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SONIA THOMPSON: “Your customers want to see themselves reflected in the imagery that you produce. When you see yourself reflected, it allows your ideal customer to take the next step forward with you because they say, ‘Okay, I do belong here,’ or ‘Possibly, I do belong here,’ and they want to learn more about you. But whenever they don't see themselves reflected, it has the potential to shut down all forms of communication or any possibility that they will become your customer or they will continue being your customer.”
So a great example of this is I was on Instagram a while back, and an influencer that I follow, she had an ad in her feed, talking about these luxury, comfortable travel clothes that she had from this particular brand. And I was in a shopping mood, and I was like, ‘I want some really comfortable travel clothes.’ So I click through to that brand, and immediately I saw that none of the photos of the models looked like me. There wasn't anyone anywhere even close. And I went through the entire feed just because I was like I was just on a mission to try to find something. And I didn't find anything. My feelings were actually kind of her. And I realized, okay, well, this isn't for me. I put my credit card away.
So in that instance, for this brand, their influence or marketing worked. Their funnel worked. They got me—somebody who could have been a potentially loyal customer, somebody who could buy their stuff—they got me over to their page, and I was ready to buy.
Representation matters. We just need to see ourselves. Otherwise, we feel like we don't belong. We feel like that you don't actually see us or that maybe you don't want me to be your customer for whatever reason. I don't know. But if you don't want me to be your customer, I don't want to give you my money.
INTRO: I’m Amy Porterfield, ex-corporate girl turned CEO of a multi-million-dollar business. But it wasn't all that long ago that I lacked the confidence, money, and time to focus on growing my small-but-mighty business. Fast forward past many failed attempts and lessons learned, and you'll see the business I have today, one that changes lives and gives me more freedom than I ever thought possible, one that used to only exist as a daydream. I created the Online Marketing Made Easy podcast to give you simple, actionable, step-by-step strategies to help you do the same. If you're an ambitious entrepreneur, or one in the making, who's looking to create a business that makes an impact and helps you create a life you love, you're in the right place. Let's get started.
AMY PORTERFIELD: Okay, before we get going, a quick word from our sponsor.
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And now let's dive into the episode.
Welcome, welcome, my friend. Today I have the honor of speaking with an expert marketing strategist, marketing consultant, and CEO of a media group, and quite honestly, all-around-amazing human being. Her name is Sonia Thompson, and she's going to educate us on how to make our business more inclusive and, specifically, how to make our marketing more inclusive.
Now, I, for one, am truly looking forward to learning more in this area. I have a lot to learn, a lot of work to do in my own business. And if you are feeling the same way, then I hope you grab a notebook. I hope you take notes. This is going to be a very important episode.
Now, not only is Sonia a marketing strategist, a consultant, and a CEO, she is also an author, podcasts host, and columnist for Forbes and Inc., and she happens to be one of my students, and she happens to be a new mama. We're going to talk about that when I bring her on.
Now, I want to say that as I record episodes around diversity and inclusion, I know that these episodes are going to be very valuable for specifically my white audience, those of us who are raising our hands, saying we need to do better. We are learning. We are paying attention. We are here for it. But I also want these episodes to be valuable for people of color so that you can hear some of the shifts that we are going to be making in the business. And really, I invite you to keep me and all of us, quite honestly, who are doing the work, accountable. And I really just want to put that out there because I want you to hear what we're doing, and when you see it, you know that we're taking action, and when I get it wrong, I know that you're going to say, “Hey, Amy. That's a misstep here. This is the way that it actually works. You might have meant to do it this way, but you didn’t.” And so I need to be open to the criticism and the education, and put down my defenses and say, “All right. Heard. Heard, and we are going to change this and make this better.” So I want these episodes to be inclusive in their own right, and I really hope that that is how they'll be received.
Okay, so today Sonia is going to share a five-step approach for creating a more-inclusive business and company culture. And although this episode is airing at a time where this topic is top of mind, I pray that if this episode is listened to a year from now, it is still going to be incredibly relevant to the people who need to do the work. So this episode is meant to live on and really reach as many people as possible so that it can help us have more diverse businesses.
Okay, so I won't make you wait any longer. Let's welcome Sonia.
Welcome, Sonia. Thank you so much for coming on the show.
SONIA: Oh, thank you so much for having me. It's my pleasure to be here.
AMY: I am honored that you are going to be diving into this important topic today. And before we get there, tell us a little bit about your story and how you came to be a marketing strategist, consultant, and CEO of Thompson Media Group.
SONIA: Sure. Well, unlike a lot of people, I always knew I wanted to be in marketing, and I kind of always wanted to have my agency. So whenever I went to college and business school, I was focused on doing that. However, they taught us how to be good employees at the time, not necessarily how to be entrepreneurs. So like the good student I was, I got a good job after business school, and I went to work in marketing for a very large healthcare company. Within the first year of my being there, I realized that oh, this corporate life is not for me, and my entrepreneurial fire was sort of rekindled there, and I realized I just didn't belong there.
