Coupons Should Save You Money (Not Coax You to Buy Something Because It’s Cheap)

You caught me: I’m the worst kind of complainer. I hate asking people if their business offers a military discount. I know, cue the world’s smallest violin. But seriously – you fellow military spouses know what I’m talking about. We all want the discount, but asking everywhere you shop can eventually make you feel like you’re being cheap or annoying the perfectly nice business owner. And what if they don’t have one? Awkward.

Assuming at least some of you are just like me, you’ve tried to remedy this by taking to your keyboard. And you’ve probably spent a good amount of time searching for the business you needed and then trying to find out which one had a military offer of some sort. In the end, you’ve typically saved a few bucks, but at what cost? Your eyes were all glossed over, your head was foggy, and you just realized you missed out on a solid two hours you could have used pretending you were going to go to the gym. But now there’s a solution: GIsave.com – a coupon-based website dedicated exclusively to showcasing military deals offered by our adoring local businesses.

Now I know, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of these coupon sites out there that are all virtually the same and offer some crazy low prices on things. While I’m all for crazy low prices, most of the coupons are not for places I shop at on a daily basis, or for things I actually need. More often than not, I find myself trying to rationalize why I suddenly need an 8-mode digital pulse massager, just because it showed up in my inbox. And though the ones for restaurants give me a great excuse for a night out, I could really do without the annoyed stares when I inform them of my coupon. Not that I can blame them, because there are way too many people out there that take the discounted price as an excuse to tip lower (please, please, please – don’t do this!), but it’s unfortunate to get caught in the crossfire.

And like I said, when I need to go out into the community I actually live in and get some pet supplies, have my car’s oil changed, get my hair cut or go to the dentist, most of these coupon sites are useless to me. GI Save helps me save money at the places I am already going to, and helps me find businesses I know are reputable when I need something but don’t know of a place to go. And let’s face it, if you are military or part of a military family, you know what it’s like to move. You know what an absolute pain it is to find all the places you need again and how awful it is to waste money at a store or on a service that just wasn’t what it should have been. GI Save gives you an avenue. It helps you find places run by good people, and it saves you money while it does that. And you can very well think I am just embellishing because I work for these people – but guess what? That’s a good thing. It’s because I work for these people that I know exactly who is going out and finding the businesses that are featured. They all have a conscious and want to do the right thing. What’s more, I have watched each one of them not work with a business if they thought they weren’t going to stand by their customers. That says something.

Thankfully, with GI Save, all the businesses are local. That’s why the home page has you pick your base before it shows you deals. Every single one of these companies is happy to have military business. And not one of them thinks that the discount they are offering is too over the top. Why does this matter? Because your experience when you go somewhere with one of these mobile coupons is pleasant. You leave feeling great that you saved some money, but better that you found an awesome place where the owner really appreciates your business. They help you, you help them, and you both help some really good military charities by supporting GI Save.

Coupons are the number one thing military spouses ask for – so here they are. Now all you have to do is get the word out so we can have even more deals and businesses to throw our debit cards at. Thank you, internet.

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Giving You More Than The Right To Play Candy Crush

It’s easy to tell you the obvious reasons why you should appreciate the military: They are the reason you have and will continue to have the freedoms you so depend upon. They’re the reason you even have the option to debate gun rights, speak out against politicians, or use your entire day to watch cat videos on YouTube (oh, and watch “If It Fits, I Sits”… then thank a service member). But you should know all of that. And if you don’t or you don’t believe that, then shame on you, but that’s your right.

What I’m getting at (or going to be getting at) here is a different reason the military should be appreciated: the economy. For those of you without ties to a service member, all you may hear are the ramblings on the news about defense spending and budget cuts and blah blah blah… all stuff that probably leads you to think the military is just a big, expensive organization. And while it is expensive, it also offers a great deal of stimulation to local economies.

