Diversity isn't a dirty word. But it often feels like a controversial topic. That's because there's something that happens to a subset of people when you mention it or suggest pushing it to the forefront. Those who aren't down with diversity often feel like it is an assault on the mainstream or the majority. They get rubbed the wrong way. Defensive. At times, even irate. No bueno.

It's a shame because diversity is about inclusion, rather than exclusion. It is about bringing people together, giving everyone a seat at the table, and making everyone feel like they belong.

That's important because business is about belonging.

And when diversity is embraced in all its glory, the businesses who go all in with it reap tremendous results. Here's exhibit A.

The stellar results of placing diversity center stage.

Over the weekend, Beyoncé was the first black woman to headline the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. According to Talkwalker, a social-media analytics company, her performance garnered 2.8 million social-media mentions. By comparison, The Weeknd, an artist who also headlined Coachella, was second in line, with 116,000 social-media mentions during the same time period. 

In addition, at the beginning of the performance, Beyoncé declared the music festival was now "Beychella." That hashtag subsequently was used 2.4 million times, outpacing Coachella itself, which only received 1 million.

The first weekend of Coachella 2018 was live streamed on YouTube and more than 458,000 global viewers tuned in to watch Beyoncé's performance, making it the most viewed Coachella performance ever on the platform. Her show also won the title of most-viewed live music festival performance on YouTube, ever.

These are just a few more of a long line of accomplishments for the singer, whose career spans more than 20 years. But Coachella should be ecstatic about these numbers. They have long been called out for their lack of diversity, particularly for not having any female headliners for nearly a decade

But now, the festival earned a lot of new fans. I'd previously heard of Coachella, but I'd never watched a performance before tuning in to Beyoncé's. I know I'm not the only one. And now, the festival that's been in existence since 1999 has a whole new crop of people whose attention they have. And if they keep embracing diversity in this same manner, they are poised to keep it.

Now for exhibit B: Black Panther.

Earlier this month, sales of the latest installment of the Marvel-hero franchise topped $1.3 billion. Because of its dominance at the box office, it recently surpassed Titanic to become the third biggest release in U.S. history. It's also the tenth largest global film of all time and the No. 1 superhero movie of all time. 

The film featuring an all-Black cast, and a story-line set in the fictitious African nation of Wakanda, has broken so many records in just two months on the market, Disney, the parent company of Marvel Comics, released an infographic to list them all.

Before Black Panther, I knew nothing of Marvel comics and had seen none of their movies. Now, I and many others have been introduced to the franchise, after they produced a product that made me pay attention. I may even go see the next installment in the series, because I know it will include cast members from Black Panther.

There are plenty more examples such as Rihanna's Fenty Beauty, Pixar's Coco, and Warner Brother's Wonder Woman scoring major paydays, awards, and millions of raving fans as a result of delivering products that reached underserved audiences and celebrated our differences rather than ignoring them.

How to get good at serving diverse customers.

Develop a deeper degree of intimacy with them. When you get to know your customers in a way that fosters more empathy, you'll start to identify differences in their experiences and worldview that warrant more customized solutions.

Then deliver those solutions.

I'm working with a client who uncovered data that shows that Black and Latino customers disproportionately have the problem their product solves. Together, we're working on a plan that will help them speak to these customer groups in a manner that draws them closer to my client.

You can also discover prime ways to serve diverse customers better by mapping their customer journeys. For instance, if your business wants to do a better job of serving women, create a separate customer journey solely for women to see how it differs.

Business is about belonging. And when you make intentional efforts to lean into diversity so you can better serve your customers, you will also succeed in making your customers feel like they belong with you. As a result, your business will start to reap the tremendous benefits that come from solving these highly underserved customers like none other.

Published on: Apr 20, 2018