But unfortunately, I ended up staying nine years, even though I realized that realization in the first year. But the good news is I learned a lot of skills, made some connections, and picked up some experiences that helped me as an entrepreneur. As I got to year nine, I realized that I couldn't—I felt like I was losing a piece of my soul every time I walked into the building, and I couldn't continue any longer.
But while I was there, I wrote a book, I wrote a business book. It was all about customer delight, which is a fancy way of saying customer experience. So once I finished that book, that gave me a bit of the courage that I needed to leave, so I quit. I quit my job and start my own business. And from there, I realized, oh, okay, I need to figure out how to get people to know me. So I started learning about content marketing and doing a lot of blogging and podcasting, and eventually, as I started writing more, I landed a column in Inc. And as I started writing, I focused more so on customer experience, but we were able at Inc. to write pretty much about anything you want, as this business related and for entrepreneurs, and that can cover a broad range of topics.
So one day I looked back, and I was just kind of taking inventory of all the articles that I had written. I had written over 200 at this point. And I realized that a lot of the stuff that I was writing about was very much related to inclusive marketing, diversity-related topics. Those were the type of articles more and more that my editors were asking me to write about when something was happening in the news. So I started to pay attention because this is what people were asking me about, and they saw me as a voice they wanted to hear from.
Eventually, I got a column in Forbes that was much more focused on specifically on the intersection between customer experience, belonging, and inclusive marketing. And from there, as I started to expand my network, I started getting asked to keynote conferences on inclusive marketing.
So I started to connect all the dots. This is what people wanted to hear from me about, and this is a topic that they were really interested at the moment, and they wanted my voice. So here I am now, using my voice to share more and evangelize about inclusive marketing and how that connects to delivering a remarkable customer experience and ultimately gets you customer loyalty.
AMY: Well, when I heard about what you do in your expertise, I thought, “Okay, there is no better topic than this one right now for the podcast. All of my listeners are marketing online, and so many of my listeners need help navigating to be more inclusive in their business.” And so I am just all about diving into this topic. I am here to learn. I don't always bring a notebook with a pen. This time I did because I want to take it all in.
But before we go any further, the fact that you're a marketing strategist and consultant and CEO of your own business is always impressive, but you're also a new mama—
SONIA: I am.
AMY: —which is the most impressive of all. So tell us one surprise—like, at the time of this recording, baby Luna is two months old. So tell us what's the most surprising thing about being a new mom.
SONIA: You hear this in terms of everything changes whenever you have a baby. But I think you never really understand how. In terms of your agenda, your plans, your way of thinking, operating just goes out the door because she's in charge. If she cries, okay, what is she crying about? If she's awake, okay, you can't sleep right now. You have to just really tend to her needs because at this point, she can't tend to them at all. So it really helps me be much more present and to stop the bad habit of multitasking because I need to put all my energy on her.
AMY: Yes. That makes perfect sense, for sure. And hey, if we could break the multitasking, that is the greatest thing we could do. So if baby Luna’s going to do it for you, bring it on.
AMY: Okay, so, with that, let's dive in. I want to start kind of at the top. And you said business is about belonging. I've heard you say that before. And right before we dive into this five-step approach, I want to talk about that. Business is belonging. Tell me more.
SONIA: Sure. Now, this comes from the premise that life is about belonging, and business is an extension of our lives, so business is about belonging. And belonging is all about being seen, being accepted, being cared for, because the people and the brands that you're interacting with really want you around. It's about finding and being embraced by your people, people that you just feel like “Oh, I'm at home when I'm with them.”
So what does this look like in action? So from a life standpoint, I got married last summer, just a week, a few weeks before my fortieth birthday. And soon after that, my cousin reached out and asked me how married life was. I said it felt like I exhaled, like I had been holding my breath and I didn't even realize it until I had exhaled. And that was an example of how belonging—like, I found my person, and the person that fully accepts you and wants you around and all those other things that come with being married. So that's kind of how it played out for me in a very visceral way in terms of life. But it happens in a similar way in businesses as well.
Now, I follow a gluten-free diet for health reasons. And so that means whenever I go out to restaurants, a lot of times it's kind of tricky because lots of places don't have anything available for me to eat, or there is a super-restricted menu that I have to order from, and I have to ask lots of questions in advance just to make sure that what I'm going to eat is going to be safe for me to eat. Well, here in Buenos Aires, I have been delighted to come across a few restaurants, but one in particular, that is entirely gluten free, which is absolutely amazing. And the restaurant is actually frequented by people who don't follow gluten-free diet because the food doesn't taste like it’s gluten free.
