You need a marketing strategy that wins brand advocates

Greetings Creatives!

Today’s communications mediums span a myriad of tools, applications, and devices our audience members use to keep in touch. As marketers and small business leaders we need to develop strategies that connect us with those potential brand advocates who’ll do the marketing for us.

In this way we’re personally connecting with them on those applications they’re already communicating with family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers.

The juggernaut? Facebook. If your brand, whether it be for business or personal, must have a Facebook if you hope to have a voice in the crowded space that is the internet. An emerging tool gaining traction is Instagram, which just happens to be owned by Facebook. With Instagram, you can connect with your audience members in a truly personal form of communication and it’s all thanks to the medium’s focus on visual content.

Just like we talked about in the last post, your brand’s visual content is the key strategyfor making the connection. Amy Schmittauer (@Schmittastic) in her “Vlog Like a Boss” book says, “The key is to focus on what makes you great and keep doing the work.” So if you’re a baker, and you love what you do, keep on baking and share that passion with the world. If you’re a butcher, you love what you do, share some insight into your work and your passion for your career. If you’re a handyman, and, again, you got it, you’re passionate about your craft, then share with others that passion and they’ll come to you for advice because they can visually see just how connected you are to the craft and them.

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Amy continues with, “If your audience feels closer to you by being part of your journey, that’s a win for you no matter what you teach or sell.”

She hits the nail right on the nose encouraging all of us to reach out and really connect with our audiences. That’s a winning strategy that builds a community of trust around the content you’re sharing.

Finally, use your website or blog as the hub for everything you’re doing. Link back to this site and make it your central repository for all your efforts online, whether that be on social media or elsewhere, you want this website to ooze with your personality and shine through the crowded space of your subject matter expertise.

Stay creative!
Ben

How to connect with your millennial audience, customers

Greetings creatives!

Scrolling through your feed on your favorite social media platform, what catches your eye? What causes you to stop scrolling and really pay attention to the content you’re consuming? Visually appealing content. It’s the lifeblood of every marketer’s marketing campaign plan.

How do different forms of visual content rack and stack for most social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter? Video first and always followed by photos, graphics and links with visual components. It’s all about those algorithms. A recent(ish) news article released by Facebook itself explained how your newsfeed’s algorithms determine what graces your feed and which posts it avoids altogether. Video remains the king of content.

So many of us considered among the millennial generation may be cord-cutters, but that doesn’t mean we’ve completely dropped the need for video content. We may not be receiving our content from originally-aired television, but we are accessing it on social platforms. Today’s digital marketing leaders could go on and on explaining the importance of visual content in a marketing campaign and it’s warranted. Most social network profile feeds populate based on our interests, past likes, comments and other forms of engagement. What does this mean for you? Be visual.

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I took this photo with my iPhone 5s while exploring Tokyo near Shibuya Station with my wife this past spring. It’s certainly not my best work, but it paints a picture of an audience just waiting to hear what you have to say. Never forget your audience, and they’ll remember you.

Small business owners and non-profit leaders need to understand the best way to connect with your audience and potential customer base is where they’re at. Meet with them on the device they carry around in their pocket daily. We’re on it on work breaks, during work, in the bathroom (yes, I know you, you’re on Facebook while sitting down in the stall—I don’t blame you, we’ve all been there), at the dinner table and sadly the list gets too long that I’m worried for society as a whole, but that’s not the point of this post. We’re here to talk about how you should be connecting with your audience.

Visual content comes in the form of videos, photos, and graphics. All which are very easily accomplished by anyone wishing to connect with their target audience with nothing more than the camera you carry in your pocket every day, just like your audience.

This is the reality, in order to connect with today’s networked audience, we have to jump into that same space. Evaluate your audience, figure out where they spend most of their time, whether it’s on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, YouTube, etc., and produce the content they’re looking for. Poll the people who come into your shop. They’re your community. But that’s a topic for another post.

Be visually appealing and you can do that with your smartphone. Stay tuned for a post on the applications I like to use on my iPhone. Simple, effective, engaging—free marketing that doesn’t impact your bottom line.

Stay creative!
Ben

How I Can Help You Succeed

Greetings Creatives!

Hello and welcome to my very first post in a renewed focus where I’m sharing my experiences from more than a decade researching and discovering social marketing strategies for creatives.

As a public affairs photo and broadcast journalist in the U.S. Air Force, I’ve worked side-by-side with other creatives as we came up with no-cost solutions to every day marketing issues that plague the majority of our career field. Most of these strategies easily translate into the civilian sector. By combining sidebar research and analyses with numerous articles and books from various sources across the web, I’ve compiled tools and techniques you can use to further your marketing plans.

