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How to Effectively Market to LGBTQ Customers
For marketers, reaching the LGBTQ community can be difficult for a number of reasons. First, it's a diverse group with distinct interests and needs, requiring a high degree of personalization. Second, LGBTQ people take their significant buying power to brands that meet their standards for inclusivity. Which means it's not just what your company sells that counts.
So how do you find the right balance between messaging and meaning? To find out, I spoke with entrepreneur and LGBTQ business expert Jenn T. Grace who's also an entrepreneur and author of Beyond the Rainbow: Personal Stories and Practical Strategies to Help your Business & Workplace Connect with the LGBTQ Market. Turns out, it's not about the grand gesture — instead, focus on the little (but important) things.
Know Your Audience
First, marketing to LGBTQ people requires an understanding of the nuances present within the community, says Grace. That means putting in the research time and establishing whether or not your product or service actually resonates with this demographic. In other words, do they want and/or need it?
"This cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach. You must first know who within the LGBTQ community is in your existing customer base," says Grace. It sounds obvious, but just because two individuals identify as LGBTQ does not mean they share buying habits. Yet, that's one of the most frequently made mistakes Grace sees brands make.
"If your product or service is designed with women in mind, marketing to the LGBTQ community with imagery of men is going to put you at an immediate disadvantage," she says. "Sending my household — two women with two children — an ad that features shirtless gay men is not going to land well."
Highlight Your Company's Values
It's not just about what to avoid. You should be proactive in your LGBTQ marketing as well. One effective way to reach these consumers is to showcase how you're already pursuing diversity among your customers.
"The point here is to be inclusive in the marketing that you are already doing and including LGBTQ people within that, making sure they feel like they are seen and represented," says Grace.
This might entail updating the copy used in your messaging to be more inclusive; showcasing a wider range of customers in your content; or rallying behind LGBTQ causes as part of your company's corporate social responsibility strategy.
"Show me that other LGBTQ friends of mine also like or use a product, or demonstrate that your product serves all individuals," she says.
Aim for Subtlety
Social media is a highly effective way to target based on the interests, preferences and behaviors of a specific demographic, but it's also too easy to overstep on this platform.
"There are a lot of subtle ways to show me that you are inclusive of me, without pandering or having to set up a really specific campaign," says Grace. "It's important to be mindful of your customers' LGBTQ identity, but not to plan an entire campaign around only that."
For example, says Grace, it's easy enough to target LGBTQ community members by their relationship status on Facebook. "If you used just that information, however, to start prompting sponsored ads to me for LGBTQ musicians or lesbian musicians, you'd be missing the mark. I am not a musician and have very little interest in whatever product you might be selling," says Grace.
The point is, latching onto an LGBTQ tag as the only way to reach someone is not the best use of your resources. Instead, try marketing your service or product using language that is inclusive of everyone.
"Rather than saying 'Is it time to get new his and hers running shoes? We can help,' you could try something broader like 'Is it time to get new running shoes? Come on in with your partner, running partner, whomever!'" says Grace.
Hints like that are indicative to LGBTQ community members that they are welcome. There's no need to lead with gender expression or sexuality when marketing most products or services. Instead, make it clear that they are equal members of your audience.
"Most LGBTQ people are looking for one thing and one thing only — an experience that they know is going to be safe. They want to know that they can shop or do business with you without fear of discrimination. If you can provide this as part of the DNA and fabric of your company – you are likely going to attract many LGBTQ customers," said Grace.