Interview originally published by The Marketing Cloudcast a podcast by Salesforce
Marketing to different personas, understanding your audience and making sure they are diversely represented is crucial to every organization’s success. In this episode our guest Sydni Craig-Hart – CEO of Smart Simple Marketing, an expert in the multi-cultural marketing space – shares impactful ways we can connect with our audience in an authentic way.
If you prefer to read this content, the transcript is posted below. Enjoy!
Megan: Hey, everyone, welcome back to the Marketing Cloudcast . . .
Tina: . . . a podcast by Salesforce where trailblazers talk all things marketing.
Megan: I’m Megan Collins.
Tina: And I’m Tina Rozul, host of the Marketing Cloudcast. On the show. you’ll hear from industry thought leaders from around the world on key trends and relevant insights that span today’s marketing landscape.
Megan: And if you like what you hear today, go ahead and subscribe and find more episodes on marketingcloudcast.com.
Tina: On today’s episode, our topic is multicultural marketing. We have a guest host today, Conor Wigman, who has been helping us behind the scenes with a couple of episodes, now. So great to have you on the show, Conor.
Conor: It’s so great to be here. I’m so glad that I finally have a chance to introduce an episode.
Tina: Love it. Now, when it comes to marketing to different personas, understanding who your audience is and making sure that they are diversely represented is so crucial to any organization’s success, whether you are small or large. And in today’s episode, our guest is Sydni Craig-Hart. She is the CEO of Smart Simple Marketing, who is an expert in the multicultural marketing space. Conor, do you want to share some of the highlights with everyone?
Conor: Yeah. Sydni covers the impactful ways of connecting to your audience in a genuine and authentic way, and she covers how companies can be aware of cultural sensitivities to avoid those marketing mishaps.
Tina: And these are two really important topics, especially for the marketers out there who do marketing on a global and international level. So, without any further ado, here’s the episode.
Megan: Just to start out, could you tell us a little bit more about you, Sydni, and about your background in marketing and where are you got to be where you are today?
Sydni: Yeah, happy to. So, I actually am a fourth-generation entrepreneur. I have entrepreneurship running through my veins on both sides of my family, and so I learned a lot of great lessons about entrepreneurship just because of the family that I grew up in. But I worked in corporate for many years, which I loved, and when my husband and I decided to move from Washington D.C. back to California, I was faced with giving up my perfect job, and it really was the perfect job. I worked from home; I had a great boss; I got to travel. It was fantastic, and I had to leave that behind. And so, I thought, “I think I’ve taken this corporate thing as far as I can go.” And that’s when we decided to start what is now Smart Simple Marketing.
Sydni: We started the business in 2006. Our goal has always been to help small businesses attract more customers and increase their revenue. We have worked with over 8,000 small businesses in 79 different industries by way of coaching and consulting and, actually, in many cases, doing their marketing for them. And then, since 2013, we’ve been working with enterprise tech companies to help them market more effectively to small minority-owned and women-owned businesses.
Megan: Wow. That is really an interesting background, there, and I love the mindset of Smart Simple Marketing and the business that you and your husband have created. I’m super interested on what were the types of roles you had in the corporate world, and was there anything that you did there that you thought, “Maybe I want to start my own business someday”?
Sydni: In fact, I worked as a trainer; I developed content; I was a project manager; I was an executive assistant. When you’re kind of a junior team member, you kind of get thrown all of these different tasks and things to do. But it was all right, because I learned [inaudible 00:03:35] and I was able to pick up a lot of skills along the way. But in my last job, I worked in fundraising for a private equity firm, and fundraising is really just a different version of marketing, which I didn’t realize when I took the job, but basically, we were marketing these funds all around the world to different audiences and trying to get them to buy in and invest.
Sydni: And so, that was my first exposure to marketing by working in that job in fundraising. And when we started the company originally, as I said, our focus was on small business. And because I grew up in this family of entrepreneurs, I‘ve always been interested in small businesses. I think they’re fascinating, and I love watching someone take an idea or a passion of theirs, especially in service to other people, and turn that into revenue and income for their family. That’s what led us to doing the work that we do today.
Megan: I love it. And so, I guess small business was really your big focus and what you wanted to get more involved on and help others. So, I’m interested—when you partner with a small business, for example, what kind of key things are you working on with them? Is it more tactical things? Is it more coaching? Are you like on site with them? What does that look like?
Sydni: When we’re working with a small business, some of the areas where we have the most success and impact are in helping them with their messaging. Small business owners tend to really get focused on why their product or service is so great, which doesn’t necessarily translate into an attractive, appealing message to the audience that they’re targeting. So, we do a lot of work on messaging, and then, we, actually, in terms of their actual marketing, we really work with them to simplify what they‘re doing. So, small business owners tend to be very overwhelmed when it comes to marketing. Just because you are good at delivering a service or you’ve created this amazing product, that does not necessarily make you a great marketer. Marketing is just something that they have to do, and they‘re not always, frankly, very good at it.
