It is not enough to talk about how to appeal to, engage, and retain more diverse people and perspectives. Instead, let’s start talking about why we need to make diversity a bottom-line priority. Here’s a look at six business diversity lessons that can improve your brand, company culture and bottom-line.
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Want to expand marketing opportunities? Consider the diversity of your biggest fans.
Hopefully you have identified your target audience, but as your business grows you will find you have more than one target (I know you’re thinking, “but finding the first one was so hard!”). I understand, but stick with me. This is actually a great thing because it fosters new growth and reveals your true market potential.
For example, your products and services likely appeal to a primary target, but there is also a secondary, and maybe even a third. What is important to grasp here is this: your buyers are diverse; each segment with its own set of needs, beliefs and values. How they spend their money with you and consume information also varies.
When you talk about diversity in terms of race, gender and age alone: “What company wouldn’t want a slice of the $750 billion combined annual spending of African-American, Asian-American and Hispanic communities in the U.S.? And if you add to that the growing strength of the pink dollar and the retiring population, we’re talking big bucks.” (Source: Experience.com) Ultimately, embracing the diversity of your consumer base will help you uncover new marketing opportunities. As a result you’ll foster brand expansion and customer-driven innovation.
Fact: The U.S. workforce is becoming more diverse. Is your small business?
The latest census results firmly establish that the ethnic make-up of the U.S. is shifting at a pace faster than anyone anticipated. It should come as no surprise that a diverse economy is a strong economy.
In fact, “Businesses that embrace our nation’s changing demographics reap the economic benefits of a diverse and inclusive workforce. Businesses that recruit from a diverse workforce are better able to find the best and the brightest talent needed to compete in an increasingly competitive economy. By bringing together our different backgrounds, skills, and experiences, businesses are better able to breed the type of innovative and creative solutions needed to succeed in an increasingly competitive economy.” (Source: Center for American Progress) The beauty of this is that you can stay true to your brand and still embrace the key drivers of success – diversity being one of them.
Revitalize your business image with ‘diversity actions’ that extend well beyond marketing copy.
How odd it is to read a glossy sales brochure that says one thing and then engage the same business that does the complete opposite. You know … the delightfully edited photographs of diverse people (doing diverse things) and enchanting copy that leaps off the page, making you think, “they get me … they really get me!”
Yet, when you arrive at their place of business, or visit them online their presence is far from the picturesque flyers they marketed in the first place. For consumers this presents a huge disconnect, leading to distrust and confusion. So, please do yourself and your bottom-line a favor: ensure that diversity extends beyond those glossy pages.
Business diversity is like a ‘good business idea’ – worthless without purposeful execution.
Great business ideas are plentiful, but execution is not. The same can be said for business diversity efforts. Trust me: you cannot be all things to all people – this we know. But you can do your best to serve a customer base that – well, just so happens to be ‘diverse.’
Like most things in business, diversity can be simple yet impactful. Start by gaining a clear definition of diversity. As Julie Kempf, founder and President of JBK Associates suggests, ‘Beyond race and gender, it can also include considerations of age, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, mental and physical capabilities, gender identity, family status, language, and working style. Your first task should be to define diversity for your organization. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.” Next, build external communications and internal activities to foster cultural intelligence. Most importantly, begin to communicate in an authentic way that resonates with your brand.
Best in class businesses lead with diversity at every consumer-facing touchpoint.
Let’s talk about what’s really on your mind – customers. How you speak to them is a cornerstone of your messaging and it influences your market position. If you’ve ever heard anyone talk about marketing strategy, this is a large component. What you say (your messaging) tells audiences why you are different and why they should care. And ultimately, successful marketers (while sticking to their brand promise) communicate several different messages in market, at the same time.
For instance, if you sell toys direct to consumers you have two audiences: parents and children. Each message has to fit each influencer in a non-conflicting way. Or, if you sell to both men and women, your messaging should cater to each group. If you are unsure just how far down the ‘diversity rabbit hole’ you should go, start mining customer data and learn more about existing customers; then make it a priority to create more targeted messages.
Veteran marketing consultant Diana Huff explains how you can make your marketing efforts do double-duty: “If you have two or more groups of people you need to reach, it makes sense to produce ads with different messages and run them in niche publications;” or “use links on your home page to segment multiple audiences.”
Diversity-minded businesses understand that if you want to better serve a market, then you must employ the market.
There are tremendous benefits of serving a diverse customer base, but you can’t serve them if you are out of touch with them. According to the HR Council, “Proactive outreach and recruitment efforts that deliberately focus on increasing diversity can support an organization when engaging a new audience …”
Their suggestions include: getting the word out, building relationships with cultural groups and organizations that work with diverse communities, promoting your business as a viable place to work, and connecting with the volunteer base of your community. So, look for ways to employ your local market and recruit in ways that offer more reach and exposure.
Ultimately, the business case for diversity has moved far beyond acceptance. We are at a crossroads that leaves many business owners questioning how it can be practically applied and relevant in a way that builds their bottom-line and the community they serve. It starts with these diversity lessons and a pragmatic approach; coming to grips with where we’ve missed the mark and how we can be honest enough with ourselves as leaders to course correct for the future ahead.