I’m allergic to saying I need help.
Seriously, it’s my dumbest weakness. It’s like writing a hit song about The Rock’s momma and her stank feet, then asking him to gut punch me.
Sorry, bro. She smell like hot Cheetos.
I’m also 100% aware that I need more help than most people. Still, it took me a long time to shift my perspective and get over my phobia. And by shift I mean fail so hard because of my monumental stubbornness that I had no choice but to open my damn mouth and chug my pride.
No matter what it’s gonna’ taste like Natty Light.
Now if you’re a military spouse entrepreneur and you operate your biz like this, first, slap yourself because that’s stupid and you know it. You’re not putting your goals and your customers first. That’s bad business.
As The Boss, you’ve got a lot riding on you. There’re countless tasks and fires and egos to massage and scream-raging into pillows that need doing. But last time I checked you’ve only got two hands. Maybe less, but never more.
Oh, but one day…
I say all that to point out the importance of using people. Yup, I said it.
We’ve given this concept such a bad wrap but coins always have two sides. Sure we can abuse the goodwill of others. We can bleed people dry as we build our own selves. That’s just horrible and, thankfully, not what we’re talking about here.
When I say ‘use’ think more along the lines of ‘leverage’. I’m assuming that you spend a good portion of your energy building relationships for your company. Why would you do that? Why put the time in?
The whole point of these relationships, what we call networks, is to be used. Networks are people. Folks you’ve identified that have resources, skills, access or knowledge you don’t. They’ve agreed to offer those to you in exchange for whatever value you can provide them in return.
I can recite ‘Cant Touch This’ in 24 languages.
Well your next PCS (Permanent Change of Station) is the perfect opportunity to cash in on that network.
For over 700,000 active duty milspouses, moving isn’t a ‘maybe’. It’s a certainty; every 2-5 years certain actually. Add entrepreneurship to the mix and a new kind of challenge is born.
Every time new orders drop, the ones saying to put your just-settled life in a box and shake that bad boy like a Polaroid picture, your business starts over. I’m not sure if you realize just how devastating and abnormal that can be. Most businesses never deal with relocation.
So, of course, that’s going to be our first step to building a PCS proof, military spouse brand.
1) Shift your perspective. Think expansion, not relocation.
The mind is our great weapon and weakness. The best opportunities you’ll have in life will come from your ability to reframe your circumstances. PCS moves are no different.
Take an honest look at your business during these times. Can you offer your existing customers the same service from your next location? If not, is there a brand new or related area you can shift your product or services into that would solve a new problem for the same group of people?
Now’s the time for hard decisions. You may even realize you can’t, in any meaningful way, continue to provide for your old customer base.
And that’s okay.
See, the first trick to controlling the effects of a PCS is to plan forward. Your next location is an avenue for growth if you let it.
Not all growth is good, however.
Think about it. You get orders to move over 400 miles away. If your operation is mobile you can use new face-to-face contacts to enlarge that online audience. You might even find success opening a physical store.
Perhaps you’ve got a brick-and-mortar clothing store that can be managed remotely. What if you focused on building an online following at your next location by hosting fashion consultation seminars?
2) Turn your old network into Brand Ambassadors.
Okie dokie, guys. This section is the meat of the entire process.
Brand ambassadors are the folks who not only use and like your product, but shout about it any chance they get. If you can create them, you’ve got yourself a mighty powerful weapon.
Ambassadors are everywhere. Chances are you’ve spoken to one in the last couple of days. Shoot, maybe you were the culprit.
Ever have a friend tell you to check out a movie cuz’ they know you’ll love it? How about a brand of shoes or a restaurant?
That enthusiasm you heard in their voice? Your brand needs that. But guess what? That’s not the most important asset brand ambassadors have.
What if a random stranger told you that the World Class Hotdog festival in the next state was a ‘must go’ event? Good info, right? Maybe you’ll make it one day if you’re out that way. Now imagine that same info coming from your parents, a sibling, family friends or trusted co-worker.
Ever make short-notice, weekend plans based off the recommendations of someone close to you?
Why is that? What’s the difference between strangers and family or friends?
Hint: It’s in the relationship.
See, brand ambassadors are powerful because of the relationships they hold. Not only do they have one with your brand, but they will have relationship ties with any potential new customers because they’re into the same thing.
Some truths are absolute.
If you follow me (you better follow me) you know my number one focus for any business is identifying the true target audience. I’ve got other blog posts and resources that peel back exactly how so I won’t do that here. Just remember, if you aren’t speaking to the right people in the right way about the right thing, your business will fail.
That’s why turning existing customers and networks into brand ambassadors works. Assuming you’ve done the research you should know your User Audience (the people that will literally use what you offer). From them you discovered your Buyer Audience (the people who will actually pay you dollar bills). You know who this group is (demographics like age, sex, location, occupation, income, family structure) and what motivates them (psychographics like hobbies, opinions, interests). This information and the Target Audience profile you create from it are your foundation.
