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Author:  Michael LeJeune, Bestselling Author and Master Coach, RSM Federal

A few years ago, I was at a training session with James Malinchak. James was one of the first millionaire’s on ABC’s Secret Millionaire and to my knowledge, the only person in my field that’s ever been on the show. During one of the breaks, I asked James what his most important lesson was for the whole training. He didn’t blink. He said, “Mike, you need to understand right now that somebodies get paid more than nobodies. If you can get this concept deep in your bones and then do what it takes to become a somebody, you will increase your income exponentially for the rest of your life.”

Every market has “somebodies” or “leaders” that are undeniably top-of-mind when you think about the products and/or services that they provide. One of your jobs as a business owner is to become one of those top-of-mind companies that people think of when they want YOUR products or services. So how do you become top-of-mind?

Becoming the go to choice in your industry involves three key pieces.

  1. Focusing on a niche
  2. Getting past performance
  3. Purposefully branding yourself and your company as the expert

Picking Your Niche

The majority of this article is going to focus on item number three on the previous list (branding yourself and your company as the expert), but I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least touch on the other two items.

Why is it important to pick a niche? Because you don’t want to come across as a Jack-of-all-trades company. I sit in on about 15 to 20 GovCon consults each month. Before I hop on a consult, I always review the website for that company. It never fails that only about 1 out of 20 have what could be considered a niche. And I can’t tell you how often I come across a company that does everything from janitorial services to cybersecurity and everything in between.

So how do you brand yourself or your company if you do everything from janitorial to cybersecurity?  In my experience, you don’t. The messaging is a mess. It’s extremely difficult to target an ideal client. Don’t even get me started on the difficulty of setting up searches in beta.SAM for all of this. It’s a nightmare.

So how do you pick a niche?  That’s actually an easy question when it comes to government contracting. Do your research. Take a look at the products/services you CAN provide, grab your NAICS codes and keywords, and pull up a few searches in beta.SAM.gov.

When you are doing this research, you are simply looking for the best opportunity. Out of all of the areas you COULD focus on, where is the best opportunity?  The data will help lead you to an answer. Depending on the amount of options you have, you can probably do this research in 3 to 4 hours. Maybe less.

Getting Some Past Performance

Once you have your niche, It’s time to win some business. Right now you could be thinking, “You said you need all three to be top-of-mind. This feels like it should be third on the list. Shouldn’t I brand myself as an expert first?” Becoming THE expert in your field is a process. Part of that process is winning some business. I’m not saying you have to win 100 contracts before you can start this process. In fact, you can get a jump on this by looking at your commercial past performance and mapping it to government opportunities. However, the magic isn’t going to happen until you have a few government contracts that you can brag about.

The Subject Matter Expert (SME) Trifecta

When it comes to creating and sharing your knowledge through content, you can choose a lot of options. But I have found these three to be the most powerful options. Why? Because these are three places people search the most for experts and knowledge on any topic in GovCon. These are literally the best fishing holes for anyone that could be looking for your products/services. So feel free to use other options as complimentary to these, but these need to be your first options.

A major benefit to these three options is that they work REALLY well together. You can start with any one of them and then slowly add the other two. These are also great for any skill level. They don’t require a lot of investment or fancy tools. These are literally the most cost-effective options for branding yourself and your company.

LinkedIn

When it comes to social media and GovCon, there is a clear winner. LinkedIn is a MUST. This is NOT debatable. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. are options as well, but they are a distant second to LinkedIn. In fact, even if you are using one of those platforms, you still need to be on LinkedIn. Why? Because decision makers, influencers, and potential teaming partners are on LinkedIn. Take a look at the stats here:  https://www.omnicoreagency.com/linkedin-statistics/ This report says over 90 million LinkedIn users are senior-level decision makers. That number is obviously larger than the government market. But that’s not a bad thing. In fact, it allows you to connect with both government and commercial decision makers IN ONE PLACE!

When it comes to your content strategy for LinkedIn, start small. Post a thought, a quote or something each day. Try to comment on a few people’s posts each week. Just get started. Over time, you will want to develop a strategy for sharing more thoughts and linking to your other expert content. Just get started and be active on the platform. People will start to message you regularly. Be sure you are responding to those messages in a timely manner.

A Podcast

Podcasts are very near and dear to me. In fact, you likely know about ME because of my podcast. As I write this, the Game Changers for Government Contractors podcast has over 125,000 downloads. This podcast is the single greatest content machine that I’ve ever created. It grows while I sleep. I own the show and programming so I decide what people hear. Because I own the content, I get to advertise within it for free.

One of the reasons that I love podcasting is because it’s so easy. You can start by yourself or with an interview style format. There are other formats, but solo and interview podcasts are probably the most popular. Game Changers has both formats. We started out as an interview style podcast and then I added solo episodes in 2020. This has significantly increased our podcast growth and gives me one-on-one time with our listeners.

