by Nathan Cox

Senior Vice President, Commercial Banking Manager
Bank of the West

Although many businesses understand that their media advertising needs to include a diverse range of ethnicities and genders, I think there’s less acknowledgment of the importance of the staff mirroring the marketplace. And that’s a shame, because marketing is not confined to media. Diversity is not just about more representations of people of color; it’s about ensuring that all of our employee constituents are represented.

Everything a potential client sees about a business sends a message. If we want to build trust, it’s not enough that our marketing materials present faces that resonate with the audience. Our staffs need to represent the communities in which they work.

“The seeds of credibility and trust are built by a business that mirrors the marketplace and speaks to it in a language it recognizes”

As the demographics of our marketplace change, the manner in which we serve those markets must also change. Research data has shown that ethnic market segments respond positively to faces that resemble their own. The seeds of credibility and trust are built by a business that mirrors the marketplace and speaks to it in a language it recognizes. For example, if I am doing business in an area that has a predominantly Asian population, I want my staff to represent the Asian population accordingly. I would like my staff to be Hmong, Cantonese, or whatever the local population is. What’s more, I would like them to speak the language of that local population.

As our country’s demographics evolve and the Baby Boomers age and retire, there’s been an increase in women- and minority-owned businesses. The business opportunities from succession planning and wealth transfer to these market segments are significant. Effectively marketing to Baby Boomers makes sense, as they stand to generate lots of new business for the company. Financial services firms continue to tailor their marketing material to properly reach those demographic segments (an Asian entrepreneur in a wealth management ad, an African-American woman in a small business ad, and so forth), which is exactly what should be happening. Having “in-language” brochures is another sign of commitment to diversity, as is attending community events with employees who represent that community.

A commitment to diversity is shown when a company not only hires employees that represent the community but encourages their contributions to the success of the organization, whether it’s through community involvement or excellent customer service. Diversity councils and committees allow for a crosspollination of ideas that create a natural, free flowing exchange of innovation and information. Ultimately, that exchange leads to a more culturally sensitive and hopefully, more successful organization.