Are you a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer small business owner or non-profit leader? If so, you have to market your business like any other. However, if your business also focuses on the LGBTQ community as your target customers/clients, you have even a little more work to do to reach them. No one wants to waste money and your business needs to be marketed in many ways to create brand awareness and convert passive prospects into an initial customer/client. Afterward, your continued marketing will keep those customers coming back. You likely have competitors all around you and some might have big marketing budgets. So how can you compete to stand out in your market? You have to market smarter and leverage a multi-channel marketing approach.
Start by brainstorming with your business partners, family, friends and community connections to come up with several inexpensive outside-the-box marketing ideas to get your business out front and zipping along with marketing buzz. Listen for repeated and unique ideas. They may suggest local area opportunities marketing opportunities you’ve not considered before.
To help you along your path to a great marketing plan, we’ve consolidated the below marketing ideas for your LGBT owned small business:
1. Create relevant content on your website. As Google itself has stated publicly numerous times. Your website content is KING!! Be sure to keep it focused on your business and industry. Don’t be tempted to use it as a personal interests blog with images of fluffy kittens, unless that’s your business. Publish new content regularly. The more you do it the easier it will become. Do Google search for your industry for ideas of what kinds of content ranks highly. Then read it and rewrite the content in your own words and post away. Fresh and helpful content helps to engage readers, build valuable links, attract leads and convert them to new sales/contracts.
2. Publish articles in trade or local magazines. Your average Joe and Jane believe printed published articles is more valuable than an online blog post. Since everyone searches online though keep a keen focus on #1 above. However, all marketing is good marketing – for the most part. So consider printed materials as another way to reach a wider audience. Contact the publication to introduce yourself and your company. ASK to be interviewed or if you may provide the story yourself. Make it easy as pie for them to pick up your story. Be sure to have several nice digital images of 300 dpi (dots per inch) ready featuring a great headshot of you, photos of your business and products if pertinent. You can even use the camera on your phone. When saving the digital images be sure to name it with your name, company name and a few SEO keywords. Example: “Darrel Dartson – Sit Happens – Dog Obedience Training – Atlanta GA Georgia.jpg”
3. “How-To” Content. A pool company in California had a great idea. They started blogging how to fix it and treat it informational short articles and videos on their company website. For those do-it-yourself, it is a treasure trove of just about any and every problem a homeowner can have with pool equipment and how to get the water sparkling clear again. This may seem like they are giving their knowledge away and would have fewer customers because of it. The absolute opposite happened. This demonstrated that they are not only pool installation and maintenance experts, but it demonstrated that they are kind, courteous and helpful too. After a short while, they became #1 on all internet search engines not only locally, but nationally. Their phone started ringing off the hook and their company grew hundreds of percent annually in no time. It set them vastly apart from their competition. It cost them ZERO money – just their time and willingness to share.
4. Reuse content. As your content grows, consider re-purposing it. Blog posts can be combined into an informative ebook that provides just enough information to educate and present yourself as the expert. It can be an electronic downloadable document, a single video or a series that can be played by the site visitor 365 days a year 24 hours a day. You can even implement a lead capture system on your website that requires basic contact information input in order to download or view this content.
5. Guest blog or cross-blog your content you are working so hard on. As an example when you join OutBüro for free, directly from your personal profile you have the ability to submit articles/blog posts. They become part of the OutBüro blog and gain all the SEO love we’ve worked hard to build and continue to grow weekly. Locate other blogs in your industry and contact the website owner about the potential to guest blog. They can be small or you might land a contributor role at a major website. That will only happen if you reach out and put the ball in motion. Be sure to focus on item 1 first so that the other blog owner/editor can see your great content and how it might fit with their audience to magnify your reach and exposure.
6. Use every opportunity to push a press release. Check out our article titled, “Press Release Tips for the LGBT Entrepreneur and Non-Profits”. Did you know that as a free member of OutBüro you may use the article posting feature on your profile to self-publish your own press releases or for a small fee we can help give it a bit more extra SEO kick and share it with our network? Check out the article titled, ” LGBT Business and Non-Profit Leaders: Create Buzz and SEO Love” for more information.
7. Sponsor a local youth or LGBT sports team. Send out a press release or feature article, get your logo on the team uniforms, host event for the team at your business location if you can, or offer free iced water at the games with an information booth if you can. This makes you a valuable community member and builds awareness.
8. Join industry and LGBT professional associations. If the organization has an accreditation, work toward achieving that. It will demonstrate you’re a pro at what you do. Some association also have lead generation programs. Check them out.
