30 July 2015

Marketing Insights for Reaching the Military: Testimonials

David Yoo, RallyPoint Civilian Careers.

Testimonial Content Military Marketing

Is there a reason why so many shoppers scroll down to Amazon.com's user reviews before making a purchase to read what others have said about the product? Is there any reason why the doubts you've harbored about the product you were going to purchase disappear as soon as you read the first few reviews? 

Humans seek affirmation for their decisions, and they want to know when they're making a wrong move. The phenomena in which you are influenced by how others behave, say, or do when you make your own decision is called social proof

Testimonials are a form of marketing that relies on public worth-of-mouth referrals that can flirt with the psychology of social proof. Humans seek affirmation for their decisions, and they want to know when they're making a wrong move.

Recognize the following facts: 

1) The average consumer today is a tough sell. Your consumers are a skeptical crowd, especially in an era where they are bombarded by businesses' banners, advertisements, and commercials claiming that their organization serves "the BEST" or "the FASTEST" product and service, while often under-delivering their promises. It is no wonder why consumers, both in the civilian and military sectors, may seem more cynical or unconvinced by organizations who over-promise and under-deliver.

2) Your words are not enough. You boasting your own company's services or products is simply not enough to convince the on-the-fence consumer who is trying to gauge the quality, professionalism, reliability, and effectiveness of your service/product. Tooting your company's horn may be of value to establish your credibility, but do so tastefully and without using spam-like language. Mention honors and awards your company has received, but don't claim your company is wholly better than any other business that provides the same service unless you're willing to back up your claims with objective evidence. 

3) Testimonials can build your credibility. Consumer feedback and testimonials can help reassure your skeptical consumers that what you offer is genuine, effective, and reliable. They're also useful because you can distinguish yourself from competitors by displaying testimonials that clearly emphasize one aspect about your business model that is markedly different from the rest. 

So, what are some ways you can use testimonials to market to your customers? Let's go over some general tips and guidelines below. 

1. Consider which type of feedback is best for your business 

Before you begin asking customers for feedback and testimonials, you have to take some time to outline your ideal testimonial. Start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What product or service do I want to highlight?
  • How general or specific do I want testimonials to be? 
  • Who am I targeting with the testimonial?
  • How can the testimonial stand out and make my business better?
These are broad questions, but going over them is essential before you begin anything. In order to answer these questions, you should arm yourself with some knowledge about the general practices that make testimonials convincing and attractive to nervous first-time buyers. 

Generally, you want your testimonial to be specific, relatable, credible, and compelling. What exactly do we mean by this? 

You want your testimonials to be specific to the particular service or product that you want to spotlight. "This product is great!" or "This service was awesome!" is, for the most part, generally unhelpful. Clients and customers want to know what about the product or service was great or awesome or helpful, so put it front and center. Suppose you're running a pharmaceutical store and offer various products and services, having a testimonial such as "Service X was able to get rid of my gastrointestinal distress in under an hour -- I've never had such an experience before in my life! I really recommend using this if you've had this type of issue before" is specific and broadcasts one of your services that deal with a particular problem. 

You also want your testimonials to be relatable. You want to make sure that the testimonial isn't something that most of your customer base won't resonate with. Namely, you want to make sure that the testimonial is something that most of your users in your target market can identify with. In our previous example of the pharmaceutical store, suppose that you specifically target the elderly for problems that afflict, generally, older men and women. You might want to make your testimonies talk about your products or services within the context of the elderly community, or to include details in the testimonial that make the feedback more relatable. For example, you can add the age of the person ("John Doe, 64") to make the testimonial sound more relatable to your target audience. 

Credibility is something that you can build by simply including information that may seem more realistic. For example, adding a photo next to the testimonial shows that the feedback came from an actual, real person. Add their names, the town they are from. If one of your customers has a large online presence, provide the testimonial with a back link to the customers' website or digital profile. No one will actually click the link or go to that person's website, but it helps build the perception that the individual writing the testimonial was an actual customer.

Lastly, You want your testimonials to be compelling. Making a testimonial "compelling" may seem abstract on first thought, but consider what makes a good testimonial different from an excellent one. A good testimonial will be specific and highlight the key features of your product with sufficient context. An excellent testimonial will go out of its way to put the reader's doubts, thoughts, and concerns in the open, address them, and still explain why someone should still pursue the product or service your business offers. A great way an excellent testimonial does this is by being comparative; it will explain the deficiencies of your competitors and be specific about how your product or service is different. It will genuinely assess your product or service and pre-empt any concern a reader might have by weighing the price with the quality of the service being provided in a positive and assertive way (e.g. "Given the modest price tag, Company X still goes above and beyond to deliver something that many companies fail to deliver: effective and efficient services in...").  

