Mark Amtower

OPINION

4 homework assignments for a better 2014

I think most would agree we have just been through a very strange year for government contracting. If we are on the same page there, what can we do to prepare for an equally interesting 2014?

Here’s my short list of areas to focus on and a homework assignment to follow through. Each works in good times and bad.

Research, research, research

Regardless of whether you are pursuing business directly with the feds, business with primes, or selling services to the contractor community, do your homework. With smaller budgets all around, understanding the needs of your prospect and having a good idea of what they may be able to spend will increase your chances of winning business.

Remember, being an incumbent is not a slam dunk. Your customer is under tremendous pressure to save money, and that often includes jettisoning a complacent incumbent.

There are many places to do homework: agency and company web sites, trade publications, Google searches, www.FBO.gov, LinkedIn and many more. Ongoing research is critical to your growth.

Homework: Where do you do your research and how current is it?

Events

Attendance is down, but not out. Select events carefully and leverage wisely. Even for attending local events, feds have increasing requirements to justify leaving the office for any event, especially vendor-sponsored activities. As a contractor you need to select the events you attend, sponsor or exhibit at with increasing scrutiny, especially if you anticipate federal attendees.

Building relationships is critical and events are one method of building them.

Homework: How do you pick your events?

Associations & other professional group

Select well and participate. Associations have always been a backbone of this community and there are plenty to choose from.

Some of these groups are for federal managers, but they allow contractor involvement, sometimes in the form sponsorship or associate members. The Society of American Military Engineers (SAME) and Senior Executive Association (SEA) come to mind and are both excellent venues to meet key people.

There are the traditional industry groups like ACT-IAC, the Professional Services Council, AFFIRM, SECAF, the ASBC and others, each playing vitals roles in our ecosystem.

Other professional associations like the Association for Proposal Management Professionals (APMP), National Contract Management Association (NCMA), the International Facilities Management Association (IFMA) and IEEE have active federal members and often chapters for government managers.

Regional tech councils like NVTC, the Tech Council of Maryland and the Howard County, Md., Tech Council have committees focused on government.

All of the above mentioned groups host a variety of excellent events. Remember participation in professional groups can pay huge dividends.

Homework: Which organization best suits your niche?

2014: The year of LinkedIn?

While most of the GovCon market is on LinkedIn, many, if not most, are still in a passive mode without any significant strategy other than to hit “500+” connections or “99+” endorsements. This passive approach by many leaves great opportunities for those willing to learn how to leverage LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is a fantastic tool for building and managing a network, defining and developing a subject matter expert status, and for gaining visibility in targeted communities throughout the public sector. I think 2014 will be the turning point for both companies and people starting to use LinkedIn strategically.

Just about all major contractors are on LinkedIn and feds are there in very significant numbers as well. You can leverage LinkedIn to build a powerful network and showcase your area of expertise. You have to go from adequate to good, then from good to great. If you are simply “there” waiting for something to happen, it is akin to joining an association and not going to any meetings.

Homework: Has your company developed and deployed a social media strategy?

Each of the above “to do’s” is designed to build your knowledge base then develop and display your area of expertise to a carefully defined community.

In these tough times, we all need more visibility, and you can control how much of that visibility occurs.

Reader Comments

Thu, Jan 9, 2014

especially enjoyed "the year of linkedin" ty!

Thu, Dec 12, 2013 Joseph Roth California

Mark: It would seem that the feds are starting to realize the advantages of running their operations as we do in the for profit world. The days of blank checks and need for more accountability are gone. Your suggestions just remind me that perhaps a few of these gov procurement offices are more teachable about long term value and the savings it brings. Accountability is a disliked at times but a wonderfully profitable thing.

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