9. Join your local and LGBT chambers of commerce. They have many resources available for entrepreneurs from education to networking. Being a member lends credibility to your company, and you can find new partners or clients, or discover opportunities to teach or speak.
10. NETWORK online – Be a good online group member by liking and thoughtfully commenting on what other people post. It still gets your name out there and demonstrates that it’s not “only about you”. Also, Join local or national Facebook groups. Join the OutBüro site for free, then join groups or start a group and moderate it so that others who join it you’ll be seen as the leader and expert. Additionally, join the OutBüro on LinkedIn group with 44,000 global LGBT professionals. Via your LinkedIn group settings, you may hide that group from your LinkedIn profile if you choose while still being able to leverage it.
11. Your LinkedIn personal profile LinkedIn is WAY MORE than a site when you are looking for a job. Sure, that’s a big part, but over the years it has morphed and with Microsoft now owning it continues to morph. As a business owner, your LinkedIn personal profile SHOULD NOT be your resume. Don’t list that you worked at McDonald’s when you were 18. WHO CARES? As LGBTQ business owner your LinkedIn profile should be treated as a business marketing piece. You can list your qualifications if it supports your credibility as a professional in your industry and business. Keep it short and on marketing message with all the SEO keywords.
12. LinkedIn Articles – As you create that wonderful content for your site, you may also cross-post that content as a LinkedIn Article that gets associated with your LinkedIn profile. Be ready with your feature image, article body images if appropriate and most definitely call to action images that have the URL link to your website pages. See my LinkedIn profile as a humble example. While on it, request to connect with me. My 23,000 1st degree connections will then be your 2nd.
13. LinkedIn company page – No matter the size of your company, when adding your company to your personal profile as your current employer, if not found, LinkedIn will ask if you want to create a company listing. Yes – do it. You’ll then be the associate manager of your LinkedIn Company page. Fill in as much marketing information there as you can. In addition to adding your website blog postings as LinkedIn articles as mentioned above, add your website blog postings to LinkedIn Company page. This is as simple as while on your company website blog, copy each blog post’s URL and paste it. Do one per blog post. Why? Exposure and SEO.
We mentioned the LGBT professional and entrepreneur focused OutBüro on LinkedIn group which you should join. There are tons of other industry-based group to consider too. Explore. If needed you can always leave them. Don’t forget that you may also hide any LinkedIn group from your personal LinkedIn profile in the group settings.
14. Be a people person. When you network, follow up with all leads. Remember conversational and ask them questions to get to understand as naturally but as quickly as possible if this lead might have a need for your product/service. You don’t have all day and they don’t have to become your new Yoga partner, but you need to be genuine and not come across as desperately rushing to a sale. For first conversations, you might call with the idea to learn more about them first and foremost. If there is potential, schedule a meeting over coffee. In person, conversations are so much more productive when you have the opportunity but don’t be afraid of the phone, internet or email. They are necessary. No one likes to make cold sales calls. As you do all the other ideas here, your calls will not be cold. You would have met them or interacted with them in some way. Or from your great content they found you and your phone rings away with leads dialing in. No matter what, keep it productive yet warm and friendly.
15. Strive to separate work from personal life issues. This may seem like a huge “duh factor” but I’m constantly amazed how a business owner’s bad day (personal life) or lackluster employees can ruin an interaction experience that otherwise should be amazing. When at work, be focused on it. If you have too put your game face on. Check that bad thought/emotion until after your work day is done. It’s a great idea to have either a close friend or a professional counselor to regularly check in with and help provide guidance in personal matters. How is this about marketing? See #34 above. When you interact with potential and current clients/customers your language, tone, approach, and body language can speak volumes. Don’t lose a client/customer due to personal issues. If that happens too often you’ll be spending more money and time trying to regain them or replace them with new clients/customers. So yes – this is very appropriate for your marketing.
16. Subscribe to marketing blogs and video series. Find some that are very informative and subscribe. When those first emails come in, tag them so that when you have time you can easily find them and review them to continue to keep ideas, tips and trick rolling in from the experts. Just as your good content should be, scan the title and first paragraph to see if the article is something you want to spend time on. If not, get back to work. If so, either spend the time now or flag it to review when you’ve allocated time to self-education which should be about an hour a week. This could be over morning coffee, a cold one a night or over the weekend. Expanding your small business marketing and all small business operations knowledge doesn’t have to eat into your productive work day. But it’s so valuable to your personal and professional growth as a business owner.
