Today's diverse consumers (Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Gay-Lesbian-Bisexual-Transgendered consumers, and women) are looking for more than just talk.
They want companies that are an authentic part of their niche community with long-term commitment. They are savvy and skeptical, and they are tired of spin. That means that they are watching your company to see how sincere you are in including them—as employees, senior managers, board members, media partners, vendors, and through event sponsorships and community outreach.
If your commitment is only wallet-deep, watch out.
Some inclusiveness is easy, but often overlooked. For example, the photos on your Web site, in your brochure and annual report, in ads and on signs and billboards should reflect the diversity of the consumers you want to reach. Take a look at your photos. Do you see men and women, a range of ages, and a variety of ethnicities?
As you create more targeted marketing, PR, and media plans, give serious consideration to creating ads that feature the target audience group prominently in the foreground—as the main players, not background figures. Prospects consciously and subconsciously look for people like themselves in your ads.
Where you place your ads is equally important. If you want to reach one of the target audiences listed above, become knowledgeable about magazines, newspapers, blogs, podcasts and radio/TV programs that reach that audience. Equally important are in-group owned media outlets, especially in the Asian-American and African-American communities. Consumers reward community loyalty and look skeptically at marketers who shun their media.
Think your vendors are invisible? Think again. Your consumers want to know if you support diversity at all levels, including making an effort to include women-owned and minority-owned businesses in your bidding processes for contracts and in your selection of vendors. After all, those vendors are a part of your target audience community—and they talk with their friends.
A strong supplier diversity track record makes an important marketing statement.
Event sponsorship is a crucial piece in successfully reaching diverse consumers. Festivals, concerts, community celebrations, and street fairs are a source of ethnic pride and identity. Companies that show their commitment to a consumer niche through significant and sustained sponsorship along with a visible onsite presence help to convince wary prospects that your interest is real.
Where your products are sold also makes a PR and marketing statement. If your ads say you want your target customers' business but your product isn't available to the retail outlets in their communities, your sincerity will be suspect.
Sometimes the best route to successful product distribution is by creating partnerships with the outlets that already have a longstanding presence in the targeted communities. This helps to build word-of-mouth as well as making your product available—and adds the important benefit of supporting community infrastructure.
Another important PR and marketing tool to reaching women, Asian, African-American and GLBT consumers is philanthropy to in-group charities and nonprofits that serve their communities or special needs. Becoming a corporate sponsor of a YMCA in the community you want to reach is one example. Making a corporate commitment to a charity that meets a health or human services need for your target community is another way to build credibility.
For example, since there is a high incidence of diabetes and sickle cell anemia within the African-American community, charities that support research and cures for those diseases could be a good choice. After school programs, elder-care programs, literacy or computer access services are other examples of great ways to show real commitment to the communities where your target audience lives.
One of the most important ways to send a clear marketing and PR message of inclusion lies in your human resources department. Your commitment (or lack thereof) to internal diversity practices speaks volumes about your sincerity in valuing members of your target audience for more than their money.
Your company's hiring and promotion policies, the inclusiveness of your benefit policies (especially on issues such as domestic partner benefits), the diversity of your board of directors, senior management, and supply chain makes a stronger statement than any ad or press release.
Your target audience is watching closely to see whether your interest in reaching diverse consumers is more than slogan deep.
Author Marye C. Tharp says that in the US identity is a choice—less a function of family and genetics than who we choose to be as expressed through our purchases, choice of community, the causes with which we identify and the places we work and play.
Savvy, successful marketers make a commitment to becoming an authentic part of those communities—and, by extension, identity—through inclusive practices in every aspect of the corporation, inside and outside the communications department.
Take the first step (it's free).
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