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Being Military Friendly

Reflections on the Value of Being Military Friendly

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

 

What does the term “military friendly” even mean? It wasn’t really a thing in the 80s. Not in the 90s, either. I seem to recall that it all started 10 or 15 years ago, this effort by organizations to be known as military-friendly to its customers. It’s kind of an ambiguous term, many times without much concrete detail…so it begs the question: what value does that term hold for those of us from the military community?

When we talk about a company or organization being military- or Veteran-friendly, it always seems like they fall into one of three groups: stores, schools, or employers. And while some of us get to feel the love from one of those groups just about every time we get out to run some errands, with the others we may not give it much thought if we aren’t a college student or working for some national, top-notch workforce. But let’s take a deeper dive into each of these groups, if only for a moment…

The stores. Being labeled as military-friendly in the retail environment almost always means that the store (brick and mortar or online) offers some kind of military discount. That discount usually falls in the neighborhood of 10 percent off, but there are certainly exceptions and caveats to that. Some stores offer those discounts all year long, some only on certain days of the week (Tuesdays seem to be the popular choice), and still others offer up their discounts only on major holidays, like Veterans Day or Memorial Day. Some offer their discounts only to those still actively serving, and others make their offer to both active and retired members of the US Armed Forces.

Examples abound of local, regional, and national companies that give 15-20% off, but then again, some cap it at 5%. Some companies offer up a ‘free shipping’ discount, and there’s even a cellular service provider (or two) that have a special rate plan for military folks.

Being eligible for the discount depends on the company, and sometimes it feels like we have to jump through many hoops to qualify. You may only have to show a copy of your military ID or DD-214, but some will require eligibility verification through platforms like ID.me, a service that simplifies how individuals securely prove and share their identity online (but even some brick and mortar stores require registration with them, too).

Long story short – whether you find yourself in your neighborhood big box store on a weekly basis or you only take advantage of 10% off a cup of coffee every now and then, you can save a tidy sum of money over the course of a year by ‘redeeming’ your military discount. And if you aren’t sure whether a place at which you’re doing business offers one, it doesn’t hurt to ask…some businesses don’t advertise the discount (I’m just not sure why they wouldn’t).

The schools. By that, I mean colleges and universities that offer certificate- and degree-producing programs, and there are variable criteria for them earning the military-friendly tag. After so many of us went back to college upon earning our GI Bill benefits in the 2000s and 2010s, and especially after the rash of school failures that left many student Veterans high and dry – there’s been a very concerted effort to set, measure, and publish standards for all of us to use in our “where should we study” decision making process.

Military Friendly ® is a group that does just that, by evaluating over 8,000 schools on benchmarks that measure an institution’s commitment to its student Veteran population in graduation rate, retention rate, loan default rate, and job placement rate. Check out their latest list of military-friendly schools here.

The workforce. This is a really subjective one, because how we feel about our places of work typically depend on much more than whether they meet a few military-related criteria. Perhaps the most well-known list of these employers also comes from Military Friendly ®. Just as they did for colleges and universities, the group organizes a yearly list of Military Friendly Companies and Military Spouse Friendly Employers.

If you work for a company that hasn’t “made the list,” what does that mean? Well, I doubt many of you will give notice and start the job search all over again, but it may make you look critically at how you can improve upon your employer’s culture. Most of the people who might find value in a list of military-friendly companies, though, are undoubtedly job-seekers, and I know more than a few over the years who have actively sought work with a verified, certified  military- and Veteran-friendly employer.

 

National lists like those don’t account for many of the smaller, more local companies; if you’d still like to size up your own workplace, here are some things you might consider: Has the company taken on a specific hiring initiative? Do they reach out to separating Service members  and Veterans Service Organizations, looking for job-seekers? Do they have an onboarding program specifically for those from the military community? Do they have Veterans groups in-house already? Do they welcome members of the National Guard and Reserve to their workforce, and keep their families close when deployments crop up? These ‘criteria’ aren’t from any official list, but they’re a good start…

 

At the end of the day, whether or not you find any substantive benefit from an organization claiming to be military-friendly, know that there’s still a ‘sea of goodwill’ out there. If it’s only to get a free meal on a national holiday, or 10% off my home improvement supplies, or to try and get on with an employer that really understands the military community…I appreciate the gesture, and I imagine most of you do, too.

 

How to Connect With Military Members as a Business Owner

Like any other market demographic, connecting with military members as a business owner requires a tailored approach. Any time you’re targeting a specific audience, it’s important to think about the steps you’ll take to attract that audience. If you’ve been a member of the military, then you have the upperhand: you know what it takes to attract a customer like you. But with no knowledge of the military, you have to put in a little more effort. 

