In previous blog posts I’ve discussed the two critical factors in effective LGBT marketing – the fact that you need to be authentic and be transparent. I explained that to have a truly successful LGBT marketing campaign you must embrace both of these core principles because LGBT consumers are savvy. They know what you are and are not doing for their benefit and the benefit of the LGBT community. If you decided tomorrow that you were going to launch an LGBT marketing campaign but didn’t first look to see what your internal policies and practices looked like – you would fail. Well, maybe not. If you have LGBT workplace protections in place then you are in good shape. For those of you who don’t have these protections or have discrimination written into your policies, you will fail. But, I don’t want you to fail. I want you to know how to right the wrong and in this post we are going to talk about doing just that and why the LGBT community will thank you for it.
You my or may not be familiar with Buying for Workplace Equality pocket guide produced by the Human Rights Campaign. This guide rates companies on their human resource practices, non-discrimination policies, LGBT spousal benefits, transgender benefits, and their employee resource groups, among many other items that are part of the scoring criteria.
Now let’s talk about why that matters. Let’s first discuss internal perceptions and then go on to internal communications.
By this point I am going to make an assumption that you are looking to handle your LGBT marketing in an authentic and transparent way and in the course of doing such you are evaluating your internal efforts. Once you make the commitment to reach the LGBT market, it’s immediately time to look within.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What does our company’s non-discrimination policy look like?
- Do same-sex married couples receive the same benefits as other married couples?
- Do you have an LGBT employee resource group?
- Do you provide healthcare benefits for transgender employees?
If you are not the owner of your company your next step is to seek internal support to help you gain some momentum. If you have an LGBT employee resource group they should be the first place you go. If you are unsure about what an Employee Resource Group (ERG) is they are also known as Affinity Groups or Employee Networks and over the years have evolved from a social group among employees to an integral part of the business. Depending on the size of your company you may have a formal ERG or perhaps an informal one. Either one is a great resource. If you are an ally reading this and don’t yet belong to the ERG, join! Every ERG will tell you that they want more ally participation. If you don’t know what an ally is, you can read this post about the definition.
As someone who is new to LGBT marketing your best bet is to seek feedback from your own in-house focus group of LGBT employees. If you want to really understand the LGBT market go talk to your ERG members, ask them questions, get their feedback – you will be amazed at how incredibly helpful they will be. They are the folks who would likely know someone like me and say ‘Hey – Jenn teaches companies about this stuff, you should check out her website.’
To really understand the value of having LGBT employees to go to as a resource I want to share an example of a real life ERG in action. The following story comes from friends and colleagues of mine at a corporation who have a big LGBT employee resource group.
This is a cautionary tale
This company’s marketing department was preparing a simple LGBT marketing piece to distribute to their sales agents to aid in their efforts to reach the LGBT community. The marketing folks were smart enough to say “hey, let’s run this by our LGBT ERG first maybe they’ll have some insights.”
Thankfully they did because the LGBT marketing piece they were considering using had a detrimental mistake in it. The statement read “LGBT people like Halloween because it’s a time of year where they can dress up as different genders.”
Now I don’t know about you, but if I received a sales piece from an agent of a well-respected company that was implying I must love Halloween because I can dress as a different gender they wouldn’t be getting my business. Period. It shows the company did not do their homework and is clueless in approaching my needs as a potential LGBT customer. I would be scratching my head saying, “What the hell are they thinking?”
This is a clear example of why internal marketing departments need help when they are doing any type of LGBT marketing. Fortunately the members of this ERG were honored that their input was asked for and subsequently were able to stop this LGBT marketing piece from going out. Had it gone out the public relations department would have had some serious damage control to contend with.
So now that we’ve just talked about how important your internal resources can be to your LGBT marketing initiative, let’s talk about how equally important, if not more important, communicating with your employees base at large is.
Internally communicating with your employees in general is a positive thing to do for business. You want your employees to know what you are up to so they can continue to be ambassadors for your brand. As part of an overall LGBT marketing strategy you must include an internal communications component that can be accomplished through trainings and workshops.
There’s nothing worse than going to market with an LGBT specific product or branded collateral and have someone say to one of your LGBT employees “Oh wow, it’s so great your company is supporting the LGBT community. I saw that great ad in the XYZ Magazine.” If your employee turns to them and has no idea what they are talking about, you have a problem.
Every one of your employees should be an advocate for your brand whether or not they are in a customer-facing role. Each of them should have the knowledge and leverage to say “Yeah, isn’t it great we made the step to reach out to the LGBT community. I’m so proud they’re doing it the right way – and get this – they asked for my input on the advertisement you saw, cool huh?”
Now you have your employee resource group members and employees reinforcing the messaging you are trying to get out into the marketplace. It is always wise to ensure that the people on the inside know what you are doing and are supportive of your strategies. I can’t imagine any scenario where you asking the ERG for some feedback would be a bad thing. They are a business resource within your company, who in addition to fulfilling their regular roles and responsibilities, belong to this employee group for the betterment of themselves and the company. Knowing they are helping the company by lending their areas of expertise to the marketing department is a huge ego boost which can lead to better overall employee engagement, job satisfaction and higher retention rates. What boss wouldn’t love more of that?
Are you ready to take your first step into learning how to reach the LGBT market? Sign up for my next webinar!