As LGBT buying power in the United States reaches the $1 Trillion mark, many companies are busy trying to determine the best ways to get their hands on a slice of this very lucrative pie. Throughout my career, I’ve seen companies do a great job reaching LGBT consumers. Think about companies like Hilton, Nissan, American Airlines and Target. I’ve also seen some companies try to implement an LGBT strategy only to fail for one of a number of reasons. Every company is different and every company’s level of commitment is going to be different, but here are a few key things you need to consider before you develop an LGBT campaign.
Know Your Audience – I think this one is obvious, but sometimes the obvious tends to go overlooked. Take the time to research current trends in the community. Companies like Community Marketing Inc., as well as StartOUT provide thorough research you should review prior to developing your campaign. Their research will help you determine which segment of the community you should be targeting. Keep in mind…not all gays are created equal.
LGBT Print Media is NOT Dead – Based on the particular segment of the LGBT community you are trying to reach, print media may be your best and most effective option. (Include % of print vs. digital). LGBT baby boomers are one of the fastest growing, and wealthiest, segments of the community. And they, unlike the majority of millennials, prefer to consume LGBT media through print verses digital outlets. This is not to say that millennials don’t read any print or boomers don’t go online, but boomers love to be able to pick up a physical copy of an LGBT newspaper or magazine. Once again, research your target and research the outlets. Some media are read specifically by a segment of the community. Curve Magazine for example is geared toward lesbian consumers, while Passport caters to LGBT travelers.
LGBT Conferences – If you are looking to get your brand in front of influencers, there is no better way than to attend, or better yet, sponsor an LGBT specific conference. I’m not going to go into detail about each organization but some of the most popular annual conferences are put on by the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA), National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), Community Marketing Inc., Out & Equal and the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association. You may want to attend each conference before jumping in head first with a sponsorship just to make sure the attendees are the correct group of people you wish to target. Use your time at these conferences to absorb as much knowledge as you can and use this information to build your strategy.
Non-Profit Support – One of the best ways to reach LGBT consumers on a local level is to find a homegrown LGBT non-profit organization to support. National organizations are great, however local groups will probably appreciate your support and treat your business like a partner. They will most likely to be able to provide you with an overview of fundraising initiatives and show you exactly where your funds are being spent. Supporting a local organization is also a great way to encourage employee engagement, especially if your company has an LGBT Employee Resource Group.
Don’t Overdo It – LGBT consumers consist of a very astute group of individuals. They will be able to determine if you are trying to make an attempt to capitalize on their buying power or if you truly want to embrace them and make them part of your family. If your company has a history of not supporting the community then all of a sudden you start an LGBT campaign without any rhyme, reason or explanation, then consumers will begin to question your motives. Being authentic is the absolute key to your success. A wise man once said, ‘do it right, or don’t do it at all.’ The same holds true here.
Talk to the Experts – There are many individuals who have made a career studying the LGBT market. People like Bob Witeck, Todd Evans, Tom Roth and Matt Skallerud among others, are considered trailblazers in our industry. These people have spent hundreds of hours cultivating relationships, researching trends and building businesses focusing solely on LGBT consumers. Reach out to them to determine the correct way to begin a campaign before launching one. It’ll save you lots of time and money in the long run.
After all is said and done, the ultimate goal is to come across genuine and authentic. You need to show an ongoing commitment to the community in order to realize widespread support for your brand. Taking out a print advertisement once per year in the pride issue of a magazine or newspaper will most likely not yield the results you desire. If you are serious about reaching the market, you need to make a long-term commitment to do so.