2. Ask for feedback

Now that you know what type of feedback and testimonial you're looking for, go out there and find them. You want to be organized and structured so you don't spam your customers with many unwanted solicitations. Send out emails to customers you've had for a while. Track their activities, their loyalty, and their relative willingness to take some time to write a thoughtful review for your product or service. If you have offered them something valuable, it shouldn't be too difficult to receive a few testimonials that are worth broadcasting on your website. Also reach out to key clients or customers personally. If you know a big name has been a loyal customer, approach her and tell her you would appreciate if she can write a positive review about her experiences using your product or service. Track who you've written to and who has responded. You don't want to annoy your customers and have them unsubscribe from your mailing list because you sounded desperate for their opinions. 

3. Make it visually appealing and interweave them with your site

Be creative in the way you present your testimonials. Do you want to create separate categories for your different products and services? Do you want to package a page of client feedback in brochures, blogs, and newsletters? Do you want to populate a banner in the middle of your home page with customer testimonials or save them for when customers browse through your services? As we mentioned above, include photographs when you can. It will make them more visually appealing and it adds color to otherwise colorless text blocks.  

4. Update them

Keep your testimonials fresh. Your business will inevitably evolve, and reviews/feedback about a product or service you offered 5 years ago may be helpful for that older line of product/service you maintain, but you have to be active in ensuring that everything you offer now has some feedback or positive review. Again, stay organized and target different groups of people to broadcast diverse, but positive, opinions. 

For more information about creating valuable content for marketing to general audiences as well as for specific military audiences, check out some of previous blog posts about content marketing and using video campaigns.

Check out some of RallyPoint's unique Business Services here and have access to more than 740,000 members of the military and former military on our social network.

29 July 2015

Marketing Insights for Reaching the Military: E-Newsletters

David Yoo, RallyPoint Civilian Careers.

Enewsletters Marketing to the Military

Since the advent of the internet, email marketing has been one of the most popular ways that businesses, organizations, and companies have shared their content and connect with prospective consumers.  Sending e-newsletters has remained an effective way to help maintain both customer engagement and business-consumer relationships with existing customers.

What are e-newsletters?

The Content Marketing Institute defines e-newsletters as the following: "A permission-based means of regular communication with current and future customers, usually distributed monthly or weekly. Available electronically, via text-based or HTML pages, they can include complete articles or brief descriptions with links to articles on your Website."

Business-to-business, business-to-consumers, as well as business-to-military organizations should look into the prospects of having their online newsletters and take advantage of some of the benefits that come with this email marketing campaign. 

Why use e-newsletters?

  • E-newsletters are a great way for you to direct some of your users' attention to other content you've created, such as webinars, ebooks, white papers, blogs, live events, podcasts, etc.
  • An e-newsletter will help you to stay in contact with your clients and customers. You can keep them informed of the newest updates regarding your business, new lines of product and services, new general developments, etc. 
  • It will help you improve your relationships. Your consistent content development and new offerings will make people turn to you first when they need something. After all, you are the subject matter expert. 
  • You can give valuable tools to your loyal customers. You can share tips that can help your customers become more successful in their own business ventures or in their own lives more generally. 
  • Customers may spread your content. If your content is valuable, your customers and clients may share your e-newsletters with others who may find the content useful, helpful, or just valuable.

Some ways to make your e-newsletter valuable

1. Create a catchy subject line

Email Marketing to the Military
Think about how much attention you pay to your emails when you open your inbox. You log in, and save as much time as possible by first skimming through who sent you the email and then the subject line. Emails from business or organization tend to receive less attention and are thus a second priority. You don't want to give your consumers any more reason to unsubscribe from your newsletter by creating what may seem as impersonal, spammy subject lines. Your subject line should speak to your customers and pique their interest. As Michele Linn from the Content Marketing Institute suggests, "tease [your customers], ask a question, but don’t give away the answer. Use 50 characters max." The trick is to interest your customers; make them want to click on your email. Don't drive them away with a generic "Hi Customer, look at current deals today!" 

2. Layout

There are two ways you want to think about when deciding on the layout of your e-newsletter. You want to think of your design and the content itself. 

It’s rather easy to send out mass online newsletters using a template from a generic software. It may be useful to consider investing some resources in a professionally designed newsletter to make your content stand out and to shape the customers' perception of your brand.  it. However, consider investing in a professional design. Your content will stand out and lend a hand to creating a positive opinion of your brand at the same time. A great design can also go a long way in helping create a more visually appealing newsletter that will make your customer want to read through all of it. 

In addition to design, your content is crucial. No one will read your newsletter, regardless of how flawlessly it is designed, unless they think it's worth reading. But don't put all your eggs in one basket; try saving some interesting bits and tease your customers to click on links that will direct them to the full story or development that is being written about on your website. That way, you can encourage users to revisit your site after reading through your newsletter. 

