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Author: Reggie Saunders

What Crushes, Kung Fu & Roaches Taught Me About Brand Positioning for Military Spouses


I remember sweating.

Maybe 20ft away, standing in a rough circle, was ‘The Pack’.

They were laughing.

To my 12 year old brain they sounded like hyenas. They always sounded like that which is why I gave them the nickname.

OMG. So accurate!

I felt a nudge on my elbow. Maybe my back. I can’t remember it’s been so long. Anyway I do recall looking over at my best friend, Ramie Franco. He smiled and pushed me again.

“You scared?” he’d asked.

Nope. I was terrified.

See, The Pack was a group of girls in my grade. I didn’t deal much with them. No hate, they just weren’t in my circle.

They dressed nice.

I wore Ninja Turtle everything. So did my crew.

#SQUAD_GOALS

They sat together and gossiped like my older sister and her friends. They knew all the cool stuff.

My friends liked to form two lines and punch the idiot whose turn it was to run between them. We called it The Gauntlet.

Like I said, they weren’t in my circle.

But in their circle was Nancy.

I liked me some Nancy. Eventually, Ramie convinced me to ask her to be my girlfriend. That’s why I was sweating.

It was the day I decided to bite the bullet and ask her out.

The trouble was she was standing smack dab in the middle of The Pack. Getting to her meant going through them.

I already knew The Pack would be around. They never strayed far from each other. I also knew they were the gatekeepers.  If those girls didn’t like me, Nancy wouldn’t either.  At that age it’s just how girls work. Good thing you guys grow out of that, amiright?

Riiiiight.

So me and Ramie? We spent a month figuring out how to make me look cooler. We played Kung-fu masters around them during P.E. to hear what they talked about. Then we stopped playing Kung-fu masters because, well, we heard who they started talking about.

I still managed to get a bunch of info, though. I was a little bootleg spy.

When the morning of that fateful day came (let’s call it The Asking, cuz’ I like that kind of thing) I was ready.

There wasn’t a Ninja Turtle to be found on me. My mom had bought me a new outfit…for The Asking, ha! I even had a belt on.

I had on my dad’s Drakkar cologne, too. Ten good, healthy splashes had me smellin’ like a man (Nancy and The Pack always talked about how good cologne smelled).

When I took the first step toward them, I started rehearsing what I’d learned about 112, a singing group they liked that I knew nothing about before then. I was going to start by asking if they’d seen 112 perform on some show. I hadn’t actually watched the performance but I’d heard my sister talking about it. I figured I could wing it.

Like I said, I was ready to shine, ya’ll.

With every step I grew more confident. I knew my audience. I had a load of things to keep the conversation flowing. I’d even timed those girls and knew how long to laugh if they decided something was funny. I was a smooth operator. Call me Ryan, man!

He stole that from me.

In no time, The Pack was before me. I cleared my throat.

They turned. All big-eyed and curious. Nancy stared at me too, looking surprised.

I knew I needed to strike. That was a lesson my pop, military to the core, drove into me from day one.

I opened my mouth to speak…

…and then I looked down and saw it.

The cockroach was there on my shoe for a split second before it disappeared underneath my pants leg. I felt those hairy little legs scurry up my thigh a moment later.

Guys, I don’t remember much after that. Ramie said I flopped around like a fish on land. He also said I shouted out something that sounded like “Snap like a nugget.”

Is…is that a dance? Got you, fam.

It was a train wreck.

But I learned a lot from that experience. And to this day, I apply those lessons to my life.

When it comes to branding, specifically brand positioning, The Pack, Nancy and that freakin’ roach taught me some invaluable strategies.

So stop laughing at Reggie Roach and let’s take a closer look.

What is Brand Positioning?

To keep it simple, Brand Positioning is distinguishing your company from competitors so that you occupy a certain space in your customer’s mind. It’s how you influence them to think about you the way YOU want them to.

To do this you create associations. You’ve got to link your company and brand to things relevant to your industry and the lives of your customers which they find positive. That can’t happen if you don’t understand what they want.

If you find out what they desire get real clear on how your product or service satisfies those desires.

After that, research how your competitors are positioning themselves. That way you don’t copy their strategy and lose credibility with your customers.

Think back to The Asking. I may have been young, but instinctively I knew I the best way to get to Nancy was to align my image with what she surrounded herself with.

I had to associate myself with her happy place.

That took research. Remember Kung-fu masters, anyone?

 

Position Yourself and Dig In.

Why was I so confident once I’d made the decision to actually approach The Pack?

Answer: Preparation.

I’d studied. I wasn’t trying to be creepy (I was 12 guys, gimme’ a break). But I knew what I wasn’t and logically that meant I needed to be what The Pack and Nancy thought was attractive.

Was I nervous? Sure. But when crunch time rolled around, all that preparation kicked in and I took that step.  I knew what I needed to be, even if I couldn’t articulate it.

Guys, you need to be confident in your brand. You need to know exactly what you want it to do. Short, simple and sweet. Like Einstein said, if you can’t explain something simply you don’t understand it well enough.

Take a step back. Can you describe how you want/need your brand to be perceived in four words or less? If not, do you really understand your brand and target audience? Or did you slap together a logo and some colors and drop them onto a website because they appealed to YOU?

Always remember, branding is a CONVERSATION.

If you built your brand off what YOU like or THINK your audience would like and don’t have research to back it, you don’t have a brand.

Why?

Because you can’t have a conversation with yourself and expect to get paid!

Here, take a look at this…

Expert. Approachable. Witty. Offbeat.

That, my friends, is The SHOP’s brand perception. It’s what I use to guide my brand conversation.

Because military spouses are my target audience I begin with expert. Military spouse businesses are serious…business. Ha. Sorry.

Above all, I need to be perceived as someone who knows their stuff. Knowing I’m an expert allows milspouses to trust their financial livelihood and dreams to my input and skills. I want you all to know I realize the weight of your decision to become an entrepreneur and take control of your lives.

If you go to my homepage and social media channels, the first thing you’ll see is my ugly mug in business attire.

It communicates my professionalism immediately. Even my slogan is straightforward and calls out why I’m here and what you’ll get.

No frills. No fuss. No misunderstandings.

But then you have my colors which are just as in your face as my headshot. The color blue is associated with seriousness and professionalism, but remember, my positioning statement says ‘approachable’. By using a lighter, vibrant shade of blue I’m able to shave off a bit of the stuckup-ness. There’s a youthful quality to it which works well with the age range of military spouses I target. Combined with orange, which is a complimentary color to blue, there is energetic harmony to my brand perception.

Thing of it is, branding isn’t just visual. So when I say I want expert approachability, it needs to be reflected in ALL areas. That’s why I write these articles and teach on the theory behind my branding strategies. There are some big, complex elements involved in all this. Psychology and data analysis. Trending and statistics. You need to know that.

Ah. Approachable. I almost forgot…

I could firebomb you with science but how approachable would I be then?

Instead I’ve learned how to break that science and other complex things down into digestible chunks. I limit big words and, if possible, leave them out altogether. You can go study up definitions on your own.

I equip you to work.

By writing plainly about complexity, in a conversational way, the perception I create is Expert and Approachable.

We could dive in more but you get the idea. If you read my articles you know my humor is witty, which is so cool because military spouses are sharp cookies. Ya’ll just get it and so I’m able to sprinkle in the funny without losing you.

At the same time I’m a little offbeat, so I approach humor from less direct paths. That’s why I love my random pictures and captions. They work even though they shouldn’t.

All of it comes together to have the dialogue I need to have with you.

That’s how you position your brand for success.

The Wrap-Up

Branding is tough. It really is.

There’s so many moving pieces to it. If you don’t have a good grip on how the parts play together you can find you’ve boosted up one area and completely devastated another.

That’s why I teach what I know. I want you to understand how this works BECAUSE IT’S YOUR BRAND!

Whether you hire me or someone else, at the end of the day, you can’t make smart decisions about your company and it’s branding if you’re clueless.

Hire me, though. The SHOP is awesome.

My only goal is your success. That’s the only reason I exist.

So study hard. Check in regularly and read my articles. Don’t forget to download my Military Spouse Branding Toolkit, too!

The life you want is oh, so close guys. There’s work to do.

Let’s get to it.

Milspouse Agent of Change: Career Lessons From Britni Miltner


If Britni Miltner were a superhero, she’d be Spiderman.

My tights? Got em’ from Lularoe.

See, there’re people in this world who have the strange ability to see connections where others can’t. It’s actually pretty amazing to watch.

Britni has this ability. But what sets her gift apart is an unstoppable drive not only see these connections, but to bring them together. For the military spouse community of today, neck-deep in a digital and marketing revolution, her skills couldn’t be more timely or necessary.

Imagine the milspouse network as a tattered web. Sprinkled throughout this web are corporate professionals, individuals not seeking employment and military spouse business owners looking to sidestep or limit the circus of maintaining a corporate career.

Surrounding this web are predators. Let’s call them unemployment and underemployment. What these predators feed on depends on which group of milspouse they encounter outside the webbing. The issue isn’t what they eat, however. What matters is the fact that no one living in that busted web is safe.