When you PCS, some of these things change. We’ll get into that in the next step. What you should understand here is that your existing customers have a connection to future customers because they belong to the same target audience, plus or minus a few attributes. That means their word has weight with potential customers. The endorsements this group can provide may be the deciding factor on whether or not someone new does business with you.
Remember success is measured by strength of relationships. Normally when you PCS, that relationship meter drops to zero or close enough. You need brand ambassadors to do the heavy lifting.
Nice talk, Reggie. But how do we do this?
- Be completely honest about the upcoming move. Use the primary method of communication you’ve established for your existing tribe and be informative. Tell them when you received orders and when you’ll be 100% gone. Be realistic about your time. You may have to shut down operations several weeks prior to your actual move date. Customers need to know that as well.
- Let your existing customers know what to expect going forward. If there’s no change to service, be sure they know. If there will be changes to the way you do business, be doubly sure they get the details. Be clear, concise and helpful. Don’t show a problem without a solution here or you risk losing them.
- The same goes for closing. If you know there’s no possible way to sustain your business in the old location, be sincere and thankful as you tell them this. If you can, find a company you trust that can pick up where you leave off. This goes a long way to leaving your relationships on good terms.
- People fear the unknown, not things out of anyone’s control.
- We’re going to flat out ask your existing audience for help expanding. Be open about the success you want from your new location. You’d be surprised how quickly people will extend a hand…if they trust you, like you and see value in it for them. Frame the conversation around the growth YOUR CUSTOMERS have had doing business with you. Highlight THEIR accomplishments and let them know you want to see even more people succeed. You want to gather their stories. You want them to teach, be examples.
Folks love that stuff. Mostly because feeling useful feels amazing.
If you have Facebook, ask for testimonials and stories. Gather customer photos (especially using your product or service). What we’re doing is collecting positive vibes from your customers. More importantly, you’re forcing them to remember positivity connected to your brand. That’ll come in handy soon.
- Finally, be valuable. Yeah, you’ve got a relationship with your customers. That doesn’t mean they don’t need a little push to do what you need.
Guys, you know these people. They’re your tribe. So give them something valuable to say thank you for helping you grow and, yes, so they’ll feel somewhat obligated to return the favor.
Step 3: Revisit your demographics and psychographics
This is probably the best/worst part of surviving your next PCS. It’s the best because, if done right, you can land anywhere in the country (or world) and come out the gate like a BOSS. Having a firm grip on the research behind target audience identification can really make finding new customers easier.
At the same time you are doing research so…yeah, it’s also the worst.
Like I said earlier, when you relocate certain indicators may change. Working industries change depending on your location. If occupations change, so do income levels. If incomes change, that can affect the size of families as well.
Don’t forget about your motivators. Location changes can have heavy impacts on hobbies, interests and opinions. And these changes can have very large impacts on your business.
- Start by finding out what the local economy is like. Use the Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) websites. Simply search for your new county, city, or town to get the latest data about them. Learn what industries employ the largest percentage. Find out what the income levels are.
- The BLS also has expenditure reports, which are a goldmine when it comes to discovering what people in a particular place spend household money on.
- Next, find out about the top forms of entertainment in your new location. A Google search for fun things to do in your new location should provide you with an official website to begin. From Google you’ll also come across lifestyle pages or local tourism blogs. Spend some time in them to learn the lay of the land.
This is especially important as a starting point for psychographics. By identifying the tourism and activities present in an area, you can hop on over to Facebook and start searching for groups with similar interests. The cool thing about Facebook is that it’s location specific.
As I always say, feel free to lurk. Be a creeper for a bit. Study these groups and forums; how they talk, what they talk about, etc. You’re looking for common threads, the things that keep popping up in multiple places.
- Don’t forget about your Military Spouse Club groups. Find the groups for your next locale online and on Facebook. Keep this group in your back pocket. You’ll use it in the next step.
Gather every new piece of information together. It’s time to plan your brand’s arrival.
Step 4: Gather your Ambassadors. Tell the world you’re on the way.
Cool. You’ve asked for help from your tribe. You’ve done a bit more target audience research. Now it’s time to put your brand’s PCS plan into action.
- 14 Days Before PCS: Contact Spouse’s Club Facebook
First thing’s first, take the Military Spouse Facebook Group operating at your next location and pass it along to your existing customers and network of friends and military spouses. Send it as an invite and tell them to like the page or join the group. Once they’ve joined, have them post a super short message. It can be a link back to your own website or Facebook page. It can even be mysterious. You just want to be sure they’re positive messages like…
‘Hey Schriever Spouses, please support (your name here). They make the best (enter product/service) and you’re gonna love them as much as we did.”
Seem silly? Imagine being a spouse at the new location and seeing a message like that. Now imagine seeing 10,20, 30 or 100 messages like that about a new milspouse coming soon. That’s some persuasive marketing.
Be sure to copy these messages back to your own Facebook timeline.
