When Marketing to Women, Don’t Be A Man: Ask For Directions

To know that brands must target women is great. But can you still mess up? Absolutely.

Dawn Billings, founder of The Heart Link Women’s Network, polled women small business professionals from three countries to find mistakes made by businesses when marketing to women. We have actually discussed most all of these at one time or another, but the survey further validates and substantiates that simply knowing women are your market could be more dangerous if you don’t take the extra steps to understand them.

“Women work very hard. They wear many hats. Often they are so busy being responsible and reliable they forget to have fun. Anything that you can offer women to help them add fun back into their lives can be a very valuable offering.” – Dawn Billings

According to the results of the survey, below are six mistakes businesses need to avoid when marketing to women:

  1. Do not fail to market directly to women.
  2. Do not think women think the same as men.
  3. Do not attempt to pigeon-hole women by age.
  4. Do not underestimate the power of the more mature boomer woman.
  5. Do not ignore the time women spend online connecting with, and influencing their networks.
  6. Do not forget the FUN.

So, let’s talk about them a little further.

1. Do not fail to market directly to women.

“Women feel they are their own market.” – Dawn Billings

Women want you to speak to them directly. But don’t forget. You must take the time to understand them. Otherwise, you run the risk of approaching them with stereotypical messages that could do more harm than good. Dell Computers found this out the hard way with the launch of “Della” a website targeting the “not quite as bright as the male” female.  Or at least that is how it was interpreted. The site, months in the making, was taken down after just three days due to the backlash.

2. Remember that women think differently than men.

For one thing, it’s scientific. We talk about it more here, but essentially women’s frontal lobe, the area in the brain responsible for problem-solving and decision-making, is larger. This results in them to putting more time and effort into a decision or problem solving process. (aka, taking a long time) Another example is found in their “larger” limbic cortex, the area which is responsible for regulating emotion. Women have more connections to the emotional centers of their brain. (aka, leading with their emotions)

Understanding the differences in men and women, opens up for better communication and messaging and ultimately sales. Refusing to see the differences leads to offensive or even worse messages that do not resonate at all with the female prospect.

3. Do not attempt to pigeon-hole women by age.

Demographics are dead. We can no longer look at them as by age but instead must consider their lifestage. The female is different than she was 10 years ago, they are different from each other and they change pending where they are in life.

A 40-year old female might have a toddler at home, a child in college or may have never married or had children at all. What connects with the situation of the one with a toddler has little chance of speaking adequately with the needs of the other two.

4. Do not underestimate the power of the more mature boomer woman.

Female boomers feel they have been dropped completely off the marketer’s or brand’s radar. They were vigorously pursued for so long, and yet at 55, they feel abandoned.  Or worse, they feel targeted solely for retirement homes and adult diapers.

The reality is, they have more money than anyone, they control the spending and they have a LOT of living left to do.

As Billings points out, research shows:

  • Every fifth adult in the U.S. today is a female over 50.
  • The 50+ population will grow by 70 percent over the next 15 years.
  • Women comprise the majority of the 80 million Boomers now working their way through society and the consumer marketplace. They have established careers and money to spend on themselves, their families and their causes, as well as the ability to influence the majority of their households’ purchasing decisions.
  • Disposable incomes are highest among women aged 45-54.
  • In the next decade, women will control two-thirds of the consumer wealth in the U.S.
  • The fastest growing demographic segment on Facebook is women over 55, growing 175 percent in the past six months.
  • Not only will Boomer women continue to earn income by working, they’ll also manage inheritance windfalls from their parents as well as their husbands, who they will outlive by 6-9 years on average. (Sad, but true.)
  • The 6.7 million companies owned by women account for 30 percent of all privately-owned U.S. small business, skewing heavily towards women 35-5

5. Do not ignore the time women spend online connecting with, and influencing their networks.

Women rule the Internet. Comscore says women are the majority of users of social networking sites and spend 30% more time on these sites than men. On Facebook alone:

  1. Women are not only the majority of its users, but drive 62% of activity in terms of messages, updates and comments, and 71% of the daily fan activity.
  2. Women have 8% more Facebook friends on average than men, and spend more time on the site.
  3. Women played a key role in the early days by adopting three core activities—posting to walls, adding photos and joining groups—at a much higher rate than males.

Women are searching what they want and need on the Internet and they are now finding affirmation or reasons not to buy within their networks. That is where you can find her, get to know her and let her get to know you.

6. Do not forget the FUN.

And before she can have fun, she has to find time. According to Women Want More, by Michael Silverstein and Kate Sayre,

“Above all, women want “agents of leverage” – ways to find time, save time, free up time. And when women find a product or service that truly meets those needs, they can become brand apostles.”

But beware, don’t tell her she “deserves it.” According to Marti Barletta, author of “Marketing to Women” and CEO of TrendSight Group, “The optimistic message [from marketers], all the ‘You deserve it’ stuff, is completely wrong right now. What is right is saying, ‘You’re smart. You can handle this. You can make the right decisions, and here’s how we can help.’” (via Advertising Age)

So, when marketing to women, don’t be a man. Ask for directions.

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4 Responses to “When Marketing to Women, Don’t Be A Man: Ask For Directions”

  1. And don’t be sexist!! I will NEVER buy any Dr. pepper product EVER again due to their sexist ad. Do not exclude women!!

  2. [...Details from this post have influenced a new post...]…

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  3. [...] A recent poll by among female business professionals in three countries identified common mistakes companies make all too often when marketing to women. A must-read for your brand, this She-conomy article outlines the top six of these missteps. Recurring themes include the cost of misunderstanding how women think differently than men; pigeon-holing by age; and a false faith in stereotypical messages like the ‘you deserve it’ cliché. Read the full article here. [...]

  4. This is an EXCELLENT article. I own a women’s networking company and I can not tell you how many business I have reached out to ask to hold our event there. They aren’t understanding that I am bringing 150 business women to their location to see what they offer.
    Mind boggling. Thanks, again great article

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