7/27/14 • Five Ways Your Business Can Effectively Reach Women

As posted in The Gaston Gazette:

(7/27/14) BELMONT, N.C. –  In one of our columns last summer, we discussed why it’s important for businesses to reach women. We noted that women hold nearly half of the nation’s wealth, control more than 80 percent of household purchases and most household budgets and live longer than men.

Although these statistics suggest that businesses of all stripes should reach out to women, business owners don’t always understand how to do so effectively. Some think that, if their product appeals to both genders, they can use exactly the same marketing tactics to reach both genders.

But reaching women takes a particular kind of know-how.

Here’s a list of marketing tips that will earn you both the attention and respect of female customers.

  • Use more words. According to Louann Brizendine, founder and director of the University of California, San Francisco’s Women’s Mood and Hormone Clinic and author of The Female Brain, women use approximately three times more words per day than men – about 20,000 words to men’s 7,000. Women are putting a great deal more information into the world that they then pass along to the people around them. In other words, women have an eight-lane superhighway for processing information and language and its associated emotion that travels to all of the people women come into contact with. Business owners can tap into that superhighway by speaking women’s language. A campaign that is both language- and information-rich is more likely to appeal to women than one that’s sparse.
  • Use the right words. A 2009 study of 6,000 women called “Women in the Digital Domain” conducted in partnership with Ogilvy & Mather Chicago, Mindshare and Microsoft Advertising found that 91 percent of women feel marketers and advertisers don’t understand them. So, while using more words is important, make sure those words are honest, authentic and precise. Just because women talk more doesn’t mean they want to listen to filler; they want to hear thoughtful, well-researched and compelling information. They also want language that evokes pathos; emotion-laden words that often resonate with women are words like caring, kind, compassionate, helpful and friendly. So, as you flesh out your language to connect with women consumers, choose your words carefully.
  • Scrap the pretty pictures and the color pink. Too often, business owners and even marketing and advertising firms think they can catch any woman’s attention by peppering their campaign collateral, their commercials and their marketing tools with pretty pictures of smiling women and the color pink. Although this is sometimes successful – think Victoria’s Secret or Susan G. Komen – it won’t always work. That’s because some women out there consider this kind of marketing to be offensive because they think it plays to the stereotype that women are drawn primarily to the aesthetic. According to Deborah Tannen, author of You Just Don’t Understand: Men and Women In Conversation, women seek out connection, closeness and understanding. It’s difficult to convey that you as a business owner understand that message if you target women with what is viewed by some as a stereotype. So, as you refine the language you use to appeal to female customers, also refine your visual rhetoric: develop graphics and images that convey connection, closeness and understanding in new and innovative ways, and play with your color palette, because there are more colors than pink.
  • Listen. In her essay “Tell Me More: On the Fine Art of Listening,” journalist Brenda Ueland writes about why listening is so desirable. People who really listen, she said, “are the ones we move toward, and want to sit in their radius.” We all know there’s tremendous power in listening, but listening well as a business owner is about more than just giving women the opportunity to share their opinions. Women desire active and compassionate listening – listening that makes careful changes based on their feedback. This not only helps to establish the connection, closeness and understanding that women seek, but it also gives women time to consider their options, to factor in the “what ifs,” and to make an educated decision – all processes they value.
  • Adopt the characteristics of feminine power. Faith Popcorn, futurist and CEO of the BrainReserve, did a study that predicts “she-change,” a shift in the way that society views feminine power. Essentially, Popcorn says characteristics once thought solely to be the province of women will be adopted as best practices in business and society. As a business owner, you can do more than just adopt these techniques: you can adopt the mindset of women, where power is seen as something that grows as people are bound more closely together, not as something to be held over another’s head. In other words, with women, it’s power with not power over. In the long run, this will give your business an advantage in the global marketplace.

It’s long been business practice to use men as the standard measure, but as we’ve illustrated, reaching women is one of the best ways to have a profound influence on all of your customer demographics. Although some believe that appealing to women drives men away, the opposite is true: when you meet the high “tough customer” threshold that women hold, you meet men’s as well. Find a way to effectively communicate with women and earn their trust, and you’ll earn the trust of your male customers, too.

Elaine and Melia Lyerly share their 35+ years of marketing, advertising, public relations and brand strategy experience with readers each month in a column published by The Gaston Gazette. See this month’s edition at http://bit.ly/1xwP0dv.