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All Together: Your Guide to Inclusive Marketing

Last updated on May 12, 2021
12 minute read
Key Takeaways

  • Learn the difference between diversity and inclusivity in marketing.
  • Explore ways to listen to and get to know your customers to guide your marketing efforts.
  • Accurately represent your customers through inclusive language and cultural context to build your brand.

Skill Level

All Skill Levels

Tourism is about bringing people of different identities and backgrounds together to share in a common experience — often one that exposes them to new cultures and ideas — and when selecting tours and activities to participate in when traveling, people want to feel included and welcomed. This applies not only to the experience itself but it also extends to your marketing efforts and how you choose to promote your tours and activities. Effective, inclusive marketing can lead to increased bookings and loyalty, while poorly executed, exclusionary marketing ostracizes potential customers and can even damage your brand. 

Identifying and practicing inclusivity doesn’t happen overnight, and it will likely require having open and honest conversations with your staff and yourself about your business. Starting with an open dialogue will help to make your business stronger and we’re here to help with some ways to get the conversation going. 

Diverse Vs. Inclusive Marketing

Diversity has become quite the buzzword, and while most of us have a decent understanding of it, diversity is a complex and nuanced topic. For marketing to be truly successful, it should be both diverse and inclusive. What do we mean by diversity versus inclusivity? Great question! Historically, notions of diversity have often focused on certain visible attributes, while inclusivity places more of an emphasis on ensuring all of your potential customers see themselves represented accurately, in all aspects of their identity — seen and unseen. 

It might sound contradictory, but it is possible for marketing to be diverse but not inclusive, for example by relying on stereotypes to achieve a certain goal, or not appropriately considering cultural context. On the other hand, inclusive marketing is designed to do no harm. 

Why Does Inclusive Marketing Matter?

Engaging in inclusive marketing creates a more positive experience for your customers because people are more likely to buy from brands and interact with ads that reflect their identity accurately.

The numbers speak for themselves:

69% of Black consumers say they are more likely to purchase from a brand whose advertising positively reflects their race/ethnicity. (Google)

71% of LGBTQ consumers said they are more likely to interact with an online ad that authentically represents their sexual orientation. (Google)

38% of all consumers are more likely to trust brands that do well with showing diversity in their ads. (Adobe)

It’s only natural for people to want to see themselves reflected in advertisements, and when it comes to activities, they want to see people who look like them participating. If more people feel included in your marketing, more people will book with you. At the end of the day, everyone wants to feel like they are doing business with like-minded people. 

How to Make Your Marketing Inclusive

So now that you’ve got a basic understanding of inclusive versus diverse marketing, you’re probably wondering how to put these ideas into action. There are a few principles to keep in mind and tactics to follow to ensure your marketing is as inclusive as possible.

shapeConsider Intention Vs. Impact

As a business owner, you have the best of intentions for your business and your guests, and the ultimate goal is to show people a great time during your tours and activities. Sometimes our intentions don’t always align with the way our actions actually impact other people, and that’s what makes inclusive marketing a bit of a challenge. 

Take a step back to consider if the intention of your marketing materials could have an unintended negative impact on a viewer, and modify it accordingly. Remember, inclusive marketing must be driven by a focus on impact rather than intention.

shapeGet to Know Your Customers

Truly getting to know your customers goes beyond conducting the types of audience and market research we encourage when you’re first putting together a marketing strategy. Knowing your customer base more intimately will make it easier to include them authentically in your marketing — if you’re not familiar with your actual customer base you may end up relying on assumptions about a certain demographic rather than on first-hand knowledge.

As a tour operator, you’re in the perfect position to get to know your customers because you and your team have meaningful in-person interactions with guests every day. Take advantage of these opportunities and put them to work for you in your marketing efforts!

shapeAccurately Represent the Diversity of Your Customers

Take the time to look over your website, social channels, and other marketing assets and pay attention to who has been represented and who may not be represented in each channel. Every business is unique so we’ve put together just a few thought-starters for how you can take a more critical eye to your current client-facing marketing materials. 

  • Do the images used represent people of different races, genders, ages, and abilities?
  • If you offer a couples package, are non-heterosexual or non-romantic duos featured and invited to attend? 
  • Do your marketing materials accurately represent how differently abled or older guests can participate in your tours or activities? 

If you’re looking to learn more about how to make your tours more accessible in all aspects, check out this comprehensive guide.  

shapeUse Inclusive Language

Just like any business, yours has a target demographic and your tours and activities may be better suited for a certain type of traveler than other – say, the adventurer versus the leisure traveler. Working within the target demographics for your business, the language you use to promote your experiences sends subtle messages to consumers and may attract – or unknowingly isolate – certain guests.

For example,

  • When marketing fishing tours you could swap out the term “fishermen” to a more inclusive and gender neutral word like “anglers.”
  • When promoting a shopping or brunch tour consider altering the call to action from “bring your best girlfriends” to something like “round up your closest friends for a day of shopping and delicious treats!”
  • When promoting a group tour option avoid calling out only “families” and instead encourage “any group of friends or families to join us at the group rate!”

shapeConsider Cultural Context

In tourism marketing, it’s essential to consider the culture of your location and your customers. Travelers continuously state their desire for authentic, local experiences, and if your marketing doesn’t accurately consider the cultural context of your location they may assume your experience isn’t right for them. On the other hand, when people see local culture represented in authentic or non-stereotypical ways it boosts consumer confidence, and bookings! When reviewing your marketing materials for cultural context, consider again the potential differences between intention and impact. 

shapeChallenge Assumptions

Progress is always possible when we challenge old assumptions and consider fresh perspectives and ways of thinking. Start with your marketing!

What do you picture when you think of a kayaker? Or a surfer? Do you have ideas of what their age, race, gender, and physical shape are? And more importantly, are these ideas reflected in your marketing?

When you make a concerted effort to challenge stereotypes in your advertising, people from underrepresented groups who are interested in your tours and activities will be drawn to your business because your marketing includes them. Additionally, challenging stereotypes expands your customer base by opening up opportunities for people may not have previously been interested in your experiences – you have the ability to spark new interest when individuals see themselves reflected on your website or social media accounts.

shapeReview, Revise, and Grow

As with any business plan, inclusive marketing is an ongoing effort and will require you to regularly review your materials, listen to feedback, and revise accordingly. We know this can sound overwhelming, but it’s actually pretty easy! Take this simple approach to get started:

  • Take a step back and look at your campaigns and marketing materials before they are published.
  • Ask yourself if you’ve made an honest effort to be inclusive and representative.
  • Solicit feedback from people of different backgrounds and identities.
  • Listen to feedback from your customers. If you have fallen short, they’ll tell you. If you’ve done great, your booking calendar will make it known.
  • If you make a mistake, it’s not the end of the world – or your business. Own it, learn from it, and work toward fixing it in future marketing.

Remember, inclusive marketing is your marketing strategy, not simply a part of it. When inclusion is a core tenet of your marketing strategy, you’re on your way to building a stronger, more authentic and resilient brand. The goal of all marketing is to sell your tours and activities to as many people as possible. Inclusive marketing will get you there.

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