Want the Majority of Business?
Then Think Minority!
By Phil Wilkins
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?
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.
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 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.
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.
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:
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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about Phil Wilkins.
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