SONIA: It’s a big deal. So whenever I ate there, the waiter came, and he put the basket of bread on the table, and I was over-the-moon excited because I could actually eat the bread. It was just an indescribable feeling to be able to do that and knowing that I can order everything on the menu, and I didn’t have to be that person who had to ask all those questions before placing my order. And again, I had that moment of exhale. I felt like the owners, the people there, they saw me. They recognized the challenges that I have as a person with a dietary restriction. And they made me feel like a normal person. They made me feel like I belonged and I wasn’t sort of a bit of an outcast.
And that's kind of how it plays out in business. I felt like I had found my people. So you can find your people in life, and you can find your people in business because we're all human and we're all people. So you don't have to feel like you're separating those. Those same emotions exist. And it's up to us as business owners to spark those feelings by sending the signal to our customers and the people that we want to serve that you belong here, rather than the signal that this isn't for you.
AMY: Okay. So this idea that business is belonging because life is about belonging really hits home for me. And as you know, I've been speaking publicly about the need for my business to be more inclusive, and I've got a lot of work to do. And over the last just two weeks, many black women and women of color have reached out to me, and they've said, “You know, Amy, I've wanted to buy your programs, but I look into them, I watch your webinars, I check out the sales page, I watch your videos, I can't see myself. I can't see myself in anything that you are talking about. And even with my testimonials or, well, quite honestly, I don't know enough yet. I need to be educated so much so that I don't even know where I need to go with this. That's why you're here.
But I will say, when I heard that, my heart broke, and I thought, I don't want to have a business where the women that I want to reach, I do want to reach all entrepreneurial women, but that includes black women and women of color. So I want them to see themselves. I want them to feel at home. I want them to sit at the table and think, “Oh, I belong here. I have a voice here. I'm seen here.” So this is an important episode. Thank you so much for doing this. I just want to thank you so much for spending the time with us here today and diving into this.
SONIA: Oh, it's a joy to be here.
AMY: Oh, well, I can't wait, so let's do this. You have a five-step approach to making your business more inclusive, especially from a marketing standpoint. And so can you first share what those five steps are? And then, in true fashion on my podcast, we are going to dive into every detail step by step.
SONIA: For sure. For sure. All right. So the first one is to diversify your circle of influence, and we'll talk about more what that is, followed by reevaluating your ICA, which I know you talk about a lot, you're ICA on your show.
AMY: Right? Ideal-customer avatar.
SONIA: Mm-hmm. Step three is to be intentional about representation. Number four is to make cultural intelligence a priority. And the last one is to, to wrap everything up and tie it with a bow, is to audit your customer experience.
AMY: Okay. So step number one, diversify your circle of influencers. I’m ready.
SONIA: Right. Okay, so this is all about expanding your frame of reference by spending time with and associating yourself with people whose backgrounds, life experiences, and ways of thinking are different from you. Everybody, every organization that we interact with influences us in some way. So we have to be intentional about making sure that we are getting the type of influence that will have an impact on the way we think. Data shows that most of us have networks that are pretty homogenous. We tend to associate with people who look like us, who think like us, who have the same types of experiences like us, and as a result, the information that we hear, the information that we share, the way we think, it all becomes a bit like an echo chamber because it's all supporting what we already believe and what we already want to do. But that really has a profound impact on your perspective in that it limits it, especially when it comes to people who are different from you. And that makes it harder for you to understand them, to see them, and to actually cater and adjust to if they need something that is different from what you’re used to within your circle.
SONIA: Okay? So whenever you expand your circle of influence and you interact and build relationships with others, particularly people who are different from you, you start to increase your awareness of how their needs may be different from yours and how you can make tweaks that make them still feel like they belong without having to change the core of who you are and still be true to yourself.
So going back to that example I mentioned where I follow a gluten-free diet, and now one of my sisters does it well. So prior to us having to change the way we eat, my mother had little-to-no experience with people who had any sort of dietary restrictions. So she wasn't ever thinking about having to make accommodations for that. But now, because of me and my sister, whenever she's around, whenever we are around, my mother is—she's always thinking about us. She's figuring out—she's changing recipes whenever she goes to the grocery store. She's looking for and finding gluten-free items and gluten-free ingredients that she can use. And she'll even go as far as to make two versions of some of our family favorites, just so me and my sister will feel like we belong. We don't feel like outcasts. And for her to let us know that she still cares for us, she’s still taking care of us, and she sees us and the need that we have, and she's altering her approach to make sure that we still feel comfortable and that we don't feel like we have to eat before we come over. So we can make sure that we’re full.
And that's really the power of expanding your frame of reference, expanding your circle of influence, because it starts to give you a greater awareness of people who aren't like you. And then intuitively, because these are people who are important to you, you will not have any sort of issue in trying to work to make accommodations or make changes or adjustments in the way you operate to make sure that they feel seen and like they belong.
AMY: Makes sense.