The only way to protect it is to link the strands. Connect the disconnected. Strengthen the whole.

That’s where Brtini comes in.

At the center of this network you’ll find Mrs. Miltner.  With subtle skill, Britni has positioned herself near the heart of the military spouse community. Her mission? To crush the challenges of milspouse employment by connecting spouse entrepreneurs with spouses in need of services and job seekers with milspouse friendly employers. Her site, Milspouse Resource, is the engine behind this quest.

Guys, let’s dig in a bit. Britni’s story has a quite few killer lessons you’re gonna’ want to hear.

Lesson#1: Be hungry for the journey. You never know where it’ll take you.

It’s funny.  You start seeing patterns in the lives of certain types of people.

The qualities that produce success are always present in youth. Maybe they get expressed through positive outlets, perhaps negative. Either way, the traits are there.

Arrested at age 12 for serial robbery?
He’ll be management when he grows up, for sure.

For Britni, positive channels were her path. As the oldest of six siblings, Britni excelled academically.  In high school she became captain of her cheerleading squad while continuing to earn top grades. On top of all that, she managed to work part-time at a stationery store.

There was no clear plan on what she wanted to become, but Britni was always eager to grow up and get started. After attending Auburn University (where she learned ‘adult’ and ‘age’ aren’t necessarily related) the young Ms. Miltner began working for a corporate housing provider as a marketing specialist.  She works remotely for them to this day.

While her character and natural talent help, it’s that eagerness which drives her professional journey. Trying new things, discovering unseen connections to get from Point A to Point B; this is where Britni shines.

Guys, stop focusing on the rewards at the end of the race. Instead, begin enjoying the process that gets you there.

Enjoy the work.

Enjoy the uncertainty.

Enjoy the surprise.

When you do, opportunities tend to pop up right when you need them.

 

Lesson #2: See a need. Fill a need. Become a hero.

 You. Are. Powerful.

Every single military spouse has the muscle to make huge change.  The problem is you’re lazy.

Oh. Shizzle.

Yup I went there. Now quit shouting and hear me out.

There’s a lot of you out there. Like a lot. And every one of you face the same issues when it comes to employment. Either careers are next to impossible to maintain or you’re overqualified for the positions available.

Quite a few milspouses have jumped onto the entrepreneurial wagon, working it fulltime or as a side hustle. Others have found the secret to traditional long term career growth despite mobile lifestyles.

But ask yourself, are there areas of your life that a milspouse entrepreneur could have helped out with? Couldn’t you have bought that decorative art from one of your own instead of T.J. Maxx?

If you work a traditional 9-5, do you aggressively champion for the hiring of milspouses? If not, why not? Didn’t you say military spouses are worth it?

What Britni teaches by example is that it does no good to just talk. If a problem exists, you don’t just wait around for someone else to save you. No, you do a few pushups (for the pump bro!), pull out your Spidey tights and save yourself.

2015 was the year Britni started Milspouse Resource and became a hero.

Spouse club memberships and friend circles had confirmed what she already knew; something had to be done if the employment landscape of her community were to change. And it needed to happen now, not later.

Here’s how Britni describes her labor of love:

“MilSpouse Resource is a place for military spouses to receive support and inspiration. It is a place of positivity and sharing stories. MilSpouse Resource was created to share information regarding jobs, entrepreneurial and volunteer opportunities, and career enhancing tips. This is a platform for spouses to share stories, and inspire other spouses to pursue their dreams – whatever that may be.

 Being a military spouse is hard enough; our military spouse network should be one that we can rely on. Let’s lift each other up. Let’s Support and Inspire Each Other.”

Now that’s how you put a web back together.

 

Lesson #3: Understand that growth is a CHOICE, not a right.

In order to change a situation, it’s often necessary to change yourself first.

Why? We’re FAB-U-LOUS.

In another blog post I mentioned mastering the ‘pivot’. What that means is, when obstacles rise up, you don’t let them stop you.  Instead, pivot and keep moving in a new direction that ultimately leads back to your goal or an even better one.

Not only has Britni mastered the pivot, she’s learned a few things along the way. Like when her husband was tapped for flight school and she studied, presenting a case for remote work to her boss. Two years later (!!!), she got a call back accepting the idea.
When she decided to create Milspouse Resource, Britni knew little about building an online business.  Did that stop her? Obviously not.

Nope, this woman simply buckled down and taught herself how to grow a network, blog successfully, build a website and market online.

Even now, Britni is deepening the skills she’s gained from each pivot. Her newest project includes a website and mobile app that links military spouses and dependents growing service based businesses with other local military spouses.

The takeaway for you is in the choices each change of direction creates.  For Britni to mature through them, she had to make a conscious effort to excel.  She had to choose learning, figuring out new skills and weapons that would allow her to battle past hurdles and complications.

Ask her today if she enjoys her work and the answer is a loud, intense ‘Yes’. The reason why?

I feel like it gives me independence and I’m constantly challenged.
– Britni Miltner

In short, Britni chose to embrace and use hardships in order to grow through them.

 

The Wrap-Up

The military spouse community has an amazing opportunity at their fingertips.  With thought and care, you can create the world you so desperately deserve. One where PCS’s don’t steal career dreams and financial security from proud military families. A world where you don’t have to sweat over work history gaps or defending your duties when deployments roll in.

These opportunities aren’t for individuals, however.  They’re for the whole.  It will take all of you, working together, to make it happen.

Military Spouses are flexible, strong, brave, resourceful and welcoming. Within our own network of military spouses, we have experts in every field.  We need to utilize this network.” –Britni Miltner

Milspouse Resource’s motto is, Let’s Support and Inspire Each Other.

I mean really, what more is there to say?

The life you want is there for the taking. If you want it there’s work to do.

Let’s get to it.

Want to contact Britni?

Milspouse Resource

MilSpouse Resource (Facebook)

Find her on LinkedIn

britni@milspouseresource.com

 

Why Expanding Your Network Is The Key To A PCS Proof Military Spouse Brand

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.

Use people.

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?

Leverage.

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?

See. Expansion.

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.

Solve it.

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.

 

Stars & Stripes Doulas are Changing the Game for Military Spouse Branding

So yeah, I need to talk about Stars and Stripes Doulas.

 

I first came across this amazing company networking in my favorite Facebook group. The brain-baby of Melanie Binversie and Melissa Nauss, Stars & Stripes Doulas (SSD) is the only full service doula partnership in the country focused on supporting those who honorably serve our country.

Being military spouses themselves, Melanie and Melissa have thoroughly owned their strengths in order to level-up the quality of their care.  From base access to personal experience with the mobile lifestyles of service families, Stars and Stripes Doulas are primed and ready to serve and support the wishes of their expectant clientele.

It’s also crystal clear that they have a blast doing so.

What really makes SSD so different from other providers is their intimate knowledge of the military community.  Living similar experiences as their clients, Melissa and Melanie have made building relationships the cornerstone of their business and success, not money.  Because of this, the duo are celebrated and loved by the tribe they’ve nurtured and grown.

Of course, I’m the branding guy, so I gave em’ a quick peek. I was shocked by what I found. I had to give them a closer look.

Thanks a lot, ladies. I only came online to watch Tasty recipes.

It only took 10 minutes before I fell head over heels in love!

Guys there’s so much ooey, gooey goodness happening with the branding of this company. I couldn’t not write about them.

So sit back, strap in, and let’s dig into a couple things we should learn about branding from the two baddest doulas on the block.

Lesson#1: Make your brand image “familiar”, not cliché.

If you’re gonna’ call yourself Stars and Stripes, you better have a flag in your branding. And your colors better be red, white and blue. There’s no way around this. It’s etched in stone somewhere. I haven’t seen it, no, but I mean it’s stone. Only profound things get etched in stone, right?

Right.

Anyway, this ‘law’ is what I affectionately call the Patriotic Pigeonhole. It’s so limiting to the creativity of branding specialists like myself because everyone in America has a baseline idea of what ‘patriotic’ should look like.  It takes special skill as a designer to sidestep these preconceived notions.

Stars and Stripes didn’t sidestep. They tucked their heads down, poured on some speed and literally demolished those old perceptions.

Are there flags?

Yup. With lots of stripes.

Are there stars?

Of course. Stars for days.

How about colors? Red, white and blue?

Absolutely. It’s American to the core.

The thing is, you won’t notice any of those elements.  The brand image of SSD is so intricate and understated that you never once feel like patriotism is the focus.  Flags are trimmed, cropped and used as background patterns or decorative enhancements for other, unique parts of their branding system. Stars are present, even in the logo, but they support the company’s image, rather than pull audiences into the Patriotic Pigeonhole mentality.

From colors and typefaces to delicate line work and stirring photography, Stars and Stripes Doulas have done a remarkable job of capturing the familiarity of patriotic themes without becoming boring and cliché. They’ve managed to raise an often corny theme into elegance.

Familiarity feeds recognition. Recognition creates trust.

And when you’re instrumental in the health and safety of a child, trust is really all that matters.

Lesson #2: Talk to your audience, not at them.

Let’s say you’ve got a handful of your best customers.  You invite them out for pizza and wings. It’s nothing major, you just want to fellowship and get to know them.

