If you have an LGBT-related question please feel free to drop me a line, I’d love to hear it…..and you never know…..your question may be featured on an upcoming podcast!
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AUDIO TITLE: Episode #71
Jenn T Grace: You are listening to the Gay Business and Marketing Made Easy Podcast, episode 71.
Intro: Welcome to the Gay Business and Marketing Made Easy Podcast, where you’ll learn how to do business with and market to the LGBT community in an authentic and transparent way. We’re talking about an $884 billion lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. We’ll help you grow your business, gain market share, and impact your bottom line. And now your host; she teaches straight people how to market to gay people, and gay people how to market themselves. Your professional lesbian, Jenn- with two N’s, T. Grace.
Jenn T Grace: Well hello and welcome to episode number 71 of the Gay Business and Marketing Made Easy Podcast. I am your host, Jenn Grace, and today I am going to be answering a handful of questions that I have received from LinkedIn. In the last episode I’m pretty certain I had mentioned that I had a whole queue of LinkedIn questions that I wanted to answer. However the last episode I ended up only answering one of them, which I ended up titling, ‘An Open Letter from a Self-Admitted Homophobe.’ So if you have not listened to that podcast yet, I would totally recommend doing so. It’s episode number 70 so you can go to www.JennTGrace.com/70. And if you prefer to read it rather than listen to it, the transcript for that episode is available as well, so you can certainly do that. But because that episode ended up taking me- or I should say that question ended up taking me an entire episode to respond to, today I want to cover three particular questions that I’ve received. One is from a gay business owner who is abroad, and there’s a lesbian business owner who is in the United States, and then the third one is from a recent college grad looking for advice and tips on what she calls, ‘the consulting thing.’ So I do want to address all three of those questions, and hopefully I can keep it to a reasonable time frame here. Somehow under an hour, which is usually my goal, however as you all know sometimes that does not happen.
But anyway, so before I talk about those questions and provide some thorough answers, there’s a couple of things that I do want to mention before diving into the meat of the episode. And the first of those things is that I wanted to give you a super quick update on my half marathon. I was just looking through old podcast episodes going back to in the mid-thirties for episodes. So going back to mid-2013, and I realized that for a really long time I was giving you regular updates on the progress, and what was going on. But then at some point along the way I have somehow stopped doing so. And it was interesting because I just ran my third half marathon over this last weekend, and I had a handful of people from my Facebook page reach out to me asking for updates because it was a whole debauchery of epic proportions, just like the last time I ran one. But when people were asking me for updates it occurred to me that, oh wow I have not actually mentioned it on the podcast in a while. And some of you who reached out are podcast listeners. So I wanted to just give a super quick update. But if you recall- so if you are a listener, and you’ve been listening for many, many episodes, this will sound familiar. But I did the Wine and Dine Half Marathon in Disney World in Orlando, Florida this past weekend. And it was the second time I tried to do it, and ‘tried’ is the operative word there, because if you go back and listen to episode number 46, I did a- I wouldn’t say a thorough recap, but I certainly touched upon it a little bit because I learned so many things from the last half marathon at Disney that I tried. And the quick synopsis of that one was the fact that it torrential downpoured the entire three hours of running. And it was lots of life lessons learned about not being able to plan for everything, and really trying to make the best of a not so great situation. So my running partner and I decided that this year we would go back, and we wanted redemption, that’s the only reason we wanted to go again, because last year was so incredibly miserable. And this year was less miserable from a rain perspective, however for the first time in Disney history, one of the races actually had to be shortened, and that happened to be the same one that we tried again. So it was not an ideal situation. Instead of it being thirteen miles, they ended up having to cut it to just under seven miles because a huge storm blew in right before the race was supposed to start, and we had to be evacuated, and it was a whole debauchery again.
So I just wanted to give you a quick update because I know that a handful of you were actually requesting one. And I can assure you that I will not be trying a third year in a row. So my new plan is to stick to local races. We ran a half marathon in Providence, Rhode Island in May, and it was amazing, and it was beautiful, and there were no problems whatsoever. So I think sticking local is probably in my best interest. But I know there are a lot of runners listening, so if you have a half marathon somewhere in your vicinity that you think we should attempt, please let me know because we are looking to travel to run races. But Disney is now completely banned; I am not having any part of it, and that is going on the record in saying so. But anywho, so I wanted to give you a quick update on that.