17. Keep your inbox clean. If your inbox is cluttered with lots of unread, categorized, unprocessed or not deleted message you run the high risk of missing opportunities to grow your business. You’ll miss communications or reply super late and look unprofessional. If you have several inboxes as I do, have them all aggregated into a single mail reader. I use Gmail. Each is categorized so that I can quickly see it’s source. I use tags and the star to keep it organized. I also delete emails I don’t need and I unsubscribe from list often (once to twice a month) if I get no value or I cannot perceive value for my own audience from the content streaming into my inbox. My email time is over my morning coffee and near the end of my day. I don’t live glued to my inbox. Neither should you. You have other marketing activities to get accomplished.
18. Seek out or be a business/marketing mentor. You are great at what you do, but as a small business owner, you have to do EVERYTHING and do it amazingly well else your business may not survive. If you do something very well, consider being a mentor to another. Either way, you’ll both learn something and form a great business and friendly relationship to support and promote each other’s businesses. On your www.OutBuro.com profile, you may indicate if you’d like to be a mentor or mentee. See if other organizations you are a member of have Mentor/Mentee programs to be a part of.
19. Donate product or services to a local charity if they have an auction fundraiser. Be it art, disability, veterans or LGBT focus. Find the local charities that you feel passionate about and get involved. It’s a great way to network and gives back to your community. If you can afford it sponsor the event at some level that gets your information on the event material and co-market the event sharing it online and in person widely.
20. Speak at seminars and host your own workshops. You’ll get publicity from marketing the event and from the event itself. Besides, you’ll look more professional in your customers’ eyes. A natural medicine center in Central Florida I’m very familiar with uses this tactic with fantastic results. Every month they host an informational seminar at their offices. They ask every prospective client to bring a family member so they can learn what it’s all about. Further, they ask every current client to invite a family member, friends, and co-workers who might have interest. Every month they pack in 20-40 people and of those typically gain 8-12 new clients. To top that off, they take their show on the road participating in local health and fitness events, fitness centers, nursing homes, churches and more. It’s an effort that pays off nicely for them.
21. Enter business award competitions. If you win, you get a badge on your website and a lot more sales. Even if you don’t win, you can still get lots of publicity if you place high enough and broadcast your participation. Your local and LGBT chambers of commerce may have some. Also look into local publications and website. Research what it takes to get on the nomination list. If you can do it yourself, note the time window and add it to your calendar. If someone else, like a client/customer, must nominate you, don’t be bashful. Ask your best client/customer to do it and follow up. Heck, ask a few to nominate you.
22. Create your own business award competition. If there isn’t a competition in your area and/or industry if there’s no way you can compete in one, hosting your own unique competition creates buzz as other businesses scramble to win your award. They will share they will invite all their customers/client to vote for them sending them to YOUR WEBSITE. How awesome is that? Being the award creator positions you and your company as the local leader.
23. Host/participate free events. Reporters are always looking for a good story. Give them what they want and get some free publicity by hosting a free event. You’ll get more attendees if there’s food or freebies involved. This could be separate from your educational seminars. If you aren’t up for hosting an event, evaluate all the events that go on in your area where you might participate with a booth or sponsorship of the event.
24. Build a referral network. Referrals and word of mouth are the most powerful advertising, so build relationships with professionals and other businesses you would happily refer your customers to and who can send referrals your way, as well.
25. Make partnerships for co-promotion. Several related but non-competing businesses working together on a promotion can afford bigger ad space, better prizes, and other advertising expenses. For example, a carpet cleaning service that co-markets with a pet training and daycare company. Those carpets could be dirty from pets, right? Or maybe a wedding planning company and catering/cake decoration business. Think about, when a client/customer seeks out my services/products are there other non-competing business where their products/service might also be a natural potential need/desire by the target audience. Give it a try.
26. Send handwritten holiday, birthday, or thank you cards to past and current clients, valued partners, vendors in your referral network, connections who have helped you–everyone you can think of. This is a low-cost and in today’s everything digital world, it will stand out as unique and thoughtful.
27. Open as many communication channels as appropriate, including but not limited to LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, OutBüro, Instagram, a toll-free phone number, live chat on your website, email, and related forums and blog comments.
28. Be where your competition is and is not. Research your competitors. If you’re a roofing company you may feel like that obligatory home delivered coupon pack is your only open. NO, it is not. Quality and value are the clients you seek, not the coupon junkies – right? Do your homework and seek out all the potential places to get the word out. Take a note from many of the ideas here that your competitors are not doing. If you want to do local direct to home mail advertising, find the vehicle for that that contains none of your competitors. Get more leads as the only major player with your products/services. If printed consider the content side of that publication. Can you provide a quarter article about your industry that is not only touting your company but actually informative? Think about that pool company mentioned above. If you are helpful, informative and provide your information you’ll build the awareness that you are the go-to company in your area.