The catch? You can’t talk business. Like at all.

My gawd! What have you done?!

What’s that conversation like? How do you keep them entertained, engaged and comfortable?

Guys, it’s so important that you know the answer to those questions. Branding is nothing more than a conversation.  It’s the communication that happens between your customers and the ‘you’ that can’t be all places all of the time.

Do you honestly think you could keep that group interested in your meetup talking only about yourself? Absolutely not, right! Well what do you think happens when brands only discuss what they like, what they can do and how special they are?

Melanie and Melissa have mastered the art of genuine conversation. Everything about their branding speaks to the particular group of people (expectant parents) they service.

You won’t just find labor charts and instructions for prenatal care. Stars and Stripes Doulas has clearly spent lots of time learning their target audience. Whether its blog posts, social media, website copy, or even photography the duo consistently delivers content centered on issues and topics keeping their clientele up at night.

Because they are also members, Melissa and Melanie reflect the attitudes and opinions of their tribe. When they speak, it’s with an authority backed by true knowledge. They can provide tailored solutions that address real pain points. Expectant parents have no reason to feel anything but confidence about their new partnership.

That’s a really, really sweet spot to be in.

The Wrap-up

Stars and Stripes Doulas are kicking butt and changing the game when it comes to Doula care. By focusing their branding on the customer, Melissa and Melanie have built a solid foundation for growth.

Without a doubt, this dynamic duo and their amazing company will continue to grow and, more importantly, continue to shine as an example of what a military spouse brand should be.

The sky’s the limit for Stars and Stripes Doulas. Let their success be a powerful motivator for your own dreams.

The life you want truly is out there. You just need the courage to go for it.

There’s work to do, guys. Let’s get to it.

*** Want to get in touch with Stars and Stripes Doulas?

EMAIL: Hello@starsandstripesdoulas.com
WEBSITE: http://starsandstripesdoulas.com/contact/
PHONE:: (202) 649-0704

Milspouse Agent of Change: Career Lessons From Jenny Hale


Guys, this is Jenny Hale. Sometimes, I don’t like this woman.

“Aww…found another sale on Hater-ade, Reg?”

See, what I like is relaxation and sleep. Just lay my head down and pretend like I’m at the beach and the world doesn’t exist.  If I concentrate, I can even ignore the damn alarm clock.

But then…Jenny happens.

People like Jenny keep me awake at night. That’s because this woman has a mission, a dream and the laser-like focus to make it happen.

When you’re confronted with someone willing to put in work, real work, you end up confronting yourself. You start asking questions.

Am I all in about my own business and purpose?

Am I having fun?

If so, why the hell am I still in bed watching re-runs of Shark Tank?


The pressure of knowing that Jenny, who owns a marketing and social media consultancy for military spouse and veteran business owners, is building up the milspouse community while I kick back inspires me. I know it’s the same for others. Watching her is the gut punch needed to stop talking and get your hands grimy.

Mostly because, if you don’t, the Jenny’s of the world will.

Take a step back and it’s easy to see that a drive to achieve was with Jenny from a young age. With a buffet of careers in her sights as a child, curiosity fueled her education. Years later, at the age of 19, Jenny decided CEO was the logical next step. Of course, lots of people wish for the same. But Jenny Hale didn’t wish.

She made it happen.

Despite her humble background, the young woman from a small town near Fort Drum, New York built a successful photography business while in college. It was a good position to settle down with, but settling wasn’t an option for Jenny. With an itch to help others, she began teaching how to replicate her strategy for success. It was a move that would spark the rest of her career.

There’s an ocean of knowledge we can learn from Jenny and her journey. Roll up your pants, dip your toes in the water and let’s take a peek, shall we?

Lesson 1: Don’t stop for an obstacle. Pivot and keep it movin’.

I don’t care what anyone says, we all have dreams. All of us.


Soooo, yeah. Your dream sucks, Gary.

There’s a sense of destiny we carry inside ourselves. A vision of who we might become. Often it’s this view that starts us down a path towards success.

The problem is, life doesn’t give a crap about your dreams.  It has an agenda of its own and when you’re not looking, it can feel like destiny just got ripped out from under you.

It’s not true, guys. Only one thing can snatch away your dreams and that’s you. When you understand this truth, you change the game.

Trying to enlist was Jenny’s first taste of this truth.

Living in dorms and housing full of ROTC students while in college exposed her to the military community. The experience was so positive that she decided enlisting was the best way to join and support our armed forces. Unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be.

Deemed medically unqualified for service, Jenny refused to let the setback stop her. She realized it wasn’t the membership status and secret decoder ring that led her towards enlistment.  It was supporting something bigger than herself.

Being denied didn’t stop the military from existing. They still needed support.

Acting powerless wouldn’t help. Neither would hiding behind excuses.

“Never let anything get in your way. If I had given up forever, I would not be where I am today!”

-Jenny Hale

Her mind was made up. After college, she worked as a photojournalist intern for a military public affairs office. The summer was spent rappelling down towers, experiencing the inside of a gas chamber, out on the grenade and rifle range and on long land navigation trainings – all as a photographer. It was the best time of her life and solidified her desire to help this community even more.

Fast forward, and today Jenny works with non-profits, corporate companies and military-focused organizations.  Teaching military spouses, veterans and their family members modern ways to market their military-focused businesses has deepened her purpose. Specifically, her instructions on social media algorithms and target audience attraction has made this entrepreneur a valued and trusted figure within the military business community.

From medically unqualified to military entrepreneur influencer?

Umm…yeah. Master the pivot.

Lesson 2: Love what you do. There’s no time for anything else.

I asked Jenny if she enjoyed her work. This was her response:

“I LOVE all my careers.  I wake up every morning excited to go to my full-time job and then come home to a rewarding group of entrepreneurs who are as equally excited about personally succeeding too.

Never let anything get in your way.  If I had given up forever, I would not be where I am today! Entrepreneurship can be a movable career that brings you amazing fulfillment every day.”

If you take only one thing away from Jenny’s statement above, let it be ‘every morning’.

That probably needs some explanation. Don’t worry. I got ya’ fam.

You’re going to die.

You’re welcome.

NOT a good time for this talk, man!

Now before you start feelin’ some type of way, that isn’t me being morbid or dark.  In fact, it is the most uplifting bit of info you could hear right now. Stay with me.

Every one of us walks around making decisions based on eternity.  We treat time as though it’s limitless. Infinite. Eternal. And so we waste it.

We cling to relationships that need to end.

We’re silent when the opportunity to speak confronts us.

We push off dreams and desires for tomorrow, as if tomorrow is promised.

We fear our fears instead of feeling them and pushing through.

Your perception of time keeps many of you from feeling the way Jenny does every morning.  You wake up and lug yourselves to jobs that don’t fit or fulfill or grow you.  You make excuses about what’s holding you back and because time is ‘unlimited,’ you pretend that change can wait till later…

…and later…

…and later still.

What Jenny shows us is that loving your work by knowing your purpose is practical, possible and brings the ultimate success.

This isn’t some flimsy success built around money or possessions or status either.

It’s waking with the knowledge that, today, you will make an impact. That your service will help someone through this life. You can make a difference. Every. Day.

And with that mindset, you’ll stop wasting time.

You’ll master it.

Lesson 3: It’s never someone else’s job to fix YOUR broken…

One of the things the military spouse community gets wrong is who needs to fix the challenges of their lives, particularly employment.

Sure there’re some gears turning when it comes to legislative solutions. Problem is, these solutions are years, decades or even longer from bearing fruit.

It would be awesome if employers were more creative and flexible in hiring military spouses, but until the very real hardships this flexibility generates is drastically reduced or eliminated, there’s no real reason to change.

The solution lies within the milspouse community itself.

With 1.2 million active military spouses and 8-10 million veteran milspouses, your community is large enough and powerful enough to build its very own, self-contained economy.

The secret is unifying this network behind a common purpose and spreading that purpose as far as the winds will carry it.

Now that is deliciously poetic. Ha.

For Jenny Hale, building stronger connections between military spouses and other military groups is a winning strategy.  Using skills that have earned her the nickname “The Military Social Media Guru,” the entrepreneur’s quickly growing Facebook community (Marketing / Social Media for Veteran & Military Spouse Entrepreneurs) provides veteran and milspouse entrepreneurs with a safe place to fellowship, learn and support one another in their marketing and social media tactics.

The qualities that raise military communities above the fold (leadership, flexability, loyalty, hard work, etc.) are the same ones Jenny encourages her clients, students and tribe to maximize. Combined with available educational resources, she knows the challenges suffocating growth in these communities can be crushed by a unified, purpose-focused effort to win.

It’s not enough to be aware.

It’s even less helpful to complain.

Jenny Hale has made it her life to be part of the solution, not the problem, every single day. She may never know how many others she inspires to do the same.

Put like that, I guess I don’t care how much sleep I miss.  She’s shown me my purpose is worth getting up for.

So wake up fools!

We’ve got work to do.

Check out Jenny  on:

Jenny Hale
The Military Social Media Guru
-marketing and social media strategies for military community business owners-

 

Why Military Spouse Entrepreneurs Need to Hack the Culture Code


Reading my soap bottle makes me want to fight crime.