And then I want to mention something really cool that just happened, and I want to encourage you to participate in it as well. I recently emailed my mailing list that has a healthy size of folks on it, and on a whim I said, you know what? I just want to be able to say thanks and give back to the amazing people who are on my mailing list, and I just shot an email saying, “Hey, can you send me your mailing address?” It was something really simple, just saying, “Hey if you shoot me your mailing address I just want to drop something in the mail to you.” And I’m so excited by the response rate. I had 20% of my list respond with their mailing address. Only a couple of people questioned whether or not it was spam, which you’re completely in the right for questioning the spam nature of it, because it did seem a little bit odd I’m sure. Because it is a mailing list, it’s not a physical mailing list. But I just wanted to get a better sense of where everybody is located, where people found me from, all that kind of stuff. And I have a map that’s actually behind me- or behind my desk, and I just put little stars on it whenever somebody from a different country reaches out to me. Just to see the kind of global impact that I’m having, and it’s really rewarding to kind of see that, but it’s even cooler to go to the post office, which I did yesterday, and send out a giant stack of international mail. So I managed to hit up most of the fifty states; not all of them, there were a handful of the states that were not included. I had a huge concentration of people in the Connecticut area for obvious reasons being in Connecticut, but then I had a big population in California and Washington D.C. So that was exciting, but I was able to mail things to Austria, Japan, Brazil, a few to Canada, England. I think those were the handful of countries. So I know that there are people from other countries on my mailing list, but it’s pretty amazing to have at least people from those countries reach out to me. And it was funny because most of them were saying, “You realize that I’m in Brazil, right? And it’s probably going to be expensive to send me something.” And I said, “It’s not a problem, I will take care of it, just send me your address.” So when I went to the post office yesterday, and I had dropped off just a whole mound of just regular snail mail with a traditional stamp, it was actually pretty funny when the guy told me it was only $6.00. And I said to him, “Are you for real? Because it doesn’t seem like sending something to Austria would cost less than $6.00.” But he double checked it and now I know that international postage for a regular piece of mail is about $1.20 in case you were all curious. At least sending from Hartford. I’m sure it’s the same thing across the country. But it was pretty funny.
So at any rate, I would love if you are interested in receiving just a small token of thanks from me, that you can sign up for my newsletter just by going to www.JennTGrace.com and there’s a pop-up that will pop up on your screen and you can enter your email there. Or if you want to make it easier on yourself you can send me an email directly at Jenn@jenntgrace.com and I can manually add you, and include your mailing address, and I will happily send something out to you. There’s no gimmick, no strings attached, no nothing, just wanting to have a general idea of where you are and to say thank you. So I do appreciate you, and I want to make sure that that is known year round, although it is November and we’re in the Thanksgiving time of year. So it’s more top of mind right now but I do appreciate you year round.
All right, one more announcement and then into the questions. So the other thing that I want to mention is that in the last episode, episode number 70, I began to tease you a little bit about group coaching coming in 2016. I am still working on that, and I am in the process of getting some amazing feedback from people that I would consider to be my ideal target market if you will to participate in the group coaching program. So I’m just trying to I guess validate my idea. I already had a hunch that it would be great for those who are following my content and my work, but I’m getting some validation from that now which is pretty exciting. If you are interested in knowing more information, I’d encourage you to send me an email directly, or actually go to www.MeetWithJenn.com and schedule a time on my calendar, and maybe we can talk about it. And I’m not trying to sell anything at this point, but rather just make sure that the program that I’m structuring is going to be the best that it can be, and it’s going to resonate with you the best way possible. So the coaching will be primarily around marketing, and personal branding whether you are part of the LGBT community or not. But the personal branding side of things is really to help speakers, and authors, and consultants, businesses like mine really leverage their names, and make sure that they’re branding themselves personally kind of for the long haul. So I’m working with a lot of clients right now kind of in this particular space, so it just seems like an easier way to leverage my time, so that way I can work with more of you, because I only have a limited amount of individual coaching slots available. And they’re not all full right now, but they’re pretty close to it. So I want to make sure that there’s a way that I can just reach more people- especially some of you who might be listening who maybe you’re in a start-up phase, and you just don’t have a lot of money to invest in your business right now, or into you personally. I just want to make sure that there are ways that you can still get additional information. You can get information from me, you can learn from your peers, so that’s really kind of the method to my madness. Is to really just make sure it’s a really great learning experience for you. It currently does not have a name, I’m not sure what that name’s going to turn into, but the primary focus will be about marketing and personal branding, however there will be a component around general business as well, to make sure that in order to fully launch a strong marketing plan, or execute on a marketing plan, you really have to have some of these behind the scenes things in your business squared away first. So I want to make sure that we cover those things, and then really kind of leap off into everything around marketing.
So that is my plan. I am really looking forward to it- like really looking forward to it. And I have a handful of people who are already kind of lined up and waiting to enter the program that doesn’t even fully exist yet, which is super exciting. So I don’t have a landing page or any type of information to send you to right now, but if you do want more information you can send me an email or go to www.MeetWithJenn.com and set up a time on my calendar, and we can just talk about it, and maybe there’s something that I haven’t thought about that you’d like to include, and we can just basically go from there. Leave it very casual. If you catch me on the phone, I’m not going to try to hard sell you or anything like that, I’m really just still looking for feedback to make sure that whatever I come up with is really truly the best thing for your business.