Here’s what you need to start your own podcast.

  • A good niche topic
  • A hosting platform such as SoundCloud, Podbean, Spotify, etc.
  • A format (as discussed above)
  • Recording software (you can start with Audacity for free)
  • A little time each week for recording, editing, and posting
  • A good microphone

A Book

Why a book? Hasn’t everything been written? A lot has been written, but we are living in a day and age where people crave and consume information at a mind-blowing rate. I have several friends that read one or two books per week! And while a lot has been written, your stories and perspective are what make your content desirable to others.

Here’s the deal. There’s one strategy for becoming a New York Times bestselling author and then there’s a totally different strategy for strategically using your book to put an exclamation point on your expert status. Our focus here is the latter. You don’t make a ton of money off of selling a book. You make money LEVERAGING the book to influence your market and potential customers.

How do you write a book? The good news is that you likely already have everything you need. All of our books are written in Microsoft Word. Once the book is done, it’s gets PDF’d and uploaded to our Amazon KDP account. I should note that if you are doing both a print and eBook version, you may have to upload a special edited version for each of those. At the time of this writing, I heard that Amazon was working to clean up this process, but I didn’t see a timeline for a fix. It’s not a big deal. Just review Amazon’s print and eBook guidelines for more information.

Why do we use Amazon? There are two big reasons. Their print on demand service is outstanding. I’ve used other companies and had issues with printing quality and shipping. Amazon has a great system that makes delivery to your customers almost flawless. The second reason is the reach. Amazon started out in the book business (you may have forgotten this). They have the biggest and best network for book searches. This ensures that potential buyers WILL see your book.

Leveraging Your Expert Status

In a previous life, I worked with expert entrepreneurs to help them get published. We worked with celebrity authors like Brain Tracy, Steve Forbes, Dan Kennedy, and Jack Canfield. We leveraged their celebrity status to easily make sales and guarantee best-selling books. Now I do this type of work for my company. To date, I have helped over 100 business owners and experts get published and become bestselling authors.

Here are six strategies for leveraging your expert status.

  1. Your Signature Block. Just below my name, my signature block says: “#1 Bestselling Author – Game Changers for Government Contractors” with a link to the book.
  2. Website. If you wrote a book, put a photo of it on your website. If you have a podcast, make sure there’s an image and link to it on your website. We went a step farther and gave our podcast a blog page on our Federal Access membership site.
  3. Social media descriptions. Take two minutes and update ALL of your social media descriptions.
  4. Capability Statement. Yes. I’m not kidding. If you wrote the book on your niche, put that in your description on your Capability Statement, also use a photo of your book cover or podcast graphics.
  5. Corporate Overview. Again, take two minutes and update this. You likely use a corporate overview in numerous spots. Your website is one. Proposals is another. Get this updated and constantly update this as you add to your expert status.
  6. Teaming Partners. Trying to impress a potential teaming partner? A simple way to do that is to overnight them a signed copy of your book. If you don’t have a book, write one! In the meantime, create a thumb drive of your top 10 podcasts, documents, articles, etc.

Getting PAID Because You Are an Expert

Remember what I said at the beginning of this chapter. Somebodies get paid more than nobodies. I like to use RSM Federal as a great example of that. Several years ago, my business partner Joshua Frank wrote a “book” called The Government Sales Manual. If you’ve ever seen the manual, you know why I put the word book in quotes. The manual is over 450 pages and about an inch thick. It’s designed to be a desk reference AND a comprehensive “how to” guide for government contractors.

Josh will always be “the guy who wrote the book on government sales” and believe me when I say this is on purpose. If you are looking for a speaker, consultant, or coach for government sales you want the best. Who better than “the guy who wrote the book on government sales”? That isn’t just a saying with us. It’s a fact.

Think about that for a minute. I can’t tell you how often people call us and say it was down to two companies, but “you guys wrote the book on government sales” and thus we win the business. When everything else is equal, I will almost always have the advantage over my competition by being an author, host of the wildly popular Game Changers podcast (that’s how I describe it in my bio), and the guy they see all the time on LinkedIn.

Our company and our team are all perceived as the top experts in the market because of how we strategically promote our expertise to the market. You can do this by following exactly what we do. Be the person who wrote the book, has the podcast, and continually communicates on LinkedIn with your market.

*    *    *

Michael LeJeune is a bestselling author and master coach with RSM Federal. Michael hosts the wildly popular GovCon podcast Game Changers for Government Contractors, manages the Federal Access Knowledge-Base and training platform, and specializes in helping GovCon business owners brand themselves as Subject Matter Experts in their niche.

Connect with Michael on LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/michaeljlejeune/

Learn more about Federal Access – https://federal-access.com/

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CATEGORY

4/28/2021

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Branding Yourself as a GovCon SME

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