If you see me dressed like this…call my momma!

No really. I was in the shower, quietly channeling my inner Bruno Mars, when I noticed my body wash. The crimson color. The decorative flourishes on the label. The packaging itself. It was all pretty great.

The name of the soap, though? It wasn’t great.

It was glorious.

But here’s the thing. It only took a quick scan to realize these glorious names were reserved for my stuff. My products had names like Killer Crush Chill, Jungle Flames Excite and Damn You Da’ Best (ha!).

My wife on the other hand?

Lily Breeze. Meadow rose.  Sunny hill.

My gawd, man! How lame can you get?

Still, there’s a lesson here we can’t ignore.

Military Spouse Entrepreneurs, know who you’re talking to.

One of the things you’ll learn as you continue developing your brand is the art of conversation.

When you step back and let your branding do its thang, you’re actually having a conversation with your audience/s.  The trick is to know them so well that your speaking their language.

The folks who named my body wash? They know me. I dunno’ how, but they do.

Research, buddy. Lots and lots of research.

They know exactly who’s reading their labels and what it takes to start the right conversation.

Stick a man in a room full of women. Women radiating with scents of fresh rainfalls and calm sands. The dude’s gonna’ start slinging compliments around until his tongue begs for overtime pay.

Tell that same guy to bathe with Island Fruit Medley himself? You’ll finally witness the face of true fear.

Why, thought?  Why the shift.

The answer lies with culture.

Culture dictates perception. Perception is what sells. Developing strong brands means you’ve got to get in tune with the perceptions that shape your target audience. You’ve got to know what pressures and limits and thoughts and ideas are floating through the air around them, influencing their decisions.

When you take that into consideration, it’s clear why my soap labels are so epic.

My masculinity is fragile.

Seriously.  I’d rather bathe in excuses than be around my boys smellin’ like butterfly kisses.

What’s even more obvious?

I’m far from alone.

Think about it. One of the basic goals of a man is to be respected and desired. To undermine that goal with names and symbols that don’t represent strength and attractiveness within the culture that raised me is to attack manhood itself.

Think that’s crazy? You’re right but it’s still true. Deal with it.

 

You’ve got to hack the Culture Code.

Finding out the nitty gritty of your audience is a can of worms I’ve already opened. What we’re focusing on right now is one piece of that pie.

We’re going to hack the Culture Code.

One way to do this is to understand Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs.

I won’t go into the boring science of the study but the short version deals with the way we prioritize needs and the motivations behind them. Advertising firm Young and Rubicam pushed even deeper into the study some years ago. Their results are used to this day.

From the study, seven categories of people emerged.  Each category had their own unique characteristics. These traits came from different motivators.

When you understand the motivators and where your audience falls your branding can really make some noise.

Let’s take a look at the categories, shall we?

 

The Belonger:

These folks are about community. Whether it’s family, church or sports teams, Belongers need inclusion. They buy local, bleed the flag, value religion, love hanging with friends and hate change. If you want to get a juicy picture of Belongers, spend a Saturday tailgating.

Culture Hack: If you want to spark their interest focus branding on family and community.  When you take the time and build a personal relationship with Belongers, you won’t find a more loyal base.

 

Achievers:

If you want a mental picture of achievers, think Shark Tank.  You won’t get a better example of pure, concentrated ambition.

Striding ahead of the pack is the ultimate high for Achievers. While others may ‘wish’, Achievers ‘do’.

Culture Hack: Talk money, power and profit. That’s your way in. If you get their attention don’t waste time. It’s their one valued resource they can’t earn back.

 

Emulators:

Achiever groupies. Everything about their outward appearance screams Achiever…until you take a closer look. You’ll notice the 1985 BMW they purchased yesterday or the fake Rolex. You may wonder why they live on the modest side of town but always have $200 tickets to some exclusive event.

Emulators need approval from peers. Self-esteem comes from their ability to ‘fake’ their hero’s level of success.

Culture Hack: Visually show the lifestyle of an Achiever, but shift your messaging away from ambition and hard work. Focus on how great they’ll look to peers and the opposite sex.

 

Socially Conscious Type A (SCTA):

These guys are all about world impact. They’ve got solar power toasters and recyclable cars. They don’t really need to be part of the community, so long as they’re making a difference in it. SCTA members are typically highly educated and love to teach about their missions.

Culture Hack: If you claim eco-friendly, you better be EXACTLY that. SCTA’s are very good at researching company claims before they use or advocate a product.

 

Socially Conscious Type B (SCTB):

Exactly like Type A’s except for one key difference. To this group, humanity is doomed. You’ll find them in small communes Ecovillages, doing their best to ignore the rest of us.

Culture Hack: Good luck.  Type B’s try very hard to stay away from media and anything wordly.

 

Balanced / Completely Integrated:

With a mix of Social Conscious purpose and Achiever ambition, this group power through their quest for profit by reframing the world we live in. If they can build a profit generating business, awesome.  If they can build one and keep it eco-friendly, even better.

Culture Hack: Talk about benefiting ALL OF MANKIND. It will satisfy their Achiever’s dream for power.

 

Needs Driven:

Either earning minimum wage or drawing on government benefits, this group spends past their limits. They value the now and fear any good fortune is fleeting.

Culture Hack: Use urgency like a scalpel when selling.  Anything out for a limited time plays directly to their desire to spend immediately.  Forget about price.  Any reminder of their poverty is a turn off.

 

When you combine the profiles above with the rest of your Target Audience research, you’ve just solidified the foundation of your branding.  As military spouse entrepreneurs, it’s got to become second nature finding the makeup of your customers.  With the constant PCS moves your ability to track down how new customers behave and what motivates their life and decisions will be the deciding factor in the survival of your company.

So dig in, do the research and get ahead.

The life you want is there for the taking. If you want it, there’s work to be done.

Let’s get to it.

 

 

Why PCS Packouts Are An Amazing Way To Build Your Total Branding System


READ PART 1: WHY PCS PACKOUTS ARE A GREAT STRATEGY TO DISCOVER YOUR TRUE TARGET AUDIENCE

Okay so you’ve done the hard part and packed out your target audience (read it now). You’ve got a solid foundation of who your business is for and what motivates them.

Tee-hee…motivated!

It’s time to start a conversation.

Before you get confused, understand that your brand is simply a conversation between your customers and yourself. It’s how you let them know what you offer, why it’s valuable to their life and why choosing you is a different, better experience than hiring anyone else.

When you build your brand, step by step, think about packing a box. You add one thing, then another, all the time finding that perfect spot for your next item. The trick is to make all the pieces fit so the integrity of your box (the Total Brand System) doesn’t stretch or break.

That’s important for many reasons, but what you need to remember is that without identifying and peeling back the layers that make up your target audience, your brand simply can’t move where it needs to.

Imagine sitting in a hotel elevator. It’s a fancy place and you’re going to meet a friend.  What if the door opened and in walked Oprah or Tony Robbins or Ellen. Seriously, she’s evil, I love her.

Look at her feeding on their terror. Ha.

They enter, stare you down and tiredly say, “You’ve got thirty seconds to even mildly impress me about your business and I’ll give you 2 million dollars.”

Now imagine smiling really big, cuz’ you know you’re about to get paid! Imagine opening your mouth to blow their minds and strike it rich.

Then imagine spending the next thirty seconds telling them how much you like a good glass of wine while you watch Gilmore Girls every night.

Calm down.
I know what your real-life Gilmore Girls is.

See? Branding for the wrong target audience is exactly like that. It makes no sense. That’s why I started you off in this Packout series by finding the right folks to talk to.

BEGINNING YOUR TOTAL BRAND SYSTEM

Most people tend to look at their brand as a logo and some colors. Slap that logo on something and use one of the colors you picked (or whatever feels good at the time) and done.

There’s nothing intentional about this type of lazy branding. It’s an afterthought. But it’s also understandable.  Honestly, it makes sense for the product to get more focus. I mean, isn’t that what your customers are buying?

Guys remember, you can have the best product in the world, but people are money funny.  They don’t like to give it away until they know it’s valuable to their life.

Take my money.

Think about it. A night at the movie theatre for two people is roughly $1500. No problem, right?

Add popcorn and that’s like ten percent of your soul. But it’s cool.

Now charge me four cents for an app that will do all the laundry and send my kids to college for free and suddenly I’m flat broke. Money doesn’t grow on trees so I can’t spare a dime.

A Brand Packout is all about perspective shifting.  You’ve done the research to figure out what keeps your audience up at night.  You know what their problems are and you know how they feel about their situation. It’s time to take all that data and combine it with the solutions your business offers.

Now take that package and hand it back to your customers in such a clear, appealing way they can’t help but think they solved their own problem by finding you.

And guess what? That’s actually the first step of your Brand Packout.

 1) Write Out Your Brand Promise

What can your customers expect from you? That’s a pretty important question. Don’t get confused though. It’s a very different one from ‘what do you do?’

But by all means, do tell.

See, when I ask what can be expected from you in this context, I’m referring to your brand itself. Forget about your product and its features. If your brand is a form of communication, what do you want it to say to your customers? What’s its purpose?

