Can your business tap in to the huge market of armed forces members and their families?
By GWEN MORAN
Rich Taylor gives members of the military a better deal than anyone else. Rich, 35, and his wife, Rachael, 33, give those in active service a 15 percent discount on top of any other promotional price their wedding video company, Taylormade Productions, in Encinitas, California, is offering. "Sure, it's patriotic, but in terms of a business decision, it was obvious," explains Rich, who expects marketing to military bases in the nearby San Diego area to lead to incremental growth in his business. He gets the word out by using fliers and listings on Web sites such as www.military.com, and more important, by doing wedding events on military bases.
The armed forces are a massive market, says Christopher Michel, president of Military.com, a San Francisco-based military affinity marketing company that connects public- and private-sector clients to military audiences. With about 3 million active armed forces members and reservists, he estimates the tangential markets of veterans, family members, defense workers and the like to be as high as 50 million.
Serving the special needs of this mobile, family-oriented audience is one way to get their attention-and their dollars. Training companies (which may qualify for reimbursement through military education benefits) as well as relocation services, financial consultants, consumer goods shops and furnishings retailers are some businesses that are a natural fit, says Michel.
"These are not credit risks," he explains. "If you don't pay your bills in the military, you get in trouble with your commanding officer." The idea that military members don't have money to spend is one of the misperceptions about the market, says Michel. While base pay is generally moderate, military members and their families often qualify for bonuses for special service, allowances for housing or food, and full health-care coverage, so much of their household income is disposable. He also defines the audience as well-educated, computer-savvy and loyal.
Saying you're patriotic is all well and good, but lip service isn't going to cut it. Michel counsels his clients to back up "thank you" with some sort of discount or tangible benefit, such as a free gift, or even going beyond the call of duty and hiring veterans or support reservists to work in your company. "The best way to reach this audience is through word-of-mouth or viral marketing," says Michel. Because of the close communities on many bases, people talk to each other about companies that support military members, so the word spreads quickly.
Military.com is 10 million members strong. As the largest military membership organization, Military.com empowers members to make the most of all of the benefits they've earned, advance their careers, enjoy military discounts, and stay connected with their buddies, unit, and service.