When I finally became part of the conversation for Black Lives Matter movement, I did this instantly on Instagram. I don't spend a lot of time on Facebook engaging, but I do on Instagram. And so I looked at how many black women I was following, and I was like, “Amy, what are you doing? No wonder your business is not diverse. Your influence, circle of influence, is not diverse.” And so I started to research and follow more black women on Instagram. And I feel like a whole new world has opened up. And I know that sounds ridiculous, but it really is fun and exciting to learn about all these other bad-ass women that are doing incredible things in their business, and they're doing it in different ways, and their approaches are interesting and unique and different than mine. And I feel like I'm getting this education on how to do business different or better, and I didn't even know that I wasn't doing that, which I know is an annoying thing to hear. I get that. But I didn't know how much I was missing. And now I'm like, holy cow, this is really awesome.
SONIA: Yeah, it’s like a whole new world opens up. And as a business owner, you get a whole new set of skills. And that's why research shows that diverse teams perform better, because they're more creative, they aren't so stuck in doing things the same way that they've always been doing them, and they just have a variety of different ways of thinking that helps them tackle problems in a different way, in a more innovative way, that keeps them ahead of their competition.
AMY: Yes, for sure.
So some action items here, when you're talking about diversifying your circle of influencers, what does the action look like?
SONIA: It can be as simple as what you said you did. You started researching and following different people on Instagram and just kind of observing them and seeing what they're doing, what they're talking about, how they're approaching their businesses. That's a great first step.
The next step that I would recommend is really starting to focus on building relationships with the people that you're getting to know, because the relationships will help accelerate your learning, and it gives you more of a stake in it because the more you have a relationship with people, the more invested you are in working to, I’ll say, accommodate because it sounds like you're having to—it sounds like you're going to have to account for somebody who's got a problem or an issue, but the more you're able to be inclusive of people who are different from you, and you've got more of an vested interest in making sure that they are included in whatever it is that you're doing, and you want to make sure that you adjust your approach so that they feel like they belong and that they say, “All right. Amy is my girl. We're going to hang out. We're in this thing, and we've got a vested interest together in achieving our goals.”
AMY: Yeah. So that relationship part is really important. And I'm thinking of one woman. Her name is Jam Gamble, and she's on Instagram. And she teaches women, specifically women, how to slay the mic, so how to get up on stage and own your confidence and be authentically you and do your thing on stage. And so it wasn't enough for me just to kind of watch some of her videos and just be like, oh, this this chick is really cool. It was more so like getting in the comments and having a conversation with her, and we just slowly but surely have started to get to know each other.
And I don’t know if it will air by the time this podcast episode comes up, but you know that movement people have been doing, where white women have been sharing the mic with black women on Instagram.
AMY: Yeah. So I am going to do my own version of that. I think it's called “#keepsharingthemic,” and I asked Jam to come do it. And I hope it all works out. It's supposed to happen before this episode goes live, but if not, it will happen afterwards. But it's going to be really fun because I thought, well, if I am totally enjoying the relationship, the new relationship of getting to know her, my audience is going to just love her. So I tell you this story to say like it's beyond just what I said, my first baby step, looking at what people are doing online and starting to follow them, but getting into relationship with them. And so I'm glad you brought that up. Okay, so, that's going to be really fun. I hope it happens before we air.
So the next thing that you talked about, step number two, is to reevaluate your ideal-customer avatar, your ICA. Talk to me about that one.
SONIA: Right. So your ICA, as you talk about, it informs so much of what you're doing in your business. It shapes the problems that you solve, the content you produce, the courses, the memberships you create, all those things. But if your ICA isn't as inclusive as you intend it to be, it can limit you in how you think about your customers.
So I am left-handed, and I have a very complicated relationship with scissors. And I have this complicated relationship with scissors because when I was growing up in school, all the scissors were made for right-handed people. So every time I went to cut, my paper just looked like a hot mess. Eventually, I switched over to my right hand, and it's still a hot mess. And that's because the marketers and the engineers, I'm guessing, didn't really have any left-handed people in their world, because only about 10 percent of the population is left-handed. So as they were thinking about who they were developing the scissors for, they had a right-handed person in mind. So that means people who were left-handed were struggling.
So if you think about your ICA in terms of if it's too much like you or you're not considering people who have the problem that your business solves, but who have slightly different characteristics that are different from what you have, you could be unintentionally leaving them out. So now most of the scissors—there are left-handed scissors, and there are scissors that are universal. So no matter if you're using your left hand or your right hand, they work for everybody. And that's the idea. It's inclusive. But they had to sort of define that with their ideal-customer avatar in advance so that they would be able to create a product that worked for everyone or worked for the broader group of people that they wanted to be sure that they serve. So the goal is to be intentional with your ICA, about who you are including and, subsequently, who you are excluding.
