While many builders have found that financial incentives get military buyers in the door, the most successful programs entail more than monetary promotions. At Thompson Homes in Owensboro, Ky., a $2,000 free upgrade package gets military buyers' attention, but it’s the company’s long-standing reputation that seals the deal. The third-generation company has been in business since 1948. “We’re a very family-run company that has a long-standing history in the community,” says president Nick Thompson. “We think that’s important for people to know that we’re a family-oriented company that can relate to their needs.”
In fact, family values, honesty, and integrity are key buzzwords for many service members, who look at a company's trustworthiness above all, says marketing consultant Mollie Elkman, who works with many builder clients on marketing outreach to military buyers.
“The biggest thing for them is that they’re all about reputation and honor, and they want a company that represents that,” she says. “They don’t want a song and dance routine.”
Other ways to reach out to service members include:
—Because service members rely on social media to keep in touch with family and friends, use these types of sites to advertise military incentives.
—Find out how long your military customer plans to be in their new house. Some tours of duty are less than three years but some are more than five. Incentivize them to put down roots, Elkman says. “Tell them, ‘You deserve to live off base for all of that time and to have a civilian lifestyle.'"
—Get involved at events at your local base and military association.
—Provide military buyers with a thorough home orientation that is more than a simple walkthrough. Many of them want to know the details of how their new home works, says Pat Woods, president of Desert View Homes, which caters to military members in Texas and Colorado.
—Sales staff should be trained to recognize military branches by uniform so that when a service member comes in the door, he or she can be greeted properly. "They are very competitive about that," Woods says. "You don’t want to call an Air Force guy a member of the Army and vice versa." In addition, knowing a bit about military ranks will help salespeople to gauge a buyer's housing allowance and what they can afford.
—Respect patriotic traditions. Fly large American flags fly at each model home, and take care to lower them to half mast on the appropriate holidays. For example, on Memorial Day the flag should be displayed at half staff until noon and at full staff from noon to sunset. Click here for more information on half-staff holidays and other flag-related rules.