Live from MeritDirect: Top 10 Myths of Government Sales

(Direct Newsline) White Plains, NY–Want to sell to the government? If you’re a business-to-business marketer, you should, said Mark Amtower, partner of Amtower & Co., which consults with marketers on how to get government business.

“The government–federal, state, and local–represents 25% of the market,” he said at the MeritDirect Business Mailer’s Co-op on Thursday. “It’s the biggest game in the universe.”

Amtower’s keynote sought to dispel 10 myths marketers believe about selling to government. As his luncheon partners provided a drum roll mirroring the spirit of Dave Letterman’s Top 10 List, he began his countdown.

Myth No. 10: Outside of the Beltway, Washington is viewed as a secret society. “People think you have to know a lot of people to play in the market dominated by Lockheed, Unisys, and a few others,” he said. That may help a B-to-B marketer, but the best way to go is gain incremental market share on what you do best, Amtower advised. You don’t need to get a government contract. “I’ve worked with 100 companies who sell to the government on the open market,” he said.

Myth No. 9: The government demands the best price. There’s a grain of truth to that, but a competitive price can win, if, for example, “you can deliver faster than your competitors.”

Myth No. 8: I’ll get government attention because I have a great product. “They are all great products,” he said, tongue-in-cheek. “Know ahead of time what you bring to the table besides a great product,” Amtower said.

Myth No. 7: A GSA schedule will make your cash register ring. “This is myopic,” he said. Incrementally building market share is the best tactic, he insisted.

Myth No. 6: Fax press releases to government publications and they will call you. “That’s tantamount to planning your retirement playing the lottery,” Amtower said. Instead of this shotgun approach, target your information to the reporter who covers your industry. “When you start getting press, your chances are extremely high that you will get success,” he said.

Myth No. 5: Brand recognition will bring you success. Dell dominates the government market in its space, but it didn’t always, according to Amtower. Instead of relying on its brand, Dell marketed well and slowly increased market share.

Myth No. 4: E-mail marketing works everywhere. “Spam is spam,” Amtower said. “It’s good on toast.” You can get the e-mail addresses of government decision makers from government Web sites, but as soon as you send unsolicited e-mail, they will block you. And, spam will kill your previous marketing efforts. “Those decision makers will hate you,” he said.

Myth No. 3: You must go to the big conferences to get business. “Big shows eat big bucks,” Amtower said. Your money is better spent attending niche events where your real buyers are.

Myth No. 2: Let’s hire a guy in D.C. to drum up business and give it six months. “A client of mine said that to me recently and I replied, ‘You’re an ass,'” Amtower said. Hiring even the right person in a limited time frame doesn’t work. “It takes time to break into the government market-at least 18 months,” he added.

Myth No. 1: The government is too big; we can’t do it. It’s too big not to enter the government market, Amtower said. There are 20 million government employees. “They buy everything imaginable,” he said.

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