Kelly McDonald Explains How to Grow Your Business in an Increasingly Diverse World

Diversity is a politically charged buzzword these days, so it’s no wonder that many people suffer from what author and speaker Kelly McDonald refers to as “diversity fatigue.”

It’s not that you don’t care about diversity, or how to market your business to people of different races, genders, ethnicities, and life circumstances. Of course you do. Business is about providing great service to people who want it, no matter who they are. But, you may have heard the term “diversity” so often that you shut down, before the lecture even begins.

This time, pay attention. Because the fact remains: “Businesses are no longer one size fits all, and they will never be again.”

 

I have been paying attention. That’s why my business is more successful than yours.

 

 The Internet Changed the Game

It didn’t start with the Internet, of course. The Civil Rights and Women’s Movements, the rising tide of global immigration, and the increasing acceptance and integration of once marginalized communities, have made diversity a thing.

But it was the Internet that made diversity powerful, vocal, and accessible. It brought us endless hours of hassle-free comparison shopping, including hundreds of personalized reviews and transparent corporate politics. The click-by-click customization of almost everything, from sneakers to cars, lets members of any self-aware tribe indulge and accentuate their differences.

Perhaps most importantly, social media has given us all the opportunity to talk to people from communities with whom we never interacted before. And therein lies the first opportunity for expanding your business.

“Interacting with your customers through social media channels such as Facebook or Twitter can only make you a better business and a better businessperson,” writes McDonald. First, however, you must understand how technology makes diversity much more than a buzzword.

Social media feeds diversity by bringing people with similar interests—from LGBT parents to gluten-free eaters—in ways that would have been difficult before.  Each self-aware group is a market segment that savvy businesses can engage.  Once people realize your business is actively involved in catering to their community, word of mouth could become a global phenomenon.

Technology also spreads the news that you don’t cater to a particular group or interest. For example, Target has a very breastfeeding-friendly corporate policy. But when employees at one Texas store ignored that policy—harassing a new mom and loyal shopper with a hungry baby at her breast—the entire organization was lambasted as anti-mother, anti-family, and deserving of a boycott.

Although this temporarily hurt Target, they were able to use social media to highlight its long-standing policy of supporting breastfeeding mothers, and it remains a favorite place for new moms to shop.

Understanding and commitment to the community illustrates how your efforts appeal to a larger clientele.

 

If you’ve been trying to brainstorm ways to grow your business in diverse markets, reading this short, practical, actionable book may be your second big opportunity.

 

What Is Diversity?

McDonald piqued our interest when we watched her, as a public speaker, engage another woman in the audience. Both were well-dressed professionals, of the same age, race, sex, and nationality. So, were they in the same market segment?

Not necessarily. McDonald asked, “Do you have children?” She did; McDonald does not. A realization swept the room. In some ways—important ways, depending on your business—the two women had less in common than two mothers of different races, religions, incomes and education levels.

When you craft your customer’s experience, remember that diversity goes more than skin deep.  McDonald’s book goes over several classical market segments and lists solid, actionable ways—backed up with studies, data, and personal anecdotes—to reach each of them.

For example, studies show that women want to see all available options of a particular product, with reviews. Men, however, are overwhelmed by choice, and like theirs narrowed down to just a few options, preferably three.

Other segments covered include African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, the LGBT community, and rural (versus urban) clients. City people, she notes, want to save time and avoid traffic. Rural residents may prefer a more leisurely, friendly customer service experience.

In another chapter, she breaks down different generational age groups: Matures (“The Greatest Generation”), Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y (Millennials), and Gen Z.

Gen X, she points out, likes to do things for themselves. They were the latchkey kids, who let themselves in the house after school, fixed themselves a snack, and did their homework without a parent present. Today, they are the least likely to use a telephone customer service line or go to a professional for easy tasks. (Even Millennials are more likely to do both). They’d rather watch a how-to video and figure it out themselves.

They are also the most likely to be managers and executives, who may not understand that some clients feel more frustration than pride when sorting out a buggy app. You can see the problem. Gen X might not understand the need for an expensive, dedicated bank of telephone operators available talk to people in person.

No matter who is in charge, however, smart companies with an older clientele go out of their way to cater to their audience. A Florida bank, in one example, realized that that their mostly “Mature” clientele was forgoing the convenience and speed of ATM machines and waiting in line for simple transactions—simply because they valued human interaction. So, they created a living-room style lobby, filled with comfortable chairs arranged to invite conversation. Instead of waiting in line, they can chat with each other. Business boomed.

What are you missing?

What Do People Not Like You Really Want?

It’s hard to know. Unless you ask.

I’ve been waiting to tell you what I want.

Social media has made it possible to talk to your customers. Your company’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Yelp, and other social accounts can be a treasure trove of information. People of every stripe are eager to tell you exactly what they want. The complaints and one-star ratings you dread are sometimes worth the most because they pinpoint weaknesses you can address.

So, talk to people. You don’t have to be making a sale. Think about the type of client you might delight. For example, if you make custom dresses, you might think about following women who are getting married, or who are prominent in well-dressed social scenes.

Comment on their lovely Instagram photos and clever tweets. Don’t just try to get them to notice you.  Make an effort to understand what they want, especially those who are different than you. What would make that woman’s day in a new dress?

Tracking clicks, sales, and other data demographically can also yield useful information. For example, Macy’s department store stocks merchandise specifically for each region: Bigger cookware in Utah, where large Mormon families like to have home-cooked meals together; and special pastry pans in Minnesota, for making Nordic-style sweets.

Morrison Healthcare and the Mayo Clinic are doing something similar, customizing their hospital menus to include regional specialties. Their food does more than just fill people up—it makes them feel comfortable and cared for. That’s because those organizations cared enough to make people who aren’t like them feel at home.

You Control Your Customer’s Experience

Many things are outside of your control or budget. But customer service is one thing you do have almost total control over—and it comes with a relatively low price tag.

It also is something that differentiates you from everyone else. “We have entered and era where products are becoming increasingly alike and more widely available, with more standardized pricing,” says McDonald. But if you know how to delight an often-overlooked group, you’ll be different.

Once you’ve identified groups that might appreciate your products, focus on customer service. McDonald offers several steps you can take toward making that happen.

Remember the problem Target had with the a breastfeeding mom—accidentally undermining years of dedicated service to that community? Make sure you train your staff to show respect to everyone, at all times, at least while they are on the clock. A single off-the-cuff comment amplified on social media can easily derail years of work.

Also, make sure your social media manager has access to people at the top. It’s easy to write off your social media manager as an entry-level employee—he or she is probably much younger than most people in management. But when they need to find a solution for someone on Twitter or Facebook, it needs to happen fast. Your corporate policy should open every door, ASAP, to that person.

Why You Want to Read this Book

There’s so much more excellent advice in this concise, actionable, easy-to-read book. If you’ve been trying to wrap your head around how to appeal to the many communities within your market, check it out. There are clients out there—clients who may not feel understood or appreciated—who would love it if someone could deliver exactly what they need.