I get asked by so many birth and baby business professionals, "How do I get attract expectant or new parent LGBT clients?" Usually I'm asked this for 1 of 3 reasons, or maybe a combination of all of them:
1.) We have a lot of LGBT clients and students, whether in our prenatal or parenting classes or our babywearing or lactation clients at our parenting center in St. Louis, Missouri.
2.) I'm a lesbian, married, with a kiddo.
(The main pic is me and my fabulous family a few years back.)
3.) They simply have not ever had an LGBT client or haven't had very many and they don't know where to start.
Now, if LGBT clients aren't specifically your target market, that's ok. It can't hurt to appear to be more inclusive. And you'll probably find that a lot of LGBT parents may actually be in your target market. Because, for LGBT parents, our sexuality or gender identity is not what defines us- it's just a part of who we are.
So let's get straight (ha) to the point....
1. Use inclusive language
"Ok, so what does this even mean?!?" you ask? Well, it's pretty simple.
Inclusive language simply means that no one is excluded. Your language is open and general enough that it includes everyone that may walk through your doors or read your content or visit your website.
Here are some example that might help give an idea of exclusive vs inclusive:
>Your intake form might ask for Mom's Name and Dad's Name
>Your inclusive intake form might ask for Parent/Guardian and an additional Parent/Guardian
>Prenatal history and physical form may ask about "Father's Medical History"
>An inclusive prenatal history and physical form may ask about a "Father or Donor's Medical History"
>Your blog post might talk about a "Mom and Dad"
>Your inclusive blog post might talk about "Caregivers" or just more generically, "Parents"
>Your website's contact form might ask if the person is Male or Female
>Your website's inclusive contact form might leave a fill in option for Gender, so that they can self identify.
So where do you even start??
There are a few main areas that I advise people to examine first, when making an effort to make the switch to more inclusive language. Obviously this will be specific to your business or practice type, but this should be a good jumping off point:
- Main page
- About me/us page
- Blog posts
- Scheduling system
- Initial Contact or Customer Information Form
- Intake Forms
- Clinical Documentation
- Presentations and lectures
- Handouts and Guides
- Resource Lists
- Marketing Materials
- Welcome packet
- Outreach items such as banners, signs, etc.
- Staff and Subcontractors
- Business Partners
- Referral Partners
As an aside, I had to add "People" to the mix because this is a big one. You can make every effort to be inclusive, but if someone who works for you or with you isn't as inclusive, your efforts will be a moot point. I highly recommend that if you have staff or a team of subcontractors, that you have them take a cultural competency course of some kind (we offer them online. Which is why you should join our Professional Network News so you know when they are coming up!. You business is only as strong as the people who are working for it.
I recommend going through each and every step of your client on-boarding process, pretending you are a client yourself. What would a potential LGBT client see when they come to your site or pick up a brochure? What would they see if they tried to book an appointment online? What questions would they be asked if they called to scheduled a new appointment with a staff member? What forms would they fill out when they arrived? What would they fill out on their client portal or history form? What materials would they receive upon arriving to your office or receiving a welcome packet? What would they be asked by other staff in your office during their appointment? What language will you, yourself, use during an appointment, birth, or shift?
If you examine each small step that the potential client will take to become an actual client, it can help to make sure that it's a welcoming experience from start to finish.
Have an LGBT friend or family member who you're close to? Would they be willing to be a "secret shopper" and test this process out for you and provide feedback? Even better!
One of the additional advantages of considering inclusivity in attracting more LGBT clients is that you are also being more inclusive of all sorts of families- single parents, co-parents, adoptive parents, foster parents, and non-traditional families. I've also found that potential clients, who may fall more in the "traditional family type" also notice and appreciate the effort to be inclusive.
~Free gift for you!~
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2. Bring in LGBT friendly imagery
So many people in our field feel like they need to put a giant pride flag on their website or materials to say "HEY! OVER HERE!! I'M GAY FRIENDLY!!!!!"
But, I'm here to tell you that while that is a lovely sentiment, you really don't have to do all of that.
High quality images of LGBT parents on a few places throughout your website goes such a long way in sending the message that you are an ally and that you are welcoming of people in our community. Trust me, we notice. And there doesn't have to be a million of them. Just a couple throughout your website or one in your printed materials will do the trick.
In our parenting center's family room space, we feature families of all kinds, including some same sex parents and their kiddos. New clients comment all of the time how wonderful of a message this wall sends. We also have images in our website and on our print materials.
If you have an office or store and have images of babies, parents, etc., you can include a same sex family in the mix. Or maybe you have a brochure rack- you could include some brochures from a local LGBT center or LGBT parenting group.
There are lots of stock image places online. The best source is if you know anyone in your personal life, or regular clients, who would be willing to share a professionally produced image of them and their family. Real life people within the community, rather than super corny stock images, go a long way in increasing legitimacy.
3. Get knowledgable
So you've put all of this work into making your marketing materials, website, forms, and office being more inclusive and welcoming. Yes! Awesome work!
But if a potential client comes in and you don't know the first thing about how to serve them, or you speak in ways that make it clear you've had little to no experience working with someone like them, then you've gone to all of that work for nothing. Not only will you probably not retain that client, but they will probably tell their friends about their negative experience.
The LGBT parenting community. in most places, is small and close-knit. Many of us go to a lot of the same healthcare providers, stores, and even restaurants, based on experiences we've heard from fellow parents in the community.
I don't mean for that to scare you. It's ok to make a mistake, so long as you acknowledge that you made it directly to them, apologize, and move on. It happens. But wouldn't it be nice to avoid awkward mistakes to begin with?
Some areas that you might want to research further, to become a more competent provider include:
- The many wonderful ways that LGBT folks form their families so the minute a client says "we conceived through an IUI through a known donor,"- you know what that means and don't look or act dumbfounded.
- Legal challenges LGBT parents face- because marriage equality brought us a long way, but we still have many legal hurdles when it comes to protecting our families
- Local providers that are known to be "friendly" and those who are not- a bad referral can reflect badly on you!
- Using correct pronouns or asking for a person's preferred pronouns
- Learn about subjects of interest to LGBT parenting: the adoption process, co-nursing, inducing lactation, SNS use, finding welcoming schools, finding safe communities to raise children, etc
- Resources in your community for future or current LGBT parents
I would also encourage you not to use your potential clients or current clients to find out about all of the above. This is a common mistake that people make. They have great intentions and are very interested in learning more about all of these things, so they ask prying questions that may make the person/s feel uncomfortable. I cannot even count how many people, professionals and providers included, asked me personal details about how my wife and I conceived. Now, I am an open book and love talking about these subjects, so I wasn't offended. But for many folks, these are extremely intimate topics- just as when, where, and how an opposite-sex couple conceived is likely very intimate.
So that's some solid advice to get you started. But we want to hear from you! If you've read this and have some other tips for folks, comment and share what's worked and not worked for you! And don't forget to download your free checklist!
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Kate Schnetzer, MHA, CPD, CBE, CLC, CPST
Co-Owner- Parenting Resources
Co-Owner- Parenting Resources Professional Network