 

There are many reasons why you’d want to target members of the military. Perhaps you’re developing holiday promotions and want to create a military offer for Veteran’s Day. Or perhaps you own a business that offers services or products that military members would find attractive. Whatever the case, knowing how to move forward will improve your chances for success. Here are a few tips: 

 

Understand Consumption Patterns of Military Members

Before you start creating a strategy of your own, it helps to understand what drives military purchases and what the purchasing patterns for this group looks like. The veteran community alone generates $19 billion in annual revenue, spread across 20 million veterans. Active military members earn over $32,000 annually on average. Accummatively, active members, veterans, and their spouses have $1 trillian in buying power annually. With this level of potential in mind, it’s clear that marketing to this group in tailored way can be beneficial to both your business and the members you serve. 

 

Creating a Gated Offer

You may have heard of gated offers before and simply don’t know there’s a terminology for it. Gated offers are accessible to only qualified buyers, typically through a verification process. Military members enjoy a myriad of gated offers; by showing their ID, they can receive exclusive discounts and deals at restaurants and retailers, for example. 

 

Studies have shown that gated offers evoke positive feelings among consumers, and drive purchase behavior. Eighty-two percent of customers that were introduced to a brand via a gated offer were more likely to return, and 68% of consumers believe that gated offers are more appealing than discounts intended for anyone. As a business owner, you can create your own gated offer to boost awareness, build buzz, and attract military members to your offering. 

 

Be Authentic

No one wants to be a simple transaction, and this especially applies to military members who have put their lives on the line so that all Americans—including business owners—can lead safe lives in their homes and country. Therefore, the messaging you use is important. Always thank a military member for their service; this token of appreciation goes a long way, time and time again. When possible, take your efforts a step further. For example, why not spearhead a direct mail marketing campaign, using personalized envelope printing and handwritten cards? This level of authenticity is rarely found in business, and will help you stand out from your competition. 

 

Promote During Relevant Holidays

If you’re spearheading a military-based campaign, it’s best to align it with a holiday relevant to military members. For instance, May is Military Appreciation Month, but you also have Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Veteran’s Day. Each of these would be a great time to launch your program. However, no matter when you choose to promote it, your promotion tactics are equally important. Create targeted social media campaigns, and design marketing materials with strong patriotic imagery. 

 

Engage With the Military Audience

You can combine your targeting efforts with genuine connection by turning to social media to engage with the military audience. By engaging in dialogue, it shows that you’re interested in learning more about the people you intend to target. Ask for their advice, offer kind words, and be transparent. You should also get involved with your military community, too. Head over to Meetup.com and search for military-minded events in the area. You may even be able to sponsor an event for military members, which further builds awareness around your brand and allows you to have more of a face-to-face connection with your audience. 

 

Military Connection: Special Savings for Military Families

militarypass

By Debbie Gregory.

Summertime is rapidly approaching. To celebrate the end of the school year and  take advantage of the great weather and the opportunity to spend quality time together, thousands of American families will head out on vacation. Military families are no exception, as many of them save their leave time to head out on excursions and road trips over the summer to see the nation they make sacrifices for.

There are national parks, historical sites, monuments, oddities, and attractions scattered across the country. Some of them do not charge admission or fees. And while others do, there are discounts and free passes for military families.

One such offering is the America the Beautiful Annual Pass, which is an inter-agency program that offers entrance to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites in all fifty states. While anyone can purchase the America the Beautiful Pass for an annual fee of $80, the federal government offers a Free Annual Pass for Military.

Any current Active or Reserve member of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, or National Guard with a military ID is eligible for the Military Pass. The pass can be used at any Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation sites that charge entrance fees. The pass will admit the owner and any accompanying passengers in a private, non-commercial vehicle at sites that charge per vehicle, or up to three additional adults at sites that charge per person (Children under 16 are usually free). The membership card does not cover other fees, such as camping, trailer hookup, boat launch, etc.

Anyone can apply for their America the Beautiful Pass at any issuance site, or by calling 1-888- ASK-USGS (275-8747) Ext. 3; or by applying online. Passes ordered over the phone or online can take up to two weeks for delivery. Applications turned in at the issuance sites can be completed that same visit.

While service members and dependents of deployed service members can get their America the Beautiful Annual Pass at no charge, U.S. residents 62 or older can buy lifetime passes for $10. All other America the Beautiful passes are $80 for one year from date of purchase.

This summer, as military families venture out to see our great nation, they can do so at minimal costs to them, with no entrance fees, thanks to the America the Beautiful Free Annual Pass for Military.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the ArmyNavyAir ForceMarinesCoast Guard,Guard and ReserveVeterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Boardinformation on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Special Savings for Military Families: By Debbie Gregory