Check out an example newsletter below by Litmus, which combines design and information to entice its viewers' attention.

Design Enewsletters Marketing

3. Call to action 

Make your CTA loud and clear. "Click here to read the full story" or "check out more deals like this now" or "browse our new product line" are great ways to entice your viewers to explore your site. Your calls to action requires some experimentation to see what type of buzzwords make your content more likely to receive clicks and backlinks to your website. When done correctly, you will boost more traffic and, in the process, gain valuable feedback as to what you can do to help improve your next batch of newsletters. 

4. Archive your newsletters

Archive Enewsletters Marketing
As with most content marketing strategies, e-newsletters can be a powerful way to help improve your search engine optimization (SEO). Like keeping an archived video of your webinar allows anyone interested in your topic to find your presentation online, archiving your informative newsletters can be a great way to increase some more backlinks to your site. One way to integrate your newsletters with your actual website can be creating a dedicated page or corner for your past newsletters. Those who haven't subscribed to your newsletters may stumble upon it on your website and think it's worth subscribing to more weekly or monthly newsletters because they think the content is worthwhile. 

5. Promote your newsletters

Once (and if) you've decided to set up your e-newsletter landing page, you want to start promoting your content to drive up some more traffic. Make sure you include subscription buttons wherever you can in a tasteful and non-obstructive manner. Your home page may seem like an intuitive and obvious start; ask new registered users whether they would like to receive weekly/monthly newsletters. Advertise your newsletters to your followers on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets and make sure you add a feature that allows your newsletter to be shared with others. 

Stuck? Want to make sure e-newsletters make sense for your business? Check out this HubSpot post that goes over some more tips to create valuable newsletters. 

For more information about creating valuable content for marketing to general audiences as well as for specific military audiences, check out some of previous blog posts about content marketing and using video campaigns.

Check out some of RallyPoint's unique Business Services here and have access to more than 740,000 members of the military and former military on our social network.

Taking Charge: Keys to a Successful Transition/Reintegration to Civilian Life

In February of this year, each member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff signed a letter to all who have served since 9/11, reminding service members that our nation “needs your experience, intellect, and character,” and charging them to “help guide our country’s destiny.” The senior leader emphasis on continued service underscores the importance of each service member’s successful transition out of the military and reintegration back into the civilian community.

The Department of Defense recently redesigned its Transition Assistance Program (TAP) to provide contemporary, relevant, and mandatory information, tools, and training to ensure service members are prepared for civilian life. Across the civilian realm, public and private organizations at the federal, state, and local levels stand ready to assist veterans and their families as they return to communities.

Despite so many public and private efforts to assist in the transition out of uniform, successful reintegration can be difficult for many of us. In fact, a recent University of Southern California School of Social Work survey of post-9/11 veterans found that more than two-thirds reported difficulty in “adjusting to civilian life.” In another survey conducted by Blue Star Families in 2014, more than half of all veterans surveyed reported that their transition to civilian life was difficult.

Over the last two years while engaging hundreds of public and private entities dedicated to embracing veterans and their families, we collected lessons common to successful transitions. First and foremost, we realized that successful reintegration is an individual responsibility, one that requires understanding, planning, and deliberate execution—something familiar to all of us
in uniform.

What follows are recommendations to enable transitioning service members (TSM) and their families to do just that: understand the field, craft and execute a realistic plan, and successfully reintegrate into a civilian community ready to embrace the values and skills that characterize military service. We also offer similar recommendations to leaders in the immediate chain of command to help them recognize that successful transition and reintegration are as critical to our country’s future as they are to our future force.

Recommendations for Transitioning Service Members and their Families

There are five steps we recommend each TSM consider as they contemplate the move out of uniform: plan, rehearse, ask for help, network, and manage expectations.

Take responsibility for your own transition and make a plan. A significant amount of your transition planning should be spent thinking through what you want to be and do as a civilian. While your veteran identity will remain a key aspect of your civilian experience, it should not define you. Identify your personal and professional goals as a civilian and identify your next purpose. With your goals in mind, assess your weaknesses and skill gaps and develop a viable plan to shore them up through additional education and/or training.

We’ve all learned to “see and assess” the environment. In this case, invest time to research employment or education opportunities in the geographic regions you desire. Use the Internet to identify the many government offices or private, non-profit organizations that address veteran needs in or near your likely destination. The Department of Labor American Job Center website is a great resource to research career and communities you are considering a move. The TAP curriculum is also accessible to all service members and their spouses, at any time, through https://jkodirect.jten.mil to support long-term career planning.

