Inclusive marketing and customer experience are inseparable twins. But too often, brands don't connect the two, and that often leads to less than desirable results. That's a shame, because business is about belonging.
Marketing campaigns that are inclusive but clunky in their execution of the experiences they deliver make your diverse and niche consumers feel like an afterthought. And remarkable customer experiences that aren't inclusive don't feel remarkable for the people they leave out.
For example, recently my husband took an exam for a certification he'd been studying for. He speaks Spanish and is in the process of learning English, so he was excited when he found a resource that had Spanish versions of the study and practice materials he needed, and that he could take the exam in Spanish as well.
But when he registered for the exam, there wasn't a place to select that he would be taking the exam in Spanish. All the instructions were in English when he got the registration email. Because of all that, when he logged in to take the course, it wasn't a surprise that the proctor didn't speak Spanish. As such, I ended up translating between the two to close the communication gap during the first 15 minutes of set-up time.
It's great that the organization offering the exam was inclusive by making it available in Spanish. However, there was a lot of friction in the overall customer experience that was frustrating. It felt like inclusion was considered only at the product level rather than at all the touchpoints a customer would need to go through.
Friction and good customer experiences don't mix.
This isn't an isolated incident. I advised another brand in the past on how to think through its strategy to reach Spanish-speaking consumers. Initially, the brand was thinking only of translating its existing materials. But as we talked through it, I let the people there know that they needed to consider the entire customer journey if they wanted their efforts to gain traction.
This doesn't apply to just reaching consumers who speak a different language. It is relevant across the board as you think about being inclusive of diverse and niche consumers. There is a spectrum to the degree of inclusiveness that you offer. And where you fall on that spectrum impacts how successful you'll be with your efforts.
For instance, in her best-selling book Year of Yes, famed television writer and producer Shonda Rhimes relayed a story of a time before she'd lost weight when she needed a seatbelt extended on an airplane. Sure, the airline, in making that option available, was being inclusive of passengers for whom the standard-size seatbelt wouldn't work. But for many, the process of having to raise your hand to acknowledge what makes you different, and your need for special accommodations, can be very difficult. It isn't a positive experience.
In Shonda Rhimes's case, raising her hand to acknowledge her difference wasn't something she was willing to do. Here's how she explained her thought process to Ellen Degeneres:
I could ask the airline flight attendant to get me a seat-belt extender ... or I could die and not have a seatbelt extender, and maybe the plane will crash or I'll fly out of my seat when we take off. I decided I would risk it and just fly out of my seat because I wasn't going to say anything.
As you work to build an inclusive brand, make sure you weave inclusion into every aspect of your customer journey. And as you work to deliver remarkable customer experiences, be intentional about making sure they are inclusive of the different types of customers who have the problem your business solves and whom you want to serve.
When you consistently consider both of these elements in your marketing, you'll do a much better job of making your customers feel like they belong.