LGBTQ Market Guide for Small or Medium Business

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The SMB Guide to Success in the LGBTQ Market [2019 Best Practices]

With less resources to play around with, small or medium sized businesses SMBs must pull on all available resources to effectively work with and market to a wide customer base focused on interests, not social demographics.

by Alex Gentile, Website Planet Blog

The LGBTQ market is one of the fastest-growing sectors out there, and it’s becoming an increasingly valuable customer base across all industries. In fact, according to GayStar News, a conservative estimate on the size of the global LGBTQ market is $3.7 trillion – that’s a huge market that could be left out of your customer base unless you take the right steps. This community is also particularly sensitive to social issues.

Additionally, Dalia Research released a study showing that throughout the European Union, upwards of six percent of the population identify as part of the LGBTQ community.

The question now is how to engage the LGBTQ population effectively.

LGBTQ-Friendly and Affirming

It’s important to understand the difference between being LGBTQ-friendly and affirming.

To be LGBTQ-friendly means establishing your business as a safe space for LGBTQ people to work and shop. Having a diverse workforce, avoiding discriminatory hiring practices, and ensuring all employees understand the importance of using inclusive language are all part of creating a truly LGBTQ-friendly environment.

The urgency for fostering safe spaces is further underlined by hard research. A study by German LGBTQ staffing firm PROUTATWORK found a large percentage of LGBTQ employees feel dissatisfied with the lack of inclusivity in their workplaces. This eventually affects morale and – in most cases – businesses’ bottom line.

There are many ways to gain a reputation of being non-inclusive to the LGBTQ population – but one of the clearest and most effective ways to establish your business as LGBTQ-friendly is to follow the best practices for non-discrimination in terms of sexual orientation and gender, detailed further in this article.

On the customer side, it’s crucial to let LGBTQ customers know you welcome them to your business – whether in person or online. A customer who believes your business is friendly to their community is far more likely to choose your product over your competitors’ offerings, based solely on this one factor. This is especially true when it comes to millennials and Gen Z.

LGBTQ affirmation is another thing entirely. On a first-level basis, it’s accepting that the LGBTQ population is a present part of society, and that we must cater to their needs like all other demographics. But on a deeper level, businesses of all sizes are at the forefront of societal change, and the LGBTQ community needs businesses more than ever.

One mistake many businesses make is acknowledging the LGBTQ community only when everyone else is. When Pride celebrations take place all around the world, many businesses choose this time to essentially “hop on the bandwagon” in terms of marketing and business operations.

But it’s a year-round commitment to this community that makes a business truly stand out. AdWeek and many other marketing industry publications have found that the LGBTQ community notices which companies embody this constant commitment, and which ones only hop onto the international Pride week bandwagon.

This is a mistake most SMBs can’t afford to make. The bad press and negative public perception associated with a lack of fidelity or worse – outright intolerance, for example – can cost you money.

Tasteful LGBTQ-Inclusive and Sensitive Communication

In 2014, former CNN anchor Piers Morgan interviewed transgender rights advocate Janet Mock for the release of her book Redefining Realness.

The interview begins harmlessly with a nice greeting, but viewers will notice that very soon, the interview takes focus on the “otherness” of Ms. Mock – the fact that she is a transgender woman.

Why is this offensive? For starters, most of the interview just focuses on Mock’s gender identity as opposed to the work she is presenting. That means her gender identity is more important and more interesting than her contributions.

You’ll also notice that the subtitle under her name says “Was a boy until age 18,” which is a mischaracterization of Mock’s experiences and again puts undue focus on her gender identity.

Many people in the LGBTQ community find this kind of occurrence belittling and outright offensive – but it’s a mistake many people make every day. For SMBs, these subtle “microaggressions” – small but noticeably offensive instances of discrimination or misunderstanding – can make an LGBTQ person feel disrespected and impact morale.

For owners or managers of businesses of any size, it’s crucial to be aware of how to properly address an LGBTQ person.

Being LGBTQ-inclusive in communications can be difficult. It’s often small mistakes that create big waves in terms of a company’s reputation. Taking a hard look at how you communicate is essential to establishing your business as LGBTQ-friendly and affirming.

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