Self-identification is critical. Those living in the community you return to will not know you’re a veteran unless you identify yourself as one. Local- and state-level organizations, such as your state’s Department of Veterans Affairs, may not know that you’re coming. Contact them, share your contact information and timeline, and determine if one or several of those organizations can help you. Start this process at least a year out. Visit the transition office at your installation to understand the Career Readiness Standards (CRS) and to take full advantage of all that the Transition GPS (Goals, Plans, Success) curriculum has to offer. And make sure you coordinate with your chain of command to de-conflict your transition training schedule with your unit’s requirements schedule.

Rehearse your interaction with the civilian sector. It’s too late if you find yourself unemployed, wishing you had paid more attention to the transition classes. Train for this lifechanging event like you do for any military mission. Practice for interviews, and in doing so prepare to convey with confidence the skills and traits you’ve learned in the military. Many TSMs rely on skills-translation software to help them explain what they offer to a potential employer. There’s no software program that can adequately describe what you’ve learned and how you can contribute to a specific employer. Be prepared to champion yourself—something you might not have done in uniform, because you’ve been asked to place the unit and the mission
first. You must now learn to be your own best advocate. These are difficult but necessary skills, and you’ll only get better by rehearsing.

Comment below or start the conversation here and connect within the military community.

28 July 2015

Transition: From Soldier to Civilian

It is almost here. That joyous moment when you sign out on terminal leave and skip away with DD214 in hand. For many, separation from the military is a time of excitement - an embarkation on new careers, college attendance, and myriad other opportunities. For others, it is equally exciting, but without many plans or direction. It is not as easy as simply “getting out.”
After five years, I decided to leave the Army and become a civilian. I was proud of my service, but I wanted to do something different. I thought I had a fine-tuned plan and decided to move to New York City with my fiancĂ©. I made this decision about a year before my ETS date and thought my plan was solid: go to college full-time and work part-time to supplement the VA’s compensation.
I packed my stuff, drove to Brooklyn from El Paso, and moved into a small apartment. I had yet to hear back from a city university, so I decided to go find a job. I naively thought that a DD214, a couple of good NCOERs, and my veteran status would land me a pretty nice job. After two weeks I had not received a word back, which started making me a little anxious. To make matters worse, I waited until a couple of months before I left the Army to apply for education and disability benefits from the VA. I did not realize that it could take up to a year to receive my results. After depleting my savings and working a few under the table jobs, I realized I had made a huge mistake!
Even in places as large as New York, jobs are in high demand and many qualified people are applying for the same position you are. With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, large bubbles of veterans have hit the job market, some more qualified than you. Be prepared to continue competing against your peers in the civilian sector.
I encourage job searches and applications about one year out. Begin perusing job sites and local listings. For those looking at government jobs including police and fire, the entire hiring process from application to first day of work can be up to a year or more. Furthermore, jobs with the Federal government require very specific resumes and applications. Enjoy navigating the minefield known as usajobs.gov. Get started early.
Applying to a college or trade school can take as long as getting a job. Fortunately many schools have veteran’s departments staffed by fellow vets. They can help you through the application process and explain how VA education benefits work. (I owe my college veteran’s department a few cases of beer.)
Apply early and to different schools. I expected to be accepted and did not bother looking at another college. It was a huge mistake because some gifted intellectuals will have no problems with this, but some of us whose mothers played soccer while pregnant (thus jostling our little brains against our little noggins) may have a tougher time. Do not throw all your eggs in one basket.
Veteran’s Administration:
I would like to sum this entire topic up with an emotion that is slightly angry, a little bit confused, and somewhat surprised. The VA has had some bad press lately, partially because they have done some not-so-stellar things. With that said, you are probably aware that dealing with the VA is extremely tiresome and frustrating. Take a deep breath, grit your teeth, and jump right in. There really is no other way.
The best advice I can give is to begin this process as soon as you are eligible. Applying for education benefits is the least painful and quickest process. Applying for disability is more of a hassle. Make sure you have multiple copies of your medical record and be prepared to send it to them repeatedly. This process can take up to a year or more to get an answer. Be patient. Some services’ separation offices help with this process so make use of all possible resources to ease the pain. You will be glad you did.
This is not an exhaustive, “all-problems-solved” list, but it does give some direction and general idea of what to plan for and expect. The best advice is to plan ahead and think of contingencies. Even getting out and living on mom’s couch is not as easy as you may think. Use veteran resources and ask questions from those of us who learned the painful way. It will be of great help. Good luck and thank you for your service!

Read more posts like this, here!