Megan: You‘re totally in tune to small businesses and how they think and what best works for them as far as their marketing strategy. But you also talked about a really important topic of how do they serve minorities? So, I‘d love to learn what your thoughts are on how any marketer on any industry can really start to serve those minorities.
Sydni: Nobody’s target audience is homogenous, you know. We think about—we’ll use small business owners as an example because that‘s where our focus is. For all of our tech clients who are marketing to small businesses, you can’t lump all of us together. So, there are so many variances and whether small businesses are selling B2B versus B2C or if their product or service or e-commerce or if they are a woman-owned or minority-owned, et cetera. And that applies across the board; no matter what product or service you‘re selling, your audience is not homogenous. And if you‘re not inviting in those diverse perspectives and understanding the challenges that people have and what prompts them to go looking for your product or tool in the first place, you‘re ultimately going to build products that are very exclusive, and you‘re going to build products that are a bit tone-deaf because they‘re not really serving the needs of all of the people in your target audience.
Sydni: And that certainly will carry over into how those products are marketed. That‘s why you seen a lot of brands—we’ve both seen over the last year. It‘s been like a plethora of multicultural marketing mistakes gone wrong. So there‘s been a . . . Well, we won‘t call them out.
Megan: But we know about them.
Sydni: Yeah, well, we‘ve all seen those. And the reason that I don’t work with any of those brands, but I can look at those stories, and I can see from the result and from the story that you guys didn’t open the door to bring in different perspectives. And what happens a lot of times, with marketers, is they sit in the room with all of their other marketing colleagues, and they come up with a strategy and a plan. But that’s never really validated with the actual audience that they’re going to talk to.
Sydni: So, particularly when it comes to people of color, who do not have access to the same resources, they’re already coming from a disadvantage for a company, maybe a tech company or whomever, to reach out and really try to partner with them. Not sell and market to them, but partner with them, support them, get to know them, empower them, educate them, help them build skills. It’s helping to level that playing field and helping, also, that company to build products that are inclusive and that are relevant and that are specific to the problems that this entire audience wants to solve, but understanding that everyone in that audience is coming from a different perspective.
Sydni: And so, we feel really strongly about that, about partnering with our enterprise clients to help them be partners to their target audiences. Because when you partner with them, everybody wins. They feel supported; they feel understood; they’re more willing to buy your product and stay loyal, and then, they’re running their businesses more effectively and having better success, which impacts their audiences, as well. But when large companies ignore multicultural marketing, they ignore minorities or women and all of these demographics who really have the buying power, then they’re a) missing out on a huge pot of money; they’re leaving tons of money on the table. But b) they’re not really serving the audience that they want to serve.
Megan: Yeah, and this is super interesting to me. I’m in product marketing, so both the product side of it, like you mentioned, we’re trying to create products that reach everyone but also the marketing side of it. So, I’m interested to hear from you, what are some of those tactics? What can I do as a product marketer at one of the largest tech companies, what can I be doing to better reach these minorities? Is it like a focus group, or how do I change my marketing to fit those needs?
Sydni: Yeah, there’s a few things you can do. One thing you can do is invite them in, literally, invite them into your office. Sit down, talk to them, not just about their needs related to CRM, but just get to know them and their business. “Tell me about your day. What are your goals? Why did you start your business? What keeps you going despite the challenges you face?” Get to know them and understand the mindset and the perspective and the thought process around how they make buying decisions. That’s one of the things we often work with our clients on. We’ll actually coordinate internal events for them to bring in their target audience and create panel discussions and opportunities for them to interact.
Sydni: Another thing that you can do is—if you don’t have people on your team who have that perspective, if you don’t have women or minorities or whatever the audience is that you’re targeting, if those people don’t have that experience on your team, then bring in an outside agency. That’s another reason why we’re often brought in; it’s because we have this really authentic insight and perspective into these audiences. We can easily tell our clients, “Oh, so you’re marketing this product to this particular audience. This is how they feel about that, and this is what they think about it, and this is what you should say.”
Sydni: There’s obviously lots of marketing agencies around. So, you can find an agency partner that can help bring in that perspective because they actually live that, breathe it, sleep it, do it every day, when you don’t have those types of experiences on your own team. So, those are some of the things: bringing in outside perspectives, and using your own tools and using them alongside that target audience, and then just inviting them in and having conversations. I see a lot of tech companies, now, like doing events—I just went to an event this week, and they specifically reached out to minorities and women and extended free tickets to them to come and experience the event. That’s another thing you can do. So, just reaching out to them and inviting them in is just a great place to start.
