Wake up, dealers, and smell the coffee! Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community are some of your best customers, and you don’t even realize it.
Don’t miss out on all of who we are just because you may not understand one part of us. There is so much more to LGBTQ people than their sexual orientation. We are much more alike than you think, so be smart by staying out of our bedrooms and getting into our wallets. I realize you may have questions. So let’s have a conversation.
What’s so different about LGBTQ car buyers? Aren’t they just like anyone else? Yes, we are. Like everyone else, we get excited while watching the Super Bowl, we celebrate holidays together with family, we cry when watching a movie that pulls at our heartstrings, we celebrate the birth of a newborn baby, and we are saddened when someone we care for passes away. We love pets like family members. We save, invest, recycle, and vote.
What’s different is that a disproportionate number of us are educated, own our own businesses, earn above-average income, and tend to have fewer children and thus more disposable income. Many of us have excellent credit and can buy whatever kind of vehicle we want.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. In 2015, National LGBT Chamber of Commerce-certified LGBT business enterprises contributed over $1.15 billon to the U.S. economy. If all the estimated LGBTQ-owned businesses in America are included, their projected contribution to the economy exceeds $1.7 trillion.
Knowing this, how could any dealer or F&I professional take the LGBTQ market for granted?
How can dealers make LGBTQ car buyers feel welcome? Let’s start with valuing every opportunity to earn a customer, regardless of their sexual orientation. Consider indicating somewhere on your website, in your showroom, and in your advertising that your dealership welcomes our community.
Just like there are icons for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest on your websites, a simple rainbow flag and the words “Love Is Love” (or something along those lines) can acknowledge LGBTQ shoppers and anyone who agrees we should accept, love, and understand one another.
This gesture in itself will bring comfort and generate business. It will immediately let those in the LGBTQ community — and their friends, family, co-workers, and acquaintances — know that you are a dealer who is proud (and smart) enough to acknowledge your support for and value to the LGBTQ community. News like this is exciting, and the LGBTQ community is everywhere — and I do mean everywhere.
You should know that the LGBTQ community supports those who supports them. It’s really that simple!
What do dealers stand to gain from marketing to this segment? More sold units, higher profits, referrals, happy customers, and, most importantly, you will be the early bird catching this valuable worm. The fact is that most dealers are asleep at the wheel on this segment of potential customers who can and will buy from those who not afraid or ashamed to proudly acknowledge those who support their businesses.
What makes LGBTQ community members more likely to become repeat customers and offer referrals? When you have been repeatedly shamed, insulted, neglected, disrespected, and taken for granted, when you finally find a business that proudly supports you, it means a lot.
Acceptance almost guarantees loyalty. It means so much to a community of people who have been shunned to finally be acknowledged for just being who they are. So when someone — especially a big company — stands up for you, it’s priceless. Remember, word travels fast in the LGBTQ community, and words like “support” matter. It’s a savvy business move and the right thing to do.
Here’s a great example: When the owner of my dealership, Frank Ferrogine, was asked to support Maryland’s Gay Pride, he said “Yes” without any hesitation and asked how much of a contribution was needed. Our Volvo Cars Annapolis banners were proudly displayed at the next event. It was a good look for many reasons: Our dealership stood out because it was the only one that sponsored Gay Pride, where attendance numbers in the tens of thousands and coverage by local and national media is guaranteed.
Should dealers consider training sales staff to ensure no customer feels unwelcome? Absolutely. Sensitivity training benefits anyone who deals with the public. Dealerships are businesses, and no person’s race, creed, religion, political views, gender, or sexual orientation should affect the deal they get at the desk or in the F&I box.
As human beings, we can sense acceptance, rejection, kindness, fairness, affection and love. When we are not welcome, we feel it. Only a smallminded business owner would want any potential customer to feel unwelcome. Closing your doors to any particular group or segment of people will put major limits on your bottom line.
There is wisdom in knowing the difference between the things we can and cannot change. Those things that we can change include our ability to accept others as they are and our willingness to place principles before personalities. Both pursuits can sometimes be a challenge, but it is always the right thing to do — in life and in business.
Marva Laws is a 25-year veteran of the auto retail and finance industries who currently serves as business manager at Volvo Cars Annapolis (Md.). Email her at [email protected]