Interview with Nadine Vogel:
While many marketers have increased outreach to multicultural audiences, very few have focused marketing efforts on the powerful disabled demographic. And that’s a poor business decision, says Nadine Vogel, founder and president of Springboard Consulting, which specializes in marketing to the disabled community. More than 20 million families in the U.S. have at least one member that has a disability. And in one out of every five households in the U.S., a family is caring for a child that has special healthcare needs, according to the Department of Labor. Vogel discusses her recent initiatives and why marketing to the disabled is really “a marketers’ dream come true.”
Q: Nadine, what’s so exciting about marketing to people with disabilities?
A: Well, first, the demographics are unbelievable. This is a huge, untapped market. People with disabilities have a combined income of nearly $800 billion in the U.S. It’s the largest minority market, surpassing the US Hispanic population by 5%. Aside from the statistics, the disabled community is a very loyal group, in part because so few companies reach out to them.
Q: Why have companies traditionally shied away from marketing to people with disabilities?
A: It’s because of a lack of information. They think the market is too small, too complicated, or not rich enough. Some companies are afraid they’ll do it wrong or get sued. None of this is true. For instance, the special needs community has two times the spending power of teens and 17 times the spending power of tweens. The parent population has the same income and assets as anyone else in the overall population. It’s really two markets – adults with disabilities and parents of kids with disabilities.
Q: What about the cost of building a marketing program when a company has never done it before?
A: A lot of companies are concerned about the cost of building a program for a market they’ve never tapped. But it actually costs less to reach this segment if you do it right because it’s a very networked community. Large global corporations are used to putting tens of millions of dollars behind something new. They don’t have to do that to reach this group. So few companies reach out to this group that any effort makes a difference. You can really start small and reach for the low-hanging fruit and that will mean the world to them.
Q: What’s an example?
A: I helped Sephora put together a Mother’s Day event for children with special needs and their mothers at Short Hills Mall in New Jersey. This is the first effort, ever, by a cosmetics company to market to the disabled. Kids with special needs and their mothers were invited to come into the store and try on any makeup they wanted, and get makeovers and hand massages. The salespeople were trained for disability awareness and to be conscious of the kids’ emotions and body language. A lot of these kids weren’t used to being treated as beauty queens, and on that day, they were princesses. About 100 people came, and from the feedback I’ve gotten we exceeded Sephora’s expectations. Another event is planned this year in California.
Q: What advice would you give marketers who are considering reaching out to the disabled demographic?
A: Avoid the pity factor. Just tell them that you want their business. Also, train the people who are running the programs and who will interact with the disabled people. Finally, think about the other members of a family of someone with disability, like the parents. For instance, if I’m looking to buy a new car, and my child has special physical needs, then I’m going to want to buy the safest and perhaps roomiest car possible. Market to the parents, too.