supported. This application icon will no longer display on your LinkedIn profile. Be on the look-out for the next generation Ratings application from LexisNexis®Martindale-Hubbell® available in the near future.
WordPress by Automatic
If you self-host your WordPress site, you can enable auto posting to LinkedIn through the Jetpack plugin from Automatic.
If your site is on, simply enable the Publicize setting for LinkedIn from your Dashboard.
Box Files by Box
Displaying and sharing a file from Box in your new LinkedIn profile is easy. In order to display a specific file, all you need to do is paste the file’s direct link in the LinkedIn professional gallery. Simply preview the file as you normally would in Box, select File Options - Share - Get Link to File and then click on Direct Link to generate the URL. Paste it directly in the LinkedIn professional gallery.

Repeat the same steps for other files you’d like to add to your profile. As always, you can customize the sharing and access security settings on Box for the content you add to your LinkedIn profile.

Visit the Box support site for more information and a full list of supported file types.
We cannot automatically move content from the remaining applications to your profile. You can re-add that content to your profile using our new rich media feature.
A few minutes ago I received an email from LI. I am uncertain how this will impact me, all of us, etc. So stay tuned for commentary as i digest this....

Here is the email:

Hi Mark,
On December 11, 2012, you'll be getting the new LinkedIn profile, which
has a simplified design, provides deeper insights, and surfaces new
ways to connect and build relationships. You'll also be one of the first
to preview a new way to showcase rich content on your profile --
like presentations, videos, documents, and more.
Now there are more ways than ever to tell your professional story on
LinkedIn, and we're excited for you to try them out. As we roll out
these changes, we'll also be streamlining our app offerings, so
the following LinkedIn apps will no longer be supported on the
homepage or profile as of December 11:

  • LinkedIn Events
You can find out more about these changes on our Help Center.
We hope you like your new LinkedIn profile!
The LinkedIn Team


LinkedIn Applications: Location

of 3rd Party Content

How can I access the content from my 3rd party

LinkedIn Applications?

LinkedIn Applications are being replaced with a new feature that lets
you add media links to images, presentations, videos, and documents
on your profile. You may click below to see how to access content for
some of those applications:

My Travel by TripIt
You will be able to continue to post TripIt updates to your LinkedIn network and profile by linking your TripIt and LinkedIn accounts. Show me how.
Legal Updates by JD Supra
We are actively working with JD Supra to integrate the content from your JD Supra portfolio into your new LinkedIn profile. Expect to hear from JD Supra directly as we make this switch. In the meantime, if you’ve been posting your documents via the "Legal Updates" app, you can continue to update your network with your latest content by logging into your account on JD Supra.
Portfolio Display by Behance
Any of your Behance content you’ve uploaded using the Portfolio Display application will be automatically migrated to the Summary section of your profile once you opt into the newly redesigned LinkedIn Profile. If you were a user of this application, you should receive an invite to opt into the new profile design shortly.
SlideShare Presentations by SlideShare
Any SlideShare content you’ve uploaded using the SlideShare Presentations application will be automatically migrated to the Summary section of your profile once you opt into the newly redesigned LinkedIn profile. If you were a user of this application, you should receive an invitation to opt into the new profile design shortly.
Lawyer Ratings by LexisNexis
With this new platform, applications such as the Lawyers Rating Application by LexisNexis®Martindale-Hubbell® will no longer be supported. This application icon will no longer display on your LinkedIn profile. Be on the look-out for the next generation Ratings application from LexisNexis®Martindale-Hubbell® available in the near future.
WordPress by Automatic
If you self-host your WordPress site, you can enable auto posting to LinkedIn through the Jetpack plugin from Automatic.
If your site is on, simply enable the Publicize setting for LinkedIn from your Dashboard.
We cannot automatically move content from the remaining applications
to your profile. You can re-add that content to your profile using our
new rich media feature.
Changes and new features at LinkedIn keep coming and it is important to stay as current as possible. I try to keep myself current and post the significant changes here. Back in early October I posted info on the then new "Endorsement" feature -

It is important to stay current so you can leverage each new feature when it fits your business plan and budget. Keep in mind some of the features, like "Endorsements" and the enhanced "Company Profile" are free. 

