Seven Steps to Building a Military Marketing Program

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With over 20M active duty service members and veterans in the US, the military is a powerful shopping force you cannot afford to ignore.  If you are launching a military program for the first time or optimizing your existing program, below are some of the best practices you will want to consider when building a military marketing program:

1) Define Your Promotion

The most popular military marketing programs center upon discounts.  Thousands of consumer brands in the apparel, technology, automotive, telecom, travel, and hospitality sectors offer military discounts ranging from 10% to over 50% in some categories.  Some companies offer free products.  For example, entertainment brands offer free tickets to sporting events or admission to museums.  However, freebies and discounts are not the only way to honor military service. Some organizations offer VIP experiences such as allowing military service members to come to the front the line for service or to board a flight.  Others enable customers to make financial contributions to military causes, such as rounding up grocery bills to the nearest dollar and donating the change to the USO.

2) Decide Who is Eligible

When designing a military marketing program be as inclusive as possible.  Include not only the four main branches – US Army, US Marine Corps, US Navy, and US Air Force, but also the US Coast Guard, US Public Health Service, NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps, and US Space Force.  Most military programs recognize not only those who serve today, but those who served in the past or will in the future such as veterans, retirees, reservists and cadets.  It is customary in military communities to afford spouses and dependents many of the same benefits as service members.  Military spouses are highly influential in purchasing decisions, especially when active duty personnel are on deployment for months at a time.

3) Create an Omni-Channel Experience

Historically, many military offers were limited to in-person channels – for those who appeared in uniform or presented a military ID.  Verifying eligibility is relatively straightforward in person.  The process becomes more complex when you move online.  As a result, many brands do not offer the same promotions to the military on their websites or mobile apps as they do through other channels.  In fact, there are still several Fortune 500 companies that require military personnel to phone a call center to verify eligibility and obtain a promotion.  However, as more and more commerce moves online, brands that do not offer online promotions will lose market share to those that do. 

4) Verify Eligibility Online

Historically, many brands have offered online military promotions by sharing special discount codes (e.g. MIL2020).  But technologies such as discount aggregators, search engines, and social media make these codes easily discoverable on the web.  If anyone can find and apply the discount then it really isn’t special. Instead, require some level of identity verification to confirm that the shopper is in fact eligible.  You can check DoD service records, confirm access to a military email address, or request copies of military discharge papers. While it may seem like an inconvenience for the customer, a verification requirement shows the service member that the special military promotion is available only to those who truly earned it.

5) Define a Campaign Calendar

Most brands concentrate their marketing efforts around three big holidays – Independence Day, Veterans Day, and the Military Appreciation Month activities that occur around Memorial Day.   While these three events will draw the biggest volume of sales, they are not the only time you should offer a promotion. Most brands choose to offer evergreen promotions that honor the military year round.  A handful of creative marketing organizations build campaigns to recognize other events such as the birthdays of Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines Corps, Coast Guard, and National Guard.  Highlighting these events enables you to stand out from the crowd as most brands do not offer any special promotions on these days.  

6) Promote Your Offer

Create a dedicated page on your website that shares your message and explains the special promotions or experiences you offer to military families.  Make it easy for visitors to find the promotion by putting a link in the footer navigation.  You will want to optimize your content to ensure that you rank prominently for keyword searches such as “your brand name + military discount.”  There are a number of websites that cater to the military communities with special content on compensation and benefits, change of station and relocation, home ownership and other aspects of military life.  Many of these sites have dedicated pages that list discounts and email newsletters to registered users. Consider paid advertising opportunities with these sites to increase your reach.

7) Optimize Conversion

One of the biggest factors impacting conversion is shopper confusion about the promotion and how to obtain it.  Make it easy for military shoppers to understand your offer and how to prove eligibility.  Create a section on your website for FAQs.  Common questions include:  Which products are eligible for a discount, free offers, or VIP experiences?  Is it all products on your website or just certain categories?  Are there limits on the quantity of products and services that customers can obtain through the program?   Is the customer required to create an online account?  Do they need to join your loyalty program?  Do they need to enroll in a third party identity verification service?  Consider a dedicated help page that offers step-by-step instructions with screen shots. 

 

Military Marketing Calendar

Download our Military Marketing Calendar for 2020 to get started planning your second half campaigns today.  Click on the image to download the PDF.