10 Ways to Celebrate Military Appreciation Month at Your BusinessThese strategies will honor service members and veterans and also generate some goodwill for your brand.
May is National Military Appreciation Month, designed to honor current and former members of the United States Armed Forces. Some businesses make a point of paying homage to service members and veterans year round. If yours doesn’t, May is a good time to start.
While you’re honoring your military customers, you’re potentially earning some goodwill and might increase traffic or sales in the process.
Paying respect to the military can be good business. According to a Pew Research Center study, about half of all Americans have served in the military or have immediate family members with military experience.
That said, honoring military members isn’t a marketing trick. If marketing is your main motive, you should probably skip it entirely. Consider the opinion of Michael Forney, a Navy veteran currently working as a business strategist. “If the effort is at all about generating sales, I would not be interested in patronizing the business. I think it is clear when a business has made a genuine attempt to honor military patrons.”
If the idea of honoring current or former service members appeals to you, consider making it a year-round part of your business. Noted Forney (and of course, opinions vary), “I am not interested in programs that simply pop up in May or around Veteran’s Day.”
Here are 10 ideas for rolling out the red carpet.
1. Offer discounts. This is probably the simplest and most obvious approach, and consequently the most common. Jennifer Pilcher, CEO of Strategic Military Communications, echoed the sentiments of many when she said, “As a military spouse who is also a small business owner, I always appreciate a discount of any amount.”
2. Partner with Blue Star. Blue Star Families is a nonprofit that provides free resources and services to military families. One of their services is a discount network called Blue Star Deals, and as a small business you can partner with Blue Star to become a part of their offering.
3. Send care packages. Military care packages are a great idea, but actually sending one requires more effort than many ordinary folk are willing to invest. Take advantage of a service like Troopster that sends care packages to troops on deployment — and enlist the help of the community by hosting events and donation drives to collect care package items.
4. Support military spouse small businesses. Often, supporting the troops means supporting their families. There are a number of non-profit organizations whose goal is to support small businesses owned by military spouses. You can donate to TheMilspo Project or The RosieNetwork, for example, to help programs that lend a hand to these business owners.
5. Donate books. Military members, especially ones on deployment, are always looking for good books to read. Jennifer Bright Reich, co-owner of Momosa Publishing, said, “I’m a former lieutenant and my business partner is a mom of a Marine. In the past, we’ve donated hundreds of our books to military libraries. It was a wonderful way to help us fulfil our mission: We help moms raise healthier, happier families.” Even if you don’t own a publishing company, you can host a book drive at your business and donate the books to a local military library.
6. Host a cookout. Here’s a fun one: Many small businesses host free lunches, BBQs and cookouts in the warmer months, and timing one to coincide with (and celebrate) Military Appreciation Month is a nice way to say thanks.
7. Pay their sales tax. Akin to offering a discount, you can pay the sales tax for any customers who show their military or dependent ID. It’s a gift you can offer year round.
8. Give to orgs helping vets. Many nonprofit organizations need funding to serve veterans. That realization inspired Joseph Legato, general manager of Bill & Rod’s Appliance, to give not directly to customers but to the organizations helping vets. “We decided that on the weekends we would donate a percentage of sales to Disabled American Veterans. This is a proven organization that truly puts veterans first, and as a business leader it is also our responsibility to take care of our community.”
9. Highlight your own veteran employees. Do you have any veterans or military spouses who work for your business? If so, celebrate them. You might share information about these employees on your company’s About Us page, or take a cue from Starbucks, which provides a special apron to honor the service of veterans and military spouses.
10. Volunteer, then share your story. Want your small business to really make a difference? “Volunteer for a military charity and then create a story,” suggested Pilcher. “There is nothing wrong with sharing your volunteerism. It’s win/win — you volunteer, the charity receives your help, and both of you get publicity through your story. Use social media, make a video. The more personal the better.”