So you want to offer a military discount? Good for you! A military discount is not only a great way to show your support for our troops, it’s also a smart way to grow your business and reach new customers. The military market is huge. Of course you probably already realize you can’t just decide to offer a discount to military one day, and expect servicemen and women to magically show up at your door the next. If you think our military men and women can read your mind, you’ve watched one too many conspiracy-theory action flicks, my friend. Step away from the Will Smith DVD’s, we’ve got some more effective tips to help you spread the word about your awesome new military discount.
1. Be genuine. From franchise “opportunities” to real estate “deals”, there are so many scammers out there pursuing veterans and military retirees, it’s no wonder the military market views some special military promotions with suspicion. Keep it simple; offer a discount and a sincere “Thank you for your service.”
94% of present and past military personnel say they notice when companies are “military-friendly” and have a positive impression of those companies. To be perceived as military-friendly, your message needs to be truthful, transparent, and come from the heart.
2. Reach them where they’re at. Where are they? Well, think about it. Active duty military are often posted abroad. Many military families live on bases or in small towns near bases. The downside to these locations? They’re not in close proximity to malls, superstores, or your brick and mortar shop. The upside? It’s easier to target your marketing efforts and meet the military market where they are, whether that’s on base or online.
Here are 4 suggestions:
- Offer Your Discount Online. We already established that most military families don’t live within a reasonable radius of your store. Now let’s think about the daily schedule of an active duty GI or a non-enlisted parent who is holding down the home front while their loved one is serving. What we’ve got here is someone who is in a remote location and doesn’t have a lot of free time on their hands. By making your military discount redeemable online, you’ve just removed two big barriers for these customers, allowing them to shop anywhere at any time that is convenient for them.
- Focus. Take your existing traditional PR or marketing campaigns like print ads, radio ads, billboards, and newspaper press releases, and geo-target them towards cities that have a navy, army, air force, or marine base. Here’s a list of military bases in the U.S. to help you get started. You can also target your online efforts by running banner ads on web sites for military, or by targeting your Facebook ads by interests (U.S Army, Navy Exchange, and military.1source are some examples that will get you started). The beauty of online marketing combined with an online military discount is that it’s extremely trackable, making it easy to calculate your ROI and test different messages until you find what works best for you.
- Advertise on base too. Did you know that military bases have their own newspapers? Not only that but surveys commissioned by the Air Force and Army indicate that nearly 90% of active duty personnel read military newspapers. It might be time to look into advertising there too, don’t you think?
- Host or Sponsor an Event. Whether you decide to declare the 3rd Wednesday of the month Military Appreciation Day at your venue, host a Military Appreciation Night at a local bar or restaurant near a base and offer free beer for soldiers, or sponsor an existing event on a base, like an event put on by the Army Wife Network, extending an invitation to our troops and thanking them face to face is a good opportunity to advertise your military discount. To win even more bonus points with your audience and improve your brands’ visibility, be sure to raffle off samples of your product at the event or pass out goodie bags filled with free samples and coupons.
3. Expand your reach by including military families and veterans. The military market including active duty, reservists, retired military, and employees equals 8.2 million consumers. That’s a lot of potential new customers.
However, military spouses and veterans represent 45 million consumers with a purchasing power of $1 TRILLION annually. Trillion. By extending your military discount to include veterans and spouses, your market just grew 5 times larger.
The tricky thing about including veterans in your military discount campaign is that most veterans aren’t automatically issued a military ID when they leave the service, they have to request one. And even the vets who have a valid military ID rarely carry it on them at all times. The dependents of military don’t always have ID either. This is where using a 3rd party verification system like SheerID instead of requiring customers to show a military ID in person can come in handy. SheerID just happens to be the only system out there that can currently verify dependents. Just sayin’.
4. Keep in touch. Military families move. A lot. The best way to encourage them to become repeat customers isn’t going to be through direct mail or in store promotions.Keep in touch with your military customers by collecting their email addresses and creating a monthly e-newsletter. Remind them regularly that you offer a military discount, and be sure to give them a heads up about any special sales or promotions you’re running for holidays like Memorial Day or Veteran’s Day.
You can collect email addresses through your online shopping cart with an opt-in (Hey! That’s one more reason to offer your discount online…) Or you can follow the lead of savvy companies like Fathead and hold a special contest or sweepstakes just for service members and their families. Participants provide their email addresses to enter. See how smart that is?
5. Word of mouth. Part of the beauty of a military discount is that it is one of the few special discounts you can offer that all of your customers feel good about- whether they qualify or not. Your civilian customers won’t resent you for offering a military discount, in fact, they’ll probably applaud you for being so patriotic. Use this rare trait to your advantage; don’t hide your military discount on a secret landing page. Shout about it! Put signs up in your store, slap a banner on your home page, and talk about it in your newsletter and your social media messaging. Remember to include at least one sentence about it in your normal print ads, press releases, and traditional marketing materials.
Once you’ve exhausted the obvious channels, get creative! You could offer your customers a promo code if they refer a military member or spouse. Create an e-card for your fans to send to their friends and family who are in the service to thank them for their sacrifices (and discreetly remind them that they get a military discount when they shop with you). Hold sales for Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day for all your customers and offer an extra 10% off to those who bring a veteran with them.
Clearly once you’ve got your creative juices flowing, the sky is the limit. Just get started by using one or two of the 5 suggestions we outlined above, and before you know it service members will be thanking you for offering such an awesome military discount.