And you thought marketing to women was simple…

Yesterday I was invited to attend a speaker series at the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship featuring Mary Lou Quinlan on the topic of Marketing to Women.  At first, I thought, well, I know everything on thinking like a woman because I am a woman.  Boy, I was wrong, and I gained some huge insight into myself and my customer base from Mary Lou.

Mary Lou broke out from the corporate world in 1999 to grow her own women’s marketing business called Just Ask a Woman.  Through her agency, Mary Lou has helped a large number of major brands (Pepsi, alli, Wal Mart) understand women as consumers.  As I have written before, the number of women responsible for making and recommending purchasing decisions is staggering.  Therefore, marketing to women becomes increasingly more critical.

What I learned from Mary Lou is that women admit half-truths, but marketers really need to get at the whole-truths on how women think before buying to effectively engage.  An example of this is when asking women about their looks and beauty (imperative in selling anything beauty related – clothing, lotions, makeup, vitamins), women will often spout a half-truth answer like ‘It is what is inside that counts.’  The whole-truth is really closer to ‘I would rather look better.’

The gap between the half-truths and whole-truths is important because it illustrates when marketing to women, companies need to be aware that they are dealing with 2 personalities in every woman.  There is the woman you are actually physically looking at and there is the woman who she wants to think of herself as being.  When I reflect on my own purchases and consumer mentality, I see this phenomenon loud and clear.

My bathroom counter of products spouting age defying technology, drawers of Spanx, and stacks of books on eating healthier are all examples of the woman that I think I am, or striving to be while I usually talk about ageless beauty.  HA!

While I was immediately drawn to Mary Lou because she is a role model for all women entrepreneurs as she left behind the comfort of corporate America to go her own way, her actual work is fascinating.  Women hold over 90% of the purchasing power when it comes to food related items alone.  This is a powerful stat when thinking about the need to engage effectively with women.  Don’t you think?

As startup business people, fresh on the scene, and seasoned entrepreneurs in a world of products and services, obviously we have to understand the female consumer.  We cannot accept the answer on the surface, but rather dig deeper when questioning women.

I am going to start by reading Mary Lou’s book, What She’s Not Telling You.


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