I create websites for instance. I also create other forms of collateral like business cards, annual reports, flyers, posters, magazines, etc.  Those are a few of my products.  My brand, however, has a different mission. Its purpose is to build financially free military families by connecting them with free training and my branding process that capitalizes on common challenges faced by military spouses.

There’s no laundry list of services or features. I state what all forms of communication need to do (build financially free families). I identify the ‘who’ (military spouses) and the ‘how’ (connecting to my training and branding process).

This isn’t a slogan. It’s not a company mission statement either.  This is purely for your brand management. Customers never need to see it.

By having a Brand Promise, you have a clear guide to bounce any part of your branding against.  If it doesn’t fall in line with your promise, it’s either wrong or you need to expand the purpose of your brand.

 2) Tell Em’ What Makes You Different

I used to struggle with this.  It’s important, being different. I know this.  But what does that mean in terms of your branding? Is it big enough to have its own heading?

Short answer: yes.

When you conducted your target audience assessment you had to look at your competitors. From them you learned who might be receptive to your business services or product.  You even learned where they hang out, on or offline.

Here. They hang out here.

But branding is NEVER about you. Sooooo, let’s look at this from your customer’s viewpoint.

If you learn who, what, when, where, or why from competitors and copy all of that what incentive is there to switch to you?  Your competition is already satisfying their needs in a particular way.  You end up being a second-rate knock off.

Earlier, in step one of this article, you clearly stated what you and your brand do. Here you need to clearly state why you do business differently than anyone else and why your way is flat out better. Again this is why target audience research is so very crucial.  You’ll learn the reasons why solutions from other companies are or are not satisfying your customers the way that they should. Or you might realize there’s a new part of the industry you might dominate instead.

There’s no time for humbleness here. Be confident. Be bold, not arrogant.

You’re better because you care more and work hard. Period.

3) Establish a Brand Personality

Before we get into Brand Personalities, did I mention finding your real target audience is important? I did? Oh, well let me say it again.

Your real target audience is the key to your brand’s success.

Remember the psychographic part of our audience research? From those indicators you picked up things like hobbies and interests. Another piece of info you dug up was attitude and opinion.  Basically, you can learn how your target audience feels about any particular topics.

Best. Show. Ever.

That’s some tasty knowledge ya’ll.

Again, brands are forms of communication.  If you wanna’ get funky with some next-level definition then realize your brand is a mixed representation of the values and beliefs you have about your own purpose combined with your customer’s ideal version of themselves. A version with the ability to fix their own problems.

Confused?  How about we just say your target audience wants you to be just like Them, but also a SuperThem. A very specific hero that can solve a very specific problem.

The personality of your brand must, I repeat, must reflect your audience.  Yes you can speak (or write) in a ‘down south’ accent and still sell to an audience that lives primarily in New York City. That’s because personality doesn’t rely on technicalities as much as sentiment.  Even though your audience might not be from the south, they won’t have any problem accepting your brand if you hate what they hate or like what they like.  Demonstrate a connection through interests and the attitudes as well as an understanding of their pains and WHY they hurt and your audience will latch on.

Okay, okay I know I said technicalities don’t matter much, but they do.  If it’s natural for you, copy the way your target audience speaks. Remember, it’s okay to lurk on social media. Study the forums and the way your audience speaks. Every group has a lingo, a way of talking, unique to them. Find it. Use it if you can but don’t fake it. Being authentic is so much more valuable.

4) Build Your Brand Image

We’re getting’ to the good, good now guys. Image. Visuals. Pretty pictures. This is the area of branding most people jump to after they get their crappy logo from Cousin Pete.

Comon’ Pete. You don’t even try anymore.

It’s also the first thing to go when I’m asked to rebrand a company.

Your Brand Image is the parts of your company that physically interact with customers. While it can involve all 5 senses, we’re gonna’ focus on just one. Vision.

Sight is powerful.  We make decisions all the time based on what we see and how we interpret that information. Oftentimes those decisions are made in a split second. That’s how quickly we process the things that catch our eye.

Your Brand Image needs to work its magic between the beginning and end of that split second. You’ve got to be recognizable, appealing and deliver your message before short attention spans kill your sale.

The easiest way to do that is by starting with your color palette.

1) Color:

I’ve explained the psychology of color in my Military Spouse Branding Toolkit so I won’t go into super depth here. What I will say is that every color has been proven to convey different characteristics and feelings. These can change depending on factors like sex, environment or color combos chosen.

You’ve really got to know your audience AND the rules of color to choose a palette that speaks to your audience. A misstep here can cost you the success of your remaining brand image.

Be intentional. Trust the science.

Science.

2) Photography:

It’s rare to find a brand that doesn’t use photos. Photography is such a powerful medium to express ideas. You’d kinda’ be foolish not to use it starting out.

Now I assume a lot of things but I’m trying hard to keep this fairly detailed.  For instance I assume you know blurry pictures are a no-no for your business. The same goes for images with faded color (unless your brand has that nostalgic look) or weirdly positioned subject matter. Pretty standard stuff, right?

Only we aren’t learning how to take pictures. We’re building a brand. And so far we’ve got colors to work with.  Believe it or not, that’s more than enough to continue.

Just like everything else, photography becomes another way for your brand to speak. Because of that you’ve got to revisit your Brand Promise. What is it that you need your photography to say?

Showcase your target audience in your photography. Use the demographic and psychographic data you found to decide on relevant locations and environments for your pics.  Remember, communication is about connection.  Link your audience with your brand photography by highlighting common environments and situations.

Brand colors get a steroid boost when pulled into your photography. Don’t go overboard with them. If you have a product you’re trying to sell, choose a photo with one or two important background items that match your brand palette.  Alternatively, you could have a flat background color that matches your brand and leave the other elements of your photograph to stand apart.

Either way what you’ve done is pull your photography back to your brand, instead of them dominating as pictures tend to do.

3) Illustrations/patterns/icons:

I’ve lumped these elements together for one simple reason. Illustrations and patterns can be a sweet replacement for picture heavy brands.  Patterns especially are an elegant solution to flat, boring or text-heavy sections of your marketing materials.

Just be cautious. Whatever the style, they all need to match, or compliment, one another. An easy way to do this is by using the same designer to build your sets.

Again, unity is the name of the game. Without it your Brand Image can slip from ‘Tar-get’ chic to ’Dollar Store’ crap super quick.

My gawd.
Some people just want to watch the world burn.

Choose illustrations, symbols and decorative elements that are relevant to your business and, more importantly, to your audience’s perceptions.

4) Fonts

Just like colors, I’ve gone into pretty thorough detail about the science behind fonts, or typefaces.  Get my Military Spouse Branding Toolkit to learn more about it.

The thing about fonts is that you’ve got to know the basic categories and what characteristics they possess. By bouncing these characteristics up against the audience research we finished, you get a sense of what typefaces speak the correct language you need.

If you’re starting to see a bit of plug and play happening, get excited.

That’s exactly what building a brand on solid research is supposed to do.

 5) Create Your Brand Identity (Logo)

I know, I know.

Logos? At the end?! What kind of monster am I?

Dunno’. Something like this I guess.

There’s a lot that goes into logo design and once again I’ve got ya’ covered. Get your Free toolkit here. But answer me this while we’re here.  There’s a guy named Mike that lives in Washington State.

Do you care?

Now what if I tell you Mr. Mike lives in Washington and every Thursday he gives $1 Million dollars to anyone that answers a Golden Girls trivia question?

I bet you’d know all about Blanche, Rose, Dorothy and…and…damn, was her name just ‘Ma’ or what?

What I’m getting at is that names don’t matter…until they matter. Neither does your logo.  The only purpose it serves is to be an instantly recognizable part of your branding. Seriously, that’s its only function.

See? Flav just gets it man.

So if recognition of your brand is its only purpose, how can you have a successful logo without one?

Yet we see it time and time again. Businesses come up with a logo, print that bad boy and off they go. Matter-of-fact, most designers you hire will start with your logo.

That should be a red flag guys! That’s a sign your designer is out to please you at all costs. Sounds nice, right?

Except what you really need is a brand manager that will fight to make sure every aspect of your brand is laser focused on communicating with your target audience.  Without any research behind it a logo is just a mark you made up to satisfy YOURSELF.

It’s a representation that speaks to you and your ego. Nothing more.

You might get lucky and appeal to your audience as well, but if more than half of businesses fail in their first year I wouldn’t roll that set of dice.

Think about it.  Logos have color, but if you don’t base color choice on the attitudes of your audience your logo may say something irrelevant, offensive or nothing at all.

Many logos use fonts. But if you don’t understand the basics of font design you’re going to pick ones that rub your audience wrong. It could be subtle, but even that’s enough to affect whether or not they will pay you.

Guys, we don’t even have to be all negative. Having research-backed logos means you have an amazing opportunity to use insider symbolism that means a lot to your customer community.  Knowing your audience down to their nooks and crannies and using that knowledge to build a logo showing off your intimate understanding can immediately give your business a foot in the door of their tribe.