27 July 2015

Loneliness & Isolation During Deployment

During deployments, life can be hard. Not only is the spouse worried about his/her partner but the spouse also must take care of all of the household responsibilities. These responsibilities include paying bills, meal preparation, running errands, looking after children, perhaps getting a full-time job. That doesn’t even include any crisis that may come along. When my husband was deployed, it was always tires and batteries. I learned the hard way how to deal with flat tires and dead car batteries. It’s not easy being a married single parent. Isolation may occur and loneliness sets in.
However, there are many things a spouse can do during those deployment seasons to help ease the burden of loneliness, isolation and crisis intervention. Getting involved in the community can turn focus from self to service. There are many organizations that could use a helping hand and some you can serve alongside with your children. Consider a local senior center, battered women’s shelter or Habitat for Humanity. If you are working full-time you may complain that you don’t have time for anything like that. If that’s the case, in my opinion, it is then critical that you attend your house of worship.
Most churches (or temples) have groups for men, women and children. While you are attending a scripture study, your children will be entertained in a group of their age. Having a group of like-minded people to pray for you can ease the burden of loneliness and prevent isolation.
Additionally, I recommend taking on a project that makes your life better and surprises your spouse when he/she returns - something like painting the kitchen, remodeling the bathroom or cleaning out the garage. Check out one of those home improvement shows or websites for ideas on how to spruce up a room without paint if you live on base or are renting. Styling the master bedroom with paint, window treatments, and a new bedspread is not expensive but can really brighten the mood in the room. Better yet, invite friends over for a painting party, order pizza and soda, and have fun. Laughter and friendship are key components in fighting loneliness and isolation.
What you should not do is focus on your loneliness, drink excessive amounts of alcohol, go out to bars, or complain constantly. Negativity can set in and be as destructive as a wrecking ball. Your mind should be thinking positive thoughts. Thinking about a happy, healthy and productive future will help take the sadness out of you. Focus on the pride you have for your spouse who is serving our country. Remember that it’s okay to have a bad day but it’s not okay to stay there. Give yourself a break because you are not a super hero, cry if you need to, eat a whole box of Oreos but get up the next day and move on with positivity.
Finally, in my opinion, the most important thing to do is to take care of yourself. Eat your veggies, exercise regularly, write a gratitude journal and feed your spiritual side. Take an inventory of your own life and see what you would like to improve the most. If it’s weight loss then set a goal, create a plan and go after it! If it’s a promotion at work, going to college, or finding a house of worship, then make a game plan and do it. Set a date, create the how-to, and then make sure to surround yourself with positive activities whether they are physical or mental. Staying healthy for yourself will be better for your children and your spouse when he/she get home. Allowing yourself to spiral downhill in loneliness and isolation will only make you bitter and angry. Prevent this by being your own advocate.

Read more posts like this, here!

Marketing Insights for Reaching the Military: Webinars/Webcasts

David Yoo, RallyPoint Civilian Careers.

Webinar Marketing to the Military

What is a Webinar/Webcast?

A webinar is an online presentation that engages with those who are tuned into your session. In webinars, you are employing slides, audio, pictures, etc. to interact with consumers who are interested in finding out more about your business. The presenter uses a computer or telephone to speak directly to his guests. Questions can also be asked in real time through the interactive webinar interface, and the presenter can immediately answer any questions that his audience may have while going slide by slide to incorporate visual imagery. 

A webcast, on the other hand, is the broadcast of an already recorded presentation over the Internet. In this particular session, the transmission of information is one-way only, from speaker to audience. Because they are recorded sessions, webcasts can be viewed at any time. 

Thus, the main difference between a webinar and a webcast is that a webinar is live and interactive, while a webcast is a transmission from one to many (with limited interactivity). 

Why Use Webinars?

According to the Content Marketing Institute, "42% of the B2B Content Marketing participants use Webinars/Webcasts and they are quite pleased with the results, placing the tactic in the top 5 for effectiveness." So why do many businesses think Webinars are so effective, and why should defense contractors or business marketing to the military take advantage of this medium?/

1. It's immersive
Webinars are truly one of the most immersive content experience aside from meeting clients face-to-face. There is no other interaction that creates an environment in which a business can interact with a set of attendees for 45-60 minutes. As mentioned above, the interactive user interface allows for attendees to ask the presenter questions live and participate in an informative dialogue. The interactive nature of webinars make the experience more memorable and will help your business retain and close deals with leads who are interested in your service. 

2. Sends customers through the sales funnel
Webinar Sales Marketing
You can generate marketing leads with an informative, engaging, and successful webinar. If someone signs up for your webinar, he probably already has respect for either you or your company, which you can leverage over time to convert them into customers, as they have already have a proven interest in what you do or offer. Your self-selected audience means that you have to do very little heavy lifting in terms of educating them about the importance of your service but rather allows you to spend more time to talk about the specific details about your service. With a successful webinar, you will be able to convince your attendees that you know what you're talking about and you understand how your product can be of use to your target. In doing so, you will inevitably be able to close close deals and create a positive business relationship with those who were compelled by your presentation. 

