Military Secrets


Military Secrets

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5 Marketing Tips For Veteran-Owned Businesses

By Kim O’Connor

Millions of American entrepreneurs are also military veterans. The overlap is hardly surprising. The demands of military service require sharp skills and steady discipline—the same qualities that business owners need to succeed.

The U.S. Small Business Administration reports that about 17 percent of our country’s 24 million vets are small-business owners. Yet many, if not most, of those businesses never think to promote themselves as veteran-owned. That can be a costly mistake.

Veteran status can be a boon to your small business by helping you secure choice contracts and establish consumer trust.

Here’s how to make the most of your military-based marketing advantage.

  1. Take advantage of corporate supplier-diversity programs

    Many large companies have procurement programs that offer veteran vendors preferential treatment. All other things being equal, military vets—particularly women, minorities and disabled people—enjoy a competitive advantage in the corporate marketplace.

    The National Veteran-Owned Business Association maintains a list of Fortune 1000 companies that offer the best contracting opportunities for veterans. Focusing your energy on these major players can potentially yield huge results.

  2. Go after government contracts

    Corporations are not the only employers with supplier-diversity programs. Many lucrative government contracts are earmarked for veteran-owned vendors.

    Securing a contract with the federal government might require extra effort, but it’s well worth your time.

    The Veterans Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development Act of 1999 encourages federal agencies to set aside 3 percent of their contracts for veteran-owned businesses each year. That’s about $15 billion worth of business!

    The first step is to register with the Central Contractor Registration (CCR), the official online registrant database for the U.S. federal government. This process is required for any business—veteran-owned or otherwise—that wants to work for the federal government. Registration is free and can be completed online in just a few hours. Processing time is usually less than one week.

    While the CCR is the main centralized database used by federal agencies seeking contractors, it’s important to realize that each agency has its own regulations, quirks and hiring practices. Research the agencies that are most relevant to your business.

    A good place to start is the Federal Tracker at the National Veteran-Owned Business Association, which provides up-to-date information about how different government entities spend their procurement dollars.

    Increasingly, state governments also offer preferential treatment to veteran-owned vendors. You can learn more about what’s available in your state—including pending legislation—at the National Veteran-Owned Business Association’s State Tracker Web page.

  3. Get certified as a veteran-owned business

    Many of the supplier-diversity programs offered by corporations and government agencies will require special proof of your veteran status. Make sure you meet the applicable certification requirements to put your business first in line to supply their goods and services.

    To receive a veteran-owned designation, the rule of thumb is a military veteran must own 51 percent or more of the business and be involved with its regular operations. Other parameters may apply if you’re disabled.

    While there is no single centralized source for certification, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is probably the most trusted provider. Its credentials are generally accepted—if not required—by third parties. You can learn more about the certification process at the VA website. It’s a relatively involved process that requires supporting documentation.

    You can also use third-party certification from agencies like the VA as a marketing tool to boost consumer trust.

    Depending on your business, certification may not be strictly necessary. If you work in the private sector, you may not require any form of certification. Many companies will accept Department of Defense Form 214 (paperwork that was issued at the end of your military service) as proof of your veteran status.

  4. Advertise your status as a veteran-owned business

    The National Veteran-Owned Business Association found that 70 percent of American consumers surveyed said that, if given the choice, they would prefer to buy from veteran-owned businesses.

    That means your military service is a huge competitive advantage—assuming people know about it. Take every opportunity to promote your status as a veteran.

    Make sure to mention it on all of your marketing materials, including your website and printed pieces such as brochures and mailers. The same goes for print advertisements, business cards, vehicles, storefronts and signs—anything people can see.

    Even everyday correspondence tools such as email signatures and outgoing voicemail messages are a chance to tell the world about your service. Keep it simple. Phrases like “veteran owned and operated” or “vet-owned business” will get your message across without taking up a lot of space.

  5. Network with other veterans

    Professional networking is the lifeblood of micro-businesses. Consider attending a conference to meet new people in person, market your business, and learn more about veteran-specific opportunities.

    Try the National Veteran Small Business Conference and Expo, which is partially sponsored by the VA. The largest conference of its kind, the 2011 session boasted more than 4,000 attendees.

    Maintain the connections you make at conferences—and elsewhere—with all the usual social media opportunities, including LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

    Finally, try to work with other veteran-owned businesses whenever you can. A number of online directories, such as, can help you find local listings for a wide variety of goods and services. While you’re at it, create a free listing for your own business so consumers can find you, too.

Kim O’Connor
is a freelance writer who appreciates America’s servicewomen and men.

2 Ways The NASE Can Help

1. Succeed Scholarship™ program

The NASE Succeed Scholarship™ program can help military veterans—and other NASE Members—learn how to successfully market their micro-businesses.

Association members can apply for scholarship awards of up to $4,000 to pay for continuing business education.

The scholarship money can be used for:
  • Participation in seminars and conferences that support the growth of your business
  • Training courses for business certifications and licensing
  • College or university courses, either online or through a local institution

This is your opportunity to learn more about successful marketing and to gain new business skills.

Learn more about the NASE’s Succeed Scholarship™ program and apply online today.

NASE Succeed Scholarships are awarded at the sole discretion of the NASE. Unfortunately, not everyone who applies will receive a scholarship. Decisions of the selection committee are final and are not subject to appeal. No application feedback will be given.

2. Ask the NASE Experts

Have questions about marketing, veteran certifications and other micro-business issues? The NASE micro-business experts can help.

These professional consultants can answer your questions, offer advice and help you avoid costly mistakes. Plus, as an NASE Member you have online access to our team of consultants 24/7—at no cost to you.

Get the one-on-one, confidential help you need from experts who understand micro-businesses.

  • Business Strategy Experts
    Knowledgeable consultants answer your questions about pricing new products, taking advantage of social media and other mission-critical business issues
  • Accounting Experts
    Get answers from certified public accountants about increasing your profitability, improving your cash flow, preparing a budget and other financial questions
  • Business Law Experts
    Learn about legal issues such as contracts, incorporating and more with help from licensed attorneys
  • Health Reform Experts
    Find answers about how changing health care regulations might impact your micro-business
  • Tax Experts
    Certified public accountants provide information about reporting your income and deductions, reducing your taxes, completing your tax forms and more

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