It’s no secret that the mortgage industry—and the U.S. business world as a whole—can benefit from better representation and diversity. Effective business leaders intuitively recognize that diversification has positive effects on employee morale, retention, and productivity.
Team members work better when they feel their work environment is inclusive and they are represented fairly. There are also studies that support the financial benefits of diversity in the workplace. For example, a study by McKinsey & Company claims that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. Likewise, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.
Taking into consideration the moral and financial benefits of diversity, we also need to examine the importance of incorporating that mindset into marketing. As marketing is the primary vehicle with which we communicate to our customers, it’s vitally important that we employ a thoughtful strategy that makes them feel represented and understood. This can start with inclusive marketing strategies.
What Is Inclusive Marketing?
People often confuse diversity and inclusion (D&I) with inclusive marketing, but they are not one and the same. D&I is about developing a culture in the workplace that is representative of the population and involves different points of view. Inclusive marketing is an approach to content marketing that attempts to eliminate exclusion and promotes goodwill and understanding with current and potential customers. It embraces diversity through images and storytelling that relate to and advocate for people of different backgrounds. It’s about giving proper representation for the company’s customer base.
Some brands do this better than others. For a fashion brand, for example, this can mean incorporating a range of body types and ethnicities to model their products. It can be seen in the social media campaigns as well as the casting choices in commercial spots and digital advertising. Inclusive marketing requires making intentional choices that consider the broader audience in an effort to influence positive social change and give a voice to those categorically marginalized.
In addition to making the right moral choice, there is data that supports the many positives of having an inclusive strategy. Statistics show that customers are more likely to buy a product when they see themselves represented in it. According to a 2019 consumer survey by Google and The Female Quotient, 64% of respondents said they took some sort of action after seeing an ad that they considered to be diverse or inclusive. This percentage was higher among specific consumer groups including Latinx+ (85%), Black (79%), Asian/Pacific Islander (79%), LGBTQ (85%), millennial (77%), and teen (76%) consumers. Creating thoughtful content that incorporates a diverse range of people from various backgrounds is one important step in appealing to a broad consumer base.
How Can We Apply Inclusive Marketing to the Mortgage Industry?
For the mortgage industry, where our audience can be widely diverse depending on whether we are targeting new homeowners, people looking to refinance, etc. there are a range of backgrounds we should embody in our storytelling. However, it’s important to be careful not to enter into cultural appropriation and avoid being insensitive or pandering. Learning about your customers through market research and developing cultural intelligence is crucial in understanding pain points and how best to communicate.
For example, when looking at the homeowner population in America in 2019, the U.S. homeownership rate was 64.6% and varied drastically by race and ethnicity, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. For white non-Hispanic Americans the rate was 73.3%, among Asian or Pacific Islander Americans it was 57.7%, American Indians or Alaska Natives had a rate of 50.8%, Hispanic or Latino Americans it was 47.5%, and for Black Americans the homeownership rate was only 42.1%. Homeownership is often seen as a key indicator of wealth distribution and, evidently, we have a long way to go. However, we as mortgage professionals must do our part to educate and empower all Americans to achieve the dream of homeownership. This includes marketing strategies that are inclusive and representative of the entire population.
Training Talent and Fostering Culture
Customers are intuitive and can often tell when messaging is inauthentic or when it is genuine and comes from true cultural understanding. Inclusive marketing will not be achieved by merely discussing it in advertising and implementing it in a company’s social media voice if they don’t actually implement inclusive practices into their internal culture.
To achieve the best results when marketing to our mortgage clients, we must start within and foster a corporate culture that promotes diversity and champions inclusiveness, which results in better innovation and greater customer communication. A 2017 Boston Consulting Group (BCG) study identified diversity as a key driver of innovation, showing that companies with diverse teams develop more relevant products because they are more in tune with their customer’s changing needs. Incorporating different voices in the marketing process is also imperative in developing content that is relevant and doesn’t verge on insensitive or pandering.
Hiring and promoting talent from various backgrounds is just one component to achieving an internal culture that truly embraces inclusivity. Enacting fair employment practices such as equal pay, leadership that emphasizes diversity strategy and is open to new ideas, and policies that encourage frequent, open communication are all important steps in the right direction. It’s certainly a process, and we all have a ways to go.
The positive effects diversification has on employee morale, retention, and productivity, as well as the financial benefits of diversity in the workplace, are apparent. Once the culture is there, the voice of marketing can do its job to reach customers authentically and make them feel represented and understood. Through a thoughtful inclusive marketing strategy, this can be achieved in a way that empowers Americans from all backgrounds to achieve the dream of homeownership.