I earned my bachelor’s degree in public relations and marketing with Ashford University online. The “Inspiration” page on this site outlines the books I’ve read and resources that have been extremely helpful as a leader, marketer, father and even in starting this blog. I’m always reading so this list is continuing to grow.

My passion is you, the small business owners and non-profit leaders who are extraordinarily good at what you do but find marketing difficult at times. I’m here to help you and since I have a full time job, I’m not looking for significant monetary gain as your consultant, what I’d really like to see is for you to succeed at whatever it is you do in your community. We’re here as a combined workforce building toward the same goal:

“Developing social marketing strategies for creatives while engineering a community of trust and support across borders and backgrounds.”

The topics I’ll cover all relate to digital marketing in some fashion or another. I’ll evaluate each topic based on three categories:

SOCIAL

We live in a world full of opportunities to reach out and connect with others in our communities at home or around the world. Our task as marketers is to help others engage in activities that improve quality of life, welfare, and relations with the our neighbors, friends, and complete strangers.

STRATEGY

Digital marketing requires employing a series of well-planned techniques or maneuvers specifically designed to connect an organization with their audience. Marketing is about combining all aspects of of the digital world with the tangible in a cohesive strategy for obtaining a specific goal or result.

CREATIVE

Always think outside the box, be original, imaginative, engaging, relatable, consistent, and accessible across all mediums and avenues of connecting with your target audience. Never stop communicating, researching, analyzing, and developing new and improved ways of reaching across the digital divide in an effort to build a community around your product or service.

Hold me accountable, but I’d like to bring you these three blog posts weekly followed up by a video blog posts further explaining each written post in an engaging, face-to-face, approach that shares the information in a relatable format for all viewers.

Thanks for joining me on this journey! Feel free to reach out at any time with your questions and I’ll be more than happy to help you as we work together to figure out the best strategies for connecting your organization with the community in which you serve.

The Perfect Surprise Party

You know how I said I wasn’t so sure I would be able to keep up a daily blog? I caved a few days ago, but I’m back! Life gets busy sometimes and while it’s still busy, let’s pump out a quick post here about planning the ultimate celebration for someone close. So instead of planning a new party, let me describe a party I helped plan a “few” years ago.

The seemingly perfect celebratory birthday party was for my dad. It was his 40th. Mom and I went all out inviting every one of our friends from across different friends groups. Dad and I were also on the local volunteer fire department, so of course we had a fire truck in the backyard.

Dad hates surprises. Like the time he came home from serving in South Korea for a year with the Army and we had bought an Akita dog without consulting him. Yup, he hates surprises.

This time, although he’d made himself clear how he felt about surprises, we did it anyway. He loves us to this day; I promise.

He had no idea what was coming and as he road his bike home from work he could see the bright red fire truck through the trees (I group up in a VERY rural town in the Montana Rocky Mountains, so anything else would’ve been hidden through the trees). We had music, drinks, food, brats and burgers on the grill, a piñata and all our friends. What an awesome celebration held in our backyard, our happy place. It was amazing and Dad accepted it. I don’t remember if he instructed us to never do something like that again, but we didn’t anyway. Perhaps we’ll have to do something special for his 60th in five years. #evillaugh

From the party,

Ben

Tourist Trap

Traveling is a huge aspect of my job and I love it! We actually received orders to Japan in a few months here and I’m very much looking forward to it (other than being so far from family). It should be a four-year assignment with plenty of opportunities to explore their amazing… Food! I love sushi. I miss the fresh sushi I’d eat all the time during my year-long assignment in South Korea. All that aside, I don’t know that’s it’s my dream tourist destination as today’s prompt implies.

I’ve always wanted to visit Europe and more specifically, I feel like, if countries can do this–I don’t know, I feel like Germany has been calling for me. I’d love to visit where Luther began the Reformation! Oh and the beer too, you know, cuz beer and religion go along so well… In this case they do because it’s Germany. “Nuff said.”

The old architecture is also a drive for me there and of course learning about a different culture. I think that’s probably one of the things that has remained ever-present in my mind following my assignment in Korea–the people. They were, on average, so nice there! I think the only time I really felt uncomfortable was in certain cabs at night. If they ever ask you if you want to watch something, just say no. Trust me, you can never unsee that. Also, my friends and are were apparently getting too loud on one of the public buses and this tender old man came up to me and started shaking his cane at me yelling, what we presumed were, profanities in Hangul. Not pleasant.

But overall, what a wonderful country I wouldn’t mind revisiting again, but off to Japan first!

From the travel wagon,

Ben

The Zone

Have you ever gotten lost in a favorite activity? Whether that’s running, chopping vegetables, folding laundry, or for me: researching social media and marketing entrepreneurship strategies. Yeah, I’m weird, get over it; I love what I do.