AMY: Okay. So I have a question here because I know, and I want to do a better job of teaching this concept of ICA, which I do in all my programs, because I tell my students, think of one person. See her in your mind. What does she look like? Is she married? Does she have kids? Where does she live? What does she read? What does she watch? Where is she struggling? All of that. Like, we really fully develop the ICA. And so when you are being more inclusive in your ICA, I'm wondering if some of my students are thinking, “Yeah, but then I'm not being specific.” How does that work?
SONIA: You can be specific, but know that you might need to be a little bit more open with regard to some of the demographic characteristics. So all the psychographic things, all the behavioral characteristics that you would include in your ICA, those still belong. But it's, a lot of times, those demographic aspects of it will sort of force you to think a little bit differently about that ICA, and that might actually mean that you need more than one. And that doesn't mean that you need to have five or ten, but just slightly change who you want to speak to.
For instance, GaryVee recently launched a Spanish-language YouTube channel, social-media channels. He's got all the things in Spanish right now. He surely had to create a separate ICA for that because all those psychographic characteristics might be exactly the same, but that one nuance in terms of, “Oh, my primary language is Spanish, but I'm still an entrepreneur, and I still want to learn how to do all these things and start my business,” that caused them to slightly change their approach to be able to serve this particular customer. So be open to having more than one ICA because you might have to slightly adjust your approach, and having that level of detail helps you figure out how to do that.
AMY: That makes sense. And I love the idea of, for Digital Course Academy®️, my main program, having two ICAs, and they could be similar but also don't necessarily have to have a lot of overlap there. But I’m going to be looking into that one, for sure. So that's a great step.
And I love this idea of possibly having two ICAs. So for my program, Digital Course Academy®️, I love that we can expand on ICAs. It doesn't need to be just one woman. And we can have another ICA. Maybe some overlap in the details, but maybe not. So that's something I'm going to explore, for sure, inside my own business.
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All right. Let’s get back to the episode.
Okay, before we move on to step number three, though, you have three ways to know if you're not hitting the mark with reevaluating your ICA. Can you walk us through those?
SONIA: Sure. So take a look at your customers, all the people that you serve. If you notice that they're a very homogenous group of people that isn't really representative of all the people who have the problem that you solve, then that's a good sign that your ICA is limiting. So, for instance, if all of your customers are white women but you serve women, that's a good sign that there's something somewhere in your marketing that is a bit of a block for people of color, for black women, for other people who don't identify as white woman. Okay?
SONIA: The next one is if you have a high attrition rate of certain groups of customers. So let's say you serve both men and women, but for some reason, all the men buy from you once and never buy from you again, and all the women are customers for life. That's a good sign that somewhere, somewhere along the way, there's something about your experience that makes men say, “Hey, this isn't quite for me. I'm going to go off, and I'm going to go look for someplace else that is a better fit for me.” And that way, you can find out where in your experience you can make adjustments so those men feel like they belong, if that's who you want to serve as well.
AMY: Got it.
SONIA: And the last one is customer feedback. More and more, people are starting to become much more comfortable about being vocal, about how they feel about a company or the experience that they've been delivering. And I bet, a lot of times, if we go back and we catalog and look at all the different types of feedback, there might be a certain group who might say the same thing to you over and over again, but you might not have recognized it. So that way, if you're starting to be intentional about paying attention to suggestions, different forms of feedback that your customers are giving you on how you can be better or maybe why they didn't buy, those often can give you the clues that you need to indicate whether or not you need to make some changes to your ICA to be more inclusive of a certain group of people.
So, for instance, there are a lot of conferences who tend to have what's called an all-male panel, or a manel. So if you go on Twitter and put in the hashtag “manel” or “all-male panel,” you will find plenty of people giving those conference organizers feedback about how upset they are that there is another panel that isn't diverse or isn't reflective of the people in the audience. So the type of feedback can come in all sorts of ways. It can be comments on social media, it can be in your email, it can be direct to you in conversations, but your customers will talk to you. It's just a matter of making sure that you don't think of them as just one-offs but start to make sure you identify the trends.
AMY: Okay, great. And you have an example from David's Bridal. What was that about?
SONIA: Oh, so, yes. David's Bridal, they probably have an idea about a couple—like, if they're thinking about their ICA, there are a lot of different types of people with a lot of different demographics who need wedding dresses or who need some type of wedding accessories. So if you go to David's Bridal’s website, you will see that they have represented black couples, white couples, Latino couples, same-sex couples, tall couples, short couples, people who are in wheelchairs. They run the gamut of showcasing different types of people and their stories, who all have one singular need. So the people are different in terms of how they show up, but what it is that they're looking for, the problem that David's Bridal helps them solve is all the same, and they bring them all together. And it's a beautiful example of how they are clear about all the different types of people that they can and want to serve and how they are presenting themselves online to make sure these people know that you do belong here.
AMY: Yes. I love that example.
Okay, so step number three is to commit to representation. Talk to me about what that means.
