Don’t underestimate the power of relationships in the federal market

Mark Amtower, a government marketing consultant and host of Off Center, offers advice about why contractors and federal employees alike need to continually main...

Over the past two years the fact that relationships really drive the government contracting ecosystem has become more apparent than ever before:

  • Relationships between government managers and contractors
  • Relationships between contractors and other contractors
  • Relationships between small contractors and large contractors
  • Relationships between media and all of the above

I have relationships that go back decades, relationships that I value and nurture. I also have relationships that go back weeks or months and I am nurturing these as well.

We have had to do some radical adapting during the pandemic to maintain the relationships we had as well as to build new relationships.

Reliance on social networks, especially LinkedIn, has soared. My latest “Feds on LinkedIn census” shows over 2.4 million feds on LinkedIn with every federal department and agency represented. This is an increase of over 400,000 over my 2021 census.

Further, I have identified over 500 federal departments, agencies and offices that have “company” pages on LinkedIn, which allows you to get quite granular if you are looking for people in specific roles. This is an increase of nearly 200 company pages that I found for 2021.

In these past two years, federal employees have been more proactive on LinkedIn in both joining the platform and creating the “company” pages for their respective offices.

My observations of Feds on LinkedIn during the pandemic lead to the conclusion that their willingness to join and participate has increased their comfort level with LinkedIn and various video-chat platforms, especially Zoom and Microsoft teams.

The comfort level for Feds with LinkedIn has risen dramatically.

This was partially caused by the near total elimination of live events caused by COVID. Radical adaptation was required because we still need to “meet” and build relationships.

Being addicted to LinkedIn, I can tell you that some federal employees are quite active, and more than willing to connect with and speak to contractors.  Some have even reached out to connect with me, and I’m just a marketing guy.

First thing every morning, I open LinkedIn and go to my “Notifications” page. When I say congrats on a new job, or just to say hello, I will often ask if they have time to Zoom. Before I do so, I carefully review their profile and employer to see what and who we have in common. This allows me to offer a more personal message. I always include some shared interest or connection in my message to give a deeper context to the outreach.

It takes time, but it builds a deeper relationship.

When someone comments on something I post, or an article I’ve written, I will always comment back.

Why? Because it builds the relationship. They have a TON of other stuff they could read but they chose to read mine. I value that so I acknowledge each comment.

I love Zooming with new people, old connections, and especially those I’ve known but have never physically met.

So when Mike Lisagor, a consultant and writer I’ve never physically met but have known by reputation and through LinkedIn (we connected October 14, 2007) contacted me early last fall and asked if I was interested in doing a book with him, it caught my attention.

What kind of book? Stuff we’ve already written, essays that have been out there for years or just weeks. Both of us have literally hundreds of articles to choose from.

Did Mike know me well? Yes and no. We’ve had very few conversations over the years, but we’ve been reading what the other has produced for decades.

We were literally and figuratively on the same page.

We decided to pick 25 of our favorite essays, each of which is evergreen in the advice offered. We picked, read what the other had in mind, and Mike did his Amazon Kindle magic, and voila, How to Win in the Government Market came out on Jan. 26.

My first essay in the book is “Relationships are the key to GovCon Success.” One-third of my essays offer LinkedIn strategies and tactics, the activity that drives me every damn day. Even as I write this, LinkedIn is on in the background and invariably I will take a look every 10 minutes of so.

Why do I do this? Why am I addicted to LinkedIn?

Even before the pandemic, LinkedIn had become an integral part of the government contractor ecosystem. Because of the pandemic, it is now a critical factor in success in our market.

Marketing legend Regis McKenna wrote the seminal essay “Marketing is Everything” (HBR, January 1991). My attempt to emulate McKenna starts on page 76 of the book: “The Simple Act of Being on LinkedIn is Marketing.” This is one of my all-time favorite essays.

I will not offer a synopsis here, but think about this:

  • Where do you go to vet people in our market?
  • Where do you share information with your network? Do you share information with your network?
  • If you have “500+” connections, are you visible to them?
  • How can you manage your government contractor relationships?

LinkedIn is where you can accomplish these, and establish a reputation as a valuable member of the community.

Mike and I have been writing for the government contracting community for a long time, going back to the 1980s.

How to Win in the Government Market is a collection of 50+ essays that we consider to be among our best.

It came about because Mike wanted to take our relationship to the next level.

You have built a business network on LinkedIn. What are you doing to stay in touch with that network?

Don’t wait for something to happen- make it happen!

Mark Amtower is a GovCon Marketing consultant specializing in helping companies gain recognition in the federal market through differentiation, building a subject matter expert market position, content marketing, agency-based marketing (ABM) and social selling via LinkedIn. He is the author of several books, including Amazon best-seller Selling to the Government (Wiley, 2010) and host of Amtower Off Center on the Federal News Network.  Reach out to him through his preferred playground- https://www.linkedin.com/in/markamtower/

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