3. Add value to your brand by using webinars as post-sale educational tools
Business marketers often use webinars to display and showcase products/services as well as to educate prospective consumers and generate leads. But one great way to employ webinars aside from mobilizing individuals up and down the sales ladder is by using webinars and webcasts as a way to educate your existing customers. Having your experts lead virtual learning webinars and educate your customer base about upcoming innovations in the market, overcoming typical challenges in the business space, or industry trends. Doing so will help you position your company's brand as a sincere and customer-centered organization as well as a reliable industry thought leader. Not all webinars have to be sales pitches, so remember that you can manipulate the nature of your online broadcast to suit the needs of your consumers and to provide them an extra reason to come back to you when they want or need something. 

4. It's cost effective
Webinars Easy Military Marketing
Webinars are cost-effective for both business marketers and consumers. The costs associated with creating a valuable, informative, and engaging webinar are far less than producing or attending a large, live event where virtually the same information would be used to spread awareness of the company's services. In other words, webinars give you many of the same rewards of an in-person seminar without the large price tag associated with renting venues, travel, and other necessary expenses, including time, which you can instead use to focus more attention on creating memorable, engaging, and valuable content for your attendees. Consumers incur no costs either, since signing up to attend a webinar is free. Keeping an archived video of your webinar can also allow anyone interested in your topic to find your presentation unless you decide to remove it, making it a worthwhile investment. Brian Carroll, CEO of InTouch Inc wrote that “We've been able to show that 300% to 500% more people watch a recorded webinar than attend a live one...If you don't record it, you're missing out on more than half of your audience.”

5. Improves Search Engine Optimization
As we've mentioned in our previous posts about the relationship between content marketing and search engine optimization (SEO), we've stressed that you have to create valuable content. Webinars can do a great deal if individuals interested in the subject matter that you're presenting are going to be coming back to your webinars for more information and to seek your expertise. Archived webinars on not only your website but other social media channels can help you gain visibility with the search engines, as the video broadcast will link back to your business if viewers find the webinar valuable. Post the slide deck you used to social sharing sites like SlideShare.

Next Steps

The Content Marketing Institutes highlights three particular points about webinars: 
1. Webinars make an excellent call-to-action or follow up offer to other forms of content, such as ebooks, white papers, enewsletters, etc. 
2. You benefit twice: first, from the live event, then from the people who download the archived event. 
3. A successful Webinar requires an aggressive promotions strategy, typically via your Website, blog, enewsletter and other media or social media channels.
Once you understand those key points, start brainstorming ways for you to begin your webinar. HubSpot provides excellent step-by-step insight into how you can get your webinar marketing off the ground and running.

To sign up for our bi-weekly RallyPoint webinar about the services we offer, click here.

For more information about creating valuable content for marketing to general audiences as well as for specific military audiences, check out some of previous blog posts about content marketing and using video campaigns.

Check out some of RallyPoint's unique Business Services here and have access to more than 740,000 members of the military and former military on our social network.

24 July 2015

What Can We Learn From D-Day?

We mark the 6th of June each year to remember what has become to be known as D-Day.  On this date in 1944, Operation Neptune was launched to reclaim the European Continent from the Germans.
It was a grand endeavor that utilized 6,939 naval vessels of various types; 195,700 Naval personnel; 11,590 Allied aircraft; and over 156,000 troops (initially).  By the end of D+5 (June 11), the Allies had 326,547 troops on the beach as well as 54,186 vehicles and 104,428 tons of supplies.
Casualties were high on both sides.  The total killed, wounded or missing in the Battle of Normandy (June 6-25) for both sides totaled 425,000 (all stats are from:  http://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/about-d-day-operation-overlord-facts-and-figures/)
There are a number of things we can learn from this vast operation.  I’d like to touch on a few of them.
1.      Operational Security
2.      Coordination of Forces
3.      Logistics
The first item to look at is operational security.  The Allies were able to keep Operation Overlord from the Germans, even though there was a huge build-up of men and materials in Great Britain.  How did they do that? In most history books, it has been mentioned that both deception and strict need-to-know access was wrapped around Operation Fortitude.  This was to create diversions and feints to the north (Norway) and northern part of France.  Only the top commanders knew all of what was to happen.  Field commanders were told enough information to train their troops.  A tight leash was also kept on all troops who were to take part and this caused some friction with everyone who knew that something big was in the works.
Next, coordination of forces was a very important aspect of the whole operation.  The Allies had naval, air, and ground troops from a dozen different countries (although, most were American, British or Canadian).  Coordination also had to take place with the Free French Resistance.  All elements had to be ready to move at the same time to allow for the most opportunity to succeed.  This was done almost flawlessly during the planning stages.  When execution of the plan came, all knew what to expect from them and there was little confusion, at least as to the plan.  Of course, the fog of war brings other issues to the table.
Lastly, logistics is the lifeblood of any fighting force.  It is one thing to get the troops on the beach and into the fight.  It is totally another issue to keep them supplied and sustained so that the operation does not falter.  One of the greatest portions of Operation Overlord was the ability to build “Mulberry Harbors” off the beach whereby store ships were able to offload their supplies and have them quickly trucked to the beach.  Each beachhead had logistics specialists that organized the supplies and got them to the units that needed them.  This kept the fight going and proved a major success overall for the operation.
So were the lessons from D-Day learned by today’s military?  If we look back to Operation Desert Shield/Storm in 1990/1991, we can see the coalition forces use many of the same tactics that were used during the Normandy Invasion.  Operational security was maintained, deception was used and the coalition supply lines were strong.  This brought about a very quick and decisive victory for the coalition and got the Iraqi forces out of Kuwait.  General Schwarzkopf and his team took a page from the Operation Overlord book and were able to bring about this victory.
Fast forward to 2001 and through today, my goal here isn’t to dig too deeply into the Iraq/Afghanistan wars, but rather to open the conversation up to the RP members.  Did we take the lessons learned from D-Day 1944 and from the 1st Gulf War and utilize them to our advantage?  If not, what was done differently?  If so, what did we do that worked?  How, as leaders, can we learn from our past successes and our past failures and apply that to today’s battlefield?  What do we need to watch out for as we move to our next adversary? It should be an interesting discussion!