SONIA: Okay. Basically, your customers want to see themselves reflected in the imagery that you produce. When you see yourself reflected, it allows your ideal customer to take the next step forward with you because they say, “Okay, I do belong here,” or “Possibly, I do belong here,” and they want to learn more about you. But whenever they don't see themselves reflected, it has the potential to shut down all forms of communication or any possibility that they will become your customer or they will continue being your customer.
So a great example of this is I was on Instagram a while back, and an influencer that I follow, she had an ad in her feed, talking about these luxury, comfortable travel clothes that she had from this particular brand. And I was in a shopping mood, and I was like, “I want some really comfortable travel clothes.” So I click through to that brand, and immediately I saw that none of the photos of the models looked like me. There wasn't anyone anywhere even close. And I went through the entire feed just because I was like I was just on a mission to try to find something. And I didn't find anything. My feelings were actually kind of her. And I realized, okay, well, this isn't for me. I put my credit card away.
So in that instance, for this brand, their influence or marketing worked. Their funnel worked. They got me—somebody who could have been a potentially loyal customer, somebody who could buy their stuff—they got me over to their page, and I was ready to buy. But the imagery cancelled the sale for them.
AMY: That’s the interesting part. The marketing funnel worked. The fact that they put their marketing mechanisms in place to attract you and get you over to their feed and pay attention and want to buy their clothes, all of that worked. But then when you saw the feed, you realized, this isn't for me.
SONIA: Right. Right. Representation matters. We just need to see ourselves. Otherwise, we feel like we don't belong. We feel like that you don't actually see us or that maybe you don't want me to be your customer for whatever reason. I don't know. But if you don't want me to be your customer, I don't want to give you my money, right?
AMY: Right? I have a very specific example of this happening to me. So I have a DEI consultant, and she was telling me that before I actually hired her to work with me, she said, “Amy, back in September 2019, when you launched Digital Course Academy®️, I bought your program. I felt included, based on the testimonials that you used on your sales page. I saw women of color, and I felt that I was included. So I bought your course. But then you took me to,” what we call an up-sell, which is where we sell slide decks, webinar slide decks, and it was just an add on to the program. And she said, “I didn't buy your slide decks because I looked at the sales page for the slide decks, and I couldn't see myself, and I felt like I wasn't included.” And that, like, instantly I thought, holy cow, I have to do better there, because the slide decks, as a business owner and someone who cares about getting my students results, I knew the slide decks would make her experience so much better for Digital Course Academy®️, that she would do it faster, she would get bigger results. So I literally did a disservice to this woman because she thought it wasn't for her, and it was 100 percent for her. But it doesn't matter if they don't feel it, if they don't see it, if they don't feel seen and heard, especially on your sales pages.
And I want to point one more thing out, and that is I was listening to a podcast episode with Erica Courdae, who was on my podcast last week, and Racheal Cook, who Racheal is a business owner and she works with Erica as her DEI. And they were talking on a podcast episode about this very thing—representation—and they were saying it's not enough to go look for stock photos of black women or women of color and put those on your sales page and think that you are inclusive. Would you agree with that one? I'm sure you would.
SONIA: I totally agree with that. And that goes back to step one, which is all about expanding your circle of influence and building relationships. It's much more effective when you can show people that you actually are connected with, because it's more authentic, and it's real. Or to show one of your students and to show that your students are diverse or your customers are diverse. That is much more authentic versus—anybody can go and get a stock photo. That's not diversity. That's just, we need to do this. Let's check this box. And that doesn't make people feel like they belong. It’s just a photo.
AMY: Yes. We need to do better than stock photos of people of color. So I am definitely committed to that, and I want my audience to hear that.
Okay, so, let's move on to step number four, which is make cultural intelligence a priority.
SONIA: Yes. So cultural intelligence, especially whenever you are starting to interact with a group of customers who are different from you and you previously don't have a ton of experience, it can be very easy to make missteps. And we see brands doing this all the time, especially as more and more people are getting supportive of the Black Lives Matter movement. You're seeing people who are starting to speak up. They want to let their voices be heard. They want to show their support. They're not really sure how. It's new to them. And anytime something is new to you, it's easy to make mistakes.
But even before this, there are brands who are entering into different markets, who just don't get it right because they're not as up on the cultural aspects of some of the decisions they're making, so those types of things happen. You get a lot of apologies that say, “Oh, I'm sorry. I didn’t realize,” whatever. So the way around this is to increase your level of cultural awareness, because the more you're interacting with people and the more you're interacting with leaders and customers and just people or organizations who are part of the people you serve, you gain a better understanding of what their hot buttons are; what things that you should and shouldn't be saying; what has certain meaning; the historical context of certain phrases, certain words, certain images. And that gives you a better idea of what you should and you shouldn't say. So the better you know your customer, the better you know the people you want to serve, especially if they're not a part of a group that you belong to, the easier it will be for you to make sure that you aren't making these cultural missteps that kind of turn them off or offend them.
