Wish You Were Here
Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: May/June 2018
HOW TO EFFECTIVELY TARGET THE AFRICA-AMERICAN MARKET SEGMENT
By: Victoria Head

We are learning that targeting the African-American market must be done in a genuine way.  Oftentimes, people feel that they can grab a hold of this market because they are African-American, or because they are so used to seeing the cultural norms portrayed on television and they know how to emulate the stereotypes.  Well, today's audience is no longer that easily influenced; they are moved by a message that relates to them empathetically, connecting with their feelings and thoughts.  However, many companies wait until a crisis has occurred and gone viral across the Internet and TV, before they decide to invest in educating themselves in an attempt to begin the healing process with the public.  Companies that are learning to value the multicultural market are the ones that will see a great return because they understand how the market works and the rewarding benefits of tapping into more than one demographic.  Here, some industry professionals share their valuable insight on being successful in this outreach. 

ROBERT BROWN, Consultant/Owner of Resource Marketing

"It's most important for advertisers to understand that the African-American community is made up of very distinguishing segments.  It's important to understand the strength of the African-American market.  However you also need to target a desired segment within the group.  Advertisers need to know where the segment they are trying to reach is located; most African-Americans are located in the southeast and in metropolitan cities.  An advertiser fully understanding their marketplace helps their message get across," advises Brown.

Nielson reports that at 43 million strong, African-American consumers have unique behaviors from the total market.  For example, they're more aggressive consumers of media and they shop more frequently.  Black people watch more television (37%), make more shopping trips (eight), purchase more ethnic beauty and grooming products (nine times more), read more financial magazines (28%) and spend more than twice the time at personal hosted websites than any other group.

"Learning about a desired consumers behavior allows advertisers to see them as opportunity markets.  If their need is high, but access is low, that may be a great segment to market your product to.  Additionally, companies in this industry need to be sure they are talking to their desired consumers and not at them.  Talking at them is when your advertisement relays no sensitivity to things that are important to your audience and it becomes obvious that you are unable to truly relate.  Talking to them means you humanize the Black experience, which helps them know that "I'm thinking about you, I'm empathetic to you and I understand you.  Music is always a good way to reach people and Black people have a big connection to music; it matters culturally to us.  As listed in the Nielson report, television is high with African-Americans.  Festivals, be they neighborhood, destination, or music are very attractive also," reports Brown.

ALBERT TUCKER, Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB

Albert Tucker is highly fond of the personal approach.  He feels that it's important to invest time and energy in learning all he can about the conferences, conventions and religious groups that his city desires to accommodate.  "The main thing that I do," says Tucker, "is make it a point to begin a personal relationship with them.  When I'm interacting with an individual that is looking for their next destination for an upcoming event, I make it a point to learn a little about them from a personal standpoint; what are some of their interests, what their specific role is in the planning procedure, their desired outcome for this venture.  My national sales manager Angela, attends the various African-American meetings and conventions in representation of our CVB.  This enables us to also reach out to the religious market.

When planning a FAM tour I invite the organizers to activities in Greater Fort Lauderdale that I think would be of interest to them.  We have a major music element here called Jazz in the Gardens.  I'll invite an organization's meeting planners and decision makers to that activity.  We also highlight our Convention Center and put them in one of our best hotels, namely the Westin Diplomat Hotel.  

"I always tell people that you have to put your money where your mouth is.  In order to keep our destination before the African-American market, I really focus on making sure that we spend our dollars utilizing the market that's going to get the word out to Black meeting planners and suppliers.   Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB advertises in Black Meetings and Tourism magazine, Black Enterprise and Pathfinders.  The African-American audience that we are interested in traditionally reads these magazines as their culture is highlighted and they feel connected to them.

ROY JAY, Association of African-American Meeting Professionals (AAAMPRO)

"When destinations are serious, about reaching multicultural businesses, they'll demonstrate involvement on a regular and full-time basis; not just on Martin Luther King day and Cinco de Mayo.  They have to know the customer and what their particular needs are.  The more time a company invests in getting to know a culture, means they are more likely to be the ones that get the bulk of the business.

"Some CVBs and hotels just aren't trained or qualified.  Their representatives may have big titles or degrees and salaries, but they are not trained to know how to deal with a diverse audience.  They've never been in any effective multicultural training.  However, there are some destinations that work harder than others to successfully reach out to the multicultural market.  They know the importance of spending the money to advertise in (i)Black Meetings & Tourism(ei) for example.  By having a presence in BM&T one can see which hotels and CVBs are involved on a regular basis, not just once a year.  Additionally, those who consistently invest in reaching this market are sensitive to tailor their ads specifically towards African-Americans.  Once they get that segment of business, they don't let it go; they want it to come back over and over again.  Sales are based on forming good relationships; you need to look at this as being a courtship and you have to be sure that you're in it for an ongoing basis.

"So many in the hospitality business spend the money to advertise that they are gay friendly, child friendly, pet friendly, but are they African-American friendly?  In 2019, the Alliance of African American Meeting Professionals; (AAMPRO) will be introducing a program for those who want to have effective training in understanding and connecting to the African-American segment.  It's mainly designed for people that really need to be trained on how to go out and welcome that business on a regular basis.  Anyone in convention, tourism, hospital and lodging should attend these awareness training sessions in order to be able to understand how to sincerely embrace the African-American market.  For more information about AAMPRO, you can inquire at roy@royjay.com."

KEISHA N. BROWN, Executive Vice President of LAGRANT COMMUNICATIONS

"Brands and organizations come to LAGRANT Communications because they truly believe that to be successful, you have to be able to target a multicultural market.  The business is out there; when you look at hotels and lodging places, I think that there are still organizations that just don't get it.  The reason I say that is because you have a lot of people that take a homogeneous approach, believing that they can reach everyone with one message, but we know that isn't true.  People travel for different reasons; say for example, we know that in the African-American community family reunions are big and have been for a very long time.  People are having family reunions every year or every two years and they do a lot of traveling, particularly to the north and the south because that's where most African-American roots are.  However, you don't see a lot of hotels taking advantage of that and tapping into that marketing segment. 

"A great way to reach out to the Multicultural community is through social media.  We utilize all social media platforms, particularly Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.  About 70% of African-Americans online use Facebook.  It began as a platform for people to get together and stay connected, but then younger people decided that since older people started following Facebook, they'd seek out other platforms.  So younger people ventured off to Twitter, Snapchat and Instragram.  So it's very important that when you utilize social media, you know who you want to target and how to utilize social media, because everyone uses social media differently and different age groups utilize various platforms. 

"As an integrated marketing and communications agency, Black Meetings and Tourism magazine is a great media tool that we use to reach the market.  We also use African-American owned newspapers.  They remain a great vehicle for us to be able to get information out into the community.  These newspapers are outlets that are in the community and are distributed at local businesses and churches and deliver news that is positive in the community, which is something that you just don't often see in general outlets.  We also incorporate radio, cable and network television for our clients advertising needs." 

            If you are not currently targeting the nearly $60 billion African-American meetings & leisure travel market segment, you are clearly leaving money on the table.  African-Americans understandably go where they feel welcome and their business is valued and appreciated.  When you don't invite them to meet or vacation in your city, utilize your venue or book rooms in your hotel, what kind of message are you sending them?

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