women are not a niche

Tires and roses: an automotive guy reaches out to his female customers

Women don’t just make 85% of consumer purchase decisions on stuff like lipstick and toilet bowl cleaner. They’re in the drivers seat (sorry couldn’t resist) on car purchases and car care, too.

The big players in the industry are slowly catching on to this important economic fact. But it’s really impressive when a forward -thinking regional player is willing to get smart about what his female customers need.

It’s with this in mind that I went to a women’s event last night at a locally-grown (I’m in Austin) tire and auto chain called Lamb’s. Ron Meredith, the current owner of the 15-store chain, was there in person to welcome all of us as we straggled in from work to learn the basics of good car care.

The most telling part of this event didn’t happen over the course of this evening. It happened in an online chat about it. But I’ll get to that later.

Over the course of the next hour and a half, four of Ron’s managers took us under the hood, under the car and around the tires. What I loved was the passion with which each guy spoke of his particular area of expertise.  My favorite was the tire man who described tires as, “The Rodney Dangerfield of the car. They don’t get no respect.” Turns out they should. Did you know that proper tire inflation has a bigger impact on gas mileage than anything else you can do? And don’t get me started on safety. I will never put off new tires again.

I could go on, but you’re here to learn about connecting with women.  So let me talk about what worked for me about this evening.  And one thing that didn’t.

1)   Hospitality.  I like when any store/ event acknowledges that we are guests in their home.  We were greeted warmly and offered fresh Tiff’s cookies (a beloved local treat) and drinks.

2)   Good information. Solid information is like crack to women when we have an interest in something.  No one talked down to us or glossed over technical stuff.

3)   Not too much self-promotion. The guys were good about saying, “No matter who you take your car to…..” It was never taken for granted that our loyalty would be a given after one free workshop.

4)   Surprise and delight. This is always a key piece and for this event it came at the end when we were all given a long stem rose with a great coupon attached to the stem. For me, this was the perfect gesture from Ron because he is at heart an old-fashioned guy. The kind who still pulls a chair out for women or holds a door open. As a southerner, I really liked this gesture and the juxtaposition of the smell of roses mingling with that new tire rubber smell.

Things that rubbed me the wrong way (and did the same to other women).

  1. Being corralled back into the lobby and more or less forced to take a survey. As a businessperson, I understand why surveys are valuable. But the assumption that we had an extra five minutes to give (even after a free workshop and a rose) was a small misstep. It’s the old dating equivalent of assuming you’re owed a kiss because you bought the dinner.

But at least they are TRYING. That goes a long way with women, and it should be applauded.

I mentioned that one of the most telling consequences of this evening actually happened in an online discussion. Here’s how it went. Lamb’s sent an  event invite to a local women’s organization. Within hours the invite had triggered a train of comments that, in my mind, completely mirror the mental machinations all women go through when they are marketed to.  More on that tomorrow.

Until then, keep your shiny side up. And try a rose on your dashboard.

Equality does not equal sameness

Thank you Kate Rockwood for today’s headline and a smart article in Fast Company about the business benefits of recognizing that…drum roll please…..wait for it….. MEN AND WOMEN ARE DIFFERENT.

Duh. I know, it’s a no-brainer. But it’s also been a fairly taboo subject until recently.

If you’ve spent any time clawing your way up a corporate ladder over the past 20 years, you’ve probably put some effort into downplaying any of the myriad ways you’re different from men. The national and corporate dialogue has been there to help you do it. Somewhere in the talk about equality we all started assuming we had to be the same. We fell into that typically American trap of thinking any differences automatically constituted a value judgement. Separate. And Equal-Femme Den | Fast Company (20090918)

After all, if there’s a difference between object A and object B, it must mean one of them is superior right?
Nope. Sometimes it just means they’re different. Although if you’re a brand who reacts to this information intelligently, it can certainly pay off.

Just ask companies like Pure Digital. They know that recognizing our differences can lead to sales superiority.

Top 5 Questions About Marketing to Women

Well, it’s happened again. Just as it does with every new client with a product that’s used by both genders. They’ve got research in hand that shows their customer satisfaction among women lagging compared to their ratings with men. They seem to be losing women to online and/ or competitors.

Actually, ignoring them will make them (and the their money) go away.

Actually, ignoring them will make them (and the their money) go away.

