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Women may represent only half the total consumer market, but in actuality, women make (or influence) the vast majority of purchasing decisions. Tom Peters, author of the bestseller In Search of Excellence, cites women in America as the largest single spending bloc on the planet. As he sees it, "It's just plain stupid not to cater to them."
So how do you market to women? These are interesting times for marketing to women – women's roles, habits, needs and expectations have all evolved and so have the marketing strategies to sell products and services to them. To unravel the mystery behind this topic, we've tapped Delia Passi, a true expert on how to build market share among women. She's the founder of Medelia Communications, which has a client list that includes some of America 's most renowned brands.
Delia says that over the past 40 or 50 years, marketing to women has mirrored societal changes. In the '60s and '70s, corporations developed marketing programs that tried to treat women with equality to men, meaning their messages were as 'gender neutral' as possible. They were reacting to the liberation movement by creating a 'one size fits all' approach. This was a step forward at the time, since women had previously been relegated to lesser importance as consumers of many goods and services. Companies that gave women equal treatment were viewed as being fairer than the norm. But eventually most companies reached the same level, and the marketplace returned to a new equilibrium.
In the '80s and '90s, companies again strived to differentiate themselves among women. This time around, there was a tendency to appeal to women through a different 'feel' to their advertising. Advertising to women became specialized. It featured women in men's roles. It appealed to feminine sensitivities to color, tone and intensity. Advertising to women in women-oriented media was different than for the same product in men's media. For a while, it had some effect on market shares, but never to any great extent. Corporations began to lose confidence that there was any effective means to differentiate when marketing to women.
Delia observes that the strategy today has evolved yet again. It's about recognizing and appreciating women as individuals. Marketing to women must emphasize respect of the customer and an appreciation of customer differences and preferences throughout the purchasing process. If an organization is truly committed to building its market share among women consumers, it must meet the challenges of a new mindset and adapt accordingly. A great example is a project Delia completed for a Texas home builder. The builder actually certified salespeople as experts in selling to women and the results were amazing. After the training their close rate improved by 20%. By consistently trying to understand what women were seeking in the sales experience and then delivering on that promise, they met with unprecedented success.
Delia Passi's tips on marketing to women throughout the sales process
- Let women take the lead: Women are information gathers; they do not want you to 'fix' their situation by providing quick solutions. In turn, women want to make educated decisions by asking enough questions. Taking the time to answer in detail will provide her the comfort level she seeks to make purchasing decisions.
- Keep up with them: Women communicate differently than men in trying to get their message across. You may notice that women will tell you a story or multiple stories in order to feel comfortable that they've relayed their message. To some they may seem scattered in their thinking. In actuality, their thought process usually takes them further into the decision process then you are aware. So, while you're thinking she can't stay focused, she's wondering why you can't keep up!
- Don't push: Women will purchase when they're satisfied that they are making the best decision, and that means multiple factors come into play. She'll consider how a decision will affect her family, is the advisor to be trusted, what is his/her reputation, what's the company's reputation, can I trust that this product will serve all my needs?
- Open a relationship: Women value relationships and will be prone to trust you if she feels you are equally interested in creating a long-term relationship as opposed to just completing a transaction. That's easier said than done. For example, women generally consider themselves to be treated "badly" by financial service companies, according to a recent Money magazine and Oppenheimer survey. Your efforts will be rewarded by her dollars, loyalty and referrals if she finds you to be a trusted advisor who takes her success and well being to heart.
Some of the smartest business people in the world recognize that women consumers simply can't be overlooked. If you're interested in growing your business to new heights of success, get a strategy to make sure you're marketing to women!