Don’t Just Play One, Be One

The title of this article is, of course, a reference to those old television commercials in which the actor/spokesperson leverages his or her role as a doctor from a drama series into expertise on pain relief, as in: “I’m not a doctor, I just play one on TV.”

I’d like to help speed you on your way from just playing a marketing-to-women expert to actually being one — by earning a Ph.D. in reaching women consumers.

I’ve long since convinced readers that connecting with women consumers is an enormous opportunity, right? And, since you are relatively likely to work for an established business of some sort, focusing on the women’s market will not take a huge capital requirement — you probably already have all the resources you need and simply need to more fully develop them.

So, what are some clues or basics about marketing to women that you can pin up on your bulletin board and study daily?

Midterm Cheat Sheet

Thanks to a fun interview that my colleague Lisa Johnson recently conducted with Vanessa Freytag of W-Insight (based in Cincinnati — no Web site yet), I’ve got a “cheat sheet” for you. It’s a list of the traits shared by reaching-women experts. In a few cases, I’ve thrown in some ways that those traits have been put to use by people in the financial services industry (what I’ve been researching of late). Now, on to those traits:

  • The ability to start with the customer forward (and not from the widget backward). As in: What are the customer’s needs, who are they at this stage in their lives, and how do they want to learn about this product or receive this service? Example: Julia Baran, a financial planner with AXA Advisors LLC, has found true strength in getting women clients comfortable with the information and process long before she signs them up for anything. This is what Julia knows about starting with the customer: “One of the consistent experiences I have with my women clients, regardless of financial savvy, age, or anything else, is that they do NOT want to be rushed into a decision. If you take the time to explain the decision-making process, the forms, timing and information requirements of the transaction itself, and the expected results, and do this all in the context of their goals and concerns, you will get a client for life — and a tremendous referral source.”
  • An orientation toward numbers and the bottom line, yes, but a finger on the pulse of consumer interests as well. True marketing-to-women experts can see the trends in customer needs and interests through the numbers. What good is knowing that 75 percent of your online shoppers abandon their carts at the last minute if you don’t see that the extra two seconds the system takes to finish the transaction is beyond your average consumer’s patience level?
  • Honed creative skills or the willingness to try things that haven’t been done before. Marketing to women is by no means an established science, so take a fresh look at images, copy, and traditional solutions. If you’ve always had “a message from the CEO” on the back of your tri-fold brochure (or on the home page of your Web site), just imagine what “a message from a customer service representative in the trenches” might do for interest.
  • The ability to integrate different aspects of the business for one unified strategy. Example: Integrate customer service like the Women’s Financial Group (WFG) of the Legacy Bank of Texas. Customer service does not end when you walk out the door of the bank’s office. WFG loan officers and executives regularly drive around a three-county area to meet up with customers at any of the main bank’s branches. From the perspective of the corporate bottom line, the successes of WFG affect the final numbers for Legacy Bank, so all staff, WFG or not, are on the same team. Integration at this level significantly and positively affects the customer’s perspective of the service. (For a more thorough profile of WFG, see my article in ReachWomen’s most recent newsletter.)
  • Authenticity. In the product or service realm, women look for and respond to a more personal voice in marketing materials or from a customer service representative; a sincere interest in spending time with women; and the ability to truly listen. They notice how long you are able to meet with them and how applicable your suggestions are. Women respond to people with whom they can communicate like friends.

Thesis Topic

Of all the experts and practitioners I’ve talked with for this and other articles, one thing comes up over and over: You have to start from a place of passion for truly helping women, no matter what your product or service.

Whether you’re solving their stove-cleaning issues, helping them to save time at the office, or advising them to plan for their retirement, women expect that you not simply play the part of a caring customer service representative or marketing executive (like on TV). You have to be one in real life.

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