If you don’t have anything nice to say, post a review instead.

Marketing to women can be a little tricky when it comes to getting feedback on your product or service. My last post included video interviews with women about bad haircuts and brand loyalty. The quick message for those who are marketing to women:  just because a female customer doesn’t complain, doesn’t mean she’s happy with you. Chances are that if she’s not satisfied, you’ll be the last to know. Her friends and any YELP readers will be the first to hear about it.

So, what’s a brand to do?

That was certainly an issue for the COO of a successful flooring company I spoke with recently. It is company policy for all of her installers to ask the customer (and the customer is usually a woman) if they are happy with how the floor looks and the way the job was completed. The woman usually says yes and even signs a statement saying she’s satisfied.  So far, so good. The problem raises its ugly head only days later when the manager gets an unhappy call from the woman’s husband. Turns out women are typically so averse to confrontation that they wait until their husband is available to voice concerns. In the meantime, they’ll politely smile and say thank you.

Deal with it by getting smart.

1) Take a deep breath and remember that unhappy customers can become your biggest fans and most vocal evangelists if you respond quickly and work earnestly to fix the problem. Smart brands will tell you that responding appropriately can earn you more good press and word-of-mouth than traditional advertising ever could. This is more true than ever in an economy that makes us think hard about forking over our hard-earned money.

Turn an unsatisfied customer into a very happy one and guess what happens. She’s got a great story that will be told again and again and again. And guess who’s the hero? You are. The word of mouth that results is the stuff branding director’s dreams are made of.

2) Find another way to solicit honest feedback. Face -to-face is uncomfortable for most people and is particularly tough for women who are literally hard-wired as gatherers to keep the village working together. So make it easy for people to give their reviews anonymously (if they choose) and on their own schedule.  Allow for ratings and reviews on your site.  For large companies, a service like BazaarVoice is the gold standard for monitoring customer reviews online. If your pockets aren’t deep enough to hire those guys, get creative. Send an email after the purchase asking for their input. Make sure to keep it SHORT. Link to an online survey that asks 5 questions or fewer. Let it be an OPTION for the customer to give their name or contact info. Allow a field for them to write a more complete comment if they choose.

3) Ask for opinions in YOUR voice. Don’t just send a standardized “your feedback is valuable to us” missive with an equally canned survey. Let your brand personality and EARNEST desire to do a better job ooze from every detail. Consider that even your email asking for their feedback is a form of marketing on your part. Work it.

4) Act on what you learn.

4) Act on what you learn.

4) Act on what you learn. Yes, the repeat was intentional.

This is the step that separates the success stories from the Chapter 11s. Do not hide from the bad reviews. Bad reviews are a roadmap for getting better. As Chris Brogan pointed out in his presentation at GR2L last week, the tools for listening to consumers are there. We’re just not acting on them. Chris reminds us to use OODA: Observe, Orient, Direct, Act.  It’s the Directing and Acting where most companies drop the ball.

The beautiful thing about having women as your customers is that they will tell you exactly what you need to do to succeed. You just have to ask them the right way and listen with both ears and your heart.

Is your brand having a bad hair day?

Your brand could be headed for the mother of all bad hair days and you might not even know it.

Let me explain. (Or you can jump straight to our video interviews if you’re pressed for time.)

I recently spoke at a marketing conference in Washington and had the pleasure of listening to Mary Lou Quinlan’s incredible presentation on what women aren’t telling you. Although her focus was the nuances of consumer research, it got me thinking about all the other ways women keep secrets. Or at least stay very selective about the folks they share them with.

When it comes to customer service, there’s a phenomena that I call the “Bad Hair Day.” And although our video interviews focus completely on how women deal with their hair stylists, there are correlations and lessons for all marketers.

1. Lack of complaints does not indicate a job well done. Women are genetically hard-wired to avoid confrontation. The best example of this is that as much as we spend on hair (up to $250 for cut and color every month) and as important as great hair is to us, women will never go back and tell their stylist when they’ve done a bad job.
2. Women vote with their purses. When a woman isn’t happy with your brand/service/product, she simply doesn’t buy it again.
3. She may not talk to you, but she will talk to her friends. All of them. Women spread the word about bad service. We may be a WOM dream, but we can just as easily become a nightmare. For instance, although none of the women we interviewed about bad haircuts had gone back to voice dismay with their stylists, they had immediately told their friends. All of them. Or, as one woman said, “As many as I could.”
4. Thanks to YELP and social media, her message of woe can quickly expand beyond her friend base.
5. She sees telling others of bad service as her way of performing a public service. Complaining directly to you is “rude” and “uncomfortable.” But “warning” others is a service. It’s the nice thing to do.

Next week we’ll talk about how you can turn these insights into actionable policy changes. For now, start asking yourself if you really know what she thinks about you. Her silence could be your golden opportunity.

Video interviews with women about health and the economy.

She’s the Chief Medical Officer of the household and Doctor Mom. And she’s finding new ways to keep herself and her family healthy even as the economy continues to run a fever. We surveyed 3000 women to find out how they were coping, and we also headed out with our cameras and microphones to talk to women on their lunch breaks and in carpool lines and classrooms.

One of the most telling answers comes from the young mom who says she still takes her kids to the doctor the moment they need it, but delays care for herself and her husband.
The big message for any brand in this field is to tread with respect and a firm commitment to delivering real solutions. This consumer is extra wary right now and the best way to keep your brand healthy is to have a sincere interest in helping her do the same.

Throw J.C. Penny a bone. They did it again.

I’m a sucker for a well-done viral video. Especially the customizable ones. You may remember the post about Mom’sRising.org’s truly wonderful Mother’s Day video which remains one of my favorites. I also thought J.C. Penny’s first Doghouse video was pretty funny and worth spreading.

They’ve gotten a bit more savvy this year by allowing you to submit your own man to a review board for his supposed sins.

This is very funny and well-produced. It walks the line of making fun of men without being too vicious (which would be a big mistake) and without making women look like shrews. Which would, of course, be another mistake.

I had to make up stuff about my husband  (yes, he’s wonderful) in order to get the customized video sent his way. We’ll see how it goes. Until then, you might also want to watch yet another really well-done customizable vid.  Hans Rosenhoff sent it my way after seeing my presentation in Stockholm which featured the Mom’s Rising film. This film is in Swedish, but watch it anyway as the production values are great. According to Hans, it’s from the state-owned television company SvT in Sweden. They have a license fee system and in this film they make heroes of the viewers who regularly pay this fee. (Many people don’t.) NPR could use an idea like this.

Would a smart viral film work for your brand?

Marketing Health to Women: when good messages go bad

I just got back from speaking at a great conference in D.C. on Marketing Health Care to Women .  Hence, the Funny Friday video is a couple of days late. However, I can assure you that, like all the best funny stuff, this one taps the truth nerve.  Today I give you Sara Haskin’s take on how big pharma targets women. I’ve worked with many good people  in this industry and I’ve  just met some new ones at this conference. They’re all working hard to create better advertising, but until that happens, a thick skin and a sense of humor is in order.

Funny Friday Video: “Women” Creative Execs

AWNY is the only group I know that is actively trying to do something about the dearth of women in advertising. It’s a serious subject, but this is a damn funny video. Lee Clow looks great in heels. Who knew?

Time Magazine, “The State of the American Woman” reminds us. Women, know your place.

In honor of the Time magazine cover story on the how women are more powerful and less happy, a funny reminder of how far we’ve come. Yet how so much remains the same if only we were honest.