If you need to catch up and learn to maximize the current power of LinkedIn, consider attending my December 11 session on LinkedIn at Capitol College:

Now, on to the two most recent changes.

LinkedIn's relatively popular "Events" calendar is gone. Here is the announcement posted about 10 days ago:

LinkedIn will be shutting off the LinkedIn Events application effective November 26, 2012.

At LinkedIn, we want to provide a simple and efficient experience for all members. So from time to time, we take a look at our set of features to evaluate how they're being used by our members. Part of this process sometimes means we decide to eliminate a feature, so we can better invest our development resources in building more great LinkedIn products for members like you.

There are still many ways to spread the word about upcoming events. You can always share links about events from your homepage, or in relevant groups.

The removal of this feature impacts events producers and others providing niche information on this otherwise robust platform.

I don't think the "Events" feature is gone forever, but if it does return, I think it will do so as a paid service.

In an unrelated move, LinkedIn recently announced that you can now run video ads. Here is the announcement from October 23, 2012:

Have more to say than can fit in a text ad? Most advertisers do, which is why we’re excited to announce the global roll-out of video ads on our self-serve platform, LinkedIn Ads. Whether you have a complex B2B service to promote or an inspiring brand message, video ads are a way to educate, persuade, and inspire LinkedIn’s 175M members.

I have seen some video as profile enhancements. Some has been quite good and some has been, well let's say, embarrassing. This feature will be fun to watch as companies experiment with it, so stay tuned.

And if you want to excel on LinkedIn, attend the December 11 session!

The GOVERNMENT MARKET MASTER™ (GMM) CERTIFICATE PROGRAM provides comprehensive best practices, processes and methodologies for gaining invaluable insight on how to develop and sustain meaningful business relationships with the Federal Government. Delivered by top government, business and thought leaders, the Capitol College-GMM program is specifically designed by Business-to-Government (B2G) experts to benefit executives, managers and professionals who seek to successfully target, engage, win and sustain business with the Federal Government.

Call Mark Amtower or email at 301 924 0058 for registration information or group rates.

"Mark (Amtower) is the greatest. I have sent many of my marketing folks to his events. They all return inspired and smarter. He knows the industry and the market like no one else."

— Craig Abod, CEO, Carahsoft, Inc

Tues, Dec 11, 8AM-noon:  (GMM 208): LinkedIn for Government Contractors  

Federal government employees and managers are joining LinkedIn by the thousands and many of the government contractors are already here. LinkedIn is growing rapidly, yet most companies in the government market are not leveraging the power that it brings to the table. Learn how this tool can help your company stand out among your competitors and grow.

 What you will learn:

-          Why you need a LinkedIn strategy and how to create one

-          How to create a LinkedIn profile that attracts the people you want to meet and raises your Google rank

-          Developing a profile that attracts the right audience

-          Making the "right connections" (contractors and government decision makers)

-          Managing and communicating with your connections

-          Establishing you/your company as a subject matter expert or “thought leader”

-          Learn the tactics to stay “top of mind” in your niche and be recognized as a thought leader

-          How to select and leverage the best groups to grow your business

-          Which “apps” fit your strategy

-          And much more!

From the basics of developing a great profile to targeting contracting partners; finding, joining

and leveraging the right groups: making you and your company stand out from the competition; learn the top tactics from LinkedIn Black Belt Mark Amtower. Investment: $495 (use code GMM when registering for a 20% discount). You must be registered to attend. Group rates available.

Wed, Dec 12: 8am-noon: PR for Small Government Contractors

Being written about in trade publications gives a company more credibility in their market. Some small businesses get press coverage but most do not. Join the ranks of those who know how to get PR and get noticed!

What you will learn:

              -          What is newsworthy? for you; for the market for you- something worth posting on the "news" page of your web site for the market- something that other people could find useful

-          What are the elements of a news release for both platforms (internal and external use)

-          Now that you have a release, who do you send it to?

-          Is it worthwhile trying to "get to know' an editor or reporter?

-          How do you determine which publications are germane?