So there's lots and lots of examples of companies who have done this—
AMY: Give me one of them.
SONIA: —the wrong way.
Okay, one of the ones that happened late last year was Kim Kardashian. She launched a line of shapewear, and she initially called it Kimono.
AMY: That's right.
SONIA: So kimono, of course, “kim” is a play on—it's got her name in it, which she does a lot of her brands. But the word kimono has a very significant meaning to Japanese culture. And of course, she wasn't launching kimonos, but even if she was launching kimonos, I think people would still have an issue with it. But they felt like she was involved in cultural appropriation. And as a result, there was lots of backlash, people were calling on her to change the name, and eventually she did. She got more educated on what that term, what that phrase, meant to people within the Japanese culture. And eventually, she scrapped the name, she let go of the patents that she had filed on it, and changed the name of the company to Skims, which was no harm done to anyone.
AMY: Yes. I'm glad you brought up that example. And what made me think about this is that mistakes are going to be made. And so if you are going to commit to making cultural intelligence a priority in your business, you've got to pay attention, and you've got to get in there, and you've got to do something about it. And when you do something about it, just like what has been happening with me, you're going to make some missteps, but you have to be committed to that. Would you agree?
SONIA: Right. Absolutely, absolutely. And then you have to think of it as a lifelong learning opportunity. The more you learn, the more you get better at it. So a great example of this is I live in Argentina, where the language is Spanish, and Spanish is not my first language. And I would say I am imperfectly fluent in Spanish, because whenever I started learning, I had to make the decision that I'm going to make a lot of mistakes, but as long as I get comfortable with making mistakes for the purpose of moving forward and learning, I will get better, and people are okay with me making mistakes because they see me trying to speak the language. So over time, my proficiency in the language has grown significantly. I still make mistakes, but I'm able to communicate with people. They understand me. They're able to communicate with me. And it's great because I embraced the action in learning to grow, and I’m continuing to learn and improve my Spanish versus trying to get it perfect and not taking any action at all.
AMY: For sure, for sure. So when it comes to diversity and inclusivity, if you are willing to get it wrong, if you are willing to make mistakes, I believe, from my own experience, there is a lot of growth in that, and so much good that could come from it.
SONIA: Absolutely. And the more you do it, the better you get, and the fewer mistakes you will make.
AMY: Amen. I'm looking forward to that.
Okay, moving to the final step, step number five, audit your customer experience. I was looking forward to this one because I want to know more about this.
SONIA: So this is all about bringing everything together from all the previous steps. So you gave a great example of the woman that you interviewed on your podcast, the DNI coach, and how she bought your program, and then she got to this one step along the customer journey. And she’s like, this isn't for me. So once you have a broader lens of all the ways in which you can signal to your customers “you belong here” or “you don't belong here” and you know who you want to attract and who you want to repel, as you start to look at it from that lens through your entire customer journey, the experience that you deliver, you will now be able to say, “Ooh, here's some areas that we need to fix. This is definitely hitting the mark, or this actually doesn't work anymore.” You can change out your photography. You can make sure that you're much more intentional about getting testimonials from a broader group of customers. Whatever it is, now that you've sort of been through these steps and given yourself new eyes, you can look at your business and the experience you're delivering in a different way that allows you to start identifying what areas you can start improving right away and what areas you need to work on a plan for to improve over time.
AMY: Okay. That makes sense. We are putting together, I think it's going to take a little bit of time to figure this out, but putting together a committee in my business of people in my community, women of color specifically, and different-abled people as well, and just really a diverse group of people with different voices. And one of the things that we want to talk about is that customer experience and being able to not just look at it from my point of view, like, “Ooh, I could do better here. I could do better here,” I'm looking for them to say, “Oh, Amy, you need to do better there.”
SONIA: Absolutely, absolutely. So the baseline thing is for you to look at it. If you have the time and the resources, even better. Like for what you guys are doing is to get your customers or people who meet your ICA to look at it and tell you how they feel about it.
AMY: Yes. Which will be very eye-opening, I think. So I have so many blind spots. And I think that's another thing, too. My audience that's looking to do better with diversity and inclusion, I think we just need to own that we have a lot of blind spots. And so it's one thing for us to do this work internally in our business, but adding some more voices and getting the thick skin to take the criticism where we're going wrong, because we will never see it because of those blind spots, I think is part of our growth. At least, I know it's part of mine. And so I love this one about this audit, and I think we could take it even further. You're right. The baseline is ourselves and internally with the team we have now, but I think we have to go even beyond that.
AMY: Yeah. I love that you bring that up.
Okay, so I will do a quick review of the five steps in the closing of this podcast episode. But before we get there, I just want to say that these steps are so incredibly crucial and so important that what are some last words of wisdom that you have as people like me, a white woman of privilege, navigating her way of making her business more diverse and inclusive, what are some words of wisdom you have?