- 12 Days Before PCS: Introduce Yourself To Spouse’s Club
Now that you’ve got some buzz surrounding your name it’s time to unveil. Introduce yourself to the group. Tell them about your service life and how excited you are about moving. At this point, you want to let them know about your business, how passionate you are about the work and that you would love an opportunity to be of further service.
Creep ya’ll. Hang out in the group and see what the reactions are. Gather up any problems that fall in your brand’s swim lane.
When you’re ready be sure to highlight what sort of value you can be to them, whether they become ambassadors or network assets.
Oh, yeah. Make sure you continue to remain active in the group from now on. But for the love of Tyson…
…DO NOT SHOW PRODUCTS OR SELL. Not yet.
- 11 Days Before PCS: Introduce Yourself to Any Interest Groups
I use Facebook as my example but this goes for any social media platform. A great way to hit large numbers of potential customers with your impending arrival is to utilize Interest Groups.
If you use Facebook it’s pretty easy to do. Consult the research you’ve done and simply search for any common interest forums. Add the name of your new location to the search words and narrow down the results.
Example: If you’re moving to San Francisco and sell gardening tools, search for ‘San Francisco’ + ‘Gardening’.
You should have joined these groups during your initial research. It’s time to let them know you exist.
What you really want to get right is how you introduce yourself. Remember, in order to really sell to folks, you need a relationship. Being new means you don’t have one yet.
Making that relationship is key. Tell the members of these groups who you are, but not by stating what you do. Instead you should have noticed some common problem members face about their subject matter.
It doesn’t have to be some premium level product. Just make it useful and easy. Offer your solution for free. Establish yourself as an expert and be useful right from the get-go. You’ve just laid the foundation for a trusting relationship. Stay active with them from now on.
BUT DO NOT SHOW PRODUCTS OR SELL.
- 7 Days Before PCS: Offer a Teaser Contest
Now that you’ve got a foot in the door with the Spouse’s Clubs and Interest Groups, you need to showcase your product or service.
There’s really no point in doing all this work beforehand only to reveal what you offer with a whisper and a kazoo. Keep the momentum of being valuable flowing. One really great way to do this is by running a contest.
There’re countless ways to run a contest. My personal favorite is the nomination. If the group’s you’ve joined are community focused, have members nominate someone else to receive your free product or service prize. Be sure to highlight what they’ll win and why it’s useful.
As an added bonus, give the runner up something too.
When you show what you do or produce in this light, you take the crooked salesman perception away. You still aren’t selling to this new group, only offering more value for free. You end up training them to feel positivity whenever they come in contact with first your brand, and now your literal products.
** This is also a great way to gauge interest in your products with a new, direct feedback audience.
- 5 Days Before PCS: Setup Future Meet-up Dates for your Arrival
You want to let your old and newly expanded network know you’ve got five days left to go. At the same time, start planning on the face-to-face meetings that would benefit your brand at the new location. Schedule them accordingly.
With groups like Spouse’s Clubs it may be a good idea to check their social calendars. Often located on their website, contact the coordinators and see if you can attend, present or hold some sort of hybrid event.
What we’re doing is increasing awareness of your brand’s existence. Also, we’re using the freshness of you being new and interesting to really stretch your appeal.
- The Night Before PCS: Tell em’ how you feel.
You’ve got an old audience. You’ve got the beginnings of a new one too. Believe it or not, this seemingly stupid, simple step is CRUCIAL to your success.
The afternoon/night before you PCS, get online and post how you feel about the move to your Spouse’s Club and interest groups. Do not…I repeat, do not hide whether or not you’re scared or nervous. Be open and be honest.
Why do this? What’s the point?
Well I’ll tell ya. You’re not salesy to your new tribe because you haven’t tried to sell them yet. That means you’re not a company but a person. Someone that has emotions and feelings and can be connected with. When you post how you feel about your move, people will respond. They’ll either tell you about an experience they’ve had or generally just try and ease your mind.
When we help others, it’s like a shot of James Brown in the blood stream.
I feeeeeel good, bana na na nan a na!
We remember how we helped and whom we helped. To allow your network a chance to help you feel better is to offer them a chance to feel amazing after doing something with your brand…again. The more this happens, the more hardwired they will be to expect the same from you in the future.
Because every time you get their attention it ends up being a positive experience.
Why would buying from you be any different?
- The Day of the Move: Tell em’ You’re Moving.
No magic or science here. Its moving day and you’re busy. Give the tribe a heads-up that you’re on the road and out of pocket. That’s it. Enjoy the trip.
Of course, let everyone know when you’ve made it. Post a thank you to the old locale and network. Tell the new locale and folks how excited you are to get to work (once the boxes have been dumped).
Follow through on the meetings you scheduled on Day 5 and make sure you engage your newly expanded audience as effectively, or better, than before.
Guys, that’s about it. Surviving PCSs as a military spouse entrepreneur isn’t hard, but it does take a bit of work and some patience. I know this will be a great reference for you now and for many….MANY…more moves to come.
The life you want is at your fingertips. Are you ready for it?
Good. We’ve got work to do.