29. Be everywhere. Having a blog, YouTube channel, and podcast on iTunes in addition to social media makes you more well known and credible and helps improve your own website search engine optimization. Expand beyond your website to get more traffic and leads. This is called “off page content”.
30. Local, local, local. To be found by people on Google, Bing and Yahoo searching for your types of products/services those search engines must clearly understand WHERE YOU ARE. Note that business citations are not beneficial to businesses where everything you do is online only. It’s all about helping users/customers find LOCAL businesses near them. You should have business citations on as many business related sites as possible. Think about the last time you popped out your phone, clicked Google Maps and searched for pizza or Greek food. That Google Maps listing is a business citation. Powerful heavily used potential here.
But don’t stop at Google Maps. Google Places and Bing are absolutely free for local businesses, while Yahoo Localwork is a paid service allowing to list your business in 50 directories (Yahoo Local, Yelp, WhitePages, Bing, Mapquest, etc.). Once you’re listed, start taking advantage of local search results, and don’t forget to ask your customers to leave reviews on your page. I do NOT recommend Yext. STAY AWAY or pay forever. If you stop paying for their service they literally remove all your listings everywhere it was placed by them – once you use them you are trapped or will have to start all over with another service.
So why not start with a company like BrightLocal who I have personally used before and like. When they hand enter your information to business listing sites, that’s it. You have access to an online progress report and can click directly to your listings to see them live. Later, you may use them to update the information if it changes but if not, those listing remain active forever without ever incurring any additional fees. Sweet. Right? Think of all those backlinks and local indicator love.
31. Claim your online business listings. Search your business name. When you find a listing of it, copy and paste that URL into a spreadsheet to keep track of it. There are hundreds of websites out there that contain your business information. Claim your business online and enjoy better rankings in Google, greater visibility, and more traffic. You may add your business to the OutBüro Company directory too.
32. Setup an affiliate program. You get more sales and brand ambassadors for less. This is great if your business is online. There are online affiliate systems that are hosted off your site and depending on what you use for your website there are plugins for the major players including WordPress. Affiliate systems aren’t for your customers. It is for bloggers / online marketer to write content about your product/service on their owned websites and then drive that traffic to yours with a web token that gets passed and your affiliate system tracks the site visitor and credits the referral with a set % of the sale if a purchase if made. For local, check out the idea above about referrals with other professionals and business owners.
33. Create a customer loyalty program to encourage future purchases and referrals. It may seem a little old school if using a punch card. But do whatever you can. You may not have the budget for a cool app like Starbucks, but that works. I know, I write a lot of my articles while sitting there. 🙂
There are online customer loyalty systems. If your point of sale (POS) system does not have one built in, consider upgrading/changing your POS to a system that has one built in or that integrates with a good 3rd party customer loyalty program. Do your online research to find options.
34. Use bumper stickers and window decals – Create a monthly live video streaming contest. In addition to putting them on company vehicles and customer/clients’ cars theme the m for free to employees, partners, stakeholders and investors, charities you donate to, and other contacts to display. Pass them out like candy any and everywhere you go.
Maybe host Facebook live events in where you announce you’ll be at a certain location or area while streaming live the first person to arrive with your company sticker on their car wins something. Be creative. Do it regularly – say monthly. Make it fun and inexpensive. Think about the social media shares something like that can create.
35. Ask for testimonials and reviews. This includes online reviews on websites like Yelp, Google and others. Be sure the client/customer is happy and ask them to do it before they leave. Make recommendations on LinkedIn and ask for them too. Create a testimonials page on your website and use the best reviews in as many promotions as makes sense.
36. Answer questions on forums and answer sites such as Quora. Help out people with free advice on topics related to your products and services. Create your profile with your business info, not your personal. Add your company website URL. This will be one more SEO love juice item. Keep your comment 100% professional. Just be sure to not get sucked into spending too much time on this. Don’t get baited into political or religious questions or anti-LGBT stuff unless you are very comfortable with that being associated with your business.
37. Create customer case studies. Ask your happy customers to share their experience of using your product or service. Treat it like an interview. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, ask someone else to interview them and you and write the document. Maybe it could be a story featuring your company on OutBüro. Search case studies guides for ideas if keeping it pure to the concept. These stories add credibility to your company and help you get more customers.
38. Ask your customers for referrals. You cannot be shy. Simply ask – and you’ll receive. It might go like this, “So Jack you have mentioned a few times that you are very happy with our products/services. We are so happy to have a customer/client like you. Can you think of two to three other companies/people you know who might also like to have our products/services that we can say you suggested them to us?” Sit there with your pen and paper or tablet in hand ready to write/type. That action and asking for 2-3 will compel him to cough up those contacts for you to follow up with.
