Recently, we had the chance to talk Michael Lamb, Founder of Echelon Magazine.
Tell us a little about your background
I began my career in media by selling ads for B’nai B’rith, then Minorities in Business Magazine, then Senior Life and then Fab, a GLBT newspaper. I guess you can say that I received a wealth of experience in niche media. After always searching for a Gay Business publication and not finding one, I decided to start one myself. After reflecting on my experience, I realized that I have a passion for equality which drives me with Echelon and GayFranchise.com.
Tell us a little bit about the LGBT buying power?
Our buying power has been projected at $712 billion in 2008 and is perceived to grow to $835 billion by 2011. However, since it is so difficult to quantify our numbers, I would personally project that our numbers are actually much higher. That’s why I am a strong advocate for the members of our community to fill out LGBT surveys whenever possible. Our economic data is the sleeping giant that will propel our political goals. Unlike the heterosexual community, we are not counted in the U.S. Census. The only data we extract from it is the information on same sex households. However, this data does not include LGBT people specifically.
How do we support LGBT businesses?
Most major cities have an LGBT Chambers of Commerce where their members are listed on their websites.
Echelonmagazine.com has many features that describe LGBT entrepreneurs and people can visit www.Lambdabusiness.com. Our community needs to start looking at other minority groups such as the Jewish community who are very supportive of their members. We should be doing the same. We have to start capitalizing on the new environment created by the election of Barack Obama as much as possible. The economic growth of our community has been somewhat stifled during the past 8 years. Now is the time to come out at work and come out as an LGBT-owned business.
Do you support boycotting proponents and supporters on Measures like Prop 8?
Personally, I do. I recently listed a press release issued by the HRC which included companies who donated to the passage of Prop 8. I can’t see spending money with a company that does not support equality and our community. However, it does depend upon the issue on whether or not I would support it.
How has the Internet changed gay business?
We now are more visible to many more people. I know from my own experience that I am able to drive more people to my site by using social networks like Facebook, GLEE and ning. It is also a lot cheaper than print to promote your business.
Of course you can have your cake and eat it too. These days most businesses should be including target marketing within their business plans. It’s using the technique of understanding your target market and then creating a message that would appeal to your audience. If you are a LGBT-owned business, you will use it to the hilt when targeting the LGBT community. But when advertising to say the African American community, you might want to emphasize your company as being “equality-minded”
Does marketing to my gay customers alienate my straight customers – can I have my cake and eat it, too?
If you could sit down and chat with anyone living or dead, who would you want to talk to?
Great question. I would love to have a chat with Harvey Milk. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I have always been a fan. Anyone who is has a pioneer/activist mentality is interesting to me.
Do you believe in New Year’s resolutions? If so, do you have any?
I think resolutions are just a reminder to check in. Sometimes they work, sometimes not. The ones who succeed are more interested in the success of what they are doing, rather than the date. I am looking at getting rid of smoking. I have quit for 5- years previously, and know I can do it. Not looking at 1/1, but maybe 1/15 to be realistic.
What new things can we expect from Echelon in 2009?
I am working on a 2009 GLBT Event Marketing Planner, which I will have available to companies who want to sponsor Gay events. It will include mainly national organizations and media events with a description, contact info and dates.