SONIA: Know that it's going to be a journey. It's not something that's going to happen overnight. But you will get there step by step if you commit yourself to doing it. Not only is it the right thing to do, but this will be a growth lever for your business. Think of it in terms of not only closing a potentially leaky bucket that you might have or plugging a hole in a bucket that you might have through your funnels, but also as a way to just continually attract more people as they look at what you're doing, they look at your journey, they look at your customer experience, and they say, “I do belong here. She can help me.” And they want to stay a while and take part in what it is that you're doing.
SONIA: It's worth it.
AMY: Many female black business owners who are also stepping up and having a voice in this movement, and many women of color as well, have said something over and over again that I have paid attention to. And I want to first preface what I'm going to say with, I am by no means fighting for and being a part of this movement because of any gain in my profit. So I just want to make that very clear. But what so many women have been saying is that, “Hey, listen. Pay attention here. If you do this work, your business will actually grow. You're not going to lose clients. You're going to gain a whole new group of clients that never felt like they were part of your world.” Would you agree with that?
SONIA: Absolutely, absolutely. Because these are people who have traditionally been underserved, and they are looking for someone to see them and someone to meet their needs, or someone to make them feel like they belong so they can give them not only they can buy from them, but they're a much more loyal audience because they've been so ignored by so many brands before. So whenever you do start to show them that you see them, you get them, you care, and you want them to be around, there is definitely not only an emotional reward, but definitely a financial one for your business as well.
AMY: Yeah. So definitely, if you're looking to grow your online business, which is what I teach you, pay close attention to this episode and what Sonia is teaching us here, because that is part of this experience, for sure.
So, Sonia, thank you so much for coming on and bringing so much value and insight to my audience and myself. And I want you to tell everybody, how can they learn more about you and check out all that you have to offer? Where should they go?
SONIA: The easiest way to find me is to go to my website at soniaethompson.com, or you can find me on social media. I’m on Instagram, on LinkedIn. Instagram and on Twitter, I'm also @soniaethompson. And on LinkedIn, soniathompson.
AMY: Perfect. And I will link to all of that in my show notes, so you guys can get every single link at amyporterfield.com/320.
All right. Sonia, thanks again for being here.
SONIA: My pleasure. Thank you.
AMY: Okay, talk about a knowledge-packed episode. I learned so much. I have some new ideas that I want to implement into the business, and I really hope that you feel the same.
So, let's recap those five steps that Sonia shared with us today. Step one, diversify your circle of influence. I feel like that's the easiest baby step that you can take. Do it now. Do it in the next twenty-four hours. It means following new people on social, and that's, like, a tiny, tiny baby step, but then getting into conversations and forming new relationships. And it's really fun. Like, you're really going to enjoy it.
Step number two, reevaluate your ICA. This is something I'm going to need to navigate and learn more about and really dive in. And as I learn more and as I change up my ICAs in my business so that they reflect diversity, I'll share those with you as well.
Step three, commit to representation. So it's more than just stock images of people of color on your sales pages. But that is something to think about. The photos, the testimonials, the voices that are heard throughout all of our marketing, are all people represented? Now, remember, I am not the teacher in this. I'm the one who's doing the work. So I am well aware that all people of color and different-abled people are not represented throughout all of my marketing, and that is something that we are actively, first, auditing; second, doing something about.
Step number four, make cultural intelligence a priority. And I really think with this one, getting into relationships, like we talked about in step one, is going to help you do this. Actually paying attention. You know how I say it's better to listen more than you talk? I've said that a lot. That was a lesson my dad used to say when he let me out of the car in second grade. “Amy, listen more than you talk.” This is a good time to do that. Step four, when you make cultural intelligence a priority, you got to listen more than you talk here.
And then step number five, audit your customer experience. The first step, the baseline, is you looking at all of it. But I think we need to go beyond that. And I know I will be going beyond that, forming a committee and really allowing those voices to have an opinion about not just my own business and customer experience, but as a whole as well.
All right. So I can't wait to get with my team and talk all about this and start implementing. I mean, if you're anything like me and you felt the disappointment in yourself for being late to this conversation—or maybe you haven't. That's my own personal experience—but there's this sense of, I want to do it all now. And I've been instructed, I have listened, I've paid attention that I need to slow down and really learn and maybe talk about the process as I go through it, but not make some big sweeping decisions, like, okay, I'm 100 percent into this, and done. This is a lifelong journey. I call it a forever journey. So allow yourself to slow down and really put a plan together. You know I’m a planner. So I think we should slow down, put a plan together, and slowly figure out how to implement that so that we are mindful, intentional, and authentic in the way we do this.
Again, I am—it's hard. This topic's hard for me because I am so not the teacher, but I am committed to sharing my journey with you. And I hope that's how it's intended.
All right, my friend, sending all my love your way. Cannot wait to see you same time, same place next week. Bye for now.