15 Minutes Can Build Your Business

By Rita Walston, Senior Director, Marketing Programs

I carry a custom coin around with me. On one side it says strong relationships build business; on the other, I am not a commodity.

I designed and had 100 of those coins made last year and frequently use them in training and mentoring sessions.  We recently put those words into action at immixGroup by hosting an Emerging Tech Speed Networking Event.

We’ve hosted Speed Networking Events before, but this one was unique and addressed a specific need we’d heard from both our partners and our IT manufacturer suppliers. The partners want to know which companies are “the next big thing”—emerging technology logos they should add to their line card to grow their business. The IT manufacturers want to know which partners they should add as they establish or grow their channel and drive revenue—who is hungry and will be a hunter, not just an RFP gatherer.

Read more of this post

Strong Relationships: Foundation of Successful Business

By Rita Walston, senior director, marketing programs

Social media has made it possible to connect with potential customers and partners from afar — without TSA close encounters, battling beltway traffic or even picking up the phone. The sales profession has changed immeasurably over the last decade or two, but one thing has not – the value of face-to-face communication in building and strengthening relationships.

As we count down the days until the 5th Annual Government IT Sales Summit, it reminds me why we started it in the first place – to bring our partners and suppliers together in a place where they can make the connections to grow their government business and turn potential into results.

In our industry, events have endured pendulum swings —  for instance, the demise and resurrection of AFITC— but one factor ensures that events will always play a role in business: the irreplaceable value of face-to-face communication. There is nothing quite like it.

Read more of this post

The Truth About Federal Year-End Money

Rita Walston - headshotcontinuing resolution, install base, federal government, budgetBy Rita Walston, senior director, marketing programs

The federal government spends upwards of $90 billion every year on IT. By June, a surprising amount of the budget remains unspent and unobligated. And every year around this time, technology vendors hope to cash in on the year-end money the federal government must spend by the end of the fiscal year — September 30.

Is there anything that sales and marketing can do this late in the fiscal year to help bring in additional revenue?

Yes, says a panel of former government executives who debated this topic at the immixGroup Government IT Sales Summit last November — especially if your company has already done a good job building relationships with the customer and positioning your product or service.

Read more of this post

3 marketing tips for selling to government in 2018

By Rita Walston, senior director, marketing programs

Marketing to the federal buyer is all about knowing the right timing, methods and rules. The key to this is knowing where each opportunity is in the procurement cycle, who the primary influencers are in each phase and what information is most useful to each group.

At this year’s Government IT Sales Summit, we gathered former top-level federal IT decision-makers to give us answers. During a session moderated by Lou Anne Brossman, founder and president of the Government Marketing University, panelists shed light on how to connect with government agency officials; how to plan and execute marketing campaigns when budgets are tight; how federal buyers consume marketing information before, during and after procurement; and how continuing resolutions, the “new norm” in Washington, impact the federal IT community.

Here are just a few of the tips gleaned from the discussion. To hear more from this session, listen to the on-demand recording:

Read more of this post

Here’s what you’ll get out of this year’s Summit sessions

government, sales, ITBy Rita Walston, senior director of marketing

This year’s Government IT Sales Summit will be a full day of rich, actionable content on Nov. 16. We’ll cover everything from how the public sector is spending IT dollars in FY18 to the latest trends in cloud, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence. What makes this content come alive is our speakers, who hail from private industry and government.

We recently spoke to a few of them about their sessions. Here’s a teaser of what you’ll hear:

Read more of this post

Make crucial connections at this year’s Summit

Government IT Sales Summit

By Rita Walston, senior director, marketing programs

When business leaders talk about what contributes to their company’s success, they often point to the importance of strong relationships in their industry. In the government IT ecosystem, having strong connections with channel partners, tech suppliers and government end-users is crucial for growing revenue.

That’s why the theme for our 4th Annual Government IT Sales Summit is “Crucial Connections.” Taking place Nov. 16, 2017, in Reston, VA, this year’s Summit will help make those crucial connections between top solution providers, IT manufacturers, systems integrators and resellers.

Read more of this post

Are You Ready for This Year’s Government IT Sales Summit?

Rita Walston Headshot_63 x 85SummitVideo Promo

By Rita Walston, Senior Director, Public Sector Channel Marketing

Selling IT to the public sector has never been more challenging. So much is in flux—we’ve got new revenue streams created by XaaS; an incoming administration with a new agenda and staff; evolving procurement policies; and fast-moving, disruptive technology.

With so much at stake, we designed our 3rd annual signature event—the Government IT Sales Summit—to help lead attendees across these new Bridges of Growth. The Summit will give solution providers, IT manufacturers, systems integrators, and value-added resellers the tools and resources necessary for bridging the gaps to growth.