Think about it: in or around areas where there are one or more military installations (and there are a LOT of these areas), constant influxes of new people are more or less a certainty. Even if someone coming in means someone going out, moving is anything but cheap. Both of these individuals or families will be spending lots of money getting things they need. The incoming family will need to find a new place to live, storage, food, etc. They’ll also need to find a place to get their cars serviced, get their hair cut, buy new clothes… everything they may need now or in the future. Not only this, but military bases employ a large amount of civilian contractors, sometimes equaling the number of active duty personnel. More working people + more paychecks = more money to be spent in the local economy. That’s the kind of math even I can do.

And then, you have examples like us, Military Media – a private business specifically established with military bases or clientele in mind. There are plenty of other businesses of all kinds that fit this bill, and we all succeed ONLY because of this demographic. For example, we started out producing base guides and maps, a business endeavor which would be 100% pointless without the bases (obviously). While we may now work with bases throughout the country, do you really think our home office would be here, employing locals? …Nope. Sure, it might be someplace else, but why have only a few economically booming areas when you can have many? The military makes that possible.

The military is also responsible for building up areas which may otherwise be extremely underpopulated and struggling. Take, for example, the real-life community situation over here. The Panhandle region, Pensacola to Destin, specifically, may be on prime real estate with beautiful beaches and generally great weather. Sure, tourists would come here whether the bases were here or not. But let me ask you this – what happens when the peak season is over and the tourists go home (or somewhere else)? Yep – the remaining residents and businesses sit in the quiet and struggle to make it through without the tourists to visit their businesses and stimulate their economy. Every off-season is a gamble, and many businesses do not make it. I’ve seen it happen plenty of times in other areas.

But, fortunately, that’s not the way it is here, thanks to the military. There are certainly peak and off-seasons still, but thanks to approximately SEVEN military installations (many of them small), there are roughly 66% more people living here full time than there would be otherwise. And an estimated $8.2 billion in annual value to the local economy.

The numbers don’t lie. Just like your ability to say funny things on Twitter followed by the hashtag #firstworldproblems doesn’t lie. So be thankful. Whether you realize it or not, the chain effect the military has on your well being is astounding on so many levels. Reach out and show your appreciation in some way. And if you need a little help, we’re here.

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X Marks Anything You Want

We’re not pretending to be doing anything crazy revolutionary or ground breaking here. I’d love to say that we are, but I promised not to lie to you guys. It’s not going to be the best thing since sliced bread – hopefully that title will be able to be saved for a healthcare system that actually works. But what it is going to be is a new spin on an old trick. Here’s why:

Every state has a tourism council that puts together a magazine/booklet/website that tells you why their state is the greatest thing to ever happen to America and why you should use your vacation time to visit them over anyone else. And I have nothing against these – heck, I’ve used these plenty of times. It’s always pretty interesting to find out the quirks and attractions about a state you may never have given a second thought. However, all these guides are generally pretty generic in who their audience is, and they all boast that they have been contributed to by born-and-raised locals. Now before I put my foot in my mouth, I have nothing against born-and-raised locals. The one place that I can claim that for myself, I will probably be more arrogant about my know-all than anybody. It comes with the territory of being familiar with a place to the point of having a list of 147 different back roads to take to avoid traffic or construction. That being said, there’s a certain advantage you get to having the insights of a transplant.

Explore Florida is a brand new (just launched on Friday 2/7) virtual publication about (drum roll)… Florida. Yep. Shocker. What makes it unique is that it is put out by my wonderful company, Military Media. Most of my co-workers have lived here a lot longer than I have, but only one of us are from here originally. Otherwise, we hail from Rhode Island, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Colorado, New Jersey, California, Texas, Honduras… the list goes on. Why is that a good thing? Because we have our local girl keeping us in check, but we get to take our extremely varied life experiences and form opinions about places some locals may have never thought of. And what’s more is that, as our name hopefully gives away, our roots are in the military. We are contracted by bases all over the country, and everything we do is in the interest of pro-military. So while Explore Florida is definitely useful and user-friendly regardless of your military status, it was designed with the mindset of fun things to do on a day-long or weeks-long leave.

