One of the ways to increase your market share and improve your business is to make sure that you’re aware of the audience you’re targeting and doing whatever you can to keep as wide a client base as possible. One niche market that’s often overlooked in this process is lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) clients. Even though most industries now have a code of ethics that prohibits discrimination based on sexuality or gender identity, LGBT individuals can face significant discrimination in the marketplace. Reaching out to this client base is both a good business decision and a way for you to have a positive impact on your community.
The first way to get into this market is making sure that your own business practices reflect support of this community: make sure you practice what you preach. Commit to non-discriminatory hiring, benefit equality for domestic partners, and adequate resources for LGBT employees and/or clients. The group “Out and Equal” has some free resources for helping make any workplace LGBT-friendly, including a guide called “20 Steps to An Out & Equal Workplace,” which includes everything from employment policies and benefits to non-profit support, advocacy in the community, and diverse representation in marketing and advertising.
If you’re looking for a way to network further in this community and promote yourself as someone who is supportive of it, you can discover industry-specific LGBT associations, which are easy to find on the Internet. Chances are you’ll have to pay to join, but it adds you to a database of gay-friendly professionals and allows you to access networking resources. This is an easy way to identify yourself as a businessperson who is supportive of the LGBT community and help you market to that community at the same time.
Another way of making sure that your advertising is appropriate to the LGBT niche market is to avoid using gender-specific terms. For example, if you are in real estate, when describing a master bathroom, say “double sink vanity” rather than “his and her vanity” to avoid biasing the listing.
Another thing to consider as a real estate professional working with LGBT clients is knowing the legal status of your clients’ relationships in your state so that you can point them toward appropriate legal resources. Tax and other legal technicalities arise, especially in states that don’t recognize same-sex marriage.
When marketing to the LGBT community, another thing to keep in mind is that 36% of adults who identify as LGBT are between the ages of 18 and 34, as compared to 26% of heterosexual adults. As a result, this niche market will naturally include more adults who are on the younger side.
If you have others who work under you and you’re concentrating more on selling to the LGBT market, consider creating a diversity training program for your employees. This can, and should, include a wide range of diversity issues, including sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, and other topics that your employees may come into contact with. You can either hire a consultant or do it in-house, but make sure you’re providing solid information and are able to answer any questions you get.
The overall message should be one of welcoming clients, no matter who they are, and learning how to respectfully do business with many different kinds of people. Create a safe space in your office: don’t allow employees to use offensive language, make jokes that target LGBT people or other groups, or use slurs. Have a protocol to follow if you ever have a client engaging in this kind of behavior in front of another client. The more you can establish your business as a safe and friendly place for the LGBT market, the easier the advertising itself will be.
On the other hand, as you create a plan to market to the LGBT community, don’t fall into the trap of reverse discrimination. As you make your company more accessible to LGBT clients, make sure that you don’t limit accessibility to other clients. Use the same language in all of your advertisements and make sure to use a variety of advertising channels. As with any marketing plan, outreach to the LGBT market should be one part of a comprehensive marketing plan that includes relevant groups in your area and allows you to incorporate those who are under-represented.
Nathan Jansch is owner and president of The Boardroom Executive Suites in Denver, Colo., which provides office space, virtual office services, conference room rentals, telephone answering, and other services and amenities to small and medium-sized businesses. To compare executive suites to traditional office space or subleases, visit the Boardroom Executive Suites website [http://www.boardroomdenver.com/comparison_charts.html]. Read the Denver Office News blog for helpful business news and advice, financial and real estate news, and working green tips.
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