(DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Cory Booth, U.S. Navy/Released)
For over 100 years, Armed Forces Insurance (AFI) and First Command Financial Services have maintained a strong customer base of military families. They don’t just market to families, they get to know military spouses, listen to their concerns, and use contacts within the community to increase their footprint.
Here are few lessons they’ve learned about marketing to military families throughout their long histories.
Armed Forces Insurance
Founded by military officers 130 years ago, Armed Forces Insurance’s current leadership still consists of former military leaders, with a mission “to protect the people who protect our nation.” The current chairman of the board is a retired Marine Corps lieutenant general.
When Chief Marketing Officer and Vice President Lori Simmons first came on board in 2003, AFI began supporting military families as well. They sponsor the annual Military Spouse of the Year event as a way of supporting the military spouse community, and partner with the Military Warriors Support Foundation, who donates homes through Homes4WoundedHeroes. They have sponsored the Sky Ball for several years, raising money to help fund various foundations, and they also sponsor the Snowball Express, which provides days of fun for the children of service members killed while on active duty.
“We pay attention — we participate in events and activities and support the military community through sponsorships and relationships,” Simmons says. “I get involved. I get to know military families. Our tagline is ‘Our Mission is YOU.’ We live those words through our actions.”
AFI has found that reaching out to military spouses on social media has been key. They have a Military Family Forum on Facebook, where they encourage spouses to share experiences, particularly to help newer spouses navigate the lifestyle.
AFI also gives preference to hiring military spouses and veterans — an estimated 10 to 15% of their employees, Simmons says. Hiring military spouses increases support from other military spouses. Military spouses are highly educated and self motivated. They are used to multitasking and are experts at adapting to change, says MadSkills, a program that helps military spouses find remote employment.
AFI still employs some traditional marketing techniques, Simmons says, although “the cost per lead is a lot more expensive with direct mail, primarily due to postage costs.”
First Command Financial Services Bank
Another example of a longstanding military focused company is First Command Financial Services, which provides comprehensive financial plans. First Command’s origins date back to the 1950s, and over those 60 years of business the company has finessed its marketing strategy.
“My main client base is still military families, active duty service members, retirees, and veterans,” says Holly Heath, a financial advisor in Arizona.
Heath thinks social media is important, but not as important as word-of-mouth.
“Involvement in the community is really important to fostering relationships with the military,” Heath says. Heath isn’t a military spouse, but she actively engages with the local installation. By serving on the local Chamber of Commerce’s military affairs committee and being an active member of the spouses’ club, Heath is able to keep in close contact with military families. She teaches classes on basic finance and retirement changes. She also hires military spouses who are stationed in the local area.
First Command offices also partner with nonprofit organizations that serve the military community, like Project Sanctuary and Hiring Our Heroes, Heath says. Project Sanctuary helps families connect and provides them with the skills to reintegrate with their local communities upon returning home. Hiring Our Heroes works with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to help military spouses, veterans, and transitioning service members find jobs and start careers.
It may seem that military families have their favorite companies, but there is always room for a new company or product. These two companies have excelled at listening to what the military community needs and establishing a method of delivering it. Getting involved in the local military community is the first step to fostering relationships that will lead to a positive reputation and increased opportunities.