A Woman’s World? The Business Case for Tailoring Your Marketing and Sales Efforts to Women
According to a September 2009 Harvard Business Review article, the economic collapse of 2008 actually created opportunity for females: female income worldwide became greater than China and India’s GDP combined, and this gap this gap was projected to continue to widen. In his 2010 book “The Buying Brain: Secrets for Selling to the Subconscious Mind”, A.K. Pradeep points out that in the recession of 2008, men made up 82 per cent of layoffs, while more women kept their jobs. For the first time in history, more women than men were working full time, a trend that continued to this day. Selling specifically to women, suddenly, becomes a lot more important — what are they paying attention to and assessing, differently than men? What catches their eye specifically? How do our existing sales tactics have to be modified or altered to attract and persuade women?
She’s Likely a ‘CPO’ at Work and at Home
Marti Barletta, CEO and founder of The TrendSight Group, a specialist in marketing to women, has dubbed women the chief purchasing officers or ‘CPOs’ of both home and office. Not only do women earn more than ever before, they have always controlled about 80 per cent of the domestic spending and 60 per cent of the formalized corporate spending in such roles as buyers and purchasing agents. Considering that executive assistants, office managers and human resources managers also make purchasing decisions every day, the figure is closer to 80 per cent in the corporate world as well.
In the words of sales guru, Zig Ziglar, “I have always said that everyone is in sales. Maybe you don’t hold the title of salesperson, but if the business you are in requires you to deal with people, you, my friend, are in sales.” So how do we successfully sell our products, our ideas, our services to women? I turn to social cognitive neuroscience for some answers.
Making Brain Science Useful for Sales People and Marketers
Use ‘We’ Language
Males prefer to organize socially in a hierarchy, while females like to organize horizontally. So, when it comes to the language of marketing or selling, men generally want to hear about pecking order, individual agency, individual accomplishment, and autonomy, whereas women prefer to hear about togetherness, group harmony, and the benefits of a product or service for the greater good. If a product speaks to these needs, as well as to the benefit of whatever you’re offering for the woman herself, her peer group, her organization, her neighbourhood, her family, her community and her company, she is much more likely to appreciate and purchase your offerings.
At the same time, most women like to be considered personally, and therefore at the individual level (after all, she’s asking the WIIFM question too). The more you can demonstrate the direct benefits she will receive, while also addressing her pro-social agenda, the more likely she will be to purchase whatever you are offering. Females prefer reciprocal (ask questions), collaborative (mention how you’ll achieve something together), community-based (provide evidence that the group will benefit, too) language. Slogans like: “Let’s put an end to unproductive team meetings, together”, “Couldn’t we all benefit from fluid group dynamics at work?”, “Isn’t it time for some togetherness?”
Use Collaborative, Community-Oriented Visuals
When it comes to a choice of visuals or advertising creative, it makes sense to show interacting groups, women speaking together and multiples interacting in productive and harmonious ways. While men are more prone to favoring visual processing, women are also visual creatures: pair your pro-social, community-based visuals with “we” language, and you’re much more likely to attract the female buyer.
Avoid the use of images that depict a woman alone. This raises a female’s worst fear: ostracism from her support network, her community and her peer group. A woman wants to see evidence of the experience she and her peers are likely to receive with your product or service. She wants to visualize collaborative productivity, amicable interactions, a memorable event, lubricated social dynamics in her life.
Choose Media that Encourages Dialogue and Discussion
Johanna Blakley, the managing director of research at the Norman Lear Center in California, has an interest in social media and gender. She has discovered that not only are most Facebook, YouTube and Twitter users female, they also spend a disproportionate amount of time on such sites compared with men. Women appreciate marketing media that allows them a voice and fosters dialogue. They take it as a sign of good faith that an organization or company is willing to hear from them, learn from them and incorporate their feedback into its production and marketing. Women are particularly good at noticing nuance and detail and don’t particularly like marketing or sales tactics that is overt and challenging (“Limited time offer”), or threatening (“Don’t wait”). Gone are the days that traditional media are enough on their own to drive female purchase intent. Not only is she looking for a customized, personalized experience with your brand, service, product, offering; but she’ll appreciate the dialogue that comes with use of social, mobile, and digital media.
Appeal to Her with a Multi-Layered Message
Because women have a larger set of neurons connecting the two neural hemispheres, they make good parallel processors who can appreciate both logic and emotion simultaneously. Don’t shy away from either of these in your marketing creative, copy, or messaging — use both! Contrary to earlier thinking, women do not singularly prefer emotionally laden messages. Studies show that women seem to respond most favorably to messages that include both logic and emotive content, engaging both hemispheres of the brain. In fact, that the female brain is a more ‘emotional’ one, is a long outdated notion, especially when we remember that states of anger, fear, threat detection, frustration, yelling, boisterousness are all distinctly ‘emotional’.
In a classic series of advertisements, Mastercard successfully combined numbers and common sense with emotion: “Tickets: $46. Hot dogs, popcorn, sodas: $27. Autographed baseball: $50. Real conversation with your 11-year-old son? Priceless.” Using language that speaks to both hemispheres of a woman’s brain and acknowledging her as a complex thinker with multiple life roles (executive, mother, partner, volleyball teammate) will surely increase female attention and purchase intent.
Brand and Product Messaging Should be Dependable and Consistent
Women are described as natural providers, complex and avant-garde in their thinking, great strategic planners, able to consider multiple things at once, wonderful ‘rememberers’ of all things, especially when it comes to sourcing the best products, goods and services for herself, her family, or her organization. This is why she really likes brands, products, services and brand messaging (or provider ‘promises’) to be consistent. The perception is, that if your message lacks consistency, it lacks reliability, credibility, and trustworthiness, and therefore so do you.
In great news, this means you don’t need to re-invent the wheel, overwhelm her with rebranding initiatives, perpetually come up with new messaging, or constantly overhaul your visual content. If you are good to her, previously preferred by her, committed to her, so will she be to you: she doesn’t need you to change drastically or continually, in fact quite the opposite. The temptation in business to innovate, revamp, rebrand, re-do is all too prevalent, and it turns out not to work in the longer term, as it trains your consumer to distrust you, to continually re-evaluate you, and then to make new buying decisions.
Women are looking for your commitment to value and quality, brand consistency and adherence to your brand and product/service promise. Remember, women enjoy value and reward reciprocity. If you alter your branding, messaging, or offerings too much or too often, she’ll write you off as unreliable, inconsistent, uncommitted to her and her purchasing needs or, at worse, a fraud. As with everything in business and life — stay true to your core competencies, stick with your core brand promise and messaging, and she’ll reward your dependability, consistency and commitment to her reciprocally.