Inclusion can make a company broadly successful. It’s no secret that a more diverse work environment is a stronger work environment, and businesses everywhere are taking massive steps to remedy years of workplace prejudice. However, that’s not to say that we’ve reached the be-all, end-all of inclusion, not by a long shot.

When considering inclusion, we have to think about the customer, too. No matter if you’re a B2B or B2C business, a diversity of people are always going to be at the other end of what you’re selling. This isn’t a lecture in political correctness, but rather the advice that making your product or service available to ALL leads, not just the ones you that fall into particular categories, is the best approach to a successful business. These ideas should permeate throughout Story, Strategy, and Systems. Ahead, we’re going to look at why this is important and some methods to making every customer the hero of your Story.

Why change what you think is already working?

If you think your company is doing fine not including diversity in your marketing, I have news for you: You’re wrong. No matter the state your company is in, whether you’re focusing on widespread, results-driven campaigns, shaping up your internal organizations, or focusing your efforts elsewhere, there is always room for inclusivity and improvement. You have to take an introspective view and ask the tough question: Is my content only applicable and relevant to the white, straight, cis, and abled?

Chances are, it’s not. As the marketing leader of your company, you have the privilege of directing the voice of your business and the responsibility to serve the interests of your audience. Your role might technically be to give your company a voice in the marketing landscape, but how are you going to do that without taking a step back and listening to the full potential of what your audience wants to hear? Unless you are examining your content every step of the way to make sure it’s applicable to ALL voices, then your content is not geared towards everyone. That’s a guarantee.

Taking that step to serve every audience and uplift them as the hero of your business is essential, not just because it will increase ROI, but because empathy (not to be mistaken for sympathy) should be at the forefront of your content decisions.

A prime example of an entirely overlooked audience is the untapped market of the LGBTQ community. While the percentage of the population that identifies as a member of the LBGTQ community is usually indicated to be between 2-10%, the reality is that its much higher than you might think. Marketers can become obsessed about marketing to Millennials, and yet often ignore that 20% of them fall into this category. According to LGBT Capital, the LGBTQ population holds a cumulative aggregated annual spending power of more than $5 trillion dollars. Despite this, almost a third of marketers do not plan to include the LGBT community in their marketing decisions. The disparity is obvious, so when and where are the changes coming?

Some might think that inclusive content alienates more viewers than it includes, but that’s a misunderstanding. Time and time again, inclusive campaigns have proved that supporters far outweigh non-supporters who eventually drop the brand. For example, upon airing an ad featuring an interracial family, Old Navy was fine with losing the casual business from those who opposed it in favor of securing the support from families who looked like the one in their commercial.

Just because you may think something is working, it doesn’t mean it really is. And just because it’s working for the audience you already have doesn’t mean that there aren’t future markets out there that only require empathy and a voice.

Implementing Change

Making your content accessible and relevant doesn’t have to change the way your marketing works, but it’s more than just a fine tuning. If your campaign is inherently discriminatory, making a few key word changes won’t fix that. As Google states, “Stereotypes are the fastest way to show users you don’t understand them.” Changing your campaigns and messaging for the better means taking a step back, listening to voices that aren’t your own (and often look, think, and feel nothing like you), then taking a good, hard look at the authenticity of your messages.

Making content accessible and applicable to all audiences starts with having diverse voices on the “change” end of your organization. It’s impossible to create wholly accessible strategies and content if everyone initiating it looks, thinks, and acts the same. Diversity isn’t about checking off boxes, it’s about making your internal organization and external messaging inclusive to all voices.

Large-scale change and inclusion decisions should come from the top down. As a leader, you have the responsibility to initiate change for the better. Strategy decisions need to include all voices. No, this doesn’t mean you need to go through a checklist of approvals every time you post something. This only means that you need to recognize that your voice is a service to your audience, and that inclusion will attract loyal promoters. It’s at this stage that authenticity is most important.

Small-scale decisions like copy, design, and customer interactions are at the forefront of showing your audience you care about them. However, small-scale content and decisions are often the easiest to get wrong. Training your employees and clarifying your inclusion goals will help remedy this, but the most important part is putting the people you want to reach in the position to direct your content. Encourage resources and dialogues that will fix problems while they’re still in the idea stage. Resources like the MailChimp Content Style Guide and the Radical Copyeditor blog are intended for copywriting, but are also applicable to general learning.

What happens if I mess up?

Mistakes happen, and good intentions don’t fix them. Mistakes are also a part of the learning process and are bound to happen. Let’s say you do make a mistake. A strategy goes wrong. A message isn’t taken the way you want it to be. The first step is to pull the content or strategy from production. Then, you apologize. Sincerely. The final step is showing that you meant your apology and are working to change it to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

One of the biggest inclusion mistakes of the decade fell on Pepsi’s shoulders. An ad they wanted to be heartwarming instead came across as trivializing protests and extremely tone-deaf. Such a large mistake from a company that’s practically a cornerstone of modern food and drink brands could’ve been easily prevented had they actually done research and asked the opinions of those involved.

Final Thoughts

The most important part of inclusion is ultimately to make all customers feel welcome at your business, either as an employee or as a promoter. If a customer feels like you respect them and support them, half of your work is done, and they get to walk away with a good product or service they can trust and will recommend to others. The quickest path to inclusion and a more loyal customer base is to take a step back and realize yours isn’t the only voice in the room.