U.S. male sailor pictured smiling with a mall in the background.
The military community, including active service members, reservists, spouses, and employees, comprises over 39 million people. — Getty Images/Creatas

Offering a discount to military members, first responders, students, or seniors is a great way to give back to the community while generating business. These groups often need additional support. Providing a small discount can show your appreciation for their contribution while helping you foster loyalty among a new group of customers.

If you’re thinking about offering a discount to first responders, the military, or other special interest groups, here are some things to consider.

Can you afford to offer a discount?

New businesses and companies going through a high-growth period may not be in a position to offer special discounts. Keep in mind that the military community, including active service members, reservists, spouses, and employees, is made up of over 39 million people. Depending on where your business is located, a fair number of your regular customers may be eligible for a military discount.

Before you create a discount for any group, look at your sales and your customer data to determine whether the sales bump that can come from offering the discount will offset the lower price point.

[Read more: The Changing Playbook for Winning Customer Loyalty All Marketers Should Know]

Create a clear policy

Like your return policy, your discount policy should be clear and visible to all customers to ensure everyone is treated fairly and there’s no confusion. If you decide to offer a discount to a specific group, define who is eligible and how they can claim the discount. For example, can children of first responders claim the discount? Will you require an ID?

It’s also worth defining if there are any exclusions or restrictions to the discount. For instance, can the military discount be applied along with other sales or discount codes? Does the discount apply to sales like Black Friday or Cyber Monday? Is there a minimum amount the customer must spend before the discount kicks in?

Your discount policy should be clear and visible to all customers to ensure everyone is treated fairly and there’s no confusion.

Consider the optics

Today’s customers are savvy. Under certain circumstances, a discount can come across as disingenuous, or it can seem like a public relations move. A discount should be something nice you do for the community, not a move to try to boost your brand reputation.

“Making the lives of the military community more manageable via discounts is a worthy endeavor, but don’t forget the people who served that are working alongside you,” wrote SheerID. “Actively support your military community by hiring veterans, cultivating inclusive work environments, and recognizing your employees’ military service in public campaigns. Create a genuine, military-friendly message by offering a discount program that is authentic to your company’s practices.”

[Read more: Fire Department Coffee Founder: ‘Nurture Your Team’]

Keep track of the results

Monitor how often your discount is used to gain better insight into your customer base. By assigning a unique discount code to a group of customers, you can learn key metrics that help you hone your product mix and create marketing campaigns that truly resonate. For instance, if you learn that many of your customers are using a student discount, you can create promos around back to school, spring break, and graduation, as well as reduce the number of staff on the schedule during summer break.

Boost your business’s visibility

There are tons of online resources for veterans, seniors, and first responders to help them save money and support local businesses. Your company can use these resources to boost your visibility within specific communities. Companies that offer military discounts, for instance, can sign up to be featured on Veteran.com, Army Wife 101, and Military.com. If you offer a senior discount, consider registering with the AARP. These databases can help new customers discover you without requiring any marketing spend on your behalf.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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