Multicultural Marketing – Taking Care of Business At Hand

small-business and other organizations looking for an edge in diverse ethnic markets. “Gone are the days when businesses succeed with a ‘one size fits all’ approach to marketing. It’s a ‘mass market’ no longer,” insists Rhonda Albey, a diversity consultant with Allen Associates in Los Angeles, “The multicultural markets are where the opportunities are, and successful entrepreneurs are quickly learning how to get there.”

According to the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) the predominant ethnic market segments being targeted by multicultural marketers are Hispanic (70%), African-American (59%) and Asian American (27%). In many places, these and other multicultural markets exert such demographic and economic influence that they’re inevitable targets.

Wherever they are, however, businesses must monitor and adapt to changes in their marketplace. The view out there can change quickly, and it’s a mistake to take any significant market segment in your area for granted. Even with all the right products and services you’ll still need the right message, in the right place, at the right time to reach the ethnic markets you want to be doing business with.

Do-it-yourself online research and homegrown multicultural marketing initiatives can help you identify and develop local ethnic market segments. But for some, outsourcing may be the way to go. For example, Multicultural Marketing Resources, Inc., (, a NYC-based public relations and marketing company, is helping businesses and entrepreneurs reach multicultural markets nationwide.

Population Growth and Economic Clout Tell Powerful Stories

Overall, says Multicultural Marketing Resources’, Lisa Skriloff: “The African-American, Hispanic and Asian populations have a combined buying power of more than a trillion dollars and minority populations are fast becoming the majority population in major markets.” But shifts in thinking toward culturally based marketing–targeting ethnic segments based on their cultural framework–will expand, creating multicultural marketing opportunities in still new ethnic segments in places where they are numerically significant.

California diversity consultant, Rhonda Albey, cautions: “Appreciate the diversity within groups as well as among groups. Terms like ‘Hispanic’ and ‘Asian’ are frequently used without acknowledging the wide-variety of peoples such terms include. ‘Asian’ can refer to any one of hundreds of nationalities, language groups and cultures. Entrepreneurs need to be aware that what appeals to Chinese-Americans in California may have little appeal for Korean-Americans in New York, although they’re all Asian-Americans.”

Culture as much, if not more than age, income, occupation or sex, is the main difference between ethnic markets and the general marketplace. Differing cultural backgrounds may mean consumers will never see or hear marketing messages that are not relevant to their cultural behavior, language or media preferences. And many businesses have yet to realize that Hispanics, Asians and blacks, among other market segments–multicultural or otherwise–have buying preferences that can be a key ingredient in marketing and selling to them.

But what if you haven’t been making the most of multicultural marketing opportunities that could be all around you?

How to Work Multicultural Marketing Into Your Marketing Plans?

Assuming you have a marketing plan, an important first step in multicultural marketing is knowing your audience, followed by improving your existing market penetration (you may want to get busy developing attractive new target markets, but first understand the inherent risks and costs, and explore opportunities to grow from within). If you can’t meet your goals with existing marketing opportunities–or you want to aim even higher–you probably should be developing new market segments. That means checking your sales forecasts and expense budget, and seeking ways to increase the return on your marketing investment.

As does all market planning, multicultural marketing needs to include research to determine who is buying your products and services, and why. Any market segment’s unique make-up defines its needs, suggesting products to sell and methods to use, and if it’s right for you; solid information about the wants, needs and objectives of potential clients is essential in making sound marketing decisions. Surveys of prospects and clients and informal interviews are useful research tools for agents and advisors in areas where one or more ethnic groups predominate.

Multicultural market planning continues with customer profiles–word-pictures of the people you’re looking for summarizing what these groups mean to you, what you do for the group, and why. Example: “The person I do business with is a young black professional or executive who is married, politically conservative, and has the potential of earning $100,000 a year by age 40. This market has grown substantially from when I started in this business 10 years ago, and I’ve been able to develop a steady market presence. As a result, networking opportunities and qualified referrals are easy–but I have to keep my eye on the ball and know my stuff.”

Market positioning then allows you to focus your resources and expertise as they apply to your market segments and think through the messages you wish to communicate to create competitive advantages. Your positioning statement should be well thought out and lend itself to professional identity branding. Your “brand”–reputation, integrity, performance, credentials, distinctive competencies and other key factors–shows in everything you do and differentiates you from your competition. Establish your brand up front: in conversation, in writing and in what you make people think about.

A marketing strategy is your formal plan for entering and systematically developing multicultural market segments and achieving your goals. It coordinates your positioning statement, customer profiles and professional identity brand with tools and techniques for establishing yourself in these market segments while servicing and expanding your existing client base. Once you have a plan, you’ll need to implement, manage and sustain it. It’s also important to remain focussed on your long-term goals. And to stay motivated!

You can adopt these steps to any market segment; what’s most important is thinking strategically about how you will find, get, and keep customers. Because marketing in the U.S. is becoming more like global marketing, market planning must proceed from an understanding of cultural differences the better to evaluate the need for adjustments to strategies and tactics. Commenting on the potential growth of multicultural marketing, Lisa Skriloff predicts: “Businesses that have not invested in multicultural marketing will be forced to reevaluate or be left behind.”

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