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23 July 2015

The Tyranny of Low Expectations

A few years ago I went to look at purchasing a used vehicle. The salesman quoted me $14,000, and I responded that I'd be more interested in paying around $12,000. At that point, I locked myself into a battle that I couldn't win and he couldn't lose-he could "fight" me over the $2000 to make me feel like I got a good deal, but in hindsight I realize that anything over about $8000 was going to bring them money, and I was responsible for paying more than I needed to. I set my expectations too low. Thankfully, I didn't end up purchasing the vehicle.

As Sailors, do we make expectations for ourselves that are too small? Do we let others put us into a box that is too small for us?

A typical E4, when asked what they want to get out of their enlistment, will say something like "make E5 and ESWS". Those are safe answers, with little chance to fail as long as a minimum of effort is put forward.

Leaders, would you accept that answer?

When I arrived at my first ship, I told my LPO that I wanted to make First Class by six years in, and while I don't remember his answer, my shipmates laughed. They had made themselves the expectation that Second Class was so hard to get they'd never make First. But while I didn't make it by six years, I did make it under eight-much faster than what seemed possible at the time.

Our culture talks a lot about living your dreams, but the day to day grind of military life can make that difficult to do. Whatever your experience, either as an E2 or an O6, there are opportunities to surpass the expectations of our peers and give our nation more value as a service member. This doesn't happen by waiting for success to arrive, but rather by charging ahead and taking control of your career, and setting your own expectations.

Here's an example you can work through: write down the goals you had when you first reported to your current command. What did you want to do? Have you done it yet? Have they been displaced or discarded? If the former, have you made new goals that surpass what you originally thought could be possible? If the latter, have you reevaluated the goals to determine if they are achievable?

When my ship's Command Master Chief challenged a number of my peers to attain their Junior Officer of the Deck qualification, I didn't wait for his invitation-I charged ahead and earned it, helped my shipmates study for it, and together with another shipmate, was the first to earn it through the new qualification process. Learning new things and qualifications happen to be strengths of mine, and I leveraged those strengths to exceed my command's expectations of me.

By taking charge of my career, I put the goalposts where I want them to be-in a place where I can make the most of my strengths to make me a more useful Sailor to my command.

I certainly have weaknesses-too many to fit into a quick blog post-but am confident that by taking control of my expectations I am giving a net positive to the Navy. Nobody expected me to earn my JOOD qualification, but by doing so, the watchbill coordinator has that much more flexibility in writing a watchbill. Our ship's readiness is increased, and we are more capable of accomplishing the mission. That, ultimately, is what we are here to do.

Oh, and my first ship? Her motto remains with me today: "Fortune favors the bold".

Be bold, shipmates.


ET1(SW) Jeff Anderson currently serves on board the USS Independence. His articles have been featured on CIMSEC, the US Naval Institute Blog, Defense Entrepreneurs Forum Blog, and more. Follow Jeff on Twitter @NavyInnovator .

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Marketing Insights for Reaching the Military: Infographics

David Yoo, RallyPoint Civilian Careers.

Infographics military

Infographics are generally long, informative, and sometimes vertical graphics that include details such as charts, graphs, statistics, diagrams, and other types of visual information, such as the one presented above by RallyPoint. The power of an infographic lies with its ability to present lots of information in a visually appealing way so that the reader wants to read the content you've written. Again, having readers want to consume the content you've created is akin to saying that your content is valuable, the most important aspect about content marketing.  

