For people who don’t think about it often, when they do consider why diversity and inclusion are important, they often struggle for a practical answer. As a society, culture, and system of laws, we have mandated diversity’s legal and social importance, but we don’t give enough time or energy to the practical importance of diversity.
What Is Diversity?
First, let’s define diversity:
“the state of being diverse; variety. the practice or quality of including or involving people from a range of different social and ethnic backgrounds and of different genders, sexual orientations, etc.”
In the general context of business, it’s hiring many different kinds of people to attempt a representative mix of the general population, for the purposes of creating multiple points of view within an organization.
Diversity is also the encouragement and fostering of diverse thinking, words, and actions, the expression of people’s varied backgrounds towards solving key business problems.
Why is Diversity Important?
People, including the sum of their selves, knowledge, and experience, are one of the raw ingredients for our businesses.
You cannot attain diversity of thought without diversity of people.
Consider the monoculture: a culture with one point of view, one color of skin, one sexual orientation, one gender, one religion, one education.
- having a restaurant that only serves one dish.
- running a construction company that only builds with concrete.
- writing a book using only one word, over and over again.
- operating a consulting firm with only one strategy.
There’s a very limited audience of customers who want just one uniform thing from us, over and over again.
As a marketer, can you imagine having only one product that comes in only one size, one color, one price, with only one feature? Once the novelty or utility of the product wears off, we’re out of a job.
We would never want to market these businesses. We would tire of doing business with these kinds of businesses.
We want to work for the restaurant that always has something new — a core competency, to be sure, but with tons of variety, tons of opportunities to enter new niches, to provide more granular applications of our products and services, to provide more profitable specializations.
We want to work for a construction company that does breathtaking work in a huge variety of forms, that could build a hut, a temple, and a skyscraper.
We want to market books of every kind. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, built his company on the reputation of selling every book available because shelf space wasn’t a limiting factor.
We want to sell a consulting firm that has custom, bespoke strategies for every kind of business and every unique problem.
The Importance of Diversity
The importance of diversity is that if our ingredients — the people we hire and the ideas we encourage — are stale and monotonous, our business will be stale and monotonous — and our competitors will crush us. A competitor with even the slightest positive differentiation will immediately appear better than us.
Ignoring for a moment the legal implications of discrimination, we set ourselves up to fail when we don’t mandate diversity and inclusion. The competitor with more diversity has a wider variety of ideas and talent to choose from, which means they’re capable of better products and services, which in turn drives greater financial performance.
Diversity and inclusion equal innovation.
In 2017, they examined the gender and ethnic diversity of the top and bottom performing public companies:
Companies with the greatest gender diversity financially outperformed the companies with the least gender diversity by 21%. For ethnic diversity, that number is 33%.
The difference between winners and losers due to diversity isn’t a tiny piece of a percentage. 21% and 33% are massive gaps, the difference between being the market leader and closing the doors.
Diversity of thought begets diversity of words and actions. Diversity equals differentiation and innovation.
Whether we’re an employee, a manager, or a shareholder of any company, we must demand diversity from our business leaders. Not only is it the legal, ethical, and moral choice, it’s the smart business choice for maximizing growth.
The Critical Importance of Diversity in Marketing
Here’s the most important part of diversity when it comes to marketing: our audiences are not us. If we want to appeal to the widest audience possible of qualified buyers, we need diversity to ensure our marketing casts as wide a net as practical.
Here’s a simple example, just on geography. I help administer the website of a small business here in Boston. In just 90 days, they’ve attracted an audience from 119 countries:
Their demographics are quite broad as well:
If this were your business, how much of your marketing would be targeted at each demographic? Could you capably create marketing content that would appeal to 25-34 year old women? Could you capably create marketing content that would appeal to 45-54 year old men? Could you capably create marketing content that would appeal to residents of China or Brazil or India?
For good or ill, we bring our own perspectives to the table when we create marketing. We market from what we know, and if our team is a monoculture, we don’t create marketing that will maximally appeal to our overall audience.
Go into your Google Analytics (or equivalent) software and look at the Demographics, Interests, and Geo categories. Compare the people in there with the people on your team. How many people on your team have similar backgrounds?
When I look at my own website, at you, what kinds of interests do you have?
How much do I know about travel, or salon visits, or green living, or fashion? Not a ton. Not enough to make content about those areas of interest in a way that would speak to true aficionados. If I needed to do so, I’d have to bring in partners, employees, or other agencies – outside perspectives to help me craft better marketing.
Any time you’re evaluating employees, agencies, partners, etc. for participation in your marketing processes, take a careful look at your data and credible third-party data. What kind of people are interested in, for example, digital marketing analytics? It’s not just one age, gender, or ethnic background. It’s a wide, wide spectrum – and if we want our marketing to resonate with as many potential customers as possible, then we need a team that looks like our desired audience.
Here’s an easy exercise: go look at your Twitter followers and look at the Twitter followers of your largest competitor. How diverse is the audience? How much of your marketing will appeal to the different people you see as you scroll by their names and profile pictures and bios?
That’s why diversity is important in marketing. You need it to attract and retain as much of your audience as possible. The more, different, diverse voices you include in your marketing, the more audience you’ll appeal to.
Disclosure: this post was originally published many years ago and has been updated over time with new data.
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