Find leverage in shared experience

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African-American women may be the overlooked minority within the overlooked majority.

"The African-American woman is not being fully embraced by corporate America for her huge purchasing power and influence," says Miriam Muley, founder and CEO of consultancy The 85% Niche. (She says the 85% refers to the level of purchasing decisions by women.)

The "myths" surrounding black women "need to be dispelled," says Ms. Muley, particularly with regard to educational attainment, affluence and "diversity within diversity."

The buying power of minority women is estimated at $722.8 billion, according to Packaged Facts, the publishing division of MarketResearch.com.

However, few companies appeal to this segment "with budgets that reflect its dynamic power," says Ms. Muley, who earlier was executive director of diversity strategy at General Motors Corp.

And it's not enough to target this increasingly affluent demo en masse.

Ms. Muley advises marketers to "think globally" about women-leveraging shared experiences, including the commonly held role of family caregiver-but "act locally in understanding ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic differences to make quantum leaps in market share."

For example, she suggests working with faith-based and community organizations. Ms. Muley also advises leveraging the credibility of black programming and print venues, which offer cultural nuances general-market media often lack.
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