Now that I have talked your ear off – here’s what we did. Explore Florida is basically a virtual magazine – the pages are designed for you to “flip” through. The home page showcases our five main sections – fun, food, lodging, shopping, and transportation – as well as Florida-related articles by yours truly, links to our social networking sites, and links to some of Florida’s great businesses. Pay special attention to the social networking links. We want to be different, and your input will help. Explore Florida is going to be a constant work-in-progress. We’ll be adding more businesses, pages, topics, and articles all the time. Using the social network links to share with your friends or give us your feedback will help make this thing as much catered to you as possible. And wouldn’t it make you feel important to have all these people here creating content just because you said so?

Now, if you click on one of the five section links, you’ll find a magazine-like intro page. Click on one of the links to check a place out, or click on one of the three colorful logos on the bottom left to explore an entire region at a glance. These logos will be your guide throughout. Here’s your key:

  • Blue Dolphin: North Florida
  • Green Palm Tree: Central Florida
  • Pink Flamingo: South Florida

We know we’re not exactly the smallest of states, so we wanted to help you out. If you’re as Florida-illiterate as I was about a year ago, you’ll thank us for this.

So click away, check it out, and give us your input! Like I’ve said before, we’re a small enough company that we can make things happen pretty quickly – so speak up! Ideas, thoughts, comments, concerns, questions… we love ’em all. Happy exploring!

http://www.xploreflorida.com/

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Not Your Typical Unicorns and Leprechauns Network

There are networks everywhere. But no matter how ubiquitous the term seems, each one seems to take on a form of its own. Some are pretty formal and some are so informal you’re pretty sure they don’t even really exist. It has gotten to the point that if someone mentions a “network”, all you’re sure of is that somewhere along the way a group of people got together and decided they should be called something.

In some respects, the Pro Military Business Network is no different. Some smart people in an office one day decided a bunch of businesses should come together and be called something. It’s tangible and it’s intangible. But, here’s the difference: it’s more than just a pretty name that makes you feel good inside. And, even better, it’s adapting, changing, expanding, and becoming something more useful to everyone involved. Because, let’s be honest here, with technology and business moving as it is today, this thing could have been created last week and already be outdated.

Before I go into what’s happening next, you might want to know what has happened already. The Pro Military Business Network (or PMBN as I like to call it… and I’m sure the acronym-centric military would, too) is a group of businesses that really exist, and that support and love our military community. They are of our same belief that without the military, they wouldn’t be here, and that needs to be recognized and celebrated. They have all come together through our super talented graphics department, sales department and marketing department to form a website. Now, I’ll stop boring you.

Let’s say you’re PCSing or TDYing, or you already live here and you’re looking for a salon, or a car repair shop, or a realtor… or anything. And there’s 52 types of the business you’re looking for. So, what do you do? Right now, you probably roll the dice or explore Yelp forever, and 9 times out of 10 end up at a place you really don’t want to be – trying really hard not to lose your temper with the person you feel you just wasted your money with. Maybe their service was sub-par, maybe they gave you that look you hate, or maybe they had an attitude when you asked if they had a military discount. All of those things are awful, and none of us want to deal with it. This is what the PMBN is here to avoid. If a business is a part of the PMBN, it means they have said they appreciate they military. It also means someone from this very company has personally gone to their location and made sure they’re the type of business we think we can stand behind. And it also means you have the convenience of having one place you can learn about them, view their ad, watch their video, and link to their website.

Now, improvements. For those of you not stationed at a base that has Military Media run their guide, have you ever needed a phone number and had a really annoying time of finding it? Of course you have. I’m really super confident of that. Why? Because I had the wonderful, but necessary, task of looking for the phone numbers for EVERY SINGLE BASE in EVERY SINGLE BRANCH in the free country. It took forever, and it was terrible. But now, once we get our update done, you can go to the PMBN, find your state, click on your base, and boom – numbers. You’re welcome. I think I’m allowed to preemptively say that because it’s going to make you’re life wicked easy. I promise. Go get your hair cut with all the time the PMBN just saved you (salons are under Business and Professional Services).

