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Growing Your Business Among the $1 Trillion Dollar Latina, Black, and Asian Women of Color Market by Miriam Muléy
DiversityBusiness.com Article/- In this economy, where no customer can be taken for granted, market share growth through retention of a company’s most profitable customers should be the first priority. With $1 trillion dollars in buying power, losing a sale among women of color –Latina, Black and Asian women- through poor customer service can be very costly. Why? Women of color are a powerful referral source. To the extent that you are able to secure the trust and respect of a woman of color and provide outstanding service throughout her experience with your brand, you will create a built-in referral source and positively impact your company’s future sales.

Women will refer up to 26 individuals to a company, product, or service if she is happy with her experience. Men, on the other hand, will refer an average of 11 people, even with the highest degree of satisfaction with a comparable product or service. Therefore on a 2:1 basis, women have incredible referral energy and this energy results in increased future sales.

At the other extreme, women and women of color have very strong veto power. If she is not feeling comfortable with a product or service approach, she will cancel out that company as an option. She has 95% veto power in decisions where both a spouse and partner are involved. Therefore, as an entrepreneur who values customer growth, you will want to make sure you provide outstanding customer service to women of color so that they will become your ally.

Just how do you create a strong referral business among multicultural women?

Start with Current Customers
It’s important that you start by letting your current women of color customers know that you are actively looking for referrals. Let your customers know that you want to grow your business as you would grow your family—only with the personal recommendation of friends that you trust. Let them know that you can keep their referral confidential, if they desire, but that you would welcome their support throughout the referral process if they are comfortable with that approach.

A sample question, which could lead into the referral discussion, could be:

“I have been trained in how to (insert your business) so that sales values are maximized and I am expanding my network of women and diverse clients as a result. Based on the successful relationship we have, who do you know who would appreciate my expertise in this market? Would you be comfortable in providing me with their names? Would you like to think about this and we can talk again in the near future?

Make Sure Your Customer Service Staff and Office Present a Welcoming Environment
Creating a referral climate among your customer service staff and in your office environment is an effective way to subtly remind customers that you are open to their suggestions and ideas for new clients. Some strategies that have been effective with women of color include the use of voice mail tags with language such as: “You’ve reached the voice mail of ___. I am not in the office today, but will return your call within the next 24 hours. If you are calling because someone referred you to me, please leave their contact information so that I might thank them.”

In e-mail communications you may want to craft a tag line such as, “Thank you for your business and continued referrals.” And, in general, the ambiance your customer service staff presents can be reinforced with a framed message such as, “The finest compliment we can receive is the referral of a satisfied customer. Please let us know how we might help you.” Women and women of color will most certainly appreciate this message.

Take the Mystery Out of the Referral Process
You will want to build trust from the very beginning with Latina, Black, and Asian women of color by reinforcing how important it is to you on a personal level that they are comfortable in providing assistance to you. You will want to take the mystery out of the referral process by clearly explaining how the process works, ensure that they will not be embarrassed or compromised in any way, and that you will keep them apprised of the development of the referral, should they desire. Make sure you answer questions and, knowing that some women of color may be reluctant to ask pointed questions, you may want to suggest some areas of potential inquiry and respond, as appropriate. Be very sensitive to body language, words stated and words not stated as you move through the process. Reassure them that you will not work in isolation, but that you will make sure the process meets with their full approval. A sample conversation could begin with, “We’ve been working together for a long time now and I’ve always valued the honesty and candor of our relationship. It’s important to me that you are 100% comfortable with the idea of how a referral works, so with your permission, I’d like to take the time now to walk you through the steps I would normally use when meeting a new prospective referred client. Feel free to let me know if you think your friend, ___, will feel comfortable with this approach or if I should make any modifications in how I reach out to her.”

Leverage the Referral Moment
Timing is everything in a referral. You want to make sure that you ask for a referral after you have had a moment of success with a customer (e.g., when a customer has shared a positive experience about your product or service). Make sure that you explain the referral process. For example, you may want to train your staff to say something like,

“I’m glad you see the value in the service our company has provided to you. We agree that this is very important and that this service can help a lot of people. Because of this, I was hoping we could identify some people you care about who should know about this important service that our company provides.”

You can then go on to explain how no one is contacted without the expressed approval of the customer, and depending on the line of business you are in, such as financial services, you may want to suggest a meeting with the customer, referral and yourself as a way to break the ice and make people feel more comfortable. Reassure the customer that you will do nothing to make them feel uncomfortable or awkward. This is particularly important to put multi-influential women of color at ease and maintain their trust and respect throughout the referral process.

The Final Thank You
You should always thank your customers for any referrals that are given...this is an obvious statement. However, from a multicultural point of view, you want to make sure the acknowledgement is personal and relevant. Personalized and hand written notes are always welcomed; they show an additional level of care and “high touch”. A letter from you, as the CEO of the company, will go a long way to show how much you appreciate your loyal customers. A thank you gift certificate or discounted coupons for future products are also welcomed. Latina, Black, and Asian women of color represent a goldmine opportunity of future referral business for companies. Nurtured properly, with outstanding customer service, they are an unprecedented source of power that will sustain business for years to come.

To order Miriam Muléy’s new book, The 85% Niche: The Power of Women of All Colors—Latina, Black, and Asian (Paramount Books), or to invite Ms. Muley to come and speak with your teams, please visit her website at www.85percentniche.com, or call at 843-681-7878.

About DiversityBusiness.com
Launched in 1999, DiversityBusiness, with over 50,000 members, is the largest organization of diversity owned businesses throughout the United States that provide goods and services to Fortune 1000 companies, government agencies, and colleges and universities. DiversityBusiness provides research and data collection services for diversity including the "Top 50 Organizations for Multicultural Business Opportunities", "Top 500 Diversity Owned Companies in America", and others. Its research has been recognized and published by Forbes Magazine, Business Week and thousands of other print and internet publications. The site has gained national recognition and has won numerous awards for its content and design. DiversityBusiness reaches more diverse suppliers and communicates more information to them on a more frequent basis then all other organizations combined. We also communicate with mainstream businesses, government agencies and educational institutions with information related to diversity. Our magazine reaches over 300,000 readers, a monthly e-newsletter that reaches 2.4 million, and website visitors of 1.2 million a month. It is a leading provider of Supplier Diversity management tools and has the most widely distributed Diversity magazine in the United States. DiversityBusiness.com is produced by Computer Consulting Associates International Inc. (CCAii.com) of Southport, CT. Founded in 1980.

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