Starting up?
Start with DE&I 

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Over the last number of years, DE&I has become a mega-trend, not for great headlines but for great business. Your goal as a founder is to zig while others are zagging, and DE&I is an element you don’t want to ignore.

Over the last number of years, DE&I has become a mega-trend, not for great headlines but for great business. Your goal as a founder is to zig while others are zagging, and DE&I is an element you don’t want to ignore.

Diversity, equity and inclusivity (DE&I) are concepts that can be hard to navigate when you’re already an established corporation. For founders, building up with DE&I principles baked-in at the start is an effective way to build a distinct value proposition and a company people want to be part of – even when things are tough.

Not only does DE&I help make better products and services, support your marketing strategy, and your recruitment and retention efforts, but private equity firms are more and more often looking to diversify within their portfolio companies. Firms with a clear DE&I strategy are looked at favourably.

But the exciting thing is that you’re already doing a lot of this thinking – especially if you’re implementing accessibility into your products and services. Or if you have a global client base.

When you think about it, DE&I boils down to a highly engaging and effective total customer experience. You need to build products that resonate with your audience. And that audience is increasingly diverse – especially if your product or service reach is global.

How to effectively start with DE&I

In a recent product delivery engagement, we partnered with the marketing team right from the start. That way, the creative wing of the product development team was able to build and design a diverse and equitable style guide within the design system that UX designers and software developers could adopt across the board.

With external product and marketing grounded in DE&I principles, it was much easier to grow from there. We just had to keep asking ourselves: how do I accommodate customers better? How do I make life easier for them? How do I make them feel like this experience was crafted uniquely for them?

The new software increased customer usage and improved customer service success post-installation. We also saw an uptick in presales, which in and of itself wasn’t a KPI, but it was revolutionary for the marketing team. 

For the first time, customers shared how much they appreciated seeing more diversity in the product. In fact, no customer had ever commented on the brand as a distinct aspect before. This validation sparked a critical moment internally and inspired traction on a broader scale – especially with internal DE&I efforts.

An adoption plan for implementing DE&I 

By injecting DE&I into both your product and service experiences – and into the process for how those experiences are created – you bring more relevance to your end-users and create a more impactful and lasting emotional reaction that builds customer loyalty and additional useability.

When we address DE&I via marketing methods, customers get the message. But if that experience falls short when customers use your products and services, you’ll create a negative outcome because of mismatched expectations.

Like other layers of your experience strategy, you need to plan how DE&I is consumed downstream. Organizational adoption and awareness – even across internal teams who may or may not have the same exposure or backgrounds – is key to making sure DE&I elements are used “naturally.”

Adoption of DE&I assets internally can be an approachable teaching moment. Having a plan for centralized consumption and digestible learning for teams is critical for corporations truly inspired to “walk the talk.” Take the time to understand which teams will need the most support and understanding of “why.” Understand what needs to change in your processes and assets and why teams may need something different, so you know your adoption weak points.

An integrated perspective

Designing DE&I into your product experience isn’t just an exercise in visual placation through illustrations, graphics, or words. It’s understanding your customers better and designing actual features and meaningful product narratives with nuanced exposure and inclusion.

And consider this: it’s much easier to implement DE&I philosophies into your product and service development processes when you’re starting out – rather than when your processes are already established and your culture, with all of its good and bad habits, is already entrenched. This is precisely why most corporations struggle with implementing DE&I concepts.

But the benefits of DE&I go far beyond marketing. In this increasingly global world, where consumers have the choice to buy products from literally anywhere and from anyone, ensuring your client experience is inclusive to all your customers is a sure-fire way to stand out.

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