I wasn’t completely ignorant when I moved to Asia. I knew India was big. I knew China was bigger. And I knew the rest of Southeast Asia was another huge market. But it’s one thing to know something by reading about it in a magazine, and to know it by seeing it firsthand.

Regardless of the market turmoil China is currently facing and the challenges faced by the rest of Asia as it develops, the market potential is huge. Companies that have an Asia strategy will grow much more rapidly than their domestic-focussed competitors over the next few decades. The fundamentals are there, they just need the freedom to be put to use.

Similar opportunities are available in the US in multicultural marketing, but many companies don’t see them. CEOs and boards are focussed on the markets they know. This is where you, the CMO, have a chance to lead and in the process quickly increase the value of your company by double, triple, or more.

Geoscape, a leader in business intelligence covering the multicultural market, says that US groups including Asian-Americans, African-Americans and Hispanics will grow to nearly 130 million by the year 2020. At the same time, the non-Hispanic white population will become the minority, dropping below 50 per cent of the population by 2042.

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Is there a latent market for your products sitting right on your doorstep?

If the product or service itself needs no changes to be useful to these new markets, the only barrier to serving them might be marketing, making the opportunity for growth all yours, especially since it appears nobody else wants the job.

Geoscape recently partnered with the CMO Council to poll 150 North America-based senior marketing executives, revealing that while 67 per cent admit the CMO has a high level of buy-in and support for multicultural efforts, 55 per cent admit that the CEO does not share that opinion.

Facts and figures

The poll, entitled “Activating the New American Mainstream,” shows that a lack of top-level support is translating into a de-prioritisation of multicultural engagement programmes.

About 51 per cent of marketers admit that there are simply too many competing priorities. Only 20 per cent of marketers felt that multicultural strategies were embraced across the organisation, and just over one in four believed that the multicultural market was mission critical for the organisation.

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Other relevant details of the poll include:

  • 20 per cent invest 15 per cent or more of overall marketing budgets to engage with multicultural markets, 28 per cent spend less than 5 per cent.
  • 53 per cent of marketers believe their investment into multicultural markets will increase, 15 per cent believe this increase will be significant, only two per cent anticipate a decrease in investment.
  • Only 16 per cent of marketers are separating marketing initiatives for specific ethnic groups.

The multicultural market is growing. According to Geoscape, Hispanics represent 18 per cent of American households but were responsible for nearly half of the growth in consumer spending from 2013 to 2014. Between Asian-American and Hispanic markets, the groups accounted for two-thirds of the total economic spending growth. But approaching these markets requires more than merely translating existing marketing materials and switching out photos.

“Multicultural marketing strategies must move away from the niche campaign mindset and become an ingrained part of any personalised customer experience strategy,” noted Liz Miller, Senior Vice President of Marketing with the CMO Council. “This is no longer a scenario of replacing images or localising content into a different language. This is about truly understanding the nuances of the customer, including any culturally distinct behaviours and buying patterns that can and must alter the way our brands reach and engage.”

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César M Melgoza, Founder and CEO of Geoscape, agrees. “None of this happens overnight,” he says. “Targetting consumers without understanding their unique cultural behaviours and preferences risks growth optimisation among the consumer groups, upon which quarterly and annual budgets and success can hinge.”

Greg Ellis, CEO of, advocates a hands-on approach, partnering with those who know the target market best. “Multicultural marketing is best done in person,” he says. “My most effective results have come by working with local, then regional associations, and individuals from the different cultures my business serves.”

All this gets at the ultimate goal of marketing which is to foster personal, close connections between sellers and buyers. But when approaching a new audience, it’s easy to fall back to what we know -– traditional mass marketing, rather than embracing personalisation. “Isn’t it ironic that in an age of marketers seeking that intimate, one-to-one, personalised engagement with the customer, that we look at multicultural insights and initiatives with a whole market, blanket approach?” Miller asks.

Begin an effective shift toward multicultural marketing with these steps:

1. Know your customer: Learn about them through in-person interviews, surveys, field observation, buyer persona research, online research and by collaborating or partnering with other organisations who already have experience with the new target markets you’re considering.

2. Build C-level consensus: Sell the opportunity for growth. Use data to back up your conclusions. If your CEO and board are hesitant, pitch a “safe,” inexpensive, incremental approach with specific milestones upon which increased financial support is based.

3. Put experts on your team: Truly understanding a culture that is not your own is a tall order. Instead, build a diverse, multicultural marketing team that will provide you with insights you could never come to on your own.

4. Find partners. No need to reinvent the wheel. Find a partner who has already done what you want to do, and find ways for them to benefit by walking you through the process.

5. Consider delegation. Depending on the size of your organisation, you may consider delegating responsibility for targetting a certain segment of your multicultural strategy to a trusted team member–directly reporting to you, with the right background and experience.

In business, good can be the enemy of great. Don’t let your success within your comfort zone keep you from exploring the opportunities for multicultural marketing. Your largest market may yet to be untapped, and right under your nose

This article first appeared on Forbes.