Beyond the Picket Fence: Marketing to a Culturally Changing Nation

Traditional family roles and community values were once the building blocks of the American way of life. Mirroring this ideal, marketers reiterated the acceptable standard with images and emotions that further promoted the white picket fence, cookie-cutter lifestyle.

In this world, mothers were homemakers, fathers were breadwinners and society was a comfortable and predictable blanket of similitude.

Life was all about “keeping up with the Joneses,” said Kelly McDonald, president of McDonald Marketing. “If the Joneses got a new car, then I had to get a new car. The goal was to blend in.”

That is not the case anymore. Over the last several decades, a cultural shift has taken place as a result of evolving and expanding family and community values and traditions, in addition to the onset of a laundry list of technological capabilities.

Reasons for the shift

money flying over picket fenceWhile sameness was revered for decades, just the opposite is the focus of today’s consumer.

“I do not want to drive the same car as everybody else and that desire to standout as an individual is no longer looked at as odd or unusual,” McDonald said.

Technology is one of the main components making this individuality possible. For little or no cost, people can customize and personalize everything from a ring tone on their cell phone to a computer, McDonald explained.

So what does this information do from a marketing perspective?

“When people get individualized customized attention whether it is from a marketing standpoint or a service standpoint, they respond,” McDonald told O&P Business News.

In order to give your customers personalized attention, you need to find out who they are, what they care about, and what message they will respond to.

Identify your customer

Defining your target audience seems like an easy task and it can be if you use reliable resources and ask the correct questions.

Looking beyond standard demographics is key in determining your target audience. While these statistics are factual and reliable, they tell you little about the market segment. When it comes to marketing knowing the age, gender, ethnicity, income and education of your audience can only get you so far.

The best way to establish what your customers really care about is to ask them.

“At the end of the day you need to be able to talk to people and have an open dialogue,” McDonald said.

By speaking to your consumers, you are able to uncover their needs in terms of what is important to them – their values, goals and dreams.

“We look at our business through our lens, which is pushing out – I have this product or service I need to sell and I need to get it to you,” she said. “We are not looking at it from the user end. We are trying, but we are not always living in that role.”

Uncovering their needs

What would benefit my customers? What do they care about? If you could have one wish regarding your prosthetic or orthotic health care, what would that wish be?

To get the answers to these questions, you can conduct surveys, invite focus groups to your facility or use the expertise of consumer research.

“I think one of the biggest mistakes that people make is they guess,” McDonald said. “Do not guess – find out.”

Hosting a focus group can be relatively simple. Invite a group of your core customers in to talk for an hour, give them some refreshments and if possible, compensate them for their time. In pedorthic footwear facilities, for example, compensation could be in the form of a discount or merchandise credit for their next purchase.

Reaching Out to a High-Risk Hispanic Population

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimated in 2005 that “2.5 million, or 9.5% of Hispanic and Latino Americans aged 20 years or older have been diagnosed with diabetes.” Additionally, the same report also estimated that “Mexican Americans are 1.7 times as likely to have diabetes as non-Hispanic whites of similar age.”

For many practitioners, this is a market segment that can be better targeted with research and planning.

Inform this population

“The Hispanic population is extremely hungry for information and they take it seriously,” McDonald said. “This audience will read pamphlets if those materials are presented to them.”

She suggested that O&P practitioners make this information available in both English and Spanish to be certain that the information reaches everyone.

Referring physician’s offices are a good way to make this information, as well as your services, available.

Market to this population

Many marketing attempts in the realm of health care try to play on the fear of illness. She suggests catching the attention of the Hispanic population by showing them how diabetes or the affects of diabetes will impact their families.

As a population, Hispanics tend to be solidly rooted in their families and being honest with them about the effect diabetes could have on that unit is the best way to get their attention.

Meet their needs

“If the result of marketing to Latinos is that there are going to be more people coming in who do not speak English, then you are going to need to talk to your staff about policies and procedures,” McDonald said.

Put specific systems into play so that your customer has the best possible experience in your facility.

Marketing brings them through the door, but good customer relations keeps them coming back.


The importance of good customer relations

Drawing your target audience is only the first step in marketing to them. Good customer relations will complete your successful marketing attempt. Giving your customers a good experience starts with informing your staff.

“Most people fail in providing good customer service when they do not know what is going on and they are suddenly thrust into situations with customers they do not understand,” McDonald said. “Inform your staff about what you are doing and why.”

Hispanic Population in the Ten Most Populous U.S. Cities

1. New York

8,008,278 total population
2,160,554 Hispanic population
27% Hispanic of total population

2. Los Angeles

3,694,820 total population
1,719,073 Hispanic population
46.5% Hispanic of total population

3. Chicago

2,896,016 total population
753,644 Hispanic population
26% Hispanic of total population

4. Houston

1,953,631 total population
730,865 Hispanic population
37.4% Hispanic of total population

5. Philadelphia

1,517,550 total population
128,928 Hispanic population
8.5% Hispanic of total population

6. Phoenix

1,321,045 total population
449,972 Hispanic population
34.1% Hispanic of total population

7. San Diego

1,223,400 total population
310,752 Hispanic population
25.4% Hispanic of total population

8. Dallas

1,188,580 total population
422,587 Hispanic population
35.6% Hispanic of total population

9. San Antonio

1,144,646 total population
671,394 Hispanic population
58.7% Hispanic of total population

10. Detroit

951,270 total population
47,167 Hispanic population
5% Hispanic of total population

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000 Summary File 1

In addition to informing your staff, you must also train them on the new situations they might encounter as well as your expectations of them in handling these situations.

What procedures will you employ to meet your customers’ needs?

“The systems do not have to be perfect but if you do not talk about it at all, that is when disaster happens because that employee then is not equipped to know what is going on or why it is important,” she said. “Any training that has to do with how you want your people to behave is important.”

Cultural training and sensitivity training are some of the best ways to prepare a staff for a new customer base.

– by Jennifer Hoydicz

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