Proving the Worth of Women's Marketing: ROI and Other Measurement Strategies

Marketing to Women: Addressing Women and Women's Sensibilities, March 2004 | Go to article overview

Proving the Worth of Women's Marketing: ROI and Other Measurement Strategies


There are several issues that can make measuring the return-on-investment (ROI) for women's marketing programs a challenge, say marketers. While measurement is in theory gender-neutral, many companies don't have systems in place to flag whether a customer is female or male, which means marketers have to find other ways of tracking results. The question of what to compare women's programs with--general market programs or "niche" programs--is also an important consideration.

Choosing The Right Benchmark

Many companies compare results of women's marketing programs against those of general-market programs, even though they operate quite differently. Laura Hnatow of Imago Creative (formerly Brown Design), a marketing agency that focuses on female consumers, says that if a company must use a general-market effort as a benchmark for a female-targeted campaign, the benchmark should be looked at directionally, in terms of "positive versus negative, rather than expecting the same percentages of increase to apply." But really, unless the company has been doing targeted marketing aimed at men, there isn't a clear parallel for comparison, says Hnatow. Programs geared to other specific groups, such as Hispanic consumers, may be used as benchmarks, but specific characteristics of female consumers can make even these comparisons tricky.

"[Women] will likely spend more time researching, consult[ing] others, and weigh[ing] the effect her decision has on others [before] mov[ing] ahead. This can result in a slower appearance in the bottom line," cautions Anne Bernstein of Broad Based Marketing, a female-focused marketing consultancy. "One essential to combat this is to manage expectations up front--setting the parameters for a longer cycle."

Julie Garella of McColl Garella, whose company specializes in helping women business owners raise investment capital and sell their businesses, concurs: "I think that's probably where a lot of [marketers] fall down in their strategy with women. They want [to see a return] and they want it now--and that doesn't work [in the women's market]. The larger the item, the bigger the risk involved in making the decision. The more important the relationship is [to the female prospect], the longer it takes to build it on the front end."

In some cases, ROI appears to be simply the wrong terminology to describe measurement tools and strategies. For instance, Michael Streefland of iVillage describes his media company's measurement as "Return on Objective." "If an advertiser comes to iVillage and is looking to reach women, we work with them to determine what their tangible objective is. Do they want to increase brand awareness? Do they want to increase trial purchase? Do they need consumers to sign up for remarketing efforts? Over the years, tools have been developed to help us measure these 'ROO' variables."

At Oppenheimer Funds, tracking of women's efforts (which focus on investment seminars and other educational programs) takes the form of PR measurement. "We look at the publications, the amount of space given to us, and the frequency. We place a dollar value on what it would cost us to advertise in that publication or on that particular show.... Last year, we received ... free press that would have cost us millions in advertising," says Oppenheimer's Jennifer Bosco, adding that her company also tracks the success of its programs through feedback from its financial advisors.

Overcoming Measurement Hurdles

Many of the marketers with whom MTW spoke began by saying that in theory measuring ROI for women's programs wasn't any different from measuring it on any other effort, but that in most cases there were practical hurdles to overcome. One is the simple lack of identifying information to flag a customer as female in a company's databases.

"The reality is that many clients don't have the ability in their systems to track results on a gender basis," says Vanessa Freytag of women's marketing consultancy W-Insight.

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