September 27, 2022
At Hello, CEO, we spend a lot of time curating an environment where representation and inclusion aren’t just words on our website. They’re pillars and standards we uphold in everything we do. We consider diversity, equity, and inclusion in every single part of our business, from our social content and our free guides/resources, to our shop and online membership, The Connection Collective.
We also talk a lot about inclusivity in entrepreneurship, community, and the world of online biz (and how some aspects of this industry do not do it well). We’re not here to name names or partake in cancel culture. Mostly, we’re here to validate those who may have seen, been affected by, or accidentally took part in practices that didn’t feel inclusive — or wound up feeling downright harmful.
But running an inclusive, diverse business is just part of our mission. We want to help YOU run one, too. That’s why we want to talk about inclusion in marketing, people-first language, and how the concept of Human First, Biz Second™ can influence virtually everything you do in business.
DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) is a big buzzword, but at its core, it’s what we all want — at least, it is if you want to run a business that doesn’t exploit other people. Which… duh, right??
DEI influences how we hire, of course, but it also includes who we work with, who we want to serve, and how we actually market to and connect with those people. What people want most is to connect with the brands they buy from — and that stats back this up. According to SproutSocial, “When customers feel connected to brands, more than half of consumers (57%) will increase their spending with that brand and 76% will buy from them over a competitor.”
The TL;DR? People want to buy products and services from brands they can trust, and where they feel seen. That means adopting “DEI” principles into your business foundations AND your marketing. But WTF do these three letters actually mean?
Diversity means including individuals from a range of backgrounds including social, ethnic, and cultural, gender identities, and sexual orientation. Diversity in marketing includes being conscious and thoughtful of visuals and images, using gender-neutral terms, and doing research to avoid the use of stereotypes or harmful idioms.
Inclusion is the conscious practice of ensuring that everyone, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, or disability, has equal access to opportunity and resources. In marketing, inclusion also means you’re thinking about people from different backgrounds, worldviews, and identities when sharing your message. This includes avoiding appropriations, gender assumptions, and privilege-based tactics (assuming everyone has the same access you do!).
Equity is the practice of ensuring fair access to opportunities and resources regardless of any identifying factors. It means that we take away any barriers that prevent equal access to resources that can lead to someone’s success. For example, The Connection Collective membership is offered on a sliding scale so that everyone who wants to join CAN, regardless of their ability to pay.
Honestly, “DEI” is thrown around a lot in business today, but we if we don’t really know what they mean, how can we implement them in our businesses? We can’t.
Now that you’ve got a better idea of what these terms mean, let’s put them into practice.
When it comes to marketing your offers or your business, it’s not uncommon to feel a little… weird. Especially if you’re a woman or were raised as a girl in a cis-gender society, you know that self-promotion and admitting your expertise can be considered… prideful. Arrogant. Bitchy. All those fun things.
Of course, here at Hello, CEO, we want to remind you that sharing your offers and your awesome-ness is NONE of those things. It’s making your informational offers or transformational services accessible to people who really need them. And nobody will know about it if you don’t TALK ABOUT IT.
But, when you’re running a people-first business and want to make sure you’re not being a gross bro marketer, what should you do? Well, we’ve got some ideas:
We don’t need to remind you what assuming does, right? (If you’ve never heard the saying, “Assuming makes an ASS out of U and ME.”) Never assume that you know your entire audience’s preferred pronouns, or how they identify. Neutral terms should include gender, job title, and traits until/or if you are advised otherwise by the individual.
You might address your audience as “folks” (instead of “ladies and gentlemen), “entrepreneurs” (instead of mom-preneurs), and so on.
Nobody likes or needs “bro marketer” tactics like negativity, psychological triggers, manipulation, or guilt to buy something. I mean, how has this ever seemed like a good idea? Instead, let people know the clear value you’re offering them and be clear about whether it’s information (resources to help them with their research) or transformation (support to help them reach something new).
