6 Ways to Leverage Your Military Network
One of the biggest advantages veterans have as they enter the world of small business ownership? They already have an established and loyal existing network of contacts. As you begin your small business journey, you may be wondering how that network can help you grow your business. Let’s take a closer look at some best practices for leveraging your military network to help grow and support your business goals.
Offer a product or service that appeals to veterans
As JFK once said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Along those same lines, if you want to leverage your own network, first you should ask what value you can offer your network.
Is the product or service you’re building useful for veterans and their families? If so, this makes it much easier for you to reach out for support from those individuals. Offering something that can help veterans will increase the likelihood that they’ll like to act as a proponent of your business. That’s not to say you can’t find veteran friends and family who will offer support regardless of your product. But the more you can help veterans, the more veterans are going to want to help you.
Ask for user testimonials
When you offer a product or service, it’s always helpful to have satisfied customers singing your praises. If you’re a veteran with a network of veteran colleagues, asking these people to provide those testimonials is a great way to offer them something useful while also receiving value back from them.
Contact people in your network and offer a free trial of your product if it’s feasible. Then ask them to provide online reviews. You can then point your potential future customers toward these online reviews — either via sites like Amazon or Yelp or even on your own personal website.
Testimonials offer social proof to unsure buyers about whether your product or service works the way you say it does. Your veteran network can help fill this need while you help them out by allowing them to sample your wares.
Build your social media following
One of the best ways to promote your business’s core message is to use social media. Each platform appeals to different audiences, of course – the messaging you use for LinkedIn will vary from other channels like Twitter or Facebook. But regardless of the platforms that work best for the business you’re in, you’ll want to have some kind of social media presence to help grow your business.
Your military network can help you here as well. Encourage your friends and former colleagues to follow your business on social media. This can have a few effects:
- It can bolster your online following with people who will find your content interesting.
- It will enable people within your military network to receive updates on your business.
When you’re just starting out, building a social media following can feel like quite the uphill battle. Offering those within your network an opportunity to follow you there gives them the chance to see content related to your business. Whether you’re offering discounts, providing actionable tips in your industry, or linking to other veteran thought leaders, there’s a great opportunity for learning and collaboration. You can also build your following at the same time.
Identify a mentor who’s been where you’d like to go
Many of the people within your network may be at the same professional stage as you, and that’s great! You can always compare best practices, trade tips, and give each other advice on what strategies work best for building and growing a successful business.
But you may also have someone from your network who’s gotten a few years jump on you in terms of building their business. This person’s current state may mirror where you’d like to be in a few years.
This is the perfect opportunity to identify a mentor. There are a lot of benefits to having a mentor. They can advise you on strategy, management, and leadership. They can tell you what NOT to do — which sometimes can be even more valuable than learning what you should do!
Finding the right mentor isn’t always easy, however. As a veteran small business owner, no one is going to be able to advise you quite like another veteran small business owner who’s already achieved success. If you can find one within your network, it may help to reach out and see how they can help you reach your business goals.
Tap into existing veteran forums, groups, and communities
The members of your network will likely be part of various online forums, groups, and communities. They may use these to connect with other like-minded veterans, whether it involves the industry your business is in or general small business tips and discussion. These members of your network can help you plug into these communities and become a part of them.
No one builds a business alone, and just as much as you should consider who you can help your fellow veterans, you should also explore ways in which they can help you grow your business. Online groups offer a support system for both guidance and encouragement.
Look for strategic partnerships with other veteran small business owners
Finally, there may be members of your network who are in the same field as you. Some may even be your competitors. Others may make sense to approach about a potential business partnership.
Obviously, this will depend on the type of work you do as well as what the people within your network do. But your veteran network may be a great place to identify people and/or businesses you can tag team with on professional projects. That may mean you team up to jointly support a client, they can offer you a service you lack, or you offer them a service they need.
Your veteran network is a valuable resource for support as well as information. Leaning on it and seeing how it can help you grow (and you can help those members grow as well) is a natural fit as you transition to your career as a small business owner.
If you’re a veteran looking for strategies on how to grow and nurture your business, I can help! Contact me today!