Want the Majority of Business? Then Think Minority!

By Phil Wilkins

More than one million new immigrants enter the United States every year. Add to that the nearly 80 million multicultural Americans who are already here, and you have a tremendous group of potential customers and clients who can positively impact your business. But do you know how to reach, identify with, and sell to these people?

Today, many companies are struggling with the demographic change underway in America. According to the US Census Bureau, by 2045, the population of the United States will grow by 50%, and 90% of that growth will come from the minority community. That means in order to stay profitable, companies will need to adapt their marketing, their selling style, and their product or service offerings in order to appeal to the emerging demographic groups—all of whom have different preferences and buying styles.

So who exactly are these minorities? Namely, they’re African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and women. The key to companies reaching these markets in the future is to hire wisely today. That is, if you want to attract a diverse customer base, then you need to attract a diverse workforce who can effectively identify with the emerging markets and relate to them on their level.

As much as company leaders hate to admit it, the fact is that many people are not comfortable dealing with clients of a diverse background. Yes, we’re all “just people,” but certain cultures have distinct buying styles. If your salespeople and managers can’t effectively sell to those people, then your company is headed for trouble.

For example, as a result of not interacting well with a diverse clientele, your managers may not meet their sales or production goals. When people don’t meet goals, frustration sets in. When too much frustration is present, people leave the company for what they perceive as a better opportunity. Now the company has to do a big hiring initiative to replace those who have left. But if they’re not hiring people who can effectively interact with the emerging markets, they’ll quickly find themselves repeating the same cycle of low production, frustration, and ultimately attrition. It’s time to stop the cycle now.

Hire Smart: So the real question is not “How do we sell to minority communities?”; rather, it’s “How do we attract minority workers into our company and help them become successful?” After all, continual turnover is expensive, and it hurts the company’s brand image and equity in the community. No company wants to spend needlessly or appear to be a company that can’t retain qualified staff. To help your company fill the pipeline with a diverse group of workers, consider the following:

Be hands on: In order to recruit people and make your business a destination where people want to work, you need to be hands on. For example, on a national level your company may sponsor an event put on by an organization such as The Urban League. In addition to the national organization, there are Urban League branches throughout the country. If you don’t have a presence in that organization at the local level, then that national sponsorship won’t help you attract the talent you need. While your company is still sponsoring a great event and/or organization, you’re not fully leveraging that sponsorship.

Therefore, look in your local community and see what minority organizations have a presence. Do more than just write a check to the group—get involved. Sit on the board of directors, participate in fundraisers or events, speak to the group on some relevant topic, etc. To establish your company as an employer of choice within that demographic, you must build trust by consistently demonstrating your commitment to diversity.

Fish where the fish are: Rather than place an employment ad in the Sunday newspaper, consider advertising your job openings with professional groups, such as the National Black MBA Association or the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. In fact, if you look online, you’ll find links to minority associations for just about every industry, including healthcare, financial, law, etc. Also, consider recruiting at historically black colleges and universities or in areas that are dense with certain minority populations.

Go into neighboring communities where there may be a large minority population and ask the local Chamber of Commerce for assistance. Find out how you can get involved with the local community and share the opportunities your company has for minorities. Look for connectors within the community who can help spread the word on your behalf. As is often the case, word of mouth advertising is the best way to attract what you want.

Encourage mentoring and professional development: Research has proven that people who have mentors and have strong professional networks are more successful, make more money and are more loyal to their firms. For companies to successfully hire and retain diverse workers, managers must encourage mentoring and professional development.

Mentoring often provides the one-on-one informal coaching and access minorities need to progress through the organization. Additionally, professional development helps people attain confidence and leverage themselves in the marketplace. They can differentiate themselves from their competitors and peers when it is time for promotion and advancement.

Think small to make a big difference: Many companies today fail to keep the diverse employees they hire because they don’t think small. That is, they are not thinking of the small, subtle forms of exclusion that occur in offices today that over time create dissension and disengagement. This subtle form of discrimination today is termed “micro-inequities,” and can include small things such as leaving a diverse person off of a distribution list or not including them on projects or voicemails. These are small oversights that, over time, tell the diverse employee he or she is not valued.

However, just as there are small oversights that occur, there are small steps you can take to ensure you don’t exclude anyone. For example, simply having empathy for the employee, including him or her on projects, and regularly touching base with everyone in your office regardless of their background send a message that you’re compassionate, engaged, and interested in everyone.

Diversity Sells!  In the future, when the current minority groups become the majority, how will your company be positioned? Will you have the necessary staff who can relate to and sell to the desired demographic? While the shift from minority to majority may seem years away, you need to start planning your company’s marketing and staffing requirements now. After all, the sooner you start catering to these key demographics, the more time you’ll have to build customer loyalty, which will position you as tomorrow’s market leader.

Read other articles and learn more about Phil Wilkins.

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