Also, don’t try to trick anyone into thinking they need your offer to survive.
Not everyone has the same set of circumstances as you, or the person next you, or anyone, for that matter. It goes back to the assumption conversation. Don’t assume your marketing decisions will land with your audience — you need to recognize the inherent privilege in your sales strategies.
For example, we’ve seen people selling courses about increasing income. Without fail, their sales page says something along the lines of, “I started my business with $12 and a dream. I’m showing you exactly how I went from $12 to my first $1,200 sale in 2 weeks!” For one, that’s income claim marketing (ick) and for two, they usually leave out the part where they had a partner who was making enough to pay the mortgage or they were still living at home with their parents.
That’s privilege, and it changes your outcomes. Someone who is struggling to make ends meet and who has to pay rent on their own may not have the same outcomes — so be clear in your messaging.
In line with the privilege element, you want to give context to your offers. You want to explain why you created them, who they’re for, and what people can expect from buying or booking. You want to be super clear about what’s required from somewhere to reach a certain outcome, or what’s expected of them when they work with you.
If there’s an element of your offer that requires your buyer or client to do something themselves, make sure you explain what that is clearly. You don’t want to say, “All you have to do is buckle down and commit yourself to growing.” No, that’s privilege talking once again.
Give context, i.e. “You’ll need to commit 3 hours a week to going through course materials to really apply the information you need to increase revenue by $1,000.” See the difference?
This is how you talk the talk and use that brand presence, whether it’s on social media or your website, to prove that you understand the importance of diversity using images. It’s about steering clear of whitewashing images — i.e. just using images of white women with blonde hair, blue eyes, all wearing an eerie similar-looking influencer hat.
This also means keeping up with and being conscious of the new, problematic ways that social media portrays race, like digital blackface. This phenomenon includes the use of a quick reaction GIF, like Stanley from The Office or Nicki Minaj, when you’re not Black. Or even using viral, trending audios of Black actors/singers for video content when you are, again, not Black. It means stopping, thinking, and being conscious of your online choices. And it’s not asking too much.
Did you know that the phrase “cake walk” has roots in slavery? So does “peanut gallery,” and “grandfathering.” And no, your target audience isn’t your “tribe,” and a meme of a tired cat isn’t your “spirit animal.” Before you use common idioms or phrases, just spend a few minutes looking up the actual source of the phrase.
All it takes is “Where did [INSERT PHRASE] start?” and you’ll find more than a handful of helping results. Language matters, and even though this one might require some research, it’s better to know now than when you’re already in the hot water.
You can still be culturally relevant and showcase brand voice without relying on appropriating terms or phrases from others. One way to do this is by not just using a relevancy or exploitative scale when marketing, like only posting rainbows during Pride Month, or Black individuals during Black History Month. Another way to avoid this is by diversifying your marketing team, because it’s okay not to know (at first) what is considered appropriation and what isn’t. Use feedback as fuel!
It’s a guide by which we base everything off of here at Hello, CEO, and it’s one that’s never failed us. When it dawned on us that there might be some group of people, even ONE person, who wasn’t feeling supported by their online community in an inclusive way THAT’S when the seed of Hello, CEO was planted.
And we’ve grown quite a beautiful garden from it. 🌷
We stand by the importance of using inclusion in our marketing, and deliberately and consciously make choices until they become less deliberate and unconscious, because it’s the way it should be, no effort needed.
We stand by that it helps us work by our core values and establishes our difference from what others consider “Business as usual.” These practices allow you to feel no fear, shame, or anxiety in bringing your whole self into work every day.
And trends also show that people, you know, that audience you’re marketing to, want more and more brands who care about people. It’s proven to help online business owners establish themselves. So, while we’re human-first, we can still make strong businesses that are built to last.
But don’t take our word for it, instead let us show you around inside The Connection Collective. Join the waitlist to see when our doors open again!
© 2022 Hello CEO, LLC