-          How do you know when you are ready for outside PR help?

-          How do you determine which PR firm to use?

From the ground up, you will learn how to get on the radar of key media outlets, how to approach reporters and editors and more from industry PR veteran Bill Holleran, with guest speakers Nick Wakeman (editor, Washington Technology), Mark Amtower and Joyce Bosc (Boscobel). Investment: $495 (use code GMM when registering for a 20% discount). You must be registered to attend. Group rates available.

Wed, Dec 12 1pm-5pm: The Competitive Advantage: Market Research for Small Contractors

There are many sources for business intelligence in the government market and many of those are free. Those with the best information are in better positions to win business.

 What you will learn:

        What’s Out There?

        Overview of Federal market databases: paid and free

        Key Terms – You need to know and understand

        Government sources: SAM, FBO, FPDS, Defense-Link and more

        Commercial sources: GovWin, Deltek (FIS/Input), Bgov, Fedmine and others

        What creates an “opportunity”?

        Agency web sites

        Understanding and using the data

Industry veteran Anton (Toby) Reut will show you how to find the information you need to develop a competitive advantage. Investment: $495 (use code GMM when registering for a 20% discount). You must be registered to attend. Group rates available.

Call Mark Amtower or email at 301 924 0058 for registration information.


 Coming in January 2013

(GMM 201) B2G “Go-to-Market” Strategy, Planning and Execution

(GMM 215) Business Development: Strategy, Planning and Execution  

(GMM 230) Simplified Acquisitions

(GMM 100) Government Marketing Best Practices

(GMM 208): LinkedIn for Government Contractors  


More GMM 2013 sessions tba



I exhibited at the Baltimore Washington Chamber of Commerce (BWCC) Annual Procurement Fair today (11/28/12) and I have a few observations from my travels to the event, and while I was there.

First observation: On the way to the event, I was driving down RT 32 in Maryland approaching Fort Meade. Just before turning onto the BW Parkway, I see a sign on the side of the road, one of those signs that tells you which company picks up the trash along the road.  While looking at the sign, Fort Meade and NSA are clearly in the background, and Praxis, an engineering firm with contracts at the Fort, has its name nicely placed on that sign.  A little road pickup and an absolutely great placement for your company name. Anyone approaching Fort Meade/NSA from the West sees your name every day. I need to approach from the East and see if they do it there, too. Very effective and huge on the reinforcing name recognition scale.

Second observation: At the event, most of the exhibitors were small business specialists from state and federal agencies. I was one of the few exhibitors that was not a government agency. A few people stopped by and asked if I could put them on a "bidders list". I explained that the Government Market Master (GMM) program was not a government agency, that we offered continuing professional education for professionals selling to the government. Their response: "We just need bidders lists" and they quickly moved on. Reminds me of Sisyphus, the king of Ephyra punished by being compelled to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this action every day.  Too many people like this attending procurement events and thinking "all I gotta do is get on the right list..."  This is a myopic approach and it will not work.

Third observation: Exhibiting at targeted events still works. Several people stopped by to ask pertinent, intelligent questions about the GMM program, and some of these people will be attending seminars in December. Some people stopped by to say they had read Selling to the Government, or to say they like my posts on LinkedIn. I am certain more people know me from LinkedIn than from my books, radio show, articles or speaking engagements. It is a great tool if you use it properly.

Final observation: I spoke at the pre-Fair event a few weeks back. I teach people what to do before, during and after their first OSDBU/small business office visit. I have been doing this for BWCC for three years. This year one of the attendees was from Red Roof Inn. During the Q&A, they asked what they could do to raise the awareness of Red Roof for government and government contractors. I suggested putting the Inn locations on a map and listing all of the government facilities (federal, state and local) near each Inn. They exhibited at the Procurement Fair, AND they had a map with the government facilities listed under each of the three central Maryland Red Roof Inns - nearly 60 government offices and installations in all. Very cool, and a great "leave behind" fr all procurement offices, as they will be asked about local hotels.

btw, Red Roof is in the process of upgrading Red Roof Inns around the country and they are looking very good while maintaining a modest price.