So one other thing that I actually just thought of that I should mention is I just came across- and this is why I love all of you, because no matter what I’m doing, somebody is sending me information that maybe I’ve not yet crossed, and it’s awesome because I don’t have to actually search for things because you are sending them to me. So the other day on Twitter, somebody- Suzanne, hi, how are you? She sent me a tweet, a link, to www.AfterEllen.com. I don’t know if all of you are familiar with AfterEllen. But they’re- I don’t even know how to describe them. They’re kind of like a media website, lots of articles and information, a lot focusing on the lesbian community. And they have a Les Bi Buy Day. So lesbians, bisexual women, buy day. So the logo of it is actually really cool looking, it’s very much like the Small Business Saturday that happens right after Thanksgiving, and it’s Saturday, December 5th this year. And what they’re trying to do is encourage people to buy from lesbian-owned businesses. So if you have a lesbian-owned business that you are looking to promote, they have a link on their website, which I will include in the show notes for today’s podcast so you don’t have to try to go find it. So if you go to www.JennTGrace.com/71, the link to this particular page will be there. But basically all you have to do, it’s super simple, is there’s a business entry form, you put in your business name, the type of business, your address if you have a brick and mortar, your website, a description of your service, email, and phone number. That’s all it is. Like literally that simple. And all they’re trying to do is encourage businesses to buy from lesbian-owned businesses, and I as a lesbian-owned business am looking forward to seeing what businesses pop up on here. There’s a link from last year, I didn’t realize this even happened last year, I guess last year was the first year that this happened. There’s I don’t know how many names on it, probably like 20, maybe 20 or 30 people. So it’s not a ton of lesbian-owned businesses, but I just want to say that if you have a lesbian-owned business, please, please go check it out and get your name on there, because it’s just another way to market yourself, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t. And just as a caveat I’m not partnered with AfterEllen or anything like that, so it’s not like I’m getting any type of kickback or benefit for doing this, other than the fact that I’m giving you an opportunity to expose your business a little bit more, and that’s really the name of the game, and what I’m trying to help you do.
So go check it out, and if you do put yourself on there, shoot me a tweet, Facebook message, whatever it is and let me know that you have put yourself on there. Because what I’ll do is on the Les Bi Buy Saturday, I will make sure that I’m tweeting out or promoting somehow via social media your businesses as well, because this is an awesome idea. So hopefully that brings some traffic, brings some business in, because the more business, the better. Correct?
Okay so now we can get into the three questions. I don’t really have mapped out responses to any of these questions, and you may realize that’s kind of how I roll for the most part. I don’t like to have just kind of like canned, rehearsed responses. I’d rather just provide a gut reaction which is what I did in the last episode around the self-admitted homophobe response. That was an interesting response to give. And I want to make sure that it’s authentic. So in these three I’ve read them, but I have not given a ton of thought into how I would like to respond, so I’m going to do that, and I’m going to wing it here with you today as I usually do.
However, here we go. So the first question is from LinkedIn as I mentioned, all three of these are currently from LinkedIn, although I do get questions from Twitter and Facebook too, but LinkedIn seems to be somewhat of a treasure trove if you will of people with inquiries. And it’s just easier for me to give longer, more elaborated responses, versus replying via email which is how I ended up deciding to do this.
So the first question I got is from Saroj. I’m probably butchering that name, so I apologize well in advance. And he is from Nepal, and his question to me- and mind you grammatically there’s a couple of hiccups here, so just bear with me. “I have been into tourism business for quite a while now, and I have been dealing with my clients from the USA and Europe market. In the view of expanding my market, I have been planning to target the LGBT community for adventure travel in Nepal. Trekking, rafting, bungee jumping, paragliding, et cetera. I actually want to reach out to this community and sell my adventure related tour products. Could you please provide some ways in which I could do so? Please find my email address, phone number,” blah, blah, blah.
Okay so this question- let’s see. I would say if I were to be sitting down with you, and we were to be preparing some kind of plan, my first guess, or my first recommendation would be I should say, is I would be looking into the local LGBT community in Nepal, and I do not claim to be an expert in any way, shape, or form on all things LGBT. However my area of expertise certainly lies moreso in the United States market. So I have no idea what the landscape is of Nepal, I just want to put that disclaimer out there now. But I would definitely look into what other LGBT groups might exist in Nepal first and foremost, because what I would suggest doing is to start building partnerships and relationships with those particular groups. So if there were some kind of local activist organization, or advocacy organization that’s focused on LGBT equality in the area, I would want to know who they are, and who the players are. So I guess if you aren’t already familiar with the political lay of the land- and I know that Nepal, I think it was back in September passed some kind of non-discrimination type of law. However I’m sure- and mind you again I’m not an expert in the area, I’m sure that is not nearly as protective as it should be, and there’s still probably a lot of nuance to the country. However I would really just get a lay of the land and find out what’s going on, who’s doing what, where the activity is happening. And I understand that since in the beginning of the question it states that most of the clients come from the USA and the Europe market, then understandably so you’re not trying to get people from Nepal to travel to Nepal. Like that obviously makes sense.
