Frequently Asked Questions
We have heard the government doesn't deliver mail when it arrives in quantities of more than 50 pieces. Is this true?
There is no official government-wide policy on the internal distribution of incoming mail. However, the Department of Defense and all uniformed services have a policy of NOT distributing mail which arrives in quantities of more than 20 (or so) pieces. They call this "unsolicited commercial mail", and will often alert the mailer as to the policy of that specific facility (base) where the mail was delivered. The USPS policy is that once mail is delivered to a loading dock at any facility (public or private), the mail is considered delivered. After that, it becomes a matter of internal distribution policy. The US Air Force published the first policy statement on this in the Federal Register in September of 1987, setting the precedent. The policy may soon be extended to the US Coast Guard, as it seems to be adopting military guidelines for mail management. To our knowledge, civilian agencies have no "threshold" policies.
What is the most important thing to look for in government lists?
In the Federal government, the critical item is mail codes. No two Federal agencies route their mail the same way, which means there is no single thing to look for when you go from the Department of Defense to Health and Human Services. It is critical that the lists you rent have the necessary data required by each agency. Our experience shows that controlled circulation files (at least those specializing in the government market) generally have all necessary routing requirements. Many list compilers, however, do not have all the data in their files. All Amtower & Company lists are reviewed for this data prior to being put on the market.
Should we use direct mail? Do government decision makers really read their mail?
If mail is not part of your current mix, you are seriously derelict in your overall marketing efforts. Feds do read their mail. The further up the food chain you go, the more mail they get. One survey we had done indicated that senior IT managers receive up to 70 pieces of mail a day, 20-25 pieces in each of their three daily deliveries. They spent an average of 12 to 15 seconds with each piece, deciding whether or not to 1) keep for later reading; 2) pass along to a sub-ordinate; or 3) trash it. But they do read (look at) it. Our research also showed that 66% of senior managers look through card decks - so don't overlook these often maligned, low-cost vehicles. Should you be mailing to customers & prospects? YES!
Rumor has it you're hard to work with. Is this true?
Probably. I am opinionated, and will express my opinions when asked - and sometimes without being asked. These opinions do not change when I move from audience to audience. I'm too simple for that, and I'm easily confused by distortions (my own or others). I have a simple business philosophy: 1) I don't do things I can't tell my wife and children about; 2) I don't do things that aren't fun (i.e., I do only things I'm good at, in situations where I'm working with pleasant, intelligent people); and 3) I don't take crap from things that breathe. Violate any of these rules and I resign your account and refund your money. Life is too short.
Does this make me difficult? Possibly. Do I care? Occasionally, but not often. Life is too short to worry about things beyond your control, especially habitually rude people. When people become rude or abusive, my options are to leave or to alter someone else's behavior. In most instances, my only legal choice is to leave. So I do. If you know me well enough, ask me about the rude professor in graduate school. Or the jocks in Jr High. I've been this way a LONG time.
Who are you?
Since 1985, I have worked in the trenches in the federal market, monitoring mailrooms, working with government special interest groups, publications, events, manufacturers, resellers, catalogers, systems integrators, start-ups, and dot-coms, to name but a few.
As a result, I have become the repository for a vast amount of intelligence on all facets of marketing to the government: grass-roots, snail mail, special interest groups, events, space ads, PR, web marketing, face-to-face an experiential base that is unmatched in the Federal market. I know more about marketing to the government than most people want to know. But when they need to know, they know whom to call.
I have worked on projects from air-activated hand & foot warmers to the largest IT contracts awarded by the government; from audio-visual components to full-training room set-up; from sixty-minute executive briefings to full conferences; from secretarial training to Information Security certification; from furniture to land fleet management tools; from mailing envelopes to complete mailroom set-up; and everything in between. In short, you name it, Ive probably marketed it. And I only work in one market: Uncle Sam (a.k.a.: Fortune One).
As a result, I see the market in a much different light than most. I understand that the marketing of different products, within different budget constraints, requires different tools and different approaches. And I know that marketing to the government is akin to a jigsaw puzzle, with the pieces and picture changing for each product or service, with nuances so fine they escape all but a few. But when these nuances are recognized and adapted to, marketshare occurs and success follows.
The information repository Ive become is not a stagnant pool, but a vibrant, active organism which has helped hundreds of companies grow marketshare in an otherwise arcane marketplace Fortune One. To be successful in this market, you have to look beyond the obvious, to understand that most of it is still grunt-work, and be willing to expend the effort necessary to succeed. One size does not fit all and there are no panaceas.
I dont work with every company that approaches Amtower & Company. Sometimes they opt not to use me; sometimes I elect not to work with them. The desire and ability to listen and learn on both sides is critical to the success of this relationship. I have strong opinions, often unconventional, based on years of experience, which I propose after I better understand the product or service and the niche it targets.
And unlike many others, when you need something I dont do or do well, Ill tell you there are better people for that, and then Ill tell you who they are.
Spending a couple hours at one of my public sessions if like attending a graduate level class in Federal marketing. Spending a year or more with me, like my retainer clients, is equivalent to getting your MGM -Masters in Government Marketing.
I have written more than 40 articles on marketing to the government, produced more than 50 seminars and conferences, attracting over 5,000 attenders, and have presented at more than 20 other marketing events.
In a nutshell, this is who I am:
I am the "government marketing guy" who has directly and indirectly assisted in the selling of billions of dollars worth of products and services on contracts and open-market; I am the "go-to" guy when your in-house staff needs ideas; I am the outside resource that has been tapped by some of the most successful companies in this market, large and small.
This is a typical comment from seminar attenders: "I enjoyed Mark's down-to-earth, cut to the chase, no bullshit style. While some of the content was not new, I have a fresher perspective. And I will remember the guarantee, count on it."
Copyright 2002, Amtower & Company