The world is a hugely diverse place. And I believe it’s really important to embrace this with inclusive marketing for your small business. It’s easy to view things just from your own perspective. But have you ever stopped to consider how someone from a different ethnic background, age group or sexual orientation would perceive your small business?
Even without meaning to, we can unconsciously exclude certain people if our marketing doesn’t hit the mark. The images we show, the way we write and even the platforms or strategies we use can have a huge impact on how inclusive our marketing is.
It’s really important to make the effort here, as studies have shown that Generations Y and Z are more likely to choose a brand that shows diversity, and 34% of them have boycotted a brand that does not.
To make sure you’re reaching the biggest number of people, and making them all feel welcome, here are a few of my top tips on improving your inclusive marketing.
Who is your audience?
In marketing, having a defined audience is a really helpful tool to make sure you’re reaching the right potential customers. But even if you have a fairly specific audience, it’s unlikely that everyone within that group is going to be exactly the same.
For example, your audience might be women aged between 25 and 34. But some of those women might identify as LGBTQ+ whereas others will identify as straight. Some might come from working-class backgrounds whereas others are middle class.
Some might have a physical disability, or be a woman of colour, or have different religious beliefs. Women of all backgrounds and walks of life are likely to be included in your target audience.
It’s impossible to please absolutely everyone, but the very least we can do is try to make sure our inclusive marketing makes our small business as accessible and welcoming to as many people as possible.
Find out more about how to find the right target market for your small business.
The first step towards inclusive marketing is to check the language you’re using and whether or not it alienates anyone. Without even realising, it’s likely that your tone of voice will naturally have a more masculine or feminine slant.
If you’re using a lot of masculine words and phrases, will this put off female customers? This interesting Gender Decoder has been designed to find subtle gender bias in job adverts, but I think it can also help to see if your marketing copy is inclusive or not.
And what about the tone of your writing and the actual words you use? If your style is very informal and uses a lot of slang words and internet abbreviations, this may alienate older people.
Likewise, if you use more formal, academic language, this may put off younger people or those who don’t come from university-educated backgrounds.
For the majority of small businesses, I’d recommend falling somewhere in the middle of these two extremes to make sure your language is accessible to as many people as possible.
Finally, don’t forget to check for any ableist, sexist or racist language. However subtle or unintentional it might be, any language like this will instantly alienate a whole group of people.
For example, the saying “falling on deaf ears” is a very commonly used phrase. But it does not take into account the feelings of those who are deaf or hard of hearing.
The Conscious Style Guide is a fantastic website full of resources, articles and advice to help ensure the language you use is inclusive and respectful.
When it comes to the photos and graphics you use to market your business, how diverse are they? Do they tend to feature people of just one group (for example, white middle-aged males) or do you have a variety of genders, ethnicities, ages and abilities representing your business?
Many customers will appreciate seeing a diverse range of people representing your small business, even if the models don’t directly reflect their own demographic.
Whether shooting your own campaigns or sourcing stock photos for your website, make sure your imagery is inclusive. Avoid stereotypes – for example, women in the kitchen or men fixing cars – as this will instantly turn people off.
Instead, use modern, forward-thinking imagery which shows a diverse range of people doing a diverse range of things. Of course, make sure the images are relevant to your business and your inclusive marketing strategy. Going back to my previous point, if you happen to be a male mechanic, of course go ahead and share an image of you at work!
Don’t just try to be inclusive for the sake of it! I like using Unsplash for stock photos that feature a wide range of people.
When putting together your inclusive marketing strategy, it’s important to think about which platforms you’ll be using, and how accessible these are for different groups.
Your target audience might be more likely to hang out on Instagram. But why not use Facebook too to reach people who use that as their main social media platform? Or why not consider using flyers or leafleting to focus on people in the local area who might not use social media at all?
You don’t need to be everywhere all at once, but have a think about which platforms are likely to be the most inclusive and will allow you to reach the most number of potential customers.
Once you have chosen your platforms, make sure to optimise them to ensure accessibility. For example, use the alt tags on any images uploaded to your website to add a short description of the photos.
This will allow blind and visually impaired people to enjoy your content. Did you know you can even do this on Instagram?
Other ways you can be more inclusive include adding captions to any videos which include speaking to make them accessible for deaf and hard of hearing people.
You can also give your website an accessibility audit to make sure everything from the colour combinations to the keyboard shortcuts are user-friendly.
Finally, make sure your inclusive marketing strategy is authentic and carefully considered. Don’t just try to be inclusive because it’s ‘on trend’ or because it’s what other businesses are doing.
Potential customers will soon see through it if you’re just pretending to be more diverse, but don’t actually practise what you preach. For example, if you start selling LGBTQ+ themed products during Pride month, but don’t do anything to support the community throughout the rest of the year, you’ll simply be seen as rainbow washing. You have to take your inclusive marketing seriously.
This might mean being more diverse when hiring new team members for your small business, collaborating with other inclusive businesses, or even just making sure you always use respectful, inclusive language when talking with customers.
Over to you: Next steps
Have a look at your website, social media content and offline marketing material. What do the images show? Is the language accessible for everyone? Is the colour scheme making it hard to read for visually impaired people?
Check out the tools I mentioned in the post to get an idea of how you could improve your existing marketing. And last, but not least: Why not invite a diverse group of people within your target market and ask how they perceive your marketing?
To read more about this topic, have a look at these:
Marketing Strategy for Small Businesses: Why You Need One & How to Define it
How to Identify a Target Market for Your Small Business
Ideal Clients: How to Define & Attract them to Your Small Business
Tone of Voice: What Is It, Why Do I Need It & How Do I Get One?