In the past year since I have been focusing on supporting and promoting Black-owned businesses, I’ve come across my fair share of good, bad, and ugly. Black History Month is a prime time when Fortune 500 and larger retail companies remember to target a Black audience, but with a slightly more socially conscious public. And, it is likely a time when non-Black consumers will increase their spending on Black-owned businesses. Although we’re already a few days into the month, here are some ways Black brand owners can grow business by optimizing this time of the year to increase their brand awareness and revenue.
Use #BlackOwned Hashtags
I had a small Black-owned business DM me a few months ago asking if I’d include their t-shirt in my Black Friday series. Although the shirt didn’t fit my style, I suggested to them that they should use some hashtags like #blackowned and #blackownedbusiness on their posts. The person I was corresponding with said that they don’t use those specific hashtags because “they’re a brand for everybody.”
Ma’am what??! That kind of narrow-minded thinking — that using relevant hashtags will limit your customer base — can cost your inclusion in Black-owned product roundups that are popular by major online publishers like Vogue, Popsugar, and even Beyonce’s site. And do you know where “I’m calling the manager” Karen’s embarrassed niece that you’re trying to reach goes to find a Black-owned business to support? Vogue and Popsugar and Beyonce.com. Also, so what if your customer base was primarily Black? If you haven’t done research on the economic buying power and cultural influence of Black people, then you need to rethink your entire marketing strategy to grow business.
Create a Limited Edition Product to Grow Business
This might be something to keep in mind for next year, but Black History Month is a great time for Black-owned businesses to create limited edition products. Big box retailers do this well — I’ve seen people post Black History Month related apparel from Target and even Michaels. Michaels! By creating a limited edition product, you create a sense of urgency and scarcity, encouraging people to purchase the product specifically during the month of February when Black-owned shopping consciousness may be higher.
Partner with Black Influencers (The Right Way)
I can’t speak for every influencer, but I almost never charge Black-owned businesses to promote their products. However, whether or not I say yes to a gifted collaboration often comes down to how brands step to me. It’s like dating — back when I did that lol — if I guy stepped to me sideways and out of pocket, it didn’t matter how handsome he was, he received ZERO of my attention. Chances are you’re messing up your chances of collaboration because you’re not approaching creators in the right way.
Whenever you ask for free marketing, do so with reasonable expectations and with the same level of professionalism as you would for a full paid marketing campaign. For me, reasonable means an inquiry has a proper greeting, communicates flexibility in the post location (story vs feed) and post date (or whether it’s posted at all), and some kind of indication that this is not a mass request. And this might be personal, but email ALWAYS wins over DM. Take a look at these examples below. Which do you think is more likely to lead to a partnership?
Hopefully, this post provides up and coming Black-owned business owners with actionable steps they can use to supercharge their marketing efforts during Black History Month and beyond!