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How small businesses can be more inclusive

Successful marketing builds a connection between a small business and its target customer base.

An important aspect is ensuring marketing is as inclusive as possible and able to reach as wide a group of potential customers as possible.

A 2020 study by Microsoft revealed that 59% of consumers were more trusting opens in new window of brands that they felt represented them in their marketing and it’s not just about individual interest – 38% of customers opens in new window are likelier to trust ads that showcase diversity.

Start-ups could benefit from marketing materials that feature a diverse representation of society, including people from differing ethnic backgrounds, gender identities, and people with disabilities.

Aside from accurately depicting society with various individuals in marketing materials, there are other reasons start-ups may prioritise representation in marketing efforts.


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Why should marketing be diverse and inclusive?

Marketing serves to encourage customers to buy what you’re selling.

One of the best ways to ensure this is to demonstrate that your product or service is for them.

Some customers want to recognise themselves in your marketing content.

This can show that your product or service is not only for them, but that your brand is in tune with their needs, values, and interests.

The result can be more successful marketing activity which in turn could generate a greater return on investment.

A 2019 survey by Google found that 64% of consumers took action opens in new window after interacting with an ad that they believed to be diverse or inclusive.

Being more representative in your marketing strategies can encourage sales by demonstrating your products serve a wider audience.

It may also increase brand loyalty, brand trust, and brand image.

Read our guide to the benefits of diversity and inclusivity opens in new window for start-ups.


How to create diverse and inclusive marketing

Writing for everyone

Making your marketing copy more inclusive may require a big shift in thinking.

To do their job effectively, Copywriters need to avoid assumptions about different audiences, so they may consider using non-gendered pronouns, and stick to including only the relevant information.

As part of your research into your customer base and target audience it could also be useful to learn how they want to be addressed, how they discuss specific topics, and how audiences can be represented authentically, visually, and textually.

You could even consider building a keyword and visuals library that you can provide to marketing agencies and teams to ensure that copywriting and imagery used in your marketing is representative.


Remove bias from your ads and data

Both conscious and unconscious biases can negatively impact how marketing is viewed by different people and could limit the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.

Bias could also be in any data you collect to inform your marketing decisions and could result in biased strategies and potentially missed opportunities.

Ensure that data and customer research is as open-ended as possible, such as including a wide variety of people from different backgrounds, circumstances, and with different characteristics.

Try to avoid conducting market research with preconceived conceptions, such as that your product may be purchased primarily by specific genders, ages, or socio-economic backgrounds.

Read our guide to market research techniques opens in new window to help shape your marketing activities.


Showcase diversity

Inclusive marketing requires small businesses to consider all dimensions of representation aligned with their target market.

This includes race, age, disability, gender, language, and sexual orientation.

Alongside these characteristics, small businesses could also consider other audience factors, such as their job, parental status, or relationship status.

At the centre of inclusive marketing is an empathetic understanding of who your customers are, their circumstances, and an accurate portrayal of them in your marketing materials.

You could decide to analyse your existing marketing materials, identify which groups are not included, and work out how you can adjust to better reflect the entirety of your target audience.


Align your messaging to emotions

An emotional response can be essential to how customers engage with marketing.

It can influence customers in how they see a brand, and how they interact.

Positive emotional responses such as pride, delight, or happiness can be triggered in less represented groups if they are credibly included in your marketing materials.

Building an emotional connection with your customers can help strengthen brand loyalty.


Be authentic

Businesses that oversell their efforts to be representative may be perceived as performative or shallow by customers.

With intuitive and empathetic marketing, brands can highlight their efforts in a way that feels genuine to customers.

Read our guide to creating inclusive products and services opens in new window to help boost your business.


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Reference to any organisation, business and event on this page does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation from the British Business Bank or the UK Government. Whilst we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.

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