By Emily Jurbala

When selling your products or services to potential clients, it is crucial that your clients see themselves reflected in your company. Feeling acknowledged and validated by your company allows prospective partners, employees, and clientele to know that they are welcome to work with your company. How can you accomplish this sense of acceptance? The answer is simple: inclusive marketing strategies.

Inclusive marketing acts as a blanket term for the kind of marketing tactics that display diversity, prioritize accessibility, and ultimately make your company stand out from the rest. Consumers prioritize working with companies whose core values align with their own. In fact, according to a 2018 Accenture study, 70 percent of millennials were more likely to choose one company over another if they demonstrated inclusion in their advertising.

“Your audience members want to see themselves in your content and no single image can convey that,” says Ann Gynn of the Content Marketing Institute. “More importantly, they want to know that you see them—physically, geographically, psychologically, etc. They want to make sure you get their needs, their pain points, their thoughts.”

Diversity and inclusion go hand in hand, but they aren’t synonymous. You can go out of your way to feature images of people of color, people with disabilities, and people of all ages in the images you choose, but that does not mean you’re implementing inclusive practices. Effect real change by using people-first language, ensuring your business accommodates people with disabilities, and hiring a diverse staff.

Using People-first Language Effectively

The term “people-first language” is heavily applied to speaking about people with disabilities, but the principle can be applied to people of color, people facing homelessness, and so many more.

“People-first language emphasizes the individuality, equality, and dignity of people with disabilities,” according to the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion. “Rather than defining people primarily by their disability, people-first language conveys respect by emphasizing the fact that people with disabilities are first and foremost just that—people.” For example, consider the following:

  • “The boy with autism” vs. “The autistic boy”
  • “The person using a wheelchair” vs. “The wheelchair-bound person”
  • “They lead a successful life” vs. “They overcame their disability”

By using this particular speech pattern, you emphasize the subject of your statement being a person or a group of people, rather than confining them to a single identity. Using words carefully allows you to avoid enforcing stereotypes and ultimately makes your company more inclusive. 

Using people-first phrasing in your marketing campaigns can be especially helpful because it lets people know you’re thinking of them as just that—people. Consumers are not objects, numbers, or money, so it’s important to treat everyone with humility, and people-first language can help you achieve that.

Accommodating People with Disabilities

It is the law that businesses comply with ADA standards. People with disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodations, and as a business, you are required to meet them. That being said, you could always go out of your way to meet accommodations before being asked to make them. Here are a few ways you can make your business more accessible:

  • On signs, websites, and advertisements, use print-style fonts that have high contrast from the background they are placed on. This makes for easy reading for people with dyslexia and people who are visually impaired. 
  • If you have videos with sound, include closed captioning and make sure the audio is recorded clearly so people with hearing impairments can decipher the information easily.
  • Train your employees to deal with people who need accommodations. It’s bothersome and sometimes embarrassing to have to wait for a specifically qualified person to help you. Give people a positive interaction with your company by having a well-informed and sensitive front line.

These small adjustments can make a huge difference for someone living in a world that’s just not made for them. Being attentive to these details will give you a lead when it comes to beating out competitors; make a positive impression, and you’ll make the sale.

Hiring a Diverse Staff

Not only will having a diverse staff provide your company with a well-rounded collection of people who have many different opinions, experiences, and contributions, but it will also make potential clientele feel accepted. When potential clients walk into your establishment or visit your “Meet the Team” page, they will feel significantly more comfortable if they see themselves reflected in your staff. 

According to Bruce Stenslie of the Economic Development Collaborative, “Companies need to be able to communicate effectively with customers and understand their needs, no matter the customer’s language or culture. Communities and customers also prefer to engage with companies that employ people who are similar to them.” He adds, “Diversity can be especially important when it comes to a company’s marketing team and marketing efforts.”

Considering inclusive practices when you’re creating marketing campaigns can not only help people understand your message, but it can allow them to identify with your company. Ultimately, embracing inclusion by using people-first language, ensuring your business accommodates people with disabilities, and hiring a diverse staff will bring more clientele to your business and help you reach a broad, lucrative audience.