We may have sat in different classrooms, but we all learned the metaphor. “America, is a melting pot,” our teachers said, and it was true. Immigrants flocked to Ellis Island and, baptized by a trip across the Atlantic, became Americans. Today, we still take great pride in being Americans, but take equal pride in our differences.
“Today’s businesses understand that diversity is a progressive mindset,” said Kelly McDonald, author of Marketing to People Not Like You. “We don’t all have to look the same, dress the same or come from the same background. We’re never going to be a melting pot again. We’re a salad bowl. When you look at a salad, there’s not one element that can be mistaken for anything else. Every element is seen for what it is.”
It’s likely that you’ve seen this in your own shop. You may encounter several vehicles of the same make and model, but no two customers are exactly alike. To effectively reach your increasingly diverse customer base, you must be in-tune with the differences that mark each consumer group.
“Start with consumer insights,” McDonald said. “These are very broad generalizations, but there are some over-arching things that can help you understand your customers.”
What do women want? We’ve collectively pondered this question well before Mel Gibson donned a pair of panty hose and tried to answer it in the 2000 romantic comedy of similar name. During last year’s AAPEX educational session, McDonald shared a few retail-based insights that take us one step closer to solving the mystery.
According to McDonald, it’s been proven that women spend more time online than any other group.
“They research extensively about the things they are interested in,” she said. “If you intrigue them with something, the first thing they do is jump online and do their research.”
Will this product work for me? How do other people think this jacket fit? How was the customer service at XYZ Quick Lube?
“Women really like customer testimonials, especially from other women,” McDonald said. “Women tend to read and put a lot of stock into what other women say. We don’t believe other women, even though we don’t know them, are going to lie to us.”
Women can handle the truth. This is not “A Few Good Men” situation.
“Understand that the truth can’t hurt you,” McDonald said. “What we can’t handle is the run around, so full disclosure is really important.”
Though we sometimes find it hard to choose a dinner location (the classic “I don’t know, where do you want to go?” scenario), women place significant value on choice.
“Give a woman all the information she needs, back off and let her process,” McDonald advised. “Women value expansive choices. We are not overwhelmed when presented with several options. It’s the opposite. We are empowered.”
Ask any woman who has ever tried to buy a gift for her boyfriend, husband, brother or male friend and they will tell you: it’s just as difficult to know what men want. And if it seems that men have fewer choices on the market, it may not be your imagination.
“Men, there’s a reason your clothes only come in three colors,” McDonald joked. “Men want simplified choices. This is retail science. Men buy more electronics than any other group. They want flat screens, iPads and tablets. Haven’t you ever noticed when you go shopping for electronics that most of the pricing is done in groups of three? Good, better, best? That’s what men are most comfortable with. The way you would use this when dealing with customers, women want everything you’ve got, all your services, all their options. For men, you may say, ‘Here’s our three most popular.’ If a man wants more information, he’ll ask for it.”
Gen X and Y
There’s a lot of industry talk about how to effectively reach the many age groups on the road today, particularly Gen X and Gen Y. Many of your customers likely fall into one of these generational groups, and if you’re trying to reach a member of these groups, electronic communication may be your best bet.
“Swinging by the office with a box of donuts and schmoozing doesn’t work with this group,” McDonald said. “Gen X and Gen Y are like, ‘I don’t want your donuts, man. Just send me an email.’”
Asking the customer about their preferred communication method is a definite step in the right direction.
“What’s the best way to get in touch with you? What do you prefer,” McDonald said. “If they say to call, ask if home, office or cell would be best.”
However, there is one catch to this approach.
“Don’t ask unless you’re going to deliver,” McDonald said.
From attire to marketing images, business approach is also less formal and more casual.
“Consider using contemporary images in your marketing, like tattoos, for example,” McDonald said. “Forty percent of people ages 18-35 have four or more tattoos. This is a cultural change.”
In generations past, tattoos implied not a form of self-expression but an act of rebellion. That’s not the case anymore.
“It’s a way to capture a key moment in their life or a way for them to express themselves,” McDonald said. “If an entire generation has ink, at some point shouldn’t your marketing reflect that? There is a reason why every ad for retirement features people with grey hair. People do business with images they connect to.”
Of course diversity comes in many more forms than just the ones listed above. The key is to tune into who is coming into your shop already and any new customer base that you could potentially target.
“Identify your opportunities,” McDonald said. “Pay attention to what your eyes, ears and instincts are telling you.”
Once you’ve identified the potential opportunities in your shop, how do you know what people who are not like you want from your business?
“It’s astonishing what you can learn by asking,” McDonald said. “People are happy to tell you their views. Not just surveys, but informal conversations with customers and feedback from your frontline employees. Ask your loyal customers what they like about you, what you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong. Ask your employees what they’re hearing.”
It bridges all genders and generational gaps. Men, women, Gen X or Gen Y, nobody likes to be sold. This insight has led to a shift in marketing mantras.
“Helping beats selling,” McDonald said. “It’s not about pounding our chest and saying, ‘Look how great our product or service is.’ It’s about taking a problem and saying, ‘Oh, we’ve seen that before; here’s how we’ll fix it.’ If you help me, you will sell me.”