All kidding aside, it’s an awesome resource – to be a part of, or to use. And, we love to hear from you. So if there’s something you want to see (or not see), or if you have a cool idea – sound off below in the comments and tell us! Seriously. We’re small enough that if we like it, there won’t be a mile and a half of red tape and corporate forms to file before it can happen. If we like it, it’s done. Welcome to the PMBN.

Oh, and here’s a link to one of our awesome Pro Military businesses. Check it out! :

pambonadonnacpa.promilitary.net

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Giving Things Away is the Worst Way to Make Money

Yes, I really had to say that. Since the big bang of couponing took over in the late 2000s, the practice has been adored by deal-hunting consumers and demonized by profit-conscious entrepreneurs. And how could it be any different? People love saving money when they go out shopping, and business owners love to (and need to) make a decent profit. But wait – this paradigm seems conflicting! Why?

Because it is.

And this has been especially true since daily deal sites became so popular, requiring deals to be at least 50% off the normal purchase price. And here’s the kicker – that fraction of your typical profit is slashed even further when you give the host site their cut. This may seem ridiculous to some, but in this economy, customers are looking for it and business owners often turn to it to make their doors swing. So what do you do?

You find a better way. And there is one. The good news? You can afford it (I really mean it), it’s trackable, and (when used properly) can really increase your customer base. The bad news? It will require a little marketing savvy on your part to transform them from a one hit wonder to a loyal, repeat customer. But don’t worry – I’m here with my fancy degrees and cheap laptop (cause and effect?) to help you.

First of all, the better way is www.GIsave.com, a coupon-based website geared specifically towards the military communities in the Southeastern U.S. (though there are plans to expand). More than any other demographic, military families need to find ways to stay on budget while finding new favorite places to frequent as they bounce around from base to base. As a future military spouse, I can tell you there is not one time someone has said “military discount” and my head hasn’t turned. And now, there’s a whole website of people screaming just that – and I don’t have to leave my couch or my sweats to hear it. Beautiful.

I know what you’re thinking: Why would you gear your couponing to just this one demographic? That seems silly. Well, because the military community makes up almost TWO THIRDS of the Emerald Coast economy. Scout’s honor – look it up. Not so silly. And even better, it’s not Groupon or Living Social. We’re not asking you to sell your first born child to afford the price slash. We don’t tell you how much to discount. You just come up with something you’re happy with and we make it visually appealing… not to mention able to be comfortably accessed by military families in their favorite obnoxious headbands and scrunchies (it’s OK for the 90s to live on in your own living room, right?).

Now here’s where my free advice to you lovely business owners comes in. DO NOT… I repeat.. DO NOT succumb to the desire to throw the phrase “10% off with ID” on your GI Save coupon. This is not to say that 10% is a bad discount, or that military families do not appreciate it (because trust me, they really, really do). However, doing this works against you in a couple of ways. First of all, you probably honor that discount with the simple mention of it or the flash of an ID card, don’t you? And again, thank you. But how on earth are you supposed to know how impactful your GI Save program is if you don’t make people tell you? And what about your deal makes you stand out from any of the other businesses?

So, pick a dollar amount, or offer a free something with the purchase of another something. Anything that will get that person’s attention and get them to show you their virtual or printed coupon so you have that wonderful peace of mind that what you did is working. Makes sense, right?

Now continuing the free advice, do something AWESOME when we customers make our way into your business. Make us want to come back over and over again. And, I’ll let you in on a little secret here – we’re easy. Awesome can sometimes mean a sticker. That’s right – that little shiny thing that costs a fraction of a penny can make you stick out. Seriously. So, go find something. It could be a little bonus gift, a different coupon to use on another visit, a referral program punch card that gets your new customer free/discounted stuff when they tell their friends… the list goes on and on. It doesn’t have to cost you much of anything; it just needs to be thoughtful enough that Joe around the corner isn’t doing it. Boom – you win.

