To many Americans, LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) people are friends and family members, neighbors, and colleagues. But for businesses, LGBT people are also something else: an “extremely desirable” target niche[i]. To celebrate Pride Month, Op4G wanted to take a closer look at marketing to this diverse group.
Photo Credit: Mathias Wasik
Numbering nearly 10 million people in the United States (approximately 4.5% of the adult population[ii]), the LGBT community has over $1 trillion in purchasing power, rivaling larger minority groups like Hispanics and African Americans[iii]. It has the most disposable income of any niche market[iv], spending heavily in areas like travel, homes, cars, electronics, skin and hair products, and healthcare[v]. It is fiercely loyal to brands and likely to promote them to friends[vi]. Furthermore, the LGBT community “is one of the first to resume…shopping after periods of uncertainty”,[vii] such as the recent COVID-19 shutdown.
To tap this niche, marketing is instrumental. According to studies, ¾ of LGBT individuals will buy a product from a company “advertising appropriately to them”[viii]. But what does “appropriately” really mean? What terms, messages, imagery, media, commitments etc. will resonate with an LGBT audience? Market research can provide the answers.
But before you launch a survey or focus group, consider the following:
- LGBT is really a blanket term covering a range of sexualities and gender identities. It may “refer to anyone who is non-heterosexual or non-cisgender, instead of exclusively to people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender”[ix]. Also, sexuality and gender can be fluid, so your research subjects may not fit neatly into any box.
- Because of the great diversity in the LGBT community, expect a wide range of perspectives, attitudes, behaviors, and opinions. Build flexibility into your studies to accommodate these differences.
- The LGBT community is typically associated with coastal cities like San Francisco, Provincetown, and New York. But “the distribution of the gay and lesbian population is not purely a coastal phenomenon”[x]. In fact, there are large LGBT populations in the so-called heartland, in places like Texas, Illinois, and Ohio[xi]. So don’t forget to include these individuals in your research.
- The LGBT community suffers from high rates of substance abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, discrimination, violence, homelessness, mental health issues (such as depression), and suicide[xii]. Be sensitive to this fact in your questioning.
- Along the same lines, exercise caution when using certain terminology[xiii] in your research. Such terms can include: homosexual (suggesting that gay people are diseased or disordered), sexual preference and gay lifestyle (suggesting that sexuality is a choice), admitted homosexual (suggesting that being gay is shameful) etc.[xiv]
- Research subjects will be more inclined to help companies that are “genuinely interested” in the LGBT community as opposed to simply “opportunistic”[xv]. Show you care by donating to an LGBT charity, sponsoring an LGBT event, or using Op4G for your market research needs (Op4G donates to several LGBT charities[xvi] including OUT Memphis[xvii] and the Triangle Gay Men’s Chorus[xviii]).
- The LGBT community includes many “avid tech users”[xix]. Compared to the average American, LGBT members are much more likely to own smartphones and a variety of devices[xx]. Hence, ensure that your surveys are available online and are smartphone compatible.
- Research subjects will be more open and honest when they trust the researchers. To foster this trust, use research companies with LGBT staff or extensive experience with the LGBT community (such as Op4G).[xxi]
By adopting a careful, considerate, informed approach to your market research, your organization can gain greater access and insight into the LGBT community. For additional guidance on working with this valued—and valuable—community, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.