The Secrets of MARKETING TO WOMEN

Article excerpt

Companies can't sit back the way they once did and expect to do business as usual and still keep their female customer base.

IF THERE'S ONE motto I'd like to see on every desk (corporate or home office), it is EVEolution EVEryday. It would serve as a reminder that the concept of marketing to women is something that should be held up as a benchmark for virtually all business decisions made today.

It was through my marketing consultancy that I began to realize how neglected the female market truly is. On the one hand, I watched as the statistics that tracked women's economic power kept going through the roof. On the other, I would sit in meeting after meeting of the Fortune 500 where women were constantly described as a "niche market," "segment," or "special interest group." Beyond being insulting, it simply isn't true. How could women be considered a sliver of the market when:

* They buy or influence the purchase of 80% of all consumer goods, including major car purchases. Women actually buy 50% of all cars sold.

* Females purchase 51% of all consumer electronics. I am not just talking toaster ovens. This includes half of the personal computers. Surprising to many, today's young generation of girls is edging slightly ahead of their male counterparts in amount of time spent online. Even more startling, women over 55 are the fastest-growing group on the Net.

* Women influence 80% of all family health care decisions and buy 75% of all over-the-counter drugs. They are the ones who know how to mix and match herbal remedies, vitamins, and minerals. The issue is control--of bodies and selves.

* The most powerful symbol of economic clout--stock ownership--shows that 48% of investors in the stock market are female. Half of all women own mutual funds in their own name. These numbers are growing rapidly. Just peek into any Fidelity center and see who is standing on line, checks in hand.

* In families where both spouses work, the wives out-earn their husbands in 22.7% of these households. Women head 40% of those households with assets of over $600,000.

* There are more than 9,000,000 female-owned businesses in the U.S., generating 3.6 trillion dollars in annual revenues. "Niche" market, indeed.

Even when businesses come to realize that they should be marketing to women, another question quickly arises: How to market to them? Is this a big problem? I call it a huge opportunity.

Besides the overwhelming economic reality, there is a second reason that EVEolutionary marketing is so critically important to the marketplace. It's the biological one. Women are different from men--very different. Like all the great truths, it is simple, but complex. The point is that females process information differently because their brains are wired differently. They hear, acquire, and use language in their own way, which accounts for the fact that girls generally speak earlier than boys, articulate their feelings more easily, and see themselves more as links, not as loners.

This isn't merely idle patter. It is wild in its implications, yet a subject that rarely comes up in any marketing plan or strategy session. That is not so surprising. Tell a marketer that he needs to develop a program based on the neurological differences between women and men, and he will get a panicked look in his eye.

EVEolution can turn that blink of panic into a depth of prosperity. Women have greater economic traction than ever before, and they can't be approached by using the same traditional strategies that have worked with men. So, what's next? How does a brand, service, or company turn its business around and become more relevant to the women who will decide its fate?

Remarkably, perhaps even shockingly, this subject has been virtually ignored by writers and business journalists. This has been one of the biggest business gaps (and gaffes) of the last 10 years. …