However I would want to make sure that you’re partnered locally to kind of show some skin in the game. To show that you are a part of the community, that you’re supporting the local community, the local LGBT economy in your community, and that kind of stuff. And be able to use that as not leverage so to speak, but to really- I guess maybe it is leverage. To leverage that in your marketing to really talk about the things that you’re doing locally, the support that you’re doing. So if there are nonprofit organizations in the area that you can donate to, or you can provide some kind of other adventure related product that may not be going to Nepal, but going to another destination that somebody locally would want to go to. And be able to donate that to some kind of event that might be happening. And I could be speaking completely insane right now, and none of this is a realistic option in Nepal. So again my apologies for not having a better handle on the current climate in Nepal, but that would be like step one, is to really do your homework, just kind of see the lay of the land. But then step two is to basically take the findings of what you’ve done and parlay them into some kind of strategic marketing plan.
So I would first say let’s look at how you’re marketing your products and services now. So how are you selling those adventure related tour products? How are you getting your current clients from the US and Europe? So there’s got to be a way that you’re doing that. So whether it’s being a part of travel associations, or if it’s being a part of certain industry associations. Maybe they’re not travel. I know that there’s the IGLTA which is the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association. I would highly recommend getting in touch with them if you aren’t already, to find out ways in which you can really leverage yourself from that travel and tourism perspective. That’s what they’re there for, that’s kind of their thing. They have a global conference every year that just draws in tons of people who are all part of the travel community who are trying to market their products and services.
So once you’ve really kind of looked at how you’re currently marketing, I would say then the next step is to look at how you can add LGBT people into those existing marketing efforts. So for example, if you are partnering with other agencies that happen to be in the US, or happen to be in Europe. Letting them know that you are now offering this LGBT package if you will. And if you’re not doing a partnership type of program, but you’re doing ads. So you’re doing online advertising. Then you want to make sure that you find somebody who’s qualified in reaching the LGBT community for online advertising. So it’s a matter of taking whatever you might be doing and tweaking and modifying it to speak to the LGBT community. So you want to be tweaking these ads to focus on the LGBT community.
So additionally if your clientele is coming from the US and Europe, I would be going to the organizations in the US, and in the different states even in the US, and the different countries within Europe, and finding other travel associations, or finding directories that are LGBT related. At the end of the day, the LGBT consumer is going to be looking for places that they can go that someone they know has recommended to be a safe or welcoming environment. So people might be looking in a directory, and they’ll find your product, but you need some kind of social proof. You need other LGBT people to be saying how great you are, and how great your company is, and how amazing this trip to Nepal was. So you want to make sure that you’re adding social proof whether that’s through some kind of online review site, or online communities, or just getting testimonials from current clients. Especially current clients who are LGBT. And of course if you don’t have any LGBT clients yet, when you do get your first one, make sure that you’re getting some kind of testimonial from them so that way you can use that to leverage additional clientele from the community.
So I hope that answers the question sufficiently. A lot of it really is kind of foundational work, and if you check out my first book, the book titled, ‘But You Don’t Look Gay: The Six Steps to Creating a Successful LGBT Marketing Strategy,’ a lot of what I just talked about is elaborated on in the book. So you can check that out as well. But it really- most of the time there’s a very methodical process, a very in my case six steps that I take people through to really figuring out where the best bang for their buck is going to be. And in this particular case, I think just doing some research first and finding out the lay of the land is absolutely going to be your best bet. And once you’ve done that, if you want to send a follow-up question to me, I would be more than happy to respond to that one as well, because if there’s a way that I can help educate you and those listening, then it’s a win-win to me.
Okay so that was the first question. So now the second question comes from a lesbian-owned business in the United States, and she reached out to me- it was probably back sometime over the summer. It was definitely over the summer at some point, and I responded to her at that point and said, “I would love to address this on my podcast. I don’t know when the episode is actually going to come out.” And here we are in November so many, many months after she emailed me via LinkedIn. But we did connect by phone and I was able to hear more about her business, and make some connections, and recommendations for her to check out. But what we talked about I think is interesting and valuable to read her original question, and then kind of give you some of the insights that I gave her because I’m certain that there’s going to be at least a dozen of you listening to this who have a similar- maybe not what the offer is, but a similar type of business structure. And if there’s a way again, that I can help all of you, then why not? Right?
So question number two from MaryAnn is, “How would you suggest I market my website which features over 700 wedding vendors that support marriage equality? They are either LGBT-owned businesses, or have family, friends that are in the community. I am spending money on Facebook to advertise the Facebook page where I promote my listings, but I need to find a way to get more traffic to the website. Our budget is not big so advertising with The Advocate or other great publications wouldn’t be an option. Thank you.”
So when MaryAnn and I had a chance to sit down and chat, I was able to ask her for more specifics about the amount of traffic coming to the site, what might be the reason why it’s a little bit lower. And what I found out is that she recently redesigned her website. And she had done so sometime in June, and when she did that she actually took a big hit in Google. So Google is not always the friendliest of places where if you make some drastic change to your website, or the way that the content is structured, or you remove a lot of content. Google is going to penalize you until you kind of rebuild that trust back up with Google. And I’m really oversimplifying it right now, but just to kind of get the general idea out there, is that Google just really- they don’t seem to like when something drastically has changed on a website. And it’s not say that you can’t just put up a new website tomorrow, but there are search engine things that will happen that will be kind of a nuisance. And come to find out, that’s what happened to her. We did look at her website and it’s beautiful, it’s really well done, it’s easy to organize. But when we were talking about it, we were trying to figure out- she has a two directional issue I guess you could call it. Where she’s trying to get more LGBT consumers on the site to then use the services of the wedding vendors that she has, and there’s over 700 of them on the site. But then additionally she wants to find additional service providers to put on the website. So it’s a matter of getting traffic from two different sources. So you’re trying to get the B2B traffic, and get more businesses to see that “Hey, this is a good opportunity, I want to make sure that I’m on this site.” And then on the flip side it’s a matter of doing B2C where she’s trying to get consumers to say, “I’m LGBT, I’m getting married, I want to make sure that I’m getting the best wedding provider I can,” and getting them on the site as well to then purchase goods or services through.
So one of the things that she had been doing and seeing really good success with was spending money on Facebook to advertise their Facebook page. And I feel like there’s some good in that. There’s some good in having social proof to show that your business is legit, and that you are active, and that you’re not kind of- your business isn’t going and dead. But at the same time, it’s better to be sending people to your website rather than to a social media source, in my opinion anyways. And there’s going to be people who disagree with that, but I personally- I feel like you can get away with having a couple thousand fans on Facebook, or a couple thousand followers on Twitter, or connections on LinkedIn, whatever it happens to be. But the big piece of the social media component is making sure that those areas are continually updated. So you don’t want to have a Pinterest account and then have posted twice six months ago, and then never post again. Because people are going to make assumptions that if you are not active, then your company either no longer exists or- yeah I guess that’s really it. That people just assume that the company doesn’t exist anymore. So I know for me, my Facebook page has like 2,000 likes on it right now. It’s not a huge number, and that’s fine by me, that’s all organic growth. So it’s people who’ve actively wanted to like that page, it’s not me trying to force people. On LinkedIn I have somewhere over 3,000 connections at this point, and to me LinkedIn is really- for my business anyway, LinkedIn is where it’s at. Because I’m connecting with other professionals who are looking to market to the community, or looking to improve their approaches, et cetera. And then on Twitter I want to say I’m probably somewhere around 6,000 followers or so. And again, these are not huge numbers- and I guess huge is relative. So I look at companies that have 50,000, 500,000, a million followers, and I think, ‘Wow that would be nice.’ And meanwhile I have like 5,000. However I would rather have 5,000 people who really, really want to hear what I have to say, and really want to be engaged in a dialogue and be part of the community, rather than just having a huge number for the sake of having a huge number. So if I were to be spending money on getting more people to know about my community- in this case if we’re talking about wedding vendors, I would be spending money trying to get people on your mailing list, or getting people to your website. So getting traffic to your website. And it could be a multi-pronged approach if you think it’s too difficult to get people out of Facebook and directly to your site; which can happen depending on what you’re selling. So sometimes you get people to like your Facebook page, and then on the Facebook page you can send targeted advertising to just your Facebook fans, that then gets them over to your website. So there are different ways to kind of move people through a marketing funnel if you want to call it that. But at the end of the day, the end goal should be getting people onto your website to increase more traffic, rather than just blowing up your social proof on your Facebook page. It’s good to have several thousand on there, but you don’t need to have 25,000. The bigger the number, the better in the grand scheme of things, but if you’re budget conscious. I should probably have prefaced this whole conversation with around being strategic with your budget. If you don’t want to spend a ton of money, and you want to really use the money that you do have wisely, I would recommend to just be conservative and make sure that you’re getting the best bang for your buck possible. So rather than giving Facebook all of your money, maybe you try some Google advertising and try some different keywords, and that’s what I ended up recommending to her, and I found a couple of folks in my network that could do kind of a Google analytics analysis if you will to just kind of look to see where her traffic is coming from, who’s on her site, how long they’re staying on it, are they finding what they’re looking for, at least from the metrics can we tell if they’re finding what they’re looking for? So all that kind of stuff.
And then additionally the second recommendation that I had made to her was somebody who focuses on advertising to the LGBT community, specifically online advertising. So I was able to make those two introductions and recommendations. And I hope that she’s doing something with them. However that is not for me to be worried about, I just make the introduction and hope for the best.
So if you are listening and this is something that you’re trying to figure out, or maybe you’re just trying to figure out how your Google analytics work, because that is a cumbersome pain in the butt process to kind of dive into. Feel free to just shoot me a message and say, “Hey can you make that recommendation or introduction to the person who does this?” Because they were affordable because she is on a budget, and I’d be happy to make the same introduction for you. And the same thing for the online advertising for LGBT; I’d be happy to make that introduction for you as well because online advertising is nuanced in and of itself, and then you add LGBT into it, and it makes it a little bit more difficult. So to me, you may as well go with the expert who knows exactly what they’re doing, and just kind of start from there really.
So I hope that this answers your question. Again, being on a tight budget doesn’t make things easy, but this kind of goes back to what I was talking about in the beginning about group coaching. So it’s businesses like MaryAnn’s that are prime to be in that group coaching setting, because this is just my input and my advice, and how I’ve helped other businesses. But to be in a group coaching setting where you’re with six or ten other people who are trying to do similar things as you, that’s six or ten other voices that you can be hearing great tidbits from. Not just mine. So I do want to just throw that out there because it seems like such a great opportunity for a start-up to just kind of learn from the advice from either other start-ups in different industries, or people who are more seasoned business owners if you will.
So MaryAnn I know that you’re listening to this. If you want to connect with me and have additional questions, or actually want to provide an update with what you have been able to find, I would love to talk to you more, and let the listeners- give them an update too. So that is question number two.
So now we move on to question number three. And question number three is a little bit of a different type of question that I’m answering here. I do- I don’t want to say I get these types of questions all of the time, but I do get them frequently enough, and I typically respond back via email, and either provide them with a resource they can go to, sometimes I’ll have a phone discussion with them, talk them through whatever they’re trying to do, all that kind of stuff. But it occurs to me that there might be opportunity for those listening that maybe you’re in the same boat, I’m not sure. I honestly don’t know the demographics as well as I would like to of who is listening to this podcast, so it strikes me that there are others who are recent college grads who are listening, and looking for information. But I have a hunch that that’s probably not the majority of you. So if you are a recent college grad, I would love to hear from you. Please reach out to me and just let me know that you’re listening to this. Because if you are I would definitely be able to provide more information to you at a later date, and answer questions that you might have. Okay so question number three.
I just had to pause the recording and spend about fifteen minutes trying to find the source of the question, because I thought it was on LinkedIn, and I wanted to make sure that I was addressing her by name, and then lo and behold I lied and this was something that came through my contact form on my website. So it took me a little bit of time to find it, however, I just wanted to make sure that I had her name proper, and it’s Katherine. And so this actually came through a contact form on my website, and the title of it was, ‘Advice Needed.’ So Katherine says, “How are you? I wanted to tap your brain. You seem to really have this consulting thing down, so I thought you may have some tips for someone starting out. I graduated with my Master’s in December and still haven’t found any work. I prefer to find something full time, but I’ve always wanted to set up freelance projects on the side. I’m looking to do some work in strategy and research. My specialty is Hispanic but I’m trying to learn encompass the full total market as they put it. I’ve had some discussions on freelance projects for both multi-cultural and general markets, but those discussions haven’t materialized. How did you get your start? How do you draw clients and projects? What seems to really work for you? Any tips or tricks would be greatly appreciated. I’ve also attached my resume for your review. Hope you have a great day.”
So this came in just in September, so not too long ago, and I was already emailing back and forth with Katherine about the conference that we had run into each other at. And that was the New Mainstream Business Summit. I spoke at that conference back in March, and the New Mainstream, what they’re referring to is the total market as Katherine kind of put it in her email, which is Hispanic marketing, Asian marketing, African American, and LGBT- that’s kind of the last one, kind of bringing up the rear if you will. So the total market is multi-cultural. So there’s a lot of companies out there that have very well developed multi-cultural marketing departments within their larger marketing department. They’re really focused on niche marketing, and I have had the pleasure of working for a couple of Fortune companies; actually I have one Fortune company right now that is a good sized client of mine, and I’m working with their multi-cultural department to add LGBT into what they’re doing. However, the best way that I can put it is that they’re kind of like in a David and Goliath type of scenario, where they as the multi-cultural marketing department want to make sure that their LGBT marketing succeeds, but their all straight, white, male board of directors doesn’t necessarily see their vision. So it’s a long term game, and it’s a matter of making sure that they are equipped with the right information and strategy to make that internal business case to say, “This is something that we have to do, these are the dollars and cents why we have to do it, and these are also the more intangible benefits of doing this as well.
So the question that she’s kind of asking- not kind of asking, the question she is asking is how did I get my start? And going back to talking about personal branding when I was talking about group coaching earlier, is I would say in this particular instance, personal branding is probably going to be the key. So that’s really what I have kind of gone out of my way to make sure that I do, because I don’t want to brand myself in a way where I’m associated too closely with another organization. So I have an interview coming up on the podcast, it’s going to be the first one of 2016, I’m really excited about it, I just recorded it. So we recorded it a couple of months in advance. And I’m going to keep the name anonymous for the said guest because I want to hype her up in a couple of episodes, but one of her things that she specifically talked about was personal branding, and how that was the key, and that’s the best thing that anybody can do, especially if they are LGBT working in a corporate environment for example, and they are not necessarily happy with where they are. To start personally branding themselves to really put themselves out there as being the rockstar, being the person who’s amazing, being that resource internally that they just can’t afford to lose. So you can start branding yourself without necessarily being tied to a particular organization. And Katherine has the same Master’s degree that I have, which is in Integrated Marketing Communications. And knowing that that’s the degree, and that’s the background, like I seriously- the amount of student loan debt I’m in, which is a little bit obscene, and I know it’s not that uncommon, but it was honestly some of the best money I ever spent to get that education in Integrated Marketing Communications, because it’s about what it says, which is integrating marketing approaches with communications approaches, and making sure that you’re looking at it in a very holistic way. So marketing and communications- those fields broadly have so many different things in them, and I would never claim to know everything about both of those fields. However I do have a very strong background on how the integration piece really plays together. And I’m guessing Katherine as a recent grad, you probably have a theoretical framework to work within, but you may not necessarily have real life experience yet.
So what I would suggest is to start to brand yourself. And you said that your specialty was the Hispanic market; I would just start branding yourself as the Hispanic marketing expert. It may sound completely insane to you for me to be recommending that as somebody who hasn’t been out of college for a full year yet, but that’s how it starts. So you really just have to put your flag in the sand to say, “This is what I’m going to do. I’m going to focus on the Hispanic market. Done.” Now you want to be a little more logical about how you approach it, so for me, I stuck the flag in the sand to say I’m focusing on the LGBT market because the LGBT market is something that was important to me. However my career started just shy of ten years ago in 2006 in LGBT marketing, and at the time I was working for a larger company. It wasn’t quite a corporate environment, but it was kind of corporate environmentesque. And I decided that I just wanted to do LGBT marketing one day, because I was running the marketing department. And I saw that there was an opportunity for our particular product, and I just started saying- I got internal approval to say, “Let me go ahead and do this.” And what I did is that I just started learning as much as I could. I started absorbing every bit of information I could, I got them to send me to whatever conferences they would, I took different classes, I joined associations, I got as much information as I possibly could that benefitted me personally, but then also benefitted the company because I was able to help them market.
If you know my story, you know that that did not end well, and I ended up leaving because of basically discrimination issues in the workplace, and it just didn’t feel like the right fit for me, and it didn’t feel authentic to me. It was very inauthentic for me to be going out there saying, “You need to come do business with us, we’re LGBT friendly,” and then on the inside me getting called homophobic slurs. So I ended up leaving for that reason, but I basically took those years of experience, and moved them into something that I think you could do.
And I think if I’m not mistaken you might be in Florida, and it doesn’t matter- whoever’s listening to this, you may be in another part of the country, but I would say get involved with your local Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. So I am not an expert on the total market, so I don’t know where all of the Hispanic Chambers are, but I know they exist. So I would just get involved; again, that’s what I did. So I got involved with the LGBT Chamber of Commerce in Connecticut when it was first starting. So that gave me an opportunity to additionally learn as much as I could, but from a different perspective because chambers of commerce traditionally are out there for the small business. However there’s tons of corporations and big business that are part of them, but they’re really trying to promote the economic advancement of small business. And LGBT has just the LGBT focus, Hispanic has the Hispanic focus, so it’s kind of similar in terms of what I did, which I think is what you could do. So you start to brand yourself as the Hispanic marketing expert, and you just observe, and listen, and join organizations, and volunteer your ass off honestly. So if there is a Hispanic Chamber, and being in Florida I can’t imagine there isn’t one somewhere near you- and even if it’s a little bit of a drive, it’s going to be worth it. So you can throw that on your resume, and if your end goal is to find an employer, there’s nothing wrong with that in any way. However while you have that employer, continue to build your personal brand. So I would go out there and get your domain name in your name if it exists. If not try to find some variation of it. For me, I ended up doing JennTGrace because I couldn’t get www.JennGrace.com, so I ended up having to throw the T into the mix even though it sounds very- to me it feels weird when I say it because it sounds formal, and I’m so not a formal type of person. But at the end of the day for branding purposes it’s kind of how I had to do it, so now everything is Jenn T. Grace. And so I would do the same thing for you, and just start to blog, start to- maybe you want to start a podcast. It’s all about content creation, and finding a pattern that works for you. So if you wanted to write an article once a week, you wanted to write an article twice a week, once a month; whatever the rhythm is that you prefer, totally go with it. Because ultimately what you can do is you’re basically building your portfolio as the Hispanic marketing expert. And the more you do it, the longer you do it, people are going to start finding you. And then you’ll have places- you’ll have articles to point them to. So when you’re doing- even when you’re going on a job interview for example, the amount of opportunity that presents itself could be amazing because if you’re saying, “Oh yeah, I’ve been blogging for a year. I’ve been blogging for six months about Hispanic marketing,” then you’re really kind of showing your skillset in action. And you can be talking about it from an Integrated Marketing Communications perspective. You could be talking about it from just a marketing perspective. You could just be finding articles and things that are happening in the news as it relates to Hispanic marketing, and just kind of providing your summation of it. Say, “This is what I think they did wrong. This is what I think they did right.” So there’s a lot of different ways that you can just really start to put that out there. Because then once you do find that employer, you’re going to get a ton of experience from that employer; additional experience that you can blog about. Of course making sure that you’re not naming whomever you’re working for because you could end up getting into problems with that. But being able to use that information, and just continue to build on it. Because then when you move to the next employer in your career, or you move that next rung up, then you’re going to have all of this information and really be that go-to resource.
I know for me, I now have somewhere over 400 blog posts on my website. And I started back in 2012, and we’re about to enter 2016. So it’s taken years to build, and years to accumulate, but a lot of times if you’re searching for something LGBT specific, many times my website comes up because that is my core focus. But one of the other questions that you actually had asked was how do you draw clients and projects? And so I answered that how did you get started?
In terms of clients and projects, this is where things can be interesting. Because I know that you said that you’ve done some work in strategy and research, and your specialty is Hispanic, but you’ve done some general marketing. This is where you outwardly say that you are the Hispanic marketing expert, but if a marketing project comes along that’s A) going to pay the bills, B) is going to be something that’s interesting to you, and C) isn’t going to emotionally wear you down or somehow be in juxtaposition to Hispanic marketing. So obviously you wouldn’t want to be helping an organization that’s anti-Hispanic because then obviously that’s not going to be helpful. So as long as it kind of aligns with your values, then go for it. So just take advantage of whatever projects might kind of come along. I can think of dozens of projects that I’ve done over the years that had nothing to do with LGBT in any way, shape, or form. People just liked the way they saw me doing something, and said, “Hey can I hire you to do this?” And if it aligned with my values, if it wasn’t something directly in opposition of LGBT supportive or friendly, whatever you want to call it, and if it would pay the bills in the way that I wanted them paid, then I would take advantage of those opportunities. So I still have those things kind of come up now, and it’s a little bit why- I’m not saying I’m transitioning my business, or really switching directions all that much, but this is why I’m really focusing on educating around content marketing, and social media marketing, and podcasting, and blogging. Because I have a lot of inquiries as of late that are coming to me because people want help with personal branding, because they’ve seen how well I’ve done my own personal brand. They just are assuming that I can help them.
So it’s the same thing with you. So if personal branding is something that’s interesting to you, and you really brand yourself as the personal brand around the Hispanic market, opportunities are going to come your way that have nothing to do with the Hispanic market. And if they look like good opportunities, and they make you sleep well at night, then go for it. So that’s really how- so I guess my whole approach is more of inbound marketing, where I am creating content, and people are coming to me, and then saying, “Hey I need to hire you” for whatever reason it happens to be. And then that’s really kind of how I get my clients and projects. It’s not too often that I am outbound marketing where I am directly reaching out to somebody and trying to sell them, or really hardcore press get them to work with me. Most of it really is people looking for some kind of information on the web, they happen to find my stuff, they poke around on my website, they find this podcast, and then they see me as the person that can help them in doing that, and then they reach out to me.
So I hope that that helps. I think I’ve answered all of your questions in here, and I really think that what you’re looking for is totally doable. But please note that it is a long term game, and there’s a lot of other strategies that could be talked about this. I would highly recommend coming back and making sure that you check out- let me see what episode it will be. Episode number 75 will be my first episode in 2016, and it will air on January 7th. And that is going to be an interview with somebody who is a two time New York best-selling author, who has built her business very similar to what I’m talking about here, and very similar to how I have built and continue to build my business. So I think that you’re going to find some additional amazing, amazing opportunities on that interview as well. So I will continue to drop bread crumbs about that interview, and then kind of really let you know maybe an episode or two in advance who the secret mystery guest is. But I do think that there’s a lot of opportunities for you. I think that we’re in an age of personal branding really being even more important. So I would say focus on that angle, and if this is something that you want more help with, of course you can go to my calendar and go to www.MeetWithJenn.com and we can have a conversation further about it; and that goes for Katherine, or anyone else listening. So if you are trying to develop your personal brand, either as an LGBT person in business, or as an ally who’s supportive of LGBT business; either way, personal branding can certainly work for you, and I’d be more than happy to help you out with that.
And I believe that wraps up episode number 71. I feel like I’ve been talking for a while. Anywho, I hope you enjoyed today’s episode. As I’ve mentioned a handful of times, if you want to connect with me, you have a question that you want me to answer on the podcast, please let me know because the more questions I can answer that you’re actually thinking about, the better. Because if you are thinking it, chances are there’s a dozen other people thinking it as well. So I want to make sure that I’m providing as much value as I can. And as I had mentioned, if you want any of the links of what was talked about in today’s episode, you can go to www.JennTGrace.com/71 and I believe in episode number 72 I’m going to be talking about confidence, and confidence in your LGBT marketing, and confidence in your communications. I had a recent client- a prospective client meeting if you want to call it that, and over lunch we were talking about this, and it was such an amazing conversation, and I think that there’s some really good information here that you’re going to want to know about too. So I highly encourage you to come back in episode number 72, and listen to those great insights.
So there you have it. I really appreciate your time, thank you for listening, and I’ll talk to you in episode number 72. Thanks so much, and have a great one.