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Advancing Your Brand Through Diversity
Diversification will lead to other possible income streams, but only if you done right.
As the U.S. continues to diversify, business becomes increasingly fragmented and specialized. However, just like the country where you can have a Native American, Asian American, African-American, Hispanic American, or any other combination of ethnicity followed by "American," any well-run firm would benefit to have a diverse staff to operate well in a diverse community. Diversification is a natural progression and not an option, particularly where it prevails.
Here in San Francisco, California where Anglos (or Euro-Americans?) represent a slight minority, and the rest of the population represent the proverbial melting pot of ethnicities (the diversity that makes this area an exciting microcosm of cultures, languages, traditions and international flavors), companies embracing diversification tend to thrive, while those that don't, with the exception of bigger companies with a history, are either adapting or disappear under the weight of the economic changes that continue to affect our economy.
For instance, those firms that have adapted typically have teams of one ethnic group or another, e.g., a team in a geographic area popular among Asians has a contingent of sales agents that not only speak the language but share the culture and are effective at serving that community, thus creating alternative income flows to the firm as a result. They accomplish this by specifically targeting both the public as well as the talent pool needed to attend to that audience. Some companies embracing this mindset early on established groups deliberately catering to buyers that were targeted by the language or the ethnicity, rightly or not. The idea of diversification isn’t to single out a community for questionable purposes, but rather to cater to the existing needs of the same.
As a former manager of a firm in the San Francisco bay area I witnessed how the company’s culture would spill over to the clients they attracted and served, albeit in a haphazardous, and random fashion as opposed to a planned strategy. However, a company must establish a clear objective in undertaking any strategy to reach a specific niche, and what the firm is prepared to do to make inroads therein.
For starters, a company with such a marketing plan would do well to determine the size, customs, nature and shopping trends of the target group; not unlike the demographic studies done by any major franchise organization prior to undertaking a new product or location. Alas many companies leave most of these sorts of investigative steps to random samplings, if done at all. A good manager or company leader reviews where business is coming from and goes about creating paradigm shifts either in the recruitment or in the outreach, e.g., marketing, promotions, etc., for such endeavors.
One company where I witnessed this type of insight was a firm that catered to the Spanish-speaking Latino community in their midst by hiring predominantly Latino sales agents, in spite of the owner of the company being Asian! Another firm that was located in a predominantly Asian community focused its marketing campaigns in that community by placing strategic billboards in the language of choice and attracting that populace to the firm. Another company run by a middle-eastern gentleman attracted his client base through television advertising catering to “his” community through targeted ads in the language of choice.
This is a smart approach, albeit, as I pointed out earlier, haphazardous. A firm looking to stay viable in a changing economy needs to create an environment where such creative outreach isn’t left to whim or accident or worse, to the imagination of an insightful few in the office. I recall a major franchise attempting to do something along these lines early on. They went about it in a way that seemed to be right – they even bought a magazine in the target market’s language! However, without a guiding principle, or someone who understood the niche well enough, this quickly went down a predictable path. The company shut down the magazine and all but abandoned their drive to attract the community they targeted. However, in spite of the failure, it wasn’t that the market could not support the idea, it was that the idea was poorly developed. In other words, with a “…if you build it they will come…” mentality. Obviously, creating a new market requires a bit more than just the idea.
This diversification isn’t solely about producing marketing pieces in the native language – something that can backfire due to poorly translated concepts or wording. Rather it is about developing a complete strategy and creating the right venue to accomplishing this – from marketing materials to appropriate dissemination points, e.g., radio, print, flyers, to telecommunications and websites and having the right, trained personnel, including a leader, to complement and nurture that effort.
If done properly a company will reap a greater benefit from this type of diversification and keep greater control of a changing market and the niche it is creating or attracting. And it isn’t about leaving any one sales agent or group of agents to their own devices because this leads to losing control of the very vehicle that is being developed.
Presently there are numerous companies following this trend. However, many of them are doing so through the efforts of an agent or two, who, with some insights have stumbled upon virgin, and potentially lucrative territory. Lets face it, many non-traditional markets lack information and leadership which leads to poor performance, leaving some to think that it is too much work to have to create or invest in the needed resources to make it work. A company could do much more if they created the right approach with the right resources – and it isn’t about investing a great sum of money, after all, look around and see how many industries, and other service providers are embracing this diversification. If you hadn’t noticed, pick up any periodical in a different language and you’ll see some familiar ads, promoting familiar products to a specific target, in their native language!
What is required is someone to take the lead to create the right blend of resources, facilities and opportunities to attract the (untapped or under served) group(s) you see, through your investigations, as a viable source of your future business. Oh, and remember to bring on the right people to help serve the market you are targeting properly – in their language where ever possible (even if you are doing so to break into a new market, and you don’t have the personnel in place when you start. There are temporary agencies that can supply the right personnel to assist in the interim).
There are numerous example of how effective such a strategy is throughout the country. Some companies have grown to become larger firms just following a simple approach – find a need and fill it, oh, and you don’t have to speak the language, but having the right key people who do is the way to go.
Learn more about the author, J. Mario Preza, CRB.
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