Kudos to Praxis and Red Roof - and to Walt and all the folks at BWCC!

And fyi, GMM classes for December...

Tues, Dec 11, 8AM-noon:  (GMM 208): LinkedIn for Government Contractors  

Wed, Dec 12: 8am-noon: PR for Small Government Contractors

Wed, Dec 12 1pm-5pm: The Competitive Advantage: Market Research for Small Contractors

Call me for details - 301 924 0058, or send me an email:
One of my clients recently attended a "Become a LinkedIn Expert" seminar where the instructor was not able to answer several basic questions posed during and after the session.

Kind of makes you go "Hmmmm..."

Whenever I see an announcement for a LinkedIn seminar, I look at the profile of the presenter. Rarely do I find see a profile that tells me this is someone who should be the instructor of the course.

My LinkedIn headline reads "Leading GovCon consultant, luncheon & keynote speaker, author & columnist, LinkedIn Blackbelt & sensei, radio host."

I don't make any of these claims lightly. I work hard at consulting, speaking, writing, interviewing and being a LinkedIn sensei.

When I coach individuals and companies on maximizing the value of LinkedIn, one area I spend time focusing on is the "headline", that area right under your name. If you do not edit this area, the default for the headline is your job title, which shows up on your profile a little further on. Rather than re-state the job title, I suggest emphasizing the skills you bring to the niche you serve, positioning yourself as a subject matter expert or professional.

My headline highlights five skill areas: consulting, speaking, writing, radio show (interviewing), and Linkedin skills.

The question about the headline that people ask most is how I got a Black Belt in LinkedIn.

The short answer is that it is self-awarded.

Several martial art disciplines were started by those who went out on their own. Although I gave it to myself, it was earned the traditional way: long hours, weeks, months of practice, developing the skills necessary to excel.

I have been on LinkedIn almost none years, since February 11, 2004, long before most people knew it existed. I am member # 222,445. To put this in perspective, I joined LinkedIn the week after Facebook was started at Harvard.

Although an early adopter, I did not adapt until 2007, when I read a book which changed my attitude about social networking: David Meerman Scott's the New Rules of Marketing and PR.

Scott's New Rules propelled me into the world of social networking so much so that he has been a guest on my radio show (see my headline...) 4 times, most recently just a few weeks back, discussing his new book, Newsjacking. My copies of  his books are highlighted and tabbed, and referred to regularly.

Mr Scott is a true social media guru and his books have been translated into dozens of languages and sold tens of millions of copies.  They are also fun to read.

But until early 2012 he was not on LinkedIn. He had explained to me that he wanted to be very good at a few things, not OK at all. That made perfect sense, as his books were geared to the general public, not simply business people.

But when he was invited to keynote the international LinkedIn Summit in India and he had to get on LinkedIn and get acclimated pretty quick. In part, this is how he did it (this is his recommendation for me on LinkedIn):

In early 2012, Mark coached me on how to make my LinkedIn profile stand out. His ideas for improvement were personal for me (not canned) and while they made perfect sense the moment he said them, I was too close to my profile to see the need for change myself. The difference is dramatic and worth 100X what I paid Mark for the service. I'll most certainly hire Mark again for a LinkedIn profile tuneup or to learn how to become a power user. February 21, 2012 .

If you need to develop LinkedIn skills for yourself or your company, check references carefully before you hire someone.

Or you can attend one of my upcoming LinkedIn sessions at Capitol College. The next one is December 11. email me for details.

Here is a link to my latest interview with David Meerman Scott:

And, btw, one of the visible results of getting active on LinkedIn and working hard at being good was being one of seven profiles selected as the best on LinkedIn in November of 2009. LinkedIn experts Mike O'Neil and Lori Ruff ran a contest, Rock the World with Your Online Presence (also a book) that asked Linkedin members to select and vote on the best profiles.
Make no mistake about it: government contracting is a relationship driven market. You have to become visible. You are known by the right people or you are not.

Attaining and maintaining visibility in the market niche you serve should be top of mind. There are several paths you can take, but be certain you take a path that adds value to the community on a regular basis. Do not take a path that is more hype than substance.