This year’s Summit will be held Thursday, November 17 in Reston, Virginia from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Read more of this post

A Cautionary Tale for Federal Marketers

Rita Walston_65x85Rita Walston, Senior Director, Client Marketing

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has been apologizing a lot during the past few weeks, and the scandal that many say has seriously damaged, if not derailed, his political career should be a cautionary tale for those of us who market to the federal government.

The governor and his family accepted a number of high-value loans and gifts from those who do business or seek to do business in Virginia. In a statement and in a radio interview McDonnell said that he is “deeply sorry” and focused on “repairing any loss of trust that I have experienced with the citizens.” He also added that “I broke no laws…”

As far as anyone has been able to determine (so far), Bob McDonnell is correct that he hasn’t broken any laws. (Look for those laws to change in Virginia in the coming months.) But his actions and those of his family don’t pass the “smell test”—there is the appearance of impropriety. And that’s the cautionary tale that we who market to the feds need to take to heart.

The restrictions around marketing to the federal government are pretty clear, and anyone who works in this space for any length of time knows (or should know) the rules by heart. Most important of these is do not offer to a federal employee anything with a value of more than $20 at one time, or more than a cumulative $50 in any year. But we need to pay attention to the areas that some feel are “open to interpretation.” Here are a couple:

  • Raffles:  This is a complicated and confusing area with numerous opinions written on whether a government employee can claim a raffle prize. I consulted immixGroup legal counsel to ensure I was on point. The direction I received was:  “Raffles are, under the ethics regulations, excluded from the definition of a ‘gift.’ However, that does not necessarily mean federal employees can ultimately claim the prize. To do so, such raffles must be open to the public and the employee’s entrance to the contest cannot be required as part of his official duties. These requirements are questions of fact and the answers…are not always evident.” To my mind, there’s too much room here for a McDonnell scenario. My advice then and now is not to host a raffle as part of your federal marketing efforts.
  • Marketing to Federal Systems Integrators (FSIs):  Those working for systems integrators are not federal employees; technically the federal marketing restrictions don’t apply. However, a number of systems integrators require their employees who are working on a government contract to abide by the same rules. So while there is more latitude regarding FSIs, consider appearances as well as the letter of the law when planning your marketing efforts.

I wish Bob McDonnell all the best in repairing his reputation and regaining the public trust. As I reinforce when working on marketing plans with immixGroup clients and partners, attention to the spirit of the law rather than just the letter of the law goes a long way toward preventing bad headlines.

Marketers Should Expect Scrutiny from Ethics Officials

Rita Walston, Director, Marketing Programs

I attended the latest Government Marketing Forum session last week to hear from three experts about “Ethics 2.2: The Changing Rules of Engagement.”  It was an excellent session with Anne Armstrong, president of 1105 Government Information Group, moderating a panel made up of Alice Eldridge, vice president and chief counsel, land & armaments for BAE Systems; Jeffrey Green, senior attorney and deputy ethics official at Department of Defense; and Stephen Ryan, partner at McDermott Will & Emery LLP.  The information the three of them provided was topical and relevant.

It also sent a chill through the room.

“The scrutiny of our community is coming,” we were told.

GSA and VA have become the poster children for inappropriate spending on events and marketing to employees.  As a result, careers were ruined.  Conferences such as AFITC were cancelled, hurting the ledgers of those companies that earn a living supporting such events.  Edicts emerged, such as the recent ban on Army attendance at non-DoD events.

The message from the panel was that there is, unfortunately, a fair amount of ambiguity among the rock-solid rules, but industry is advised to take the extra steps and err on the side of caution to ensure everything we do is above board.  Among the takeaways:

  • Food:
    • $20 or less, period.  While that can be difficult in pricey areas like DC, the rule doesn’t make exceptions for geography.
    • The “honor basket” is not sufficient.  You should prominently post cost and be able to provide a receipt on the spot to anyone paying for their meal.
    • If it needs a fork, don’t serve it.
  • Widely Attended Gathering (WAG) Exception:  the definition of what is or is not a WAG can be rather ambiguous.  Some ethics officers pin it at 25 or more attendees, some say at least 100 people, some look at how many different agencies and titles will be represented.  The panel’s advice is to include wording in your invitation that those interested in attending should check with their ethics officer.
  • Multi-Manufacturer versus Single Manufacturer Events:  Those “single-manufacturer symposia held at a nice place” were described by the panel as “troublesome”—which to me is a loaded word when spoken by a lawyer.
  • It was suggested companies might want to consider having a lawyer present during meetings with government.  This may seem extreme, but it does provide some insurance.

I believe government and industry need to communicate in order to ensure taxpayer dollars are being used to effectively accomplish agency missions.  The current environment is making that more difficult, and that’s where we, as marketers, as expected to get creative.  As we do so, however, we should keep in mind Ryan’s closing comments.

“There are implicit ‘wink-winks’ in this town,” he said, “and there will come a time that those become unwound, and you don’t want to be the poster child for that when it unwinds.”

%d bloggers like this: