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Understanding and marketing to the same-gender couple

One of the fastest growing consumer groups in the United States is that of the same-gender couple consumer group, also known as the gay and lesbian market, writes Dave Ryder.

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As a corporate events and meeting planner for nearly 20 years, I have witnessed and participated in the development of thousands of meetings and events where a growing population to be reckoned with is that of the same-gender couple. For purposes of this article, I define same-gender couples as members of the gay and lesbian market.

Reaching this market takes cunning, wit and a specific understanding of the motivation that spurs the average same-gender consuming couple, realising that one of the primary motivators for these consumers is quality of life and self-actualisation. Same-gender couples comprise more and more of the homes in upscale neighbourhoods as they seek a quiet, respectful lifestyle. They have significant disposable income and are very wise investors. They plan for the future, but also live well today.

But how does the small businessperson reach this growing market? What are the best methods of marketing and sales that will encourage same-gender couples to buy or patronise any business?

  • Review your diversity awareness statement. If you don't have one that outlines your commitment to diversity at every turn, you need to develop one and live by it. Judgmental behaviour is not an acceptable format for any business transaction.

  • Treat every customer with the utmost dignity and respect every moment. Whether they purchase today or tomorrow, the more respectful of the couple's privacy in the selling environment, the more likely they will feel comfortable about the buying experience and complete the transaction.

  • Recognise that your personal feelings about their relationship are not at issue and never will be.

  • Accept that these couples are part of a growing population around the world and as such will be a growing market segment for your competition as well. If they do not purchase from you, they undoubtedly will purchase from your competition.

  • Review your marketing materials to determine if they would be appealing to the same-gender market. Consider advertising and promoting your business with charitable organisations that draw large numbers of this population to their events, or whose organisations directly benefit this population. Above all, avoid over-used and abused cliches that are an insult to the intelligence.

  • Visit local retailers, merchants, bars and gay-related organisations that may enhance your awareness and understanding. You can never have too much compassion.

  • Learn all you can about same-gender couples' buying habits, likes and dislikes in the consumer goods and services marketplace, and seek input about their expectations for the future. Engaging a round-table discussion with members of this population often proves invaluable.

  • Realise that the same-gender couples' market is comprised of persons from age 15 to 85 (and beyond...).

  • Realise that the same-gender couples' market is worldwide and comprised of various races, religions, political affiliations and nationalities.

  • Make every attempt to diversify your company's vendor base to include same-gender couple (gay and lesbian) businesses. This will enhance your understanding of the larger consumer group you are trying to reach.

  • Understand that the same-gender couple population has disposable income to spend and will spend it, and often without much encouragement.

  • Understand also that many same-gender couples have children from previous or current relationships that need attention too. Do not automatically assume that same-gender couples do not have children. You may be surprised.

  • Give same-gender couples the courtesy of volunteering information about their lifestyle, relationship, living situation, buying habits and so forth.

  • Avoid jumping to conclusions, asking personal questions and making statements that may be considered stereotypical and potentially offensive. What you see in Hollywood or on television is not necessarily an adequate depiction of same-gender couples' lifestyle.

    The bottom line is that everyone desires and deserves respect and courtesy. Recognise that every person is a potential customer, regardless of his or her living arrangements or sexual preferences, and may have lots of friends and associates to send your way. Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool. Business from the heart is the best business of all.

    © 2002 Dave Ryder, Corporate Destination Services of Arizona, Inc. Reproduced by permission from the author.

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