The more things change, the more they stay the same

I have been a student of the government market for over thirty years. During that time I have produced hundreds of articles, events and a few books. 2015 is the 30th anniversary for my company, the 10th anniversary of my first book, Government Marketing Best Practices and the fourth anniversary of my third book, Selling to the Government.  Both books dealt with the process of winning business in the government market.

Each book also emphasized certain things about the government contracting market that don’t change. I’d like to start 2015 by emphasizing a few things in our market that don’t change, but still require continuous monitoring.

Both books start with a simple premise, that government contracting is a relationship driven business.  Developing relationships with the agencies and other contractors is critical. Leveraging association memberships and other events is key to your individual and company success.

Amtower is hosting The New Rules of Selling Products to the Government on March 25. Details here.

While tools like LinkedIn can help you manage these relationships and can expand relationships with organizations you want to do business with, it does not replace the face-to-face relationships you need to conduct business. Relationships are key and will remain No. 1.

Research and studying the market are requirements, not options.

The more you know about an agency, top to bottom, the more likely you will win business from them. The same applies to primes – the more you know about them the better off you’ll be. The successful players have always known this, while others look for the Cliff Notes or ignore the research side altogether.

Defining your area of expertise in terms that resonate with your market niche allows you to stand out and stand apart from those who do or sell similar things. Small companies claiming broad or multiple areas of expertise are less likely to win business than those actually claiming a narrower area where they have legitimate expertise. Know your niche and claim it publicly.

Companies entering the market with little or no clue about the back-office requirements, especially in legal, human resources and accounting are doomed to lose before you have a chance to win. There are different rules at play in the public sector and ignorance of those rules can prove costly.

Having an informational web site will help draw traffic and educate visitors on who you are and what you do.  A web site that looks like brochure-ware and has outdated or rarely updated information will have no gravitational pull. The web site has to be active and it must have links to the social media you employ: LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Facebook, etc.

Events and networking venues have been with us since day 1 and continue to be a vital part of the govcon ecosystem. However selecting the right venues remains an issue, because there are so many. Events need to be selected based on potential ROI, not the hype from the event producer. My criteria have been the same for 30 years and include: the pedigree of the event producer, including whether they have produced government contracting events before; has the event occurred before, and if so who attended; will it be big enough to attract enough people but small enough so I can actually meet several; and finally, will this be a good use of my limited resources?

My mentor Lynn Bateman was adamant about the last item – staying current on procurement regulations and contract vehicles. Too many companies enter this market without understanding how the government buys. Many other companies, especially those who are not fully engaged in the government market, do not stay current and can get into trouble as a result. If you don’t have the internal resources to stay current, I suggest joining an association that can help you and retaining outside expertise that can help you avoid the inevitable sinkholes involved in doing business with the government.
This is the short list. I hope it provides some with a reminder to keep your eye on the ball.

About the Author

Mark Amtower advises government contractors on all facets of business-to-government (B2G) marketing and leveraging LinkedIn. Find Mark on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/markamtower.

Reader Comments

Sat, Jan 24, 2015 Anton Reut

You are so right, you must master the basics to be successful, there are no shortcuts. After all these years in the government marketplace marketplace, I am still amazed by the number of companies, all sizes, that ignore or do a poor job of the essentials you laid out, especially research and studying the market.

Thu, Jan 22, 2015 Tom Johnson Bethesda, MD

Right on, Mark! Great guidance for winning. Tom

Thu, Jan 22, 2015

Great reminders. Contracting folks could benefit too.

Wed, Jan 21, 2015

Great comments. Too many companies have forgotten the basics and the need to be proactive.

Tue, Jan 20, 2015

Very helpful serving of common sense in this piece. Thank you, sir.

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