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Straight Talk on the Gay Market: Driving Self-Storage Revenue From the Fastest Growing U.S. Consumer Segment


By Mya Reyes

Awaiting inside the hotel suite sat an exquisite amenity that would have impressed even the most discerning traveler: Cristal champagne, Bitto cheese, Beluga caviar, and fruits and nuts from every corner of the world. There was no doubt the couple receiving the gift would recognize they were highly esteemed by the hotel. With great expectation, they opened the welcome card. To their dismay, they read, “Dear Mr. & Mrs. Switzer…”

Of course the note sent a very sincere message of appreciation for their business, but the damage had been done. David Switzer, CEO of one of the nation’s most profitable corporations, and Ryan, his partner of more than 20 years, had recently married and planned a romantic honeymoon at their favorite hotel. Though they had received a copy of the local gay guide upon check-in, been asked their preferences on a number of amenities, and received assistance in booking a couple’s spa treatment, the start of their five-day celebration had been less than ideal. Unfortunately, it was one they would probably recount to friends and colleagues.

This is just one example of a well-intentioned company whose marketing initiatives went awry as a result of an innocent mistake by an untrained employee. This hotel prided itself on ensuring all guests were welcomed with the five-star treatment on which its brand was built; this commitment extended to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) travelers it had made a conscious decision to court. What could have been a PR nightmare, however, presented a learning opportunity that prompted enhanced training for every existing and new employee. The faux pas was not only corrected but served to catapult the company to being one of the country’s preferred hotels by LGBT travelers.

LGBT Spending Power

The LGBT consumer market is an increasingly coveted segment. Each of the communities it comprises represents a unique business opportunity and requires the development of a dedicated marketing strategy. With annual U.S. spending power of more than $790 billion, the LGBT consumer sector not only offers tremendous financial benefit to retail and service providers, it's extremely brand loyal, and supports and refers companies that are friendly to LGBT people and causes. According to Catalyst Research, even if a brand is costlier or less convenient, 71 percent of lesbian and gay people would remain loyal to it if the brand supports LGBT issues.

So how do you position your self-storage company to capture more than its fair share of this relatively untapped market? Building an effective marketing initiative is paramount; however, it’s important to remember there’s no such thing as an LGBT marketing campaign. There are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender consumers, and each segment requires a customized outreach. The first step is to decide which of these groups you want to target, keeping in mind that each includes several niches of its own.

Your Message

In building your campaign, it’s important to remember that LGBT business must be earned. Your targeted consumers are smart, early adopters/trendsetters and computer savvy, and they network extensively all over the globe. They know marketers are pursuing their business, so if you want to stand out from the crowd, there are a couple of things you must do. Start by taking an introspective look at your company and get honest answers to the following:

  • Is my company really committed? Do we have buy-in from the top?
  • Are we willing to dedicate the necessary resources to succeed in the market?
  • Have our employees been trained to understand the bottom-line benefit of our LGBT initiative?
  • Are our initiatives really inclusive?
  • Are we in it for the long haul?
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