Megan: Being a woman myself—you’re a woman, as well—I was also intrigued by some of the focus groups, maybe, are just women and trying to get their take on things and how you could influence your marketing for them. So, I’m curious, do you have any tips or ways that you could reach out to women in a more personalized way versus men?
Sydni: Yeah, I think I can give one public example that I will share that I think is doing a phenomenal job. Facebook has their She Means Business initiative that launched last year, and this team has been running around the country, doing events and reaching out to women, and just inviting them together for these dinners. They actually have a group on Facebook. It’s a public group that any small business woman or even a woman aspiring to be a business owner can join—She Means Business. And they’re constantly posting on it, and they’re sharing resources on it. The women are really active in developing conversations. And at last count, and in fact, I’m going to look at it right now while we’re on the phone.
Megan: Oh, a live update. You heard it first, listeners.
Sydni: And let me see how many people . . . . There’s almost 12,000 members in this group now, and it’s a free group. It’s a Facebook group. We’re all familiar with the Facebook group, but they’re really reaching out into the community and trying to connect with women. Anybody can do that. This is not some ninja strategy. They started small as all groups do; they started with two people. There’s more than one person, now, you have a group.
Sydni: They’re actually making an investment. Facebook is one of our clients, and we’ve been really excited to see how this is growing, and they’re literally reaching into communities. In fact, March was Women’s History month, and they literally ran around the country and did all of these female founder dinners and were connecting with women around the country. So, it doesn’t take a whole lot of resources. It’s not hard to do, but it does require a commitment and a dedicated team of people who are willing to step up and break out of this “stay in our marketer conversation” mode and go reach out into the community. And when you do that, you have really great success with it.
Megan: Most of what I’m hearing, just from listening to all of the amazing tips you have and how small businesses have been successful is there’s been some form of community, whether the community is that focus group or that lunch, where they’re learning or whether it’s a business having a community for those groups to meet other people like them, whether they’re interested in a certain area or their background is a certain area. Is communities the tell all be all?
Sydni: Well, the thing is that we all love to be a part of a community.
Megan: I do, yeah.
Sydni: Yeah. And because humans—inherently, we love community, and we love to talk shop with people who have similar experiences or have overcome similar struggles, et cetera. And so, building community, especially for a large company, be it in tech or any other industry, is huge. One of our clients—she actually works in healthcare in the dental space. She’s this renowned consultant in the dental space. She built a community, and it has turned into speaking opportunities and sponsorships and more clients and all kinds of things, just because she built this community around this topic with dental hygienists. I mean, it’s really about authenticity and having real conversations, and when people feel that personal interest in them, that this isn’t a marketing tool, this is genuinely being interested in you and wanting to partner with you and support you and serve you, we can all feel that. And it’s something that we all respond positively to. And it can be translated very well into a digital online experience.
Megan: Yeah, I love it! And you mentioned, you know, having those conversations. So, I’m curious, do you have any tips for people who are . . . I mean I’m honest, I’m new, I’m five years into a real job. There’s people new in their career who, maybe, haven’t had conversations about minorities and how we can influence them. And a lot of companies may not realize that they have a problem. So, maybe you’re new to your career; you identify that maybe there is a problem in your marketing. But you’re young; there’s a lot of people older than you or are higher up in the roles than you. How can you influence your team?
Sydni: Yeah, I love that question. I think there’s a couple things that come to mind. One, numbers don’t lie. The numbers are what they are, and if you are doing research into your demographic, and you really dig in, you’re probably going to find that your audience is a lot more diverse than you think it is. And so, you can certainly do your own research and figure out, depending on who you’re targeting, be it gender or ethnicity or age or whatever it is, this is the opportunity that’s in front of us. And so, sometimes, when you’re speaking with upper management, the easiest way to grab their attention is to show them what the opportunity is and show them the money that’s being left on the table. You can also show them examples, even in other industries, that are working really well and explore how those can be cross-appropriated.
Sydni: Like the example I gave you of my client, my small business client, who is killing it in the dental industry—just taking examples like that and showing what’s possible, I think, works really well. The other thing I would say, too, even if you’re a person who’s newer in your career, and you just don’t feel like you have the clout to really speak up and influence those conversations the way you want to, is to always try to help your boss and your team focus on goals. Because I see this, time and time again, with our enterprise clients; they trip themselves up because they’re always talking themselves into what makes the company look good and what makes the product look good. And they often forget about the people who they’re trying to sell this product to.