There are many outside resources you can reach out to if you don't think you have the time to spend on creating your own infographics for your company. Sites such as infogr.am or visual.ly can create professionally designed infographics for you in exchange for a fee. 

But why infographics?

1. People Like Visuals

As the Content Marketing Institute revealed earlier in 2013, 
"Visual content is at an all-time high: Social media sites that focus exclusively on images are swiftly gaining in popularity. In February, TechCrunch reported that the percentage of online adults using Pinterest (15 percent) had almost caught up to the percentage using Twitter (16 percent). Facebook recognized that Instagram was going places when they purchased the photo-focused app for $1 billion in 2012. Today, Instagram has 150 million monthly active users. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn all get the power of the picture and have added better image-sharing functionality to their platforms over the past few years."

Colors in Marketing
We live in an age where information is fed to us in a non-stop manner - it's no wonder why many call our current period the "information generation." According to Richard Alleyne we receive 5x as much information as we did in 1986, or as much as about 174 newspapers a day. 

A study by the International Journal of Communication also revealed that Americans consume about 1.3 trillion hours of information outside of work, an average of almost 12 hours per person per day, with media consumption totaling 3.6 zettabytes and 1,080 trillion words, corresponding to 100,500 words and 34 gigabytes for the average person on an average day. That is a lot of information occupying a person's mind on a daily basis. 

So how, in a world where the average person is bombarded with massive amounts of information daily, can a business attract a potential consumer and his willingness to read the content that you're creating?

In a word, color.

Researchers have found that color increases readers’ attention spans and recall by 82% and helps gain readership by 80%. What better way to increase the memorability of your content by including some infographic material embedded on your blog post? Not only will readers be more inclined to click on your post in the first place, but they are also a lot more likely to finish reading the material because they have been captivated by the material.

2. People Remember Your Company

Infographics are generally designed to include information that the organization that created them wants its readers to understand. Logos, website addresses and domains, email addresses, phone numbers, contact information. 

RallyPoint Infographic
An infographic created and posted by RallyPoint regarding homeless veterans
Infographics can leverage readers' attention by showing the viewers what type of content matters to the company and why it is spending time to create visually appealing images to attract people's interest. Usually, many details and the company's brand can be found in an infographic created by the business. The first infographic presented at the top and the infographic below demonstrate how a company's brand is an invariable part of the information that the company is trying to present.  

3. More People Will Read Your Material

Earlier in this post, we mentioned that not only will readers be more inclined to click on your content, but that they would also be more likely to finish reading the material. We bring this up as a separate point because this is important within the context of gaining visibility through search engines. 

Infographic Search Engine Optimization
With more individuals reading your post and traffic to your blog posts increasing because readers find your content genuinely enjoyable to read and are interested in finding out more, the chances of having your content go viral are higher.

Check out some of the infographics that went viral on social media outlets, such as this infographic detailing the health risks associated with sitting down for long periods of time (created by MBC, a medical billing and coding organization).

Viral content means more inbound links (i.e. more companies, blogs, and online writers to direct their readership to yours for similar content), which means your website comes up higher on the search engine results. You can build an even more robust infographic/blog campaign by incorporating the keywords that you would like to hit in terms of attracting a target audience as part of your post's title. 

All this contributes to you scoring a higher rank on popular search engines, allowing you greater access to those who are interested in the types of content and products you create as well as the services that you offer. this better even more by adding highly targeted keywords as part of the title, description and meta information of your Infographic. 

This can give your Infographic higher chances of appearing as a relevant image or resource in search results. This can go really well for your business as up to 60% of consumers will have the most probability of contacting your business if they see your images, in this case an Infographic, as a relevant source for their needs.

See the Difference Yourself

Get some content and start planning the type of information you'd like to present in your infographic. Want to try your hand at creating your own infographic?

Piktochart is free for casual users (the site also offers premium upgrades starting at $29/month). The service offers an incredibly user-friendly dashboard where you can fiddle with basic, intermediate, and advanced templates in order to visually tailor your narrative however you want. 

You can manipulate the fonts and images and create designs that you would want into something that tells your story. You can change fonts, insert or move images, and do just about everything you can do with other softwares for free. 

Upgrading it will allow you to "save into a search-engine optimized friendly HTML version (almost released) and to remove the watermark that comes on the free level." It may well be worth a shot, and if you have the budget but not the time to invest in creating your own infographics, you can always find online services that will create one for you. 

If you're interested in seeing more of RallyPoint's infographics, check them out here.

For more information about creating valuable content for marketing to general audiences as well as for specific military audiences, check out some of previous blog posts about content marketingCheck out some of RallyPoint's unique Business Services here and have access to more than 740,000 members of the military and former military on our social network.