When the 2000 Census was completed, we were advised that the Hispanic population had increased by 50% and that the black population had increased by 12.3% in just one decade.
Eight years later, on Aug. 14, 2008, the U.S. Census bureau released new information concerning the changing demographics in our nation, stating, “The nation will be more racially and ethnically diverse, as well as much older, by midcentury.
“Minorities, now roughly one-third of the U.S. population, are expected to become the majority in 2042, with the nation projected to be 54% minority in 2050. By 2023, minorities will comprise more than half of all children.”
All 2010 Census early projections indicate that our country is very different than the 2000 Census in every category.
I think we can all agree that our country is a changing rapidly. But is your business ready? No longer can we treat our marketplace as one giant general market. We need to be prepared to interface and serve all of our current and potential customers. This means being ready not only for today, but also for the future.
Analyze Your Neighborhood
Do you know who comprises your market area? It is essential to know the base of the area in which you do business.
Visit your local chamber of commerce and secure the information they have about all of the demographics, both current and projected, for your community. This information is available at no cost.
Partner with the local college or university and make an arrangement with their marketing department to complete an analysis of your market area. They will be anxious to assist you since this provides real-world experience for students. Plus, it’s a great way to get exposure for your business. Assign a few of your employees to be a part of this project. They will serve as ambassadors for the rest of your employees, which helps ensure staff interest.
Use the Internet to secure additional information about your local area. There is so much information at your fingertips, including census projections by population, age, ethnicity and more, available for your state and county.
Examine Your Customer Base
In addition to knowing the demographics of your marketing area, it is also important to understand who your customers are.
Pull out those deal jackets or repair orders. Do an analysis of your customers both in the sales and service areas. What is their makeup? What percent of your business comes from each group?
Then consider the following:
- How does this compare to the data you have acquired about your market area?
- Does your employee base reflect the marketplace in which you do business?
- Do the products and services you offer fit customer needs?
- What about the signage? Does it need to be multilingual?
Look at areas where purchasing conversations take place and decisions are made. Is there room for an entire family to meet and have a discussion about their purchase? In some cultures, there is one spokesperson who acts as the interpreter, but the entire family is part of the decision.
Based on the various cultures and groups that make up your current and potential customers, are your employees trained to be culturally knowledgeable and sensitive? It is important to have them prepared to meet, greet, and serve the consumer on their terms. Do you have more than one employee who is bi-lingual? This is important in easily assisting customers and making buying or servicing experiences more pleasant.
Employees That Fit Your Market
If you discover that your employee base does not match your marketplace, it is necessary to hire and to train the correct people. Now you are probably wondering how you will locate them, particularly if they need to be bi-lingual.
Advertise in the local in-language newspapers, radio or TV stations. Whether it needs to be in-language or crafted for the culture you are trying to reach, they should be able to assist you in making sure the terminology is accurate and culturally sensitive. It is extremely important to have career opportunities outlined to attract the very best in the community.
Meet with the local church or community leaders and let them know that you are looking for employees from their cultural community. Reach out to the local cultural organizations and ask them to get the word out that you want to hire from the local ethnic community. Many cultures also have their own chambers of commerce, many of which have training programs for job placement.
Don’t forget the local golf clubs, either. This is one of the better places to communicate that you are looking to diversify your workforce. And make sure that you get the word out in the local barber and beauty shops. This is a big meeting place with information being shared and re-shared among all who use their services.
Do not under estimate word of mouth.
Learning about cultural differences in customs, beliefs, traditions, and purchasing practices will help prepare your dealership to effectively deliver services and connect with your community.
You may be asking yourself how you can get beyond cultural barriers in order to develop cross-cultural connections. One way is to seek outside training from the ethnic group or groups within your marketplace. They will be eager to conduct sessions with you and your employees to provide knowledge of their culture, traditions, customs, language, values and practices to open the lines of communication, which ultimately builds respect and trust, integrating your business into the fabric of the multi-cultural community in which we all live.
Patricia Roberts is the director of business development for
AskPatty.com, Inc. She brings over 39 years of experience in the
automotive industry, including increasing the number of women who own,
work in and shop in automotive businesses.
The AskPatty.com, Inc. Certified Female Friendly program is
designed for tire dealers to attract, sell, retain and increase loyalty
with women customers.