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Why exactly are you marketing to the LGBTQ community?
You're a small business owner or solopreneur who's decided to market your business to the LGBTQ community. Great. Now, why?
It sounds like a silly question, but one that you need to answer before you put resources to the effort. By now you may already know that the LGBTQ community represents nearly $1 trillion in purchasing power, but if driving profits is the only reason, chances are your campaign is going to fail.
Reaching the LGBTQ community the right way is about more than supporting Pride (although that's a great start!). It's about expressing a commitment to improving the lives of LGBTQ customers and employees, sharing a product or service relevant to that community and demonstrating sensitivity to their diverse range of needs and interests as a demographic.
Here are the key questions you should be asking yourself before you begin your campaign.
Who are your products and services for?
First, establish whether you will be marketing specifically to the LGBTQ community as a discreet market, or just including this demographic as one part of your total customer base. Understanding this distinction can help frame your messaging correctly to ensure it avoids pandering to the community and delivers the intended message effectively.
For example, are you selling matchmaking services specifically to gay and lesbian professionals, or are you selling a generic dating service to all orientations? You may want to consider marketing a specific service to a specific target, and—and this is critical—demonstrate how that service aligns with the target's particular needs and preferences.
On the other hand, if you own and operate, say, a grocery store, with products used by a wide range of customers, it may be more appropriate to market to LGBTQ customers as part of the whole of your base. In this case, you'd perhaps consider a value statement that speaks to inclusivity versus a deep dive into the grocery needs of the LGBTQ buyer.
How well do you understand the LGBTQ community?
One of the biggest mistakes businesses make when trying to reach the LGBTQ demographic is not taking the time to understand how diverse it is. Many organizations get it wrong by marketing to the group as one monolith, as opposed to a community of vastly different people with their own unique beliefs, ideals, values and preferences. For instance, creating messaging only catered to gay men will likely fall short as it's an oversimplification.
To understand whether to market to the LGBTQ community, research which groups within the demographic will find value in your product, services or support of their causes. Conduct a survey, run a focus group, interview existing customers, or partner with an organization that collects data on the community like the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index.
Collecting relevant data about LGBTQ consumers will help provide your business with the context needed to join the conversation. You'll also be able to make more informed marketing decisions and understand how to better compose relevant messaging.
Do you walk the walk?
A recent study from Google found that nearly half of millennials under age 24 are more likely to support a brand after seeing an equality-focused advertisement. Which means supporting LGBTQ causes can be beneficial to your bottom line. And there's nothing wrong with that. But it's critical that you don't just talk the talk.
If your company does value diversity and inclusion as a core principle or as a newly adopted policy, then review the variety of ways you can take action. For instance, consider educating consumers about leading issues in the community as a part of your marketing campaign. Establish inclusive internal policies like equal benefits for same sex couples, or partner with the Trevor Project, GLADD or another non-profit working to improve the lives of LGBTQ people.
Opportunities to take action not only empower the community, but they also allow similar access to this demographic as, say, a Pride event sponsorship would. As a knock-on effect, news of this type of community involvement will reach non-LGBTQ people as well, which can help attract and retain top millennial talent. After all, according to Harvard Business Review, 72 percent of non-LGBT individuals who support that community prefer to work at inclusive companies.
The bottom line: Marketing to the LGBTQ community can be a valuable investment in many ways, but in order to effectively do so, you must understand just why it is you want to reach this demographic, and let that guide your actions.