Your messages need to make a stronger connection…
When it comes to business and marketing, you want your message not only to reach people—you want it to resonate, inspire and motivate them.
To get there, you need to be strategic about how you communicate with your target audience. And that includes identifying and eliminating your unconscious biases.
Even when you’re trying to be inclusive, you can unintentionally offend those you most want to reach because of your blind spots—we all have them. A misstep in your messaging can deter people from doing business with you. That means you lose customers, and they miss products or opportunities you offer that could help them meet their goals.
What is unconscious bias? How do you recognize it, and how can you overcome it to meet your goals? Let’s talk about it.
Implicit or Unconscious Bias
What is unconscious bias? Also known as implicit bias, it includes the social stereotypes we form and hold without realizing it. These stereotypes can relate to perceptions about things like race and gender. But they’re not limited to those two areas.
Whether unconscious or conscious, biases can target age, physical ability, religion, and economic demographic. They are also based on how we think about people with different abilities or people from certain regions. They are unfair, and they pose a risk to your business.
If you don’t acknowledge and control the unconscious biases you may be carrying, they’ll slip into your messaging, and that can spell trouble for you and your organization.
What Happens If I Ignore My Unconscious Biases?
If you fail to invest time in acquiring firsthand knowledge of your audience, you will undermine your marketing efforts. To be successful, you have to learn who your audience is, including their backgrounds and the historical context around why they feel the way they do.
Not understanding your audience can lead to campaigns that miss the mark entirely or even do long-term damage to your personal or company brand. Your biases may create barriers, make people feel ignored or “less than,” and unintentionally reinforce negative stereotypes. They can cause you to lose customers and, at best, give your company a reputation for being oblivious. At worst, you could be labeled shallow, biased, or even racist.
The more marketers invest in getting to know their customers and prospects, the more effectively they can chip away at bias. That sounds easy enough, but missteps are more common than you might think—even among major corporations.
Consider Bedrock’s “See Detroit Like We Do” campaign. The imagery that went with the slogan showed a big, happy crowd. Notably missing from the group was any representation from the black community—which makes up over 80% of the city’s population! Instead of promoting the city as intended, the campaign left many locals feeling invisible and reinforced concerns around gentrification.
Unconscious bias can hurt your audience, and in turn, it will hurt your business. Consider these two opposing effects.
You Lose Customers
Consumers care about what you stand for as well as what you offer. Today more than ever, your customers’ values influence their purchasing decisions. In a recent survey, 74% of respondents said that it matters to them how companies respond to recent movements supporting Black Americans. This concern will affect whether they do business with those companies going forward.
On the flip side, research shows that responding to concerns about social equity is good for business. For example, a report from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, in partnership with Altarum, estimates that the U.S. could realize an $8 trillion GDP gain by 2050 by addressing the country’s racial equality gap.
Learn to check for biases as part of your marketing strategy. Invite diverse perspectives to the table early in your planning process. Proactively seek out opinions other than your own. Use what your customers tell you to inform your campaign decisions. Communicate your values to your audience—and anyone else you come in contact with—by making your messaging transparent and intentional.
You Leave Billions of Dollars on the Table
When your messaging repels a large portion of the population, you’re leaving money on the table. The economic buying power of diverse audiences is enormous.
Over the last two decades, the most significant gains in buying power in the U.S. have been among minority markets. In 2018, the nation’s estimated spending power was $14.8 trillion. Of that amount, the combined buying power of African, Asian, and Native Americans was an estimated $2.4 trillion. That of the U.S. Hispanic population was estimated at $1.5 trillion. That’s bigger than the entire GDP of Australia!
Keep in mind that the diversity of your current customer base is likely broader than what you’re targeting in your marketing. Do your homework by talking to your customers and finding out how you can extend your reach and messaging.
You can start by learning who is currently buying from you. Find out who’s referred to you. Look at who engages with your brand and who stays loyal to it. What do they all have in common? Use your findings to create messaging that is more inclusive and attracts similar customers
How to Recognize and Eliminate Unconscious Bias
The key to overcoming bias is to learn to see it and to create internal systems that prevent discrimination from creeping into your messaging and campaigns.
Nearly all of us have unconscious biases because we aren’t aware of them (that’s why they’re called “unconscious,” after all). But it’s difficult to recognize them in ourselves. It takes effort to see what’s not immediately visible, but it’s possible, and it should be a priority.
The more organically you can chip away at bias, the more it will create compelling products. So, consider the following tips as you seek to remove unconscious bias from your messaging and offerings.
Get a complete perspective on your audience’s needs and wants by making sure you have disparate voices at the table when developing your initial strategy. For every project, procure diverse team members (in age, race, experience, ability, background, etc.) to weigh in with their opinions. Take action on what you learn.
Walk the Talk: Make Sure Your Company is Diverse and Inclusive
If you value diversity and inclusion, reflect that value in the makeup of your leadership and work style. It doesn’t matter what your title is; lead from where you sit. You’ll not only show that you live your values, but you’ll also gain all the benefits that come along with embracing diversity.
Studies show that organizations that prioritize diversity and inclusion drive more innovation and capture more significant market share.
For instance, organizations led by a diverse group of people are 45% more likely to report market share growth. They’re also 70% more likely to capture new markets. And companies that employ diverse workforces report cash flows more than double those of companies that don’t.
Build your business and meet your goals by fostering diversity among your team and your vendors and suppliers.
Make Sure Everyone Wins
Overcoming unconscious bias is critical to forming messaging that speaks to your team, customers, and anyone who encounters your brand.
If you’re ready to overcome your unconscious biases and realize the benefits of diversity and inclusion, we’re here to help. Smart Simple Marketing specializes in helping organizations of all sizes create compelling marketing initiatives that increase engagement and market share for diverse-owned businesses.