I remain in a state of shock about the number of black entrepreneurs who deny, mask, and ignore the black customer.

As a brand storyteller to startups, I’m consistently confronted with challenges on how to grow a business with limited resources and virtually everything at stake. My clients, mostly black women and male entrepreneurs, want to bring their story to life in a way that communicates their vision and attracts their ideal customer. They, like you and like all entrepreneurs, want to build iconic, profitable, and meaningful brands that will last forever.

This begins with understanding who your customer is and tailoring all of your marketing to them.

When confronted with the realization of an all-Black customer base, too many black entrepreneurs shy away from incorporating such blackness into their branding. It boils down to a fear of limitation.

“Am I limiting myself by marketing to just one group of people?”

“I don’t want to stifle my growth by only using Black models in our marketing.”

And worst of all, “This is just too Black. " 

But does $1.1 trillion in Black buying power sound limiting to you?

Don’t misunderstand my thinking – every business created by a black person does not solely serve black people. But if you are black and have black people buying from you, it’s time to build your brand on the very blackness that fuels your business.

Here are 3 things black brands with black customers can do to harness the buying power of a $1.1 trillion market with success and an edge of unapologetic-ness.

1. Know Your People

Get to know the customers that are either buying from you or the ones that you created your brand to serve. You’ll need to dig deeper beyond just basic demographics. Spend some time surveying and speaking to your audience to understand their challenges, what they really want in life, their motivators, and exactly where your brand fits in. The more you know about your people, the more precise and real your branding will become.

2.  Make Your Mission Clear

You know your people, now make your mission clear. Here’s where being unapologetic comes into play. Your message should explicitly state what your brand has to offer and exactly who it’s for. Yes, that means replacing that racially ambiguous model with a bold and beautiful black face on your website. That also means letting the world know that while your brand may appeal to others, it was created to serve Black. A new and popular lifestyle startup BLK + GRN does an amazing job of this by making things clear in their brand description on their homepage: “An All-Natural Marketplace By All Black Artisans.”

Be explicit, be unapologetic, and let the world know who you’re really here for. It doesn’t mean that others won’t buy from you; it just means that the people you created your brand to serve will know that you are for them.

3. Stop Marketing. Start Storytelling

People don’t buy products; they buy stories. Today’s customer, and especially the Black customer, wants to buy into a brand whose marketing feels real. There’s nothing worse than an ad that feels like it’s trying too hard to be or “sound” Black. Using storytelling to communicate your brand’s mission and your customer’s journey is a great way to attract your ideal customer, celebrate who they are, and position your brand as a real and relatable solution to their problems.

Heat Free Hair, a brand that offers 100% virgin hair extensions exclusively for natural textures, does a great job of storytelling on their “Why Us” page with “10 Beautiful Beliefs About The Hair, Our People, and Your Journey.”

The success of any business is all about how well you can package up your purpose into a story that speaks directly and unapologetically to your audience.

Remember, no brand can be all things to all people. Be something to your people, and in return, your people will buy from you … today, tomorrow, and forever.