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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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WOMEN RULE THE INTERNET. As A Male Marketer, Do You View This As Competition or Opportunity?

I recently read Why Women Rule The Internet on TechCrunch, by Aileen Lee, Partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

This is a GREAT article and chock full of statistics supporting the headline, some of which I have highlighted below. Aileen also made suggestions and asked some very poignant questions.

  • More female users will likely help your company grow faster.
  • Take a look at your product, your marketing, your customer base.  Maybe you would benefit from having a larger base of female customers.
  • If so, what would you change to make your product/service more attractive to female customers?
  • Do you do enough product and user interface testing with female users?
  • Have you figured out how to truly unleash the shopping and social power of women?
  • Take a look at your team.  Do you have women in key positions?
  • If you’re planning on targeting female customers, I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t want to have great women on your team.

The data is fresh and new yet continues to affirm there are beneficial rewards for companies that appeal to and connect with women effectively online. And Aileen’s thoughts are spot on.

So, why did this article strike such a competitive nerve with several men? (comments)

Did they miss the point? I think so. The findings overwhelmingly remind us that women are spending more and more time online. And those who develop products as well as advertise to meet her needs are going to swiftly move ahead.

As a male marketer or male business owner who needs to reach the female audience, it would be wise to view findings that reveal the power of the female consumer as opportunity, not offensive.

Does this mean you are going to benefit from listening to the female audience through the ears of  experienced female marketer? More than likely, yes. Because even if you don’t, someone else will.

A few of the findings:

  • Comscore, Nielsen, MediaMetrix and Quantcast studies all show women are the driving force of the most important net trend of the decade, the social web.
  • Comscore says women are the majority of users of social networking sites and spend 30% more time on these sites than men;
  • According to Nielsen. mobile social network usage is 55% female
  • Brian Solis’s analysis shows females are the majority of visitors on the following sites:
    1. Twitter
    2. Facebook
    3. Deli.ci.ous
    4. Docstoc
    5. Flickr
    6. Myspace
    7. Ning
    8. Upcoming.org
    9. uStream
    10. Classmates.com
    11. Bebo
    12. Yelp
    13. The one site Brian notes where males are greater than females is Digg. (Didn’t I just read where founder, Kevin Rose resigned as CEO and that Digg is not doing well?)
  • More women use Twitter according to bloggers Dan Zarella and Darmesh Shaw’s analyses.
  • In e-commerce, female purchasing power is also pretty clear. Sites like those listed below are all driven by a majority of female customers.
  • Zappos (>$1 billion in revenue last year)
    Groupon ($760m last year)
    Gilt Groupe ($500m projected revenue this year)
    Etsy (over $300m in GMV last year)
    Diapers ($300m estimated revenue last year)
  • Further, according to Gilt Groupe, women are 70% of the customer base and they drive 74% of revenue.
  • And 77% of Groupon’s customers are female according to their site.
  • There is an exciting new crop of e-commerce companies building real revenue and real community, really fast, by purposefully harnessing the power of female consumers.  One Kings Lane, Plum District, Stella & Dot, Rent the Runway, Modcloth, BirchBox, Shoedazzle, Zazzle, Callaway Digital Arts, and Shopkick are just a few examples of companies leveraging “girl power.”  The majority of these companies were also founded by women.
  • Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook said:
    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.

For more insight and findings, view the article in it’s entirety here.


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Stephanie Holland is President and Executive Creative Director for Holland + Holland Advertising, Birmingham, Alabama. Working in an industry that is dominated by men, she is one of only 3% of the female creative directors in the country. Stephanie works mostly with male advertisers, helping them successfully market to women. Subscribe to She-conomy by Email

Women Are Laughing Online…

AND ADVERTISERS ARE TAKING IT TO THE BANK

We all know that women love to laugh and swap stories. We always have. Now we’re sharing antidotes and laughs online through social networking and blogs. Advertisers are eager to get in on the action.

A recent New York Times article, Women to Woman Online sited sources revealing:

• Sites aimed primarily at women, from “mommy blogs” to makeup and fashion sites, grew 35 percent last year — faster than every other category on the Web except politics, according to comScore, an Internet traffic measurement company. Women’s sites had 84 million visitors in July, 27 percent more than the same month last year.

• Advertisers are following the crowd, serving up 4.4 billion display ads on women’s Web sites in May, comScore said. That is more than for sites aimed at children, teenagers or families. “Moms are the decision makers of the household as far as purchases are concerned,” said Chris Actis, vice president and digital director at the ad agency MediaVest.

• The rapid growth in advertising and traffic to women’s sites has attracted the attention of major media companies and venture capitalists such as Comcast, NBC Universal, General Electric, Yahoo and Draper Fisher Jurvetson, a major Silicon Valley venture firm.

To read more about how advertisers are making the most of women on the Web, read the full article. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/14/technology/14women.html
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Stephanie Holland is President and Executive Creative Director for Holland + Holland Advertising, Birmingham, Alabama. Working in an industry that is dominated by men, she is one of only 3% of the female creative directors in the country. Stephanie works mostly with male advertisers, helping them successfully market to women. Subscribe to She-conomy by Email