The Wrap-Up

At the end of the day, building a brand for your business can be time consuming and amazingly complicated…

…if you let it.

Just like your milspouse predecessors who found a better way to PCS by developing Packout strategies, your brand just needs a bit of Packout love. For both the hardest part is just starting.

Follow along with my Total Brand Packout strategy and start creating. Piece by piece. Concept by concept. Before you know it, you’ll have a real brand. One that’s focused on a target, cohesive, engaging, and relaxed.

Do this and I promise your confidence, down to the way you speak about and think about your business, will rise exponentially. Face this rat-race we call entrepreneurship with skill and planning rather than a wing and a prayer.

Guys, the life you want is here. It’s waiting.

We’ve got work to do. Let’s get to it.

Why PCS Packouts Are A Great Strategy To Discover Your True Target Audience

READ PART 2: WHY PCS PACKOUTS ARE AN AMAZING WAY TO BUILD YOUR TOTAL BRANDING SYSTEM


So you decided to start a business.

How we look at The SHOP right now.

That’s awesome! Seriously, forget all that crap about work history gaps and interviews that end the second ‘military spouse’ flops onto the table.

Be the boss. Hire yourself. Get that money. Right?

Well yes…and no.

Before all that can happen you’ve got a bunch of loose ends to tie up.  Becoming an entrepreneur is a lot like relocating as a milspouse.  You’ve got to consider every single aspect of your household, make decisions on what stays and what goes, make sure things are marked and labeled, coordinate with movers and schools on both sides, get the proper documentation and…and…and…

The list goes on and on. It can be a nightmare (I’m a milbrat. I’ve lived it.) if you don’t have some sort of system in place.

Enter PCS packouts.

Do a search and find countless checklists, made by other milspouses, that walk you through herding all those moving pieces together in an orderly, efficient way. When done correctly, it’s a beautiful thing.

Your brand is the same way. You’ve got to break the construction phase down into key pieces, then break those pieces into smaller, more manageable bites. When you do this, making the move from ‘employee’ to ‘boss’ can actually be a pleasant experience.

Whether you brand packout or not, you’ve got to create one.

See, you can have the greatest product to sell. You can even have the skills to elevate you to superstardom. You can be the best at what you do…

…and you can STILL fail. Miserably.

In nearly fifteen years of professional experience, I’ve learned a very simple truth. Success is determined not by who you know, but who knows you.

Meaning, if nobody knows you exist, no one’s going to pay to keep you in business. They literally can’t. Which is why marketing, the act of communicating with your customers, is so important.

But here’s the thing. If you speak to customers, but aren’t speaking to the RIGHT audience in the right way, what good are you?

Let’s look at it another way. You’re a doctor. The best…hmm…cancer doctor on the planet.

Only no one in the cancer community has ever heard of you.

Oh, you also live in a small village in a tropical rainforest that has never been in contact with the rest of the world.

On the weekends you style hair while giving relationship advice.

What good would you and your skills be to the people suffering?

Guys in order to build a business that succeeds you need a cohesive brand. One that knows the problem it needs to solve because it was designed for a particular group of people.  Your brand needs to know what makes this group tick so your marketing can deliver the proper message.

What’s their daily life like?

What motivates them?

These are the things you’ve got to find out.

To do that, you need to define your target audience. And as always, I’ve got a few simple steps to get you started.

Now it’s important to remember that you can go as deep as you want into the research of your audience. The hard thing is figuring out where to start.

But starting is essential. Starting is the only way to get where you want to be. Since my mission is to build the best milspouse brands on the planet, I’m going to walk you through this sometimes overwhelming step.

 

Step 1: Who’s gonna’ use your product or service. Find your User Audience

This one might seem strange, but you really need to take a second and think, “What person/s are actually going to consume what I create?”

This does two things. One, it helps identify your ‘User group. From there you can figure out what features they want or need in your product or service.  Product development depends on finding this audience.

The audience we’re trying to find, however, is your brand audience. Simply put, your brand audience is the group that’s going to put the dollars in your bank account.  They’re your Buyers.

Sometime Users and Buyers are the same group. Often they aren’t. This concept is the killer of many startups.

Now, like a lot of other sites, I could cut it off here and leave you with ‘what you need and conveniently skip ‘how to get it’. That’s the easy road.

I don’t intend to be like other sites.

So, ya, I’ma tell you the how to find both types of audience. We’ll stick with our User Audience for now

 

Step 2: Get comfy with Demographics

Big words. Simple ideas.

To understand a particular group, know what makes up their life.  The quickest way to begin is with demographics.

Demographics are the characteristics of your audience that determine their ABILITY to purchase. Use the big indicators of age, location, occupation/income, race, religion, gender, family size, ethnicity and education.

Think about it like this. A forty-five year old male, computer science engineer that works in Silicon Valley making $120,000/yr has greater ABILITY to buy than a seventeen year old male in high school who works at the same company sweeping floors.

However…

What if that computer engineer had seven kids, two of them in college? What if the seventeen year old had no responsibilities like rent or bills? Who potentially has the greater ability to purchase on a regular basis now?

What if we get rid of the seventeen year old and compare two forty-five year olds, both engineers, same education, no kids, but one lives in Altus, Oklahoma? More tornados than tech in the Okie Doke, ya know?

Also quakenados are a thing. Just sayin’.

Basically, yeah, demographics are kinda’ important.

Now there’s several ways to find demographic data. I like to start with gender and age because both will drastically narrow your audience down. Great bang for your buck.

With gender, pick which sex will use your stuff most. Pretty easy, right?

*Note: If your product is for both genders equally, it can’t be one of your leading indicators.

Once that’s done move on to ages. You’ll look specifically at Generational Profiles.

You’ve heard the titles; Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, etc. There’s a ton of research out there but a quick overview looks like this:

  • Gen I (Born 1996 and later): Also ‘Gen Z’ or the internet generation. These are the children of young boomers. Demographics are still in the works for this new group. What you need to know is they are the only ones born fully in the internet era. Their parents are way more accepting of this technology than previous generations.
  • Gen Y (Born 1977 to 1995): Children of boomers. The US has migrated to higher costs of living in their day, leaving many to live at home. With a whopping 75 million large population and disposable income to burn (thanks mom and dad) they are a marketing goldmine right now. Also, because they were raised with computers, internet campaigns work incredibly well. Brand loyal, Gen Yers like fresh marketing approaches and quirky humor.
  • Gen X (Born 1965 to 1976): Perhaps the most overlooked, 44 million Gen Xers born between 1965 and 1975 are pushing into their best buying years. Tech-savvy, they love to shop. High values are placed on education and knowledge. Gen Xers don’t care about brands. They want quality and value. You’ve really got to sell the value of your work with this group.
  • Boomers (Born 1946 to 1964): The buying power of this 76 million-strong group is insane. On average boomers spend $400 billion more per year than any other generation. They’re lives are diverse. Some are empty nesters. Some are grandparents, single or married, etc. What binds them is the drive and ability to see through advertising gimmicks and discover the true value of a product. In the next decade or so, Boomer populations will grow by 80 percent. Be careful how you label them. ‘Old’ (they will be majority over 60) is not a good term to use. Give em’ the Peter Pan syndrome.

“And my tights are LulaRoe!”

Figure out when your user audience was born and plug them into one of those generational profiles.

Sweet! You’ve just done your first bit of market research.

Once you’ve figured out which generation your users belong to you can move on to the other indicators. Use the Census Bureau’s website for detailed demographic info. Most of your initial research can be done here. Clicking on “State and County Quick Facts” for instance, shows you county-by-county demographic information.

Also, the Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes the Consumer Expenditure Survey (click “consumer spending”). This is an annual sample of 5,000 households to find out how families and individuals spend their hard-earned cheese.

He’s got a name, babe. It’s Andrew. He’s focusing on his art at the moment.

What’s the point of all that data though? How do you read it?

Glad you asked! Basically, make mini stories.  If you live in a county, look it up. Find out the population and which industries are the top dogs. That’ll let you pull together a small piece of your story.

If a county has a large technology industry then you know many folks are probably employed by a tech company.  If that’s true you can then find out the average salary for your area in that field.  If those tech employees end up being your target audience, then you can make a more stable assumption about their income levels, education (most jobs have an education requirement), marital status, where they eat regularly (think popular lunch spots) etc. You start to get a sense of their everyday life.

You can use a variety of methods to start filling out your demographics. Use them to slowly start painting a portrait of your user audience and the things that make up their power to pay.

  • SimplyMap: Use it when you need demographic and marketing data for a specific geographic region in the U.S. (city, county, census tract, or ZIP code).
  • Competitors: Chances are, if someone else in your niche is doing well they’ve figured out their demographics. Look at similar businesses and see who they’re talking to.
    • It’s okay guys. Be a creeper. Stalk their social media accounts, read their blogs and especially the comments. Don’t reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to.
  • County Business Patterns: Provides info on areas with large numbers of specific businesses
  • Nielsen MyBestSegments: Understand an area’s demographic info and lifestyle. You can find out which places are receptive to a campaign or launch or trends in the area that have shifted.
  • Social Mention: Social Mention is a real-time social media search engine. Learn what your prospective customers are talking about online.