You have probably run across the concept of "personal branding" more than a few times over the past few years. Each of us wants to believe that we are important and that we add value. The outward reception of that premise is not a given until the outward perception aligns what we think and how the market perceives us.

Once these are in tandem - and until that alignment takes place, there is no guarantee that others will pay attention to anything we say, regardless of how or where we say it.

Personal branding has been embraced by many looking for short-cuts to fame and fortune, but without adequate substance (an associated product or service), it leads nowhere because there is nothing to "brand".

There are no short-cuts. It takes work and dedication, persistence and perspiration. You need something that resonates with the prospect audience you wish to influence.

Winning business in the government market, any market, is about being visible to the prospects, partners and influencers in the buying process, visible in a positive way on a regular basis. Showing up on the radar on an occasional basis is not good enough.

This does not mean you have to be on the radar of the entire market. In all likelihood your products or services are not needed by everyone. It does mean that you need to define your niche carefully and find multiple ways to become more visible to your niche in a perpetual manner.

The best way to get on and stay on the radar is to add value to your market niche in as many ways as possible. Finding, developing and delivering content is the best way to do this.

There are many venues for developing and delivering content. Among these venues are:

- blogs
- webinars
- video
- white papers
- podcasts
- starting and otherwise participating in discussions on social networks like LinkedIn
- speaking (large group, small group, one on one)

In order to add value, the content must be germane to those you seek to influence.

It is always about relationships: if they know you, they are more likely to buy from you. The more visible you are, the more likely it is they know you. The more good content you develop, find and share, the more your "net worth" rises in your niche.

Five Areas Contractors Need

to Watch in 2013

We live in interesting times.

There have been bad periods for government contractors several times in the 30 years I have been advising companies in this market, but beyond any doubt, these are the strangest and by far the worst of any I have seen.

To successfully stay ahead of the curve, to be as competitive as possible, certain activities must be monitored on a very regular basis. These activities require an investment, sometimes of time, sometimes of money or other resources, and sometimes a combination of several.

But make no mistake, these activities must be closely monitored if you are to remain or become successful.

1-      Careful attention must be paid to how your prospects and customers are being driven in their purchasing. Strategic sourcing is expanding; low-price, technically acceptable is the rallying cry of bean-counters inside OMB and elsewhere; and fixed-price contracting looms. Each of these have serious downsides for the government, but in their cyclic mind frame, they won’t figure this out for the next four or five years. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of companies will be removed from various GSA Schedules by then, and many of those will go out of business as a result. Study these issues carefully and be prepared to deal with each as it encroaches on your niche.

2-      Fraud, waste and abuse’ is yet another rallying cry from those who have little or no clue as to what “common commercial practice” actually is. That does not remove it as a threat to the contracting community. Make certain you are getting the proper legal advice in all areas of contracting: pricing, partnering, prime/sub relations, audit and other activities which raise red flags inside IG offices. I am not saying that contract fraud does not exist, but I am certainly implying that over-zealous government lawyers often don't have a clue as to how the business world operates.

3-       All things “small business”. Small businesses continue to seek sub-contracting and other arrangements with primes, and primes seek to find competent sub-contractors for specific bids. With the number of bills in Congress impacting small business, in particular set-asides, both small and larger business must take into account all the rules impacting how they can work together. It does not appear that Congress, despite all their lip service, will make this easier for anyone. But keep in mind that missteps here can lead to #2 above.

4-      To get away from the pitfalls for a moment, let’s look at social networking. With the temporary demise of some major events sponsored by the government, new ways must be found to identify and influence prospective buyers and other influencers. LinkedIn is particularly well-suited to this task, and while many contractors are here, along with the governmental counterparts, few companies use LinkedIn to its maximum advantage. Invest in some training to see if you are among those missing this particular boat.

5-      Thought leadership has been a hot topic for a few years now, but like social networking, many really do not get what it means and how to develop a thought leadership platform. While many claim to be thought leaders, but few can substantiate the claim. Thought leadership is differentiation on steroids. It is the development of expertise in a niche subject area, and the sharing of that knowledge base in multiple venues throughout a defined community. And still, it is more. It is ultimately the acknowledgment of that community that you are among the thought leaders. You can learn the elements, but you never claim the status without broad recognition from the community.

