I find it incredibly interesting that in an industry like advertising where we mold "reality versus perception," that the majority of the industry, as a whole, still seems adverse to marketing to the LGBT community. I get that it's incredibly difficult to teach old dogs new tricks. However, we as marketing professionals should be pushing the envelope of "risk versus reward" with our clients. And the simple truth is this: Brands and businesses that take the LGBT community seriously now will reap the rewards over their risk-averse competitors that are.
However, it is also in your best interest to serve this community with ongoing research, respect and focus. For example, I won't market a product to a lesbian community the same way I would a gay community. The communities don't necessarily have the same interests and mindset.
Even things such as geography can make a difference. The lesbian and gay residents in Des Moines probably have different preferences from those in Key West. In other words, not all gay people are not running around waving rainbow flags in the air expecting to be treated as a unique entity. Make sure your marketing directives seek to define goals and objectives as they pertain to this growing keystone. And just like any demographic there are extreme economic disparities that coexist at any level. Please don't think that just because you might be marketing to same-sex couples doesn't put them both in BMWs and having no kids.
As with any product launch, new territory, or brand development, don't simply assume you know what the audience likes. You will be well-served to progressively do your own due diligence throughout the spectrum of marketing to this goldmine.
Many of you might going to think this seems like old hat. Of course we're marketing to the LGBT community. But you'd be surprised by the number of brands that still treat the category with trepidation and limited value. Really taking the time to focus and understand this community will pay off indefinitely as more of your consumers "come out."
Here are a few things to consider when initially marketing to the LGBT community:
- Don't make any assumptions as to what you think the demographic will want. Do research, focus groups, and actively/progressively seek out ways to construct trusted relationships with your product and brand.
- Construct a thorough competitive analysis of all competitors as it pertains to their directives within this vertical.
- When developing a strong social engagement connection, it might be in your best interest to hire someone who is gay, or has done LGBT marketing in the past. PLEASE NOTE: This does not, however, make a gay man understand lesbian marketing. There are unique nuances to all personas, so make sure that you do a deep dive as to their previous experience.
- The "don't set it and forget it" adage applies to LGBT marketing directives as well. It's one thing not to market to the gay community. It is something entirely different to market to them and then forget them.
- Other options to traditional advertising are at doing things like getting ranked on HRC's corporate equality index. The LGBT community respects those that have proven there will ongoing commitment, and thereby will show a greater propensity to that particular business or brand.
- Another great marketing tactic to deploy to the gay community is by utilizing bloggers and authors that are a trusted resource for specific industry verticals. For instance, you may want to tap into a travel blogger that specifically speaks to your geographical location and has a large following with consistent retention.
- Once you have decided to develop a strong marketing initiative within the gay community, actively look for participating communities, leaders and like-minded businesses from which to seek mentorship and trust.
- Lastly, do an impact summary of your current marketing objectives. The truth is that venturing into this market can initially create waves of discussion as to your current audience's perception of you, or your customer. More often than not, you see rapid adoption of your willingness to embrace the community, But that's not to say that it can't shake things up. Be cautiously optimistic and stay the course.
This is where the rubber meets the road, folks, what type of customer do you want? You may find out through your due diligence that it is not an accurate match for your products. You need to tap into the marketplace only if it makes sense and is going to add value progressively over time. Remember, creating trust is the key element, but just like any product if you give them a reason to think that you're not being forthright they will seek other opportunities.