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Women Roar!

Savvy marketers today understand one powerful concept – that women either buy or influence the purchase of most consumer items.
Latest posts by Stephen L. Bainton (see all)

Marketing to women used to be an afterthought, like marketing to a special interest group.    

Today, savvy marketers understand one powerful concept—that women either buy or influence the purchase of most consumer items. Sound farfetched? According to Tom Peters (and many other writers) this is the new reality, a reality that will shape this next century and beyond. Manufacturers and marketers must take notice.   

Consider these facts:

  • Of all consumer purchases, women either buy or influence the purchase 83 percent of the time.
  • Women account for 92 percent of all vacation choices.
  • Women are responsible for 94 percent of all home furnishings purchases.
  • Of all new bank accounts, women make the choice 89 percent of the time.
  • For car purchases, women choose 60 percent of the time.
  • In the consumer electronics realm, women purchase 51 percent of all items.
  • Women make 80 percent of all healthcare decisions.

According to Tom Peters, in his masterful work, Re-imagine!, “the real story is the 10.1 million women-owned businesses in the United States alone. These enterprises employ 27.5 million of us. (In other words: one out of every four American workers.) In fact, women-owned businesses employ more workers inside the U.S.A. than the ‘fabled’ Fortune 500 employ worldwide.”

Moreover, female-run and female-owned businesses now account for over $3.6 trillion in annual sales. Now that’s significant economic power.

Not Taken Seriously

Yet, for all this power, women (as a group) are not being taken seriously enough by many companies. For many businesses, marketing to women is just considered another niche, and not given the primacy that such a market ought to command. Intelligent marketers know that this underserved market represents an enormous opportunity, if approached correctly.

In the seminal work, EVEolution, author Faith Popcorn addresses the discernible fact that women and men are different, that marketing to women requires a very different approach. As she writes, “Women want a brand to extend into their lives in as many ways as possible. They want a brand to speak to their heads and their hearts. To understand them. To recognize their needs, values, standards, and dreams.”

Continuing, she adds, “And what women don’t want is just as important as what they do. They don’t want to do business with an organization, a company, or a brand that condescends to them. That inconveniences them. That makes them wait, argue, or defend themselves.”

In many ways, therefore, marketing to women requires much more sensitivity, but, if you get it right, you will establish a highly loyal and devoted client base—one that is naturally more inclined than men to boast of your products, services, and offerings.

Popcorn and the ‘Queen of Connect’

In EVEolution, Popcorn offers eight strategies for marketing to women. Of these, the first struck me as crucial to understanding the needs of women. The first truth of EVEolution is this: “Connecting Your Female Consumers to Each Other Connects Them to Your Brand.” As she writes, “In this new age, brands will serve as connecter-uppers for women seeking links with others; brands will ‘host’ relationships among their consumers, just as brands sponsor chatrooms today. Brands will be the fulcrum for connecting; women will bond over brands, find their friends through brands, form clans and clubs and communities around brands.”

A major trend driving this reality, as Popcorn points out, is that many traditional forms of connecting—due to the weakening of community—have vanished, thereby impacting a woman’s need to connect. In addition, a significant number of women have left on-site corporate jobs to form their own enterprises. This also explains why so many women are using the Internet; hence the success of ‘connecting’ Web sites such as iVillage.com, Oxygen.com, and CafeMom. (How many male community bonding sites can you name?)

The undisputed “Queen of Connect” is Oprah Winfrey. With keen intelligence, she has built an entire media empire on the underlying realization that women are ‘wired’ for connecting. As Popcorn writes, “Oprah’s power lies in her fundamental understanding of the need that women have to be emotionally bonded to each other. Is it any accident that her own book is entitled, Make the Connection?

Marketing to Women – The Bottom Line

For many marketers, therefore, marketing to women is not optional, but rather a necessity to maximize future growth. Marketers correspondingly need to make the necessary organizational realignments to be open to women’s needs. This isn’t as difficult as it may seem.

Look at Stew Leonard’s, the highly successful grocery chain, for example. On a regular basis, management at Stew Leonard’s conducts informal, in-store feedback sessions, mostly with female participants. Unlike structured focus groups, these meetings are more like honest conversations—and criticism is actively encouraged. As one female shopper put it, “You bet this is the kind of place I like to shop. It should be. I helped make it this way!”

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