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PHOTO: Mikhail Rakityanskiy

The data doesn’t lie: Diverse companies do better than their peers.

In terms of racial and ethnic diversity, the top quarter of companies are 35% more likely to outperform their industries financially. But inclusive hiring is just the start. Infusing more diversity into your marketing efforts can help your company scale more quickly and sustainably.

Thoughtful advertising that leverages diversity can unlock growth with new audiences. But what does that look like? And, more importantly, how can you actually do it well?

What Diversity in Marketing Really Means

Before digging into how to make your marketing more effective through diversity, let’s think through what it actually means.

Adding diversity to your marketing efforts doesn’t mean trying to please every customer in a single ad. Campaigns that attempt to appeal to all audiences end up boring at best, tone-deaf or outright offensive at worst.

Know, too, that diversity isn’t the same as diversifying your marketing. Although it’s true that more tactics may help you reach more audiences, there’s a key distinction to be made.

Diversifying your marketing means spreading your spend across more channels. Increasing the diversity of your marketing efforts means taking a more user-centric approach to your creative work. Different demographics have different wants and needs.

When consumers of any demographic do business with your company, they want to feel represented. Here’s how to make them part of your growth.

Related Article: It's Time to Change Our Thinking Around Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Beware of Biased Data

Marketers now have the luxury of artificial intelligence and machine learning tools. The smartest programs can help companies sift through data and generate powerful insights, but tools are only as valuable as the information they receive.

When building customer profiles, for example, marketers often work with incomplete data. Unfortunately, AI isn’t always great at filling gaps. Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers discovered, for example, a prediction system that was twice as likely to misclassify males as high-income and females as low-income.

Never assume AI marketing tools know best. Better technologies can help you tailor marketing materials to specific customers, but only when you feed in demographically accurate data.

Before designing a new campaign, think about the personal, institutional, systemic and technological opportunities for bias along the chain. Challenge assumptions on the front end to avoid brand blunders down the line.

Related Article: Why a Platform of Inclusion Is Vital for Data-Driven Diversity

Look Beyond Your Current Customers

It’s true that upselling or reselling a current customer is cheaper than acquiring a new one. But don’t miss the forest for the trees. Investing time in new audiences can open up whole new segments of your total addressable market.

If you aren’t sure where to start, Facebook has an Audience Insights tool that can help you spot lookalike audiences. Upload data on a source audience, and Facebook can serve ads to people with similar interests or demographics. If the ads perform well with the new targets, it’s a good bet customers with those attributes would be interested in your product on and off Facebook.

Don’t assume that you know everyone who might be interested in your product because your company or industry has been around for a while. Consumer tastes are constantly changing. If you don’t bother to reach out, you’ll never know what you might be missing.

Related Article: How to Innovate Your Brand With Your Customers in Mind

Showcase Use Cases Through Segmentation

Don’t think of it as diversity for diversity’s sake. Instead, treat opportunities to feature diverse people in your ads as chances to showcase your company’s different use cases.

Because they feature visual and audio components, performance video ads offer plenty of ways to show people of different cultural backgrounds using products in different ways. Performance video company TubeScience describes these ads as “user-centric videos designed to engage a set of personas,” which highlights this type of advertising’s ability to be strategically diverse. Through the use of these video ads and by doing in-depth user and product analysis, TubeScience helped apparel company Betabrand realize a 2.9-fold return on ad spend after building ads that appealed to different groups of women.

Do your homework on the different types of customers who use your product or service. Use your findings to inform casting choices, product positioning and more. There’s no such thing as “one size fits all” in performance marketing.

Inclusive marketing can be challenging, but it’s also a chance to grow. Don’t let data lead you down the wrong path, but do use it to learn more about your audience segments. Show people you understand their unique context, and you’ll have earned a spot on their shopping list.