See that last sentence? It was a real doozy, I tried fitting in as many commas as I could and I even was able to fit a semi-colon in there! So anyway, when I’m in the zone it’s like I’m lost, mouth wide open, jaw every now and then drops, little bit of drool comes running out. But it’s okay! I’m in the zone, generally in my office or bed or the car or any place most people can’t help but stare at my complete and utter obliviousness to the world around me. That’s me researching digital media strategy.

When I’m in the zone, I’m at home and can seemingly spend hours in said zone without really realizing how much time has gone by. I research this material all the while generally trying my best to avoid my homework. Eventually, hours later, I snap out of it and do what I’m supposed to, but still, yes, you’re staring at me right this very moment and if I had an emoji for the Vulcan hand gesture, I would send it your way and laugh.

From the zone,

Ben

The Silver Linings

So something they never tell you about writing a daily blog post–how easy it can be to put your thoughts down on paper and push the publish button. I’m horrible at it. I’ll be the first one to admit that I’ve tried starting a blog before and it just ends up me sharing other people’s thoughts. Which is okay, but it’s not really what blogs were intended to do. I’m using it to help get my creative juices flowing before tackling an even bigger project for school.

Alas, today’s Word Press post prompt is called, “Silver Linings,” and asks that I write about something I consider “ugly” — war, violence, failure, hatred — but to try and find beauty, or a sense of hope, in my thoughts. I think I’ve got this.

War is inevitable in a sinful society. There’s simply no getting around it and at the end of the day, I thank God the Father for his dearest son, Jesus Christ. Yes, I’m a Christian, and proud of it! Even though we may feel as though our whole world is crumbling down around us, there is a silver lining to it all: we’re saved by grace alone through faith in Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection three days later.

There’s hope! Whenever you’re feeling downtrodden, don’t fret! Christ is there, here, everywhere, just take a moment and pray. He’ll hear your prayers, but he may not answer your prayers in the way in which you might suspect.

My wife and I were going through a tough time in the first year of our marriage. I prayed to God for help and he handed me a deployment downrange. We couldn’t believe it. Was space, thousands of miles apart, really what our marriage needed? We didn’t think so, but God apparently did. And you know? We’ve grown increasingly closer ever since I returned. I read a lot of books on how to be a better husband and finally had time to read a few of the books my wife had asked me to read. I made it my mission to come back a changed man. One that focused on my wife’s needs rather than so focused on my own.

Now I’m not saying I’ve been perfect since my return, but we’re definitely as close now as we’ve ever been and grow closer in every moment we experience together, whether in person or not. I say this because while I haven’t been deployed downrange recently, I’ve gone on a few temporary assignments that have sent me miles away from a week to up to two months at a time. But the heart grows fonder. I love my wife. Thanks God for deploying me so I would realize just how much I do.

The silver linings do indeed contain a sense of hope.

Ben

PMEL prolongs equipment effectiveness

by Staff Sgt. Benjamin W. Stratton
92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs


11/7/2013 – FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. — There’s no margin of error when lives are on the line making the Precision Measurement Equipment Laboratory here such an integral part of Fairchild Air Force Base’s mission.

“PMEL is responsible for calibrating equipment used in virtually every phase of maintenance for nearly every piece of equipment the Air Force operates,” said Barry Bigler, the 92nd Maintenance Squadron PMEL site manager and a Spokane, Wash., native. “We provide base-level support of aircraft, precision guided munitions, ground systems and other equipment assigned to the base or geographically separated units.”

These back shop warriors maintain, calibrate and certify test, measurement and diagnostic equipment in coordination with AF Primary Standards Laboratory, to the National Institute of Standards and Technology and other AF Metrology and Calibration-approved sources. The following areas are their primary focus: voltage, current, power, impedance, frequency, temperature, humidity, length, mass and radiation.

“The value of standards and calibration equipment here totals more than $10 million as we service 3,700 units locally while sustaining a 98 percent tool availability rate by a shop of seven,” Bigler said.

This tool availability rate tops the Air Force standard by 5 percent. The all-civilian shop not only services units from Fairchild, but also supports Navy units in Idaho and even other bases and units across the Department of Defense.

And as Air Force platforms get older, so does their calibration equipment.

“Many of our systems are 20 to 30 years old,” said Larry Loe, a 92nd MXS PMEL physical dimensions technician, who has worked here for more than 26 years both on active duty and as a civilian contractor calling Spokane his home. “Our jets [KC-135 Stratotankers] are quickly approaching more than 60 years old and still flying with systems requiring calibration equipment no longer manufactured making our mission very important.”