 Step 3: Learn what motivates your ‘User’ audience

Okay, so you’ve figured out the demographics. They told you WHO the audience is. Your next move is to find out ‘why’ your audience makes decisions.  What makes them tick in the mind and in the heart?

This is called Psychographics.

Psychographics is the study of personality, values, opinions, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles. There’s no hard formula here. These are intangible characteristics that need a bit of…creative thinking to work out.

When you’re just beginning to build a brand, or if you’re rebranding, the best way to start finding the psychographics of your user audience is through interest and attitude.

Understanding interests and attitudes is easy.

Example: If I spend every day after work visiting the aquarium, logically there’s a good chance I’m INTERESTED in marine life.

Or your name’s Liam and you’re using a very specific set of skills to find this dude.

Why? Because most people have a choice of after work activities. Assuming the person doesn’t have a second job at the aquarium or some kind of necessity to be there, then they are visiting the facility to satisfy an interest of pleasure.

Attitudes kinda’ follow the same path. If a person says they hate long sleeves and warm clothes, they probably have a negative attitude about warm seasons and locations. This can be extremely important for many businesses, like clothing and tourism companies.

I mean really, would you make sweaters your business if your target audience lived in scorching Florida (demographics) and absolutely hated winter months (psychographics)?

“Alright, Reggie, good info. Psychographics are the bomb,” you might be saying. “But how do I find this stuff?”

Well, it ain’t easy folks. I’ll say that. But you don’t have to be a marketing guru to start. Basically you’ve got to do some stalking and relationship building.

Yes, entrepreneurship makes you a creeper. And the best place for creepers is…yup. Social media.

Sounds legit.

Listening to the conversations of your User audience is essential to really digging into your potential customers. Use demographic indicators as keywords to search for Facebook groups and pages to join.  Their interactions can be a goldmine of interests, attitudes and opinions.

Interviews and surveys are also key tactics to pry open your psychographics.  The trick is to move from lurking on those boards to participating. Start commenting on posts. Offer valuable tips or advice. Let them know you’re there but…

DO.NOT. SELL.

Trying to sell without understanding this group, having a relationship with them or even knowing if they’re your target audience is just stupid. Guys, don’t do it.  Focus on listening first and then being valuable.

When you’ve gained their trust start asking the leaders that emerge in the group boards for interviews. Ask questions that will deliver psychographic answers about interests, hobbies, opinions on current events and lifestyles.  Be patient and be honest about your intentions.

Do the same with surveys. Make sure it’s okay to poll the members first.

Step 4: Learn who your ‘Buyer’ audience is.

Okay now by this point we’ve got some serious data to work with. Like I said, you can get as specific as you want but this is to get ya’ going.

So far, we’ve been looking at User audiences; the group that will (duh) use your service or product.  That’s for a reason.

Earlier I mentioned that your users can be the same as your buying audience. If they are, then guess what? You’re done. Move on to Step 5.

If your buyers aren’t your user, however, then you’ve got to dig a little deeper to find them. The only way to do that is by having something to dig into in the first place.  That’s why we worked out the Users first.

See, Users determine who your product is for and what features it needs. You won’t make money without satisfying them. But by researching the demographics and psychographics of those users, you can also find out who your product’s buyer will be.

Look at everything you’ve collected. It’s time to ask some questions.

  • Does your user want to buy for themselves?
  • Does your user have an ability to pay for what you offer?
  • If not, who can/will purchase for them?
  • Why would this group buy for your user?
  • Are there people who influence this group? If so, what do THEY want?

Any educators out there? Here’s a quick example.

Do you have an awesome educational resource that will resonate with high school students? Great. But who cares about what you’re selling? The students forced to consume it or the parents who want the best opportunities for their kids?

What if you make children’s action figures? Research reveals that kids tell parents their wants and parents buy for them. In that case, target the kids and their desires with your marketing. Parents might open the purse, but they won’t research anything about the item except price. They simply don’t care. All they want is a satisfied child. It’s the kids who do the marketing for you, raving about how happy your newest ninja-flippin’ robot turkey would make them.

In this case the user actually is your target audience. No, they won’t buy from you. They have no income to spend. But they INFLUENCE the buyers who otherwise could care less about what you have on offer.

If you find out you’ve got a different Buyer Audience, then you need to repeat the research process done for the User Audience. Find their demographics and psychographics.

That will lead you to the final stage in the target audience identification process.

Step 5: Build your Customer Avatar

Inside joke for my nerds out there. Yip, yip.

Stay with me here. If you skip out on Customer Avatars you’re shooting your own foot.

An avatar is a representation.  That’s all it is.  In the world of branding and marketing, an avatar is a representation of your ideal customer.

What you want to do is take every piece of relevant information from the research above and create a person.  Yup, an actual (fake) person.

Seriously. Give em’ a name. What’s their hair color?

Write out where they live. Include what state, city, county and neighborhood they reside in. Remember, this isn’t just guess work. Use what you’ve collected.

Are they married? How long? Are they happily married?

Kids? Tell how many. List their ages.

Where do they work? Did they need a degree to start?

You can really start seeing a person emerge in this stage.  That’s exactly what you want. When you’ve got a good avatar, you’ve given yourself someone to ‘talk’ to with your marketing voice. You become comfortable, authentic and impactful in your brand’s tone and speech when you know who your avatar is, what their issues are and how you can solve them.

And your audience will learn to accept and trust you as ‘one of the tribe’.

Don’t worry about selling to them. Focus on their problems and how to communicate your solutions in a language they understand. The money will follow.

The Wrap-up

Whoo! Guys I know that was a lot. But I truly, truly believe no brand will work if the target audience is wrong.

As a Military Spouse entrepreneur you need to become very comfortable with this type of market research. With the constant relocations you all deal with it needs to be common practice to peep the scene of your new residence.

The habits and makeup of your customers will change when you enter a new city, state or region. Interests and activities change. Opinions and attitudes vary. Don’t assume you can pack and carry your old audience profiles with you and be as effective in the next locale.

Research. Work. Dig deep.

The life you want is right around the corner.  Are you ready to go for it?

See ya next time, guys.

READ PART 2: WHY PCS PACKOUTS ARE AN AMAZING WAY TO BUILD YOUR TOTAL BRANDING SYSTEM

Agent of Change: Career Lessons From Milspouse Michelle Jones


This story begins with a dog.

The best stories always do.

So, there I was browsing Facebook when my pup, Jahkobi, decided he’d had enough of being ignored. One minute he’s scratching at my leg and the next the little furball’s in my lap. My phone meanwhile? It was suddenly on the ground beside me.

Now guys, I know he has paws, not hands. I get that. But Jahkobi’s petty. I’m 99.9% sure the mutt slapped that iphone right out of my hands.

Doe-eyed jerk.

Anyway, what I love about life is you never see fortune coming. And boy did it ever in the form of a finger-slipping ‘Join Group’ request I never meant to make.

The group? Hampton Roads Military Spouse Network Hosted By Martinsburg College.

I didn’t think much about the slip up. It was just a Facebook group I didn’t plan on interacting with. They’d deny or accept and I’d ignore it. Simple.

Except…enter Michelle Jones.

So who exactly is Michelle Jones?

NOT a doe-eyed jerk.

See, in order to access the community its administrator (yup, Michelle) needed to verify whether I was a military spouse or affiliated with the military. My first reaction was to ignore her message. Yes, I could be of value to a group of career minded military spouses but I clearly didn’t qualify for the group. Why waste anyone’s time?

Clearly I didn’t follow that logic. For whatever reason, I found myself responding. I told her about my business. Michelle met my confession with understanding and genuine enthusiasm.  I was welcomed into the community and after proper introductions I realized that this amazing woman, military spouse and career professional had a unique position. Intuition told me hers was a story that the milspouse community needed to hear.

To start any story, you’ve got to know the beginning.

And beginnings mean family.

Now, if someone were asked to describe Michelle’s upbringing in one word, difficult might be too soft while tragic sounds condescending. Let’s go with extremely challenging.

Adopted and raised by two loving grandparents whom she calls mom and dad, her biological mother was diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia early on. She would battle mental illness for much of her life, a war her two oldest children would find hard to escape. In fact, those struggles would grease the wheels for the never-ending prison career of Michelle’s older brother and the drug and alcohol addictions that have plagued her eldest sister.  Ultimately Michelle’s mother passed away just one year after she and her twin sister would turn one year old.

“I’m not telling you this so that you can feel sorry for me or my family, but I am telling you this because these stories, trials, and tribulations have shaped who I am today.” ~Michelle

And there it is. That wisdom is what triggered my intuition to find out more about Michelle.  It is a lesson military spouses need to embrace.

Lessons from Michelle #1: Hug the circumstances that mold you close. Treasure the pretty and the ugly. Then use them to fuel the future you want.

Under her grandparent’s renewed effort to provide Michelle and her twin sister with much-needed stability and love, young Michelle vowed to make something of her life.  Self-motivated at a young age, she thrived in school and extracurricular activities. Meanwhile daydreams of the future filled her mind. Dreams of changing lives. Making a difference.

It was a desire she would never shake.

