Why Accessibility Must Be Part of Your Marketing Plan

June 1, 2020

Marketing content that excludes people with disabilities, even unintentionally, prevents millions of people from learning about your products and interacting with your brand. To make your business as open and inclusive as possible, accessibility must be a core component of your organization’s marketing plan.

What is a marketing plan (and why do you need one)?

A business plan is a comprehensive document for your organization that outlines your business goals, as well as the methods by which you expect to achieve those goals. Similarly, a marketing plan describes how your marketing efforts will support and help achieve your broader objectives as an organization. HubSpot defines a marketing plan as “a strategic roadmap that businesses use to organize, execute, and track their marketing strategy over a given time period.”

Unfortunately, too many companies don’t take the time to formalize their marketing strategy. According to a 2019 survey, half of small businesses don’t have an annual marketing plan, and 58 percent spend less than 5 hours per week on marketing.

Marketing plans are important because they provide clear guidelines for which markets and customers to target, the unique selling proposition of your products and services, and what competition the business faces. They may also include descriptions of your various marketing campaigns, including:

  • Paid marketing: advertising campaigns, PPC (pay per click) campaigns, etc.
  • Social media marketing: viral marketing, influencer marketing, paid social media promotions, etc.
  • Content marketing: blog posts, white papers, e-books, case studies, etc.

So why does accessibility need to be part of your marketing plan?

Why accessibility needs to be part of your marketing plan

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 25.7 percent of U.S. adults, more than 1 in 4 people, have some form of disability. These conditions include impairments or difficulties with vision, hearing, cognition, mobility, independent living, and self-care.

People with disabilities constitute a vital, yet often under-served, market. Multiple studies have shown that people with disabilities are frequently disappointed by their interactions with businesses — and they’re not afraid to vote with their wallet.

Americans with disabilities have disposable income of $490 billion and discretionary income of $20 billion, yet most digital materials aren't properly accessible. It's also been estimated that the majority of people who experience major accessibility issues will leave a website and not transact, while according to Nucleus Research more than 70 percent of websites have "critical accessibility blockers." The result is that brands are losing billions by not being digitally accessible.

Companies that don’t consider accessibility in their marketing campaigns therefore risk losing out to their competitors who have embraced a more open, inclusive approach. The future of effective digital marketing must include accessibility.

How to build accessibility into your marketing plan

It’s not enough, however, to simply keep accessibility in the back of your marketing team’s mind. To truly be considered an accessible company, you need to include accessibility front and center in your marketing plan.

Marketing plans often include descriptions of various customer segments, including semi-fictional buyer personas that represent these segments. Devoting a customer segment to people with disabilities, and developing buyer personas for them, is an excellent way to incorporate accessibility into your marketing plan. Of course, since disabilities are highly variable in their type and severity, one or two buyer personas for people with disabilities can’t hope to capture everything.

Including people with disabilities in your marketing plan also means that you work to make your marketing materials accessible. Some of the changes you can make that will have the biggest impact are adding closed captions to your videos and making PDFs accessible. For more information, check out our guides to accessibility testing for people with visual disabilities and people with hearing disabilities.

How to get key stakeholders on board with an accessible marketing plan

If you’ve never considered accessibility in your marketing plan before, you’ll need to bring senior leadership and key stakeholders on board. Key stakeholders such as the C-suite may not always be easily moved by appeals to diversity and inclusion; but they may be convinced by how accessibility will build better marketing campaigns and bring in more revenue.

The good news is that accessibility isn’t just a lofty ideal — it’s also smart business sense. There are many well-documented benefits of including accessibility in your marketing plan, such as:

Because these metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) are all easily measurable, you can make a compelling case for accessibility just by showing how it will impact your bottom line. The more you understand the benefits of accessibility for marketing, the easier it will be to bring it into your marketing plan and better serve all of your customers — including those with disabilities.

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