39. Post your company offers on a coupon and deal sites. People love special offers and discounts. Getting a great product at an excellent price is what everybody wants. But be very careful to not be the perceived as the cheap discount king. When stuff is priced too low it can actually make the person feel that your product/service is cheap, your service will suck and if they have any problems they’ll be lucky if you answer your phone. OCCASIONAL specials are OK. But if there’s a “Sale” sign hanging in your window 365 days a year, you know the types of customers that attracts. Enough said.
40. Offer free consultations. Free consultations are a great way to showcase your expertise and get more clients. Basically, it’s a short 30-minute or less needs assessment and sales demonstration. Keep it simple. If you don’t make the sale there, collect their contact information and put them in your customer relationship management system to follow up with them appropriately.
41. Optimize your website for mobile. Google considers it in search rankings and more and more people search the web on their phones and tablets. Sites that are not mobile ready get clicked away from super fast. Just think of your own phone internet browsing for proof.
42. Add SSL to your website. SSL is Security Socket Layer. It is an encryption that ensures all the interactions your visitor has with your website is encrypted and secure. Google is taking SSL into account when presenting searchers with results. If your competitor has SSL and you don’t, you’ll be penalized. If you have it and they don’t, you’ll crush them. We’re adding SSL to OutBüro too – if not already implemented when reading this, it’s in the works.
43. Create a giveaway. Please, be creative. You want to give away something cool your customers want and need rather than something you don’t need. I always need a good quality coffee travel mug and personally love the adult sippy cups with a lid and straw – I actually like them so much that I purchased a box of 12. I knock over water and iced tea glasses all the time. They save me from cleaning up a spill. Think of giving away a set of 6 in early spring – just in time for summer pool parties and barbecues which can lead to conversations about your company. “Cocktail please.”
44. Print your company logo on hats and T-shirts. Your loyal customers will be happy to wear them and will become free brand promoters. Yeah. Old school but folks love them. I have a friend that seems to not own a single unbranded t-shirt. Me not so much. But, if you contact me to do a story about your business to be on OutBüro’s blog and send me one of your company t-shirts, then I’ll have a connection with you and likely also wear it. Remember, this is one thing in a multi-channel marketing approach.
45. Exceed your customer expectations. Reputation is everything these days. By exceeding your customer expectations and walking that extra mile – you’ll drive more business.
46. Translate your website to multiple languages. If your business sales products/service online, then why limit yourself to English only speaking potential clients/customers? The world is a big place. Go get ‘em.
47. Celebrate your company birthday with customers and the media. Use the opportunity to deliver a special message to your clients. Create a press release to distribute and post it on OutBüro.com for free via your profile article submission or leverage our low-cost LGBT press release service to SEO optimize it, post and feature it via our social media channels to give it a bit more SEO love and distribution kick.
47. Say “Happy Birthday” to your clients. Have a discount or a special offer ready to give as a gift. It works!
48. Use voice mail and an autoresponder to let your customers know about your special offers. It’s a great way to get your message across during closed hours. It won’t cost you a penny!
49. Survey your customers for great ideas. Talking to your customers is the easiest way to understand what they need and what they value the most. Can you capture more of your client/customer if you tweaked your offering? Don’t know if you don’t ask
50. Share product samples with as many people as you can. You will attract the right customers who are right for your business.
51. Add Schema.org markup to your website key data. Google can show much more than your website URL in search results. Reviews, ratings, exact address – all of it can show up in search engine results if your website HTML is marked properly. More data in search results = more clicks and traffic.
52. Set up a pay per click (PPC) campaign. In most cases, you can get a free $50 voucher from Bing or Google. If competition is not fierce – you’ll be driving more sales soon.
53. Create infographics for your website. Do you have some data that could be represented graphically? If not start thinking of what kind of data via a survey, you could collect to then create an infographic. Think about how that information could be used in local or national media, online, in print, and on TV even. If you are a professional dog walker, could you take a survey of local dog owners about the health and happiness of dogs and owners? A local news station could give you free coverage for interesting info with a local slant. Search the internet for ideas and think about how you could make it local or spin it. But collect your own data or cite the source while creating the graphic.
54. Join Help a Reporter Out. HARO is a free way to get media coverage. Register as an expert source on HARO and whenever a journalist needs a quality source for an article – you’ll get an email twice a day listing all the article ideas reporters need expert input by. If you see one that is in your area of knowledge you reply and who knows, you could be cited or featured in a major publication.
What creative marketing ideas for LGBT small business have you implemented and worked? Share your ideas in the comments below.
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