Lessons from Michelle #2: When destiny knocks forget the peephole. Open the door!

At fifteen, Michelle would meet her now-husband, Jessie, while vacationing with a family friend. Little did they know what was in store for their future.

Sunsets. Epic sunsets were in their future.

When eligible, Jessie joined the US Marine Corps. Years later, the two have been blessed with a wonderful marriage and a pack of fur-babies which include three cats and one Golden Retriever puppy.

Orders would pull Michelle and her family to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Avoiding awkward introductions for nearly a year, she took the plunge and began attending Coffee Socials held by the local spouse’s group.  It was there that she met a great, future friend and coworker. Destiny was knocking.

Its name was Emily.

“I could tell how passionate she was about her work and that the work she was doing was changing lives. I knew I needed to become a part of that.”

As a ground representative for Martinsburg College, Emily got to help military spouses, active duty service members, and veterans go back to school and earn an education. Her passion for work was electric and contagious. Michelle was hooked.

Lessons from Michelle #3: Make the most of your opportunities. You may only get one shot.

After applying for Emily’s position at the college Michelle started working as a National Admissions Representative instead. Recognizing opportunity, she worked hard and now holds the ground representative position for the Camp Lejeune/ MCAS New River region…the job she originally applied for! She can now help military spouses, veterans, and active duty service members on a larger scale by advising them on earned benefits and entitlements to jumpstart their education.

And It’s clearly not about the paycheck. Hearing her talk, it’s obvious Michelle loves what she does as much as old folks love backing up traffic while they talk to the gate guards.

“Tell em’ bout my hugs, Harold. Tell em’ my hugs are life!”

There’s major plans in work to push her program to the next level. One of Michelle’s projects involves bringing back a weekly spouse coffee social (every Wednesday at 10am) that will be open to everyone – even children are welcome!

No sitter? Lawd yass!

She will also host other events throughout the week such as complimentary brunch, lunch, dinner, dessert or craft events, sponsored by the college, to give the military community an opportunity to come out and make friends while learning about their educational benefits.

Buddy, that’s how you hustle!

Lessons from Michelle #4:  Serve passionately. Build trusting relationships. This is the currency of success.

What makes Michelle’s story great is her enthusiasm to better others. Her dedication to unlocking the potential in military members and milspouses is the engine that powers her success. In fact, it’s her firsthand experience as a Military spouse that allows her to connect so personally with her clients.

A Note From Michelle:

I am a military spouse. I know the struggles that every military spouse has to encounter on their journey of following their significant other around the country or maybe even overseas. You have to leave everything behind. Your job, the school you were attending, your family… It’s not easy. You can’t help but feel like you have nothing to look forward to and feel excited about. I know exactly what that is like. To feel like you have no purpose outside of being a house wife. It sucks. That’s really the best way to put it, but it took me almost an entire year to realize that it doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t have to lose out on an education! You have educational benefits to you that can help you pay for an education and help boost your resume so that you can find a job you are passionate about and love. It’s possible. That’s my goal. I want my students to feel like they have a sense of purpose – like they can still accomplish their goals even when they feel like it’s not possible. I want to show them they can do it because I KNOW that they can. They just need to see it for themselves. Watching them realize that, start off in a program they’re excited about, watching them graduate and then find a job they love. That’s fulfilling. That’s priceless. I live for that.

Mic. Drop.

 As a military spouse, Michelle is intimately aware of the lifestyle challenges; the deployments, the volunteering, the PCS’s. But as a resilient woman, forged by the fires of her youth, she has an extra ace up her sleeve. One she may or may not be aware of.

Michelle is an expert in overcoming.

See, it’s not enough to identify with your audience. That leaves you as just part of the pack. To make change, you have to rise above the pain points of a particular group.  You must be an example. That means openness and honesty. For anyone seeking out Michelle’s guidance, her ability to absolutely crush adversity, plus her willingness to share her trials, is an inspiration for others to grow themselves. Even if they don’t know the circumstances conquered, I have no doubt they can sense the fighter in her.

These are characteristics of a leader. In fact I asked Michelle what she would do if made ‘Commander for the Day’.

I would make it so that military spouses knew about their education benefits. There is a statistic out there that says that only ten-perfect of military spouses know about the education benefits available to them. This is an opportunity to have your education paid for! You cannot pass that up! It really is my goal to really educate as many military spouses that I can about their benefits because once their husband hits a certain rank they will lose it!

I also do whatever I can to educate military spouses about Martinsburg College’s exclusive Military Spouse Scholarship. The scholarship covers all of the tuition for our Associates of Health Care Administration if you complete on of our health care programs and meet the eligibility requirements. It is PHENOMENAL.

 Can’t argue with that!

So to my Military Spouse entrepreneurs and professionals I say thank you and never give up on your dreams. Let your circumstances mold you, but never let them define you. Use what you’ve learned along the way and define yourself. I think Michelle would agree:

Put yourself out there and explore the new area you’re in! When things get tough just keep swimming. You’re going to have some tough days where you’re going to want to hit a wall, but you just have to push through it. You can do it and you have a network of milsos around you who know exactly what you’re going through. Take advantage of that and make friends and create a support system for yourself. It will be vital for your sanity.

Guys, the life you want is within reach. You’ve got work to do. Get to it.

 

3 Steps to Become A LulaRoe Milspouse Success

Hey, question. Ever heard of LulaRoe?

 

Please believe the military spouse community has.  The direct sales giant has gained a massive following of buyers and sellers within the last couple years. Even with its fair share of challenges (late delivery, quality control) the fashion line of affordable, stylish clothing shows no signs of slowing down.

What makes LulaRoe (and many other direct sales companies) so enticing to milspouses is the staggering potential income and the flexibility. Direct sales jobs transfer. They aren’t dependent upon location which is pretty awesome when you move every 3-5 years.

Still, success within these businesses isn’t a sure thing. Just like any other startup, you need a strategy and hard work to get off the ground.  Forget the crap-shoot. Get intentional with your direct sales hustle and watch your satisfaction (and the moolah) soar.

That said, let’s get to it shall we?

1) Know What You’re Selling

It’s like wearing Skittles.

This step seems pretty obvious, but I can’t stress it enough. Being a seller for LulaRoe means that the product being pitched isn’t yours. You need to do research. From type of material to organic dye (is that a thing?) to what’s hot for the season, you need to become an expert about the company.

Customers aren’t stupid.  For every bit of information you don’t know, they’ve already looked it up on Google or seen it in their social media feed. The last thing you can afford is to be caught by surprise because the founder of the company you represent just announced their engagement to a cardboard cut-out of Daryl from the Walking Dead.

Okay, that might be a bit much. But what about hyping up a dress and getting the sale only to find out orders are behind and it will take 12-13 weeks for delivery? With the staggering and super quick rise of LulaRoe, sellers are experiencing that reality as we speak.

 

2) To Start, Share. Don’t Sell

What Milspouses have in their advantage arsenal is a built in community.  While military life can be a time suck, the structure of official and un-official spouse groups is a great platform for getting seen.

Need to get your product out there quickly.  Hop onto your favorite social media channel (Facebook is awesome for this), organize an event with your social circle and show off the goods.  Outside the fence these get-togethers can be extremely difficult to organize.  Within the milspouse set, the closeness of residence plays a huge role in the success of these gatherings.

One of the biggest positives you’re going to get is an environment where selling isn’t necessary.  When you have a group of friends and acquaintances, the pressure to become a drooling, crazy-eyed sales person gets left at the door.  You can banter, you can laugh. You can tell your story without the awkwardness. Having a warm, comfortable atmosphere greases your sales wheels in all sorts of good ways.

Also, keep in mind that within a group setting, participants will give feedback to one another. Often that encouragement from someone that isn’t you is enough to open wallets.

 

3) Announce Your Arrival Before The Next Location

Alright, this one is important so take note.  There’s a little strategy in the entrepreneur’s world called the pre-sell. This is where you sell a product before it even exists. When you do this, you get an early feel for the demand your product or service generates.

Basically, you’re finding out if you can make money before you spend money.

Well as a milspouse, you will move.  That’s a fact of life. The question is, how do you move without losing every ounce of momentum you’ve built up with your business?

Answer: Facebook.

Yup, what you want to do is find out which spouse groups are located at your next location.  Get in contact with the lead (typically the Key Spouse) and have them announce you to their Facebook group, spouse’s club forum, etc. Mention how excited you are to move there in the near future and let them know about your affiliation with LulaRoe.

Stay active in the groups, posting about everything other than your business. Become a member of the tribe before you sell to it.

About 3-4 out announce that your PCS is only a few weeks away. Organize a Facebook event for 2-3 weeks AFTER your arrival, where you can showcase your inventory and meet everyone face-to-face. Be sure to schedule the event a couple weeks after your move date to give yourself time to settle.  PCS’ing gets crazy.

During that time post an item from your merchandise once a week. If you’ve got the guts, go real time with Facebook live. Live is a good way to gauge interest and get personal interaction with your new group of potential customers.

Be real. Be you. Be a rockstar.  They will notice.

These quick steps will help boost your LulaRoe and direct sales success. Do you have any tips to share? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below.