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Beachin’ Ain’t Easy

Ready to have your mind blown? Are you sitting down? Ok, here it goes…

Florida has great beaches.

Actually, that’s an undersell. They’re some of the most beautiful in the world. And yes, I know you’ve heard that. But no matter how common knowledge it is that people come here to lounge on the sand and play in the water, you’d be lying if you said you didn’t want to know more about it. As someone who has spent most of my life on one coast or another, I know just being in a town surrounded by great beaches doesn’t mean you’re going to find that great beach. My all time favorite beach back up where I’m from in Narragansett, RI is one which is off the radar unless someone tells you about it. I promise, you won’t find it on Google.

While I may not be willing to give up that secret, I’ve been compelled to give you the inside scoop on each region’s must-visit beach here in sunny Florida. Some might be hidden gems, some might not be hidden at all. But I promise, take my advice and you won’t leave disappointed that you didn’t find what you’ve spent months imagining in your head. Grab your sunscreen, folks.

North Florida:

James Lee Park

Destin

This beach is about as good as it gets. While you really can’t go wrong with a Destin beach, this one is my favorite. It’s a little ways of a drive from the bridge and down Scenic 98, but it’s well worth it. Trademark of this area, you are almost certain to find crystal clear, blue-green water and powdery, white sand beaches. The beach is kept up very well and seeing trash on the ground is few and far between. There is ample parking, convenient pavilions and picnic tables, and several dune walkovers that allow for a great view. The beach will get busy in the summer months, but I have never seen it to the point that there isn’t hardly any room to move. The water is perfect for surfing, paddle boarding, skim boarding, body surfing, snorkeling, etc. And when you get hungry or could go for a good libation, there is a local seafood restaurant right on the beach with a tiki bar and open-air deck. It is quite literally the perfect beach to lose track of the time on.

Central Florida:

Maximo Park

St. Petersburg

St. Pete is a treat in and of itself, but this beach is really something to talk about. Aside from the beautiful, soft white sand beach characteristic of the Gulf Coast, crystal clear, warm water and litany of water-related activities, this place has it all. First of all, it has seven boat ramps – things which are for some reason shockingly tough to find. Second of all, it has beachside, covered playgrounds for the kids, picnic areas and restrooms. But what makes Maximo Park really unique are all the extras that give you an unexpectedly fun break from basking on the shoreline. Bring a bike along and take advantage of the trails, or talk a walk along the nature trail and enjoy some of life’s simple beauty. For you history buffs, there’s a 70-acre archeological site to take advantage of. I won’t spoil the story for you, but Maximo Park has an intriguing backstory that most won’t find themselves yawning through. And then there’s my personal favorite non-water attraction – the 18-hole disc golf course. For those of you that haven’t played, it’s not necessarily easy, but it’s fun regardless of how terrible you may or may not be. And to finish it all off, take a hike to the top of the 50-foot observation tower that will help you soak in all the beauty and excitement you just experienced.

South Florida

Sombrero Beach

Marathon

This hidden gem on the Florida Keys island of Marathon may not have all the bells and whistles of the other beaches we’ve covered, but it is worth a day of your time. This is one of the most pristine, unspoiled beaches you will find anywhere in the world. Not your usual white sand beach, picking up a handful will reveal to you what makes it unique. You’ll find interestingly shaped grains, shells and characteristics of the special environment that exists in the area’s warm waters. Speaking of the water, it is calm, warm and almost unbelievably relaxing. Lay down on a raft for a bit, and watch in amazement of what is around you. You’ll see dolphins playing, unusual fish swimming the world below and people with a level of enjoyment on their faces you just don’t see anywhere else. There is a playground for the kids and an expansive stretch of land that won’t leave you feeling claustrophobic. Sombrero Beach is not filled with vendors, however, so bring a cooler and plan accordingly. Even if you always need action and to be on-the-go, take a chance on this beach. I promise you won’t regret it.

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