Just as people perform regular maintenance on their own car or truck, PMEL does this with their standards and calibration equipment to prolong equipment’s useful life effectively saving the Air Force millions of dollars. Loe said they maintain equipment by means of a science called metrology.

Metrology is the science of measurement and required to ensure Air Force systems are accurate and can reliably perform their designated missions. Every system in the Air Force inventory requires some type of accurate and reliable measurement to be made.

“PMEL is absolutely vital as properly calibrated tools are essential for us to complete our mission correctly,” said Airman 1st Class Marcel Acebo, a 92nd MXS crew chief and San Luis, Calif., native. “Without PMEL, there’s the grim potential for damage to not only the aircraft, but anyone working on and flying them as well.”

Prior to the 1950s, the Air Force had no formal, centralized calibration program. However, during this period of rapidly expanding technology, operational and testing accident rates increased dramatically and contractor conformance deteriorated. So in 1958, a project dubbed, “Test Shop,” was established directing that test equipment repair and calibration activities be established at Air Force bases worldwide eventually becoming what is now PMEL.

“What we do is very important for getting those tankers in the air,” Bidler said. “They can’t do what they do without us.”

Air Force contracting negotiates way to mission realization

by Staff Sgt. Benjamin W. Stratton
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Air Force Contracting must balance fulfilling the service’s mission with upholding statutory law, the Federal Acquisition Regulation, and other Air Force policy and guidance. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Staff Sgt. Benjamin W. Stratton)
Air Force Contracting must balance fulfilling the service’s mission with upholding statutory law, the Federal Acquisition Regulation, and other Air Force policy and guidance. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Staff Sgt. Benjamin W. Stratton)

10/3/2013 – SOUTHWEST ASIA — Much like Ferengi in the Star Trek universe, Air Force contracting specialists have strict standards and practices they must follow before awarding any contract and must be master negotiators with exacting attention to detail following what any good Ferengi would call the “Rules of Acquisition.”

“The Air Force takes its use of taxpayer money very seriously,” said Maj. Chad Sessler, the 379th Contracting Squadron commander, who is serving a one-year tour here and hails from Syracuse, N.Y. “Even though we are a smaller squadron, we are critical to the mission and have a huge impact on the sustainability of the base.”

While Air Force contractors aren’t as ruthless as the Ferengi, they do ensure each party at the negotiations table is handled fairly while ensuring integrity and fairness of the procurement system and never award a contract at the expense of honesty.

“We take what you need and turn it into something,” said Tech. Sgt. Ryan Laube, a 379th CONS contracting officer deployed from Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, and a Phoenix native. “A lot of trust is placed on our young Airmen. Each of us can obligate and/or write a contract totaling up to $1 million.”

These Airmen provide contracting support to a wide spectrum of missions, including major weapons, logistics and sustainment, installation and mission support, and contingency operations. They support national defense and humanitarian missions through global contracting operations by providing leadership, guidance, and execute contractual actions, for both goods and services in support of the warfighter both in garrison and down range.

“If a customer needs a wrench, we need to know exactly what color, size, make, model, etc., in order to work with the contracted companies to provide the customer exactly what they need to get the mission done,” Laube said.

Contracting here accomplishes their mission through means of two flights: services and construction.

The services flight procures food services contracts, cell phones, vehicle leases, laundry, mail, etc. The construction flight helps civil engineering improve facilities, secures trench contracts and supports flight operations.

Part of their job is also traveling downtown to negotiate deals with local vendors for things as simple as milk and linens.

“We are ambassadors,” said Laube. “You’re going to interact with the locals — we have built up a great professional relationship with them as we project respect.”

Air Force Contracting must balance fulfilling the service’s mission with upholding statutory law, the Federal Acquisition Regulation, and other Air Force policy and guidance.

“In our profession, the means and the ends carry equal weight,” said Master Sgt. William Simpkins, the 379th ECONS superintendent and first sergeant serving a one-year tour and hails from San Angelo, Texas. “It’s hard to think of a unit or squadron we haven’t touched.”

Simpkins said his Airmen are always looking for the highest quality goods and services at the lowest cost in the shortest amount of time. These service members are charged with committing the nation’s funds to provide for the warfighters around the globe.

“I’m extremely proud of my Airmen,” Sessler said. “They are willing to go the extra mile to get the job done. I’ve witnessed their selfless dedication to the mission, the customer and the taxpayer. We will posture the Air Force as a demanding customer to our suppliers and ensure our Air Force Contracting processes and systems are able to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.”

Referencing his copy of the Ferengi’s “Rules of Acquisition,” Laube made his wife proud when he explained rule number three, “Never spend more for an acquisition than you have to,” noting the similarities between his work and their culture. And while Ferengi have never been lauded for their tenderness, they are, however, praised for their business, negotiating and accounting genius.