Owning a business is a challenging yet potentially highly rewarding endeavor. For those who have served in the military, the transition to entrepreneurship can be a natural progression. The discipline, leadership skills and determination cultivated by serving in the armed forces can provide a solid foundation for running a successful business. Like any business owner, veteran entrepreneurs must master the art of marketing to ensure their ventures thrive in the competitive landscape.
As a proud Navy veteran and successful entrepreneur, I’d like to share eight marketing tips that I’ve used that you might find helpful for your veteran-owned small business.
Your military background isn’t just a part of your past; it's a powerful narrative that can set your business apart from the pack. Your military experience has influenced who you are today and how you got here, and it helps prove that you have the grit to get the job done.
There are numerous marketing channels where you can weave your military experience into your story. Include your veteran status:
- When you introduce yourself and your business.
- In any “About Us” business descriptions, such as on your:
- Website’s “About Us” page.
- Business profile pages on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, X (formerly Twitter), LinkedIn (business and personal profile), and TikTok.
- Company bio in any press releases.
- Company bio for events or conferences.
Some marketing opportunities may have limited word counts for titles and descriptions. That’s where a shorter “veteran-owned business” status can be helpful. Examples where you might want to use this shorter phrase include:
- Pay-per-click search ads.
- Social media posts.
- Social media paid ads.
- Business cards.
- Direct mail or print ads.
2. Leverage LinkedIn for B2B leads and customers.
LinkedIn is an incredible tool that can help you grow your business. You can search for almost any type of ideal client profile and find them on this platform. This works primarily for business-to-business (B2B) entrepreneurs. I use it to find construction professionals who are military veterans I’d like to work with. For example, once logged into LinkedIn, I would type “construction manager, veteran” into the search field, then click “People” to get a list of potential client leads for my business.
3. Get listed on local listing sites.
Many sites have significant traffic and want your business listing. Through them, you can reach a broader audience than you can on your own. In all my listings, I always include “veteran-owned and operated.” Here are some top sites you may want to investigate:
Yelp has launched a veteran-owned business attribute that enables business owners to self-identify as veteran-owned. Take advantage of this unique designation and look at other local listing sites for a similar opportunity.
4. Leverage veteran content and hashtags on social media.
Look for ways to include veteran-related content in your social media posts. For instance, share content, photos, videos and hashtags about your journey as a veteran entrepreneur. Show examples of your service and how it relates to your current work. If you work with fellow veteran-owned businesses as vendors or partners, collaborate with them on content your target audience may appreciate. Make a point to share gratitude or inspirational posts on veteran holidays.
If you need social media post ideas and inspiration, follow other veteran entrepreneurs and hashtags, and include appropriate hashtags in your posts. Hashtags are typically one or two words preceded by the hash symbol (#) and are used to tag your social media content, #veteranbusiness, for example. These tags help users find content by keyword, subject, topic or theme and are most often used on such sites as Instagram, TikTok, Tumblr, and X (formerly Twitter). They can also help you cross-promote other businesses. Search #veteranstartup or #veteranowned and see what you find.
Here are some veteran-focused hashtags to get you started:
- #army #navy #usmc #usaf #uscg
To grow your followers, create good content. You’ll need effective hashtags and an audience to get people to see your content. A great way to grow your audience is by following other veterans, industry leaders, and influencers. Engage with their content. Post a “like” or a “heart” or comment on their posts. Others will read these, and if your engagement is helpful, positive, inspirational, or otherwise relative, it will help you gain followers. Don’t comment just to promote yourself or your business—people will see right through it.
5. Collaborate with veteran networks.
Leaving the military can be hard, and being an entrepreneur can be a lonely journey. Networking is vital not just for veterans but for any entrepreneur, and veterans have a unique networking advantage through military and veteran-specific organizations. I highly recommend that you attend local and online events for veteran entrepreneurs. You can connect with like-minded individuals, learn from their experiences, and find collaboration opportunities there. Try attending the Military Influencer Conference or signing up for Bunker Labs or Veterans in Business.
6. Offer military discounts or specials.
Show your appreciation for your fellow veterans by offering exclusive discounts or special deals. This helps create goodwill and attracts a loyal customer base within the military community. Publicize these offers on your website, on social media and through local military or veteran associations.
7. Incorporate philanthropy.
Demonstrate your commitment to giving back by supporting veteran-focused charities or initiatives. Publicize your charitable efforts through your marketing channels. This showcases your business's social responsibility and can resonate with customers who value companies that make a positive impact.
8. Get certified as a veteran-owned business.
Make sure your business is officially veteran-certified. Doing so can have numerous benefits, including access to specific grants and government contracts. Under the VA's Vets First program, certified veteran-owned small businesses (VOSBs) can pursue sole-source and set-aside contracts at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Certified service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSBs) can compete for federal sole-source and set-aside contracts throughout the federal government. Learn more at the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Marketing a Veteran-Owned Business Summary
Transitioning from a military career to running a successful business requires determination, resilience, and adaptability. Whether you transition as soon as you leave the military or many years later, know it’s never too late to start your own business. By integrating these veteran-focused marketing tips into your business strategy, you can leverage your unique background as a veteran to connect with customers, build a strong brand, and drive your business toward long-term success.
Global Atlantic Financial Group is a leading insurance company meeting the retirement and life insurance needs of individuals and institutions. With a strong financial foundation and risk and investment management expertise, the company delivers tailored solutions to create more secure financial futures. The company's performance has been driven by its culture and core values focused on integrity, teamwork, and the importance of building long-term client relationships. Global Atlantic is a majority-owned subsidiary of KKR, a leading global investment firm. Through its relationship, the company leverages KKR's investment capabilities, scale and access to capital markets to enhance the value it offers clients. KKR's parent company is KKR & Co. Inc. (NYSE: KKR).
Copyright © 2023 SCORE Association, SCORE.org
Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.