Sydni: So, if you are always the voice that’s there to say, “Hey, what are we really trying to do here? Are we really trying to serve this audience? Are we really trying to help them? What are our real goals?” And trying to pivot and anchor your team on goals for the people versus goals for the company. When you put the people first, you’re always going to be more profitable and more successful than when you put yourself first. So, I think there’s a few different ways to position that, depending on your level of comfort and what the environment is with your team.
Megan: Yeah. And it’s a good point about examples. You mentioned if you have, maybe, someone you know personally, that you can say, “Well what about this persona?” What’s interesting about Salesforce—we have an entire department around equality, and they present what is happening today. How can we as a company meet these expectations of this is how people respond. But they showed examples, and that’s really where that hit home for me, “Oh, I see how that would not resonate with someone as much as it would if you were to tweak the copy just slightly.” So, I love the examples idea.
Sydni: Something you said made me think of another point, when you talked about buyer personas. This is another place where we do a lot of work in helping our clients to think past the typical “we have to create buyer persona” exercise. It is something that we as marketers all do. It’s just something we have to do, it’s the nature of the work that we do. But we find, a lot of times, especially in the tech space, that these buyer personas tend to be very surface, and there’s a lot of assumptions made about the person, just based on these demographics, et cetera. And what we have learned over the years and now what we teach and what we consult on is focusing on the insights that guide buying decisions. So, just because I’m a black woman, and I’m 41 years old, and I live in this place, et cetera, that doesn’t tell you—it tells you a little bit about my life and, maybe, what I’m interested in. It doesn’t necessarily give you insight into how I make a buying decision about X, Y, or Z.
Sydni: And really, what’s key for us as marketers is to understand what prompts the person to go looking for this product or service. What’s their mindset; what’s their come-from; what other experiences have they had? So, you’ve really got to dig deeper than these surface buyer personas, that we see a lot of our enterprise clients creating, and really get down to understanding who these people are and how you can serve them holistically. And then, that kind of goes back to the earlier conversation we had about inviting people in and really getting to know them, et cetera. But there can be a false positive there, sometimes, like, “Oh, we’ve done our market research, and this is who we’re targeting.” But that tends to be from a very company-focused place, not necessarily a place of service.
Megan: I love it. And I think a big thing there is back to communities, again. I mean, if you speak to a small business, and you say, “Hey, I have this amazing community just for people like you.” Maybe, people are just getting started or whatever the persona is—”We have a community just for you.”—I think would help a lot. At Salesforce, we have a community called the Trailblazer Community, and so, I would love to hear for me you, what do you think? What does a trailblazer mean to you?
Sydni: Oh, that’s such a great question. Let me think for a second—someone who is willing to put themselves out there; it’s someone who’s willing to take risks. It’s someone who is willing to do something because it fits, and it seems like the right move even though nobody else has done it before. And not, maybe, being afraid of or being cautious or concerned about the outcome, but being willing to do it any way. To me, that’s what a trailblazer means. When I think about so many of the experiences I’ve had as a small business owner, and my clients, and all of the people I know in the small business community, those folks who have been willing to really step out on a limb because it was the right thing to do, not because everybody agreed with them, not because they had a lot of support; they were just doing what they thought was best, and how often that has turned out well for their business and the community that they’re looking to serve. So, that’s what comes to mind for me.
Sydni: The last thing to all of our marketing colleagues out there—don’t be afraid to speak up on behalf of the audiences that you’re serving. And also, please be proactive about reaching out to the community to invite in diverse perspectives. Taking that first step is so much easier than you think it is, and it’s actually a lot of fun. It provides a lot of richness to your experience as a marketer, and it’s going to make you a better marketer. So, please, take what Megan and I discussed today and go put that into practice and come back and let us know how you made out with it.
Megan: Well, Sydni, you inspire me. I believe you’re a trailblazer, by far. And just the fact that you left your great job—you said you worked remote, and you got to travel; you probably had great benefits, and you left that to start your own company a while back. So, man, that is brave, and I’m just so excited that your business has taken off, and you have such a great perspective. So, thank you so much for being on the show. We really enjoyed talking with you today. And I do want to give a shout out to Hika Young who, I believe, is the one who got us connecting initially.
Sydni: She did. She did. So, I’m glad she did. I made a great new connection and friend in her and in you. So, that’s awesome.
Tina: Thanks again to Sidney Craig-Hart for taking the time to be on the show. It’s so incredible to have amazing leaders like yourself, who are trailblazing the way we do marketing. And to the wonderful Conor for being a guest on today’s show.
Conor: Yeah, it’s so much fun to work behind the scenes, but it’s great to get in front of the mic for an episode. This is so much fun.
Tina: Love it. So, we will definitely be having Conor back sometime soon. Upcoming episodes. We’ll have the different trailblazers and customer stories that we were able to showcase at Dream Force this year. Everyone stay warm; happy holidays, and see you on the next episode.