DECATUR — While America was once described as the “great melting pot,” marketing expert Kelly McDonald believes that today, it is now more like a “salad bowl.”
“In a salad, no one element really looks the same,” she explained Thursday morning during the Community Leaders Breakfast at the Decatur Conference Center & Hotel. “And the more and different stuff you put in a salad, the better the salad gets.”
Presenting “How to Market to People Not Like You,” McDonald spoke about how America’s marketplace has become more diverse in the past few decades.
“According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 1980, if you grabbed two people at random from different places in the country, there was a 34 percent probability that they would not be the same race,” she said. “Today, that probability has increased to 52 percent.”
But diversity doesn’t just pertain to race or ethnicity, McDonald said.
“I believe diversity is any way you can be different from me,” whether that be gender, religion, political views, age or even parent versus nonparent or rural versus metropolitan,” she said.
Marketing for companies and brands such as Toyota, Nike, Harley-Davidson, Miller-Coors and Sherwin Williams, McDonald told community leaders that regardless of if you work for a large company or a small local business, tapping into a diverse customer segment and understanding customers’ core values is important to helping a business grow.
“Understanding someone different from you involves understanding their life and their perspective,” she said.
Offering 10 strategies business owners could use to market to people not like them, McDonald said businesses must be relevant and know their infrastructures.
“A good example of this is the Angelika Theatre in Dallas,” she said. “They were thinking of showing more midday movies, and they asked themselves, ‘Who would appreciate movies in the middle of the day? New moms who love movies.’ ”
Looking at what new mothers’ concerns would be during a movie, such as their babies waking up from a nap and crying or the need to breastfeed, McDonald said the theater called the midday movies Crybaby Matinees and not only barred men from the showings so the new mothers could breastfeed without feeling self-conscious, but also added a changing area in the back of the theater and created a special area to store strollers while the women watched movies.
“It was a brilliant idea,” she said, “and the theater was packed.”
Being mindful of people’s differences can help a business reach more customers, too, said McDonald, noting that the way a 25-year-old person interacts with a bank is very different from the way a 76-year-old does.
“A 25-year-old wants to do more online, while the 76-year-old wants to do all of their banking transactions in person,” she said.
Whether tweaking the hours a business is open to accommodate customers’ later work hours or making female customers feel safer by providing them with a picture of the technician who will be coming out to look at their car and a time frame for when he’ll be arriving, as Safelite Autoglass did, McDonald said there are ways of reaching more customers that won’t break the bank.
“It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, and if that’s what your customer wants, why wouldn’t you give it to them if you could?” she said.
Molly Carpenter, administrator for Imboden Creek Living Center, said she learned a lot from McDonald’s presentation.
“I really enjoyed it and felt it was applicable for both businesses and personal use,” she said. “I think it was useful for us because it will help us broaden our spectrum and perspective and will also help with how we communicate with the people and families that need us.”
“I hope that people see that reaching out to other markets isn’t hard to do and that they start thinking about their business through the lens of someone who’s not like them,” McDonald said.
In addition to McDonald, U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, talked about the importance of the nation and lawmakers coming together to solve some of America’s biggest problems.
Sponsors of the breakfast included Archer Daniels Midland Co., the Herald & Review, Tate & Lyle and Caterpillar Inc.