They know they have to do something, but there is a fierce and palpable resistance to doing it. I have been in meetings with C-level executives who have reliable research in which customers give their stores and service a lukewarm review, and I am still asked, essentially, why they should really act on this information.


Change is scary. But in this economy, many brands need to do it quickly and smartly or die.

Here are some of the top questions I get when brands realize they need women but don’t really want to evolve.

Q: Does marketing to women mean excluding men?
A: No. Of all the harmful marketing-to-women myths out there, this is the one we need to sacrifice first. Improving your marketing to women doesn’t require painting your product pink or excluding men or being “for women only.” Often the only thing required is to be a bit more human. To look a little closer at the details. To simply respect a woman’s intelligence rather than ignore her existence. 
It means inviting her in. She’ll reward you with her loyalty if you do it right. And she generally brings her friends and family with her.

Q: Why worry about women if you’re marketing to both genders?
A: Because the steps you take to make your brand and product more desirable to women will make it more desirable to everyone. Women are the world’s toughest customers. Please them and you’ll please all. I call this MARKETING TO GENDER 2.0. It’s the next phase. It’s where brands like Apple already are.
 It’s why Best Buy is the last big box electronics store standing. It’s why Wii was the game to buy this past Christmas.

Q: I have lots of information and insights about women. Isn’t that enough to make my marketing to women effective?
A: No. If information were all it took, there would be more success stories like Apple and Best Buy and Curves and Dove. What’s required is to place just as much passion and energy into crafting messages, ads, and communications as you do uncovering the insights that inform that creative. Research alone will not create a great brand campaign. Knowing what a woman wants doesn’t mean much if you can’t communicate that fact to her. And women do have a language all their own. Details matter. There is an art to it. Inspiration, intuition, and talent are required. It helps to think like a woman, laugh like a woman, love like a woman. And yes, it can help quite a bit to be a woman. Research is where you start, but translating it properly is how you finish.

Q: Are you anti-male?
A: No. I’m pro common sense. Here’s my logic. The vast majority of women don’t feel they’re portrayed accurately in advertising (they’re not), and many are actually offended by the very advertising that’s supposed to entice them. I really believe this is an indictment of the way U.S. advertising agencies operate. 97% of the creative directors are men. Think about that for a second. That means men decide what gets presented and produced and all the details inbetween. And here’s the ugly truth – if those male creative directors decide an idea won’t impress the awards show judges at Cannes (who are overwhelmingly male), that idea will never get out the door to you, the client. You won’t even have the honor of seeing it. 

So, remember that great insight you finally unearthed? The nugget that practically guaranteed a favorable female response, provided it was served up properly? Sadly, it probably won’t get served up at all. This is not an indictment of men, but of the way ad agencies have always been run. 

Q: Why make a big deal about gender? Shouldn’t we be beyond that by now?
A: I couldn’t agree more. We should be talking to our own tribes of customers regardless of chromosomes. But, it is a scientific fact that men and women get excited by different things, laugh at different jokes, and travel different paths during the decision making process. Until marketers learn to invite women into their brand and pay attention to the details that matter to them, they’ll continue to lose a very valuable consumer.

Now for the bonus question. This is the one I’m often asked when people find out I specialize in marketing to women.

Q: Why women? Isn’t that a rigid niche?
A: Women are not a niche – they control 80-90% of every consumer purchase decision being made right now. 

Women control seven trillion dollars in spending – roughly equal to the entire Japanese economy. 

Women are TWO for the price of ONE: Impress a woman, and the husband and family comes with her. Turn a woman off and the husband and family goes with her. 

The Economist cites women as the single most powerful force in the global economy. 

What makes a brand more appealing to women usually makes it more appealing to everyone. 

According to Tom Peters in his book, TRENDS, (which gives a very very compelling story about why marketing to women is smart) says women make the BIG purchases: 
personal computers – 66% 
consumer electronics – 60% 
vacation decisions – 89% 
home furnishings – 94% 
new home sales – 75% 
kitchen appliances – 88% 
healthcare purchases – 80% 
new cars – 60% . And these are old stats. The percentages have actually grown, but I always site Tom and encourage people to buy this book because the message carries more weight when it’s delivered by a guru.

Women are loyal and vocal. Other women trust them. They have book clubs. Everybody knows that’s where the important stuff is discussed.