There are other areas that may need to be monitored for you particular niche, but these five cut across the entire market.

Pay careful attention to the first three and start acting on the final two.

Best of fortunes in 2013.


A week or so back I visited one of my favorite web sites, And I was stunned.

What was previously an easy to navigate news site is now ... well, I'm not sure.

When you visited the WT site before, the news regarding the government contracting community was clearly visible- front and center, with the "Top Stories" list on the right (most read and most emailed stories), breaking news down the middle, and on the left side the major categories for the GovCon market. It was easy to find what you were looking for.

I liked the "most read/most emailed" feature as it let me know what was trending in the market. It is gone.

Now we have the top navigation bar with Nick Wakeman's blog (worth reading), contract news and Top 100 news. The we have one visible opinion column until you scroll down and get past the ads on the right side.

Before when you read a story, there are "related stories" next to or under the text. I liked that as I could get more information on a specific topic. I don't see that now.

Remember when Coke launched "New Coke"? I don't find the new design to be a user friendly experience compared to what was there before and I think this redesign will lead to less traffic and shorter visits to the site. 

It has certainly made my visits shorter. I want the Classic WT.

10/18/12 UPDATE

WashTech has revoved the "one story above the fold" look and now it is relatively easy to scroll down and see some news. Still not what it was, but much better than their first pass.
Last week I posted my first impression of the new "endorsement" feature on LinkedIn.

On first pass I admit to thinking the endorsement of "skills and expertise" feature was pretty neat. So I wrote that in this blog. 

But I threw in a caveat that some LIONs (open networkers) and others would devalue this currency by seeking hundreds of endorsements from those they do not know. This is already happening.

I posted the blog link into more than 40 LinkedIn groups and the feedback started to come in. Some thanked me for explaining what the heck was going on, others started questioning the value of the tool, the further Facebooking of LinkedIn.

Facebook has the "Like" button which seems to be attached to everything: groups, people, events, pets, music, halitosis and haggis. It is too easy to like something, anything, on FB.

Many of those responding to the discussions on LinkedIn think it should be harder to endorse people in a professional setting, preferring the "Recommendation" method.

I have to agree.

I think it is important to point out that some people have skills worth recommending, and it should take more than a click of a button to say why I feel this way.

I have "recommended" 343 people on LinkedIn, people I respect and who have added value to my professional skills set or otherwise helped me along the way, friends like David Powell, Scott Heller, Olga Grkavac, Dendy Young, Richard Dean, Ann-Marie Clark, Tom Hewitt, Nick Wakeman, Max Peterson, Tom Tweedie, David Meerman Scott, Guy Timberlake, Sheila Schatzke, Bob Davis, Michael Keating, June Jewell, Lisa DeLuca and hundreds of others. It is a long list.

While that number may seem high, I have been a LinkedIn member since February 11, 2004 and have been in business as Amtower and Company since January 1, 1985. Lots of people have helped me along the way, and many continue to do so.

As I state in my second book, Why Epiphanies Never Occur to Couch Potatoes, I prefer to acknowledge the contributions of others while they are still with us, not after they are gone.

I like LinkedIn. I teach classes on using it, coach people and companies on maximizing the value of it, and use it myself on a daily basis. It is a great business tool.

But I hope that the powers managing LinkedIn resist temptations to "dumb it down" and further emulate Facebook.

This is a business tool and a business network. Let's keep it professional.

In Epiphanies, I warn against falling for every shiny rock that is in your path.

Every day we are confronted by offers that seem to be shortcuts to success. We get assaulted by these from all media- television, the radio, in publications we read, phone calls we get, the people we see in the parking lot, the grocery store or an elevator. Too many people, it seems, are looking for angles, not purposes; a quick and easy ride to wealth, not for the satisfaction of a life lived well. So when the shiny rock offer comes along, we are susceptible.

The endorsement feature can be a shiny rock. If you choose to use the endorsement feature, use it wisely. But also take the time to use the recommendation feature as well and truly acknowledge the contributions of others.
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