Puzzle Me This: Connecting Women to One Another, Part 1

Remember those huge 1,000-piece puzzles you used to put together with your family around the holidays? The ones where there seemed to be miles of cloud-free blue sky, a few scattered patches of sailboats, and a beach scene in one corner? How, pray tell, were you supposed to begin accomplishing such a feat? But you figured it out, didn’t you?

Well, since we know that one of the keys to marketing to women is connecting them to one another, your latent puzzle expertise should come in handy.

Pulling together small groups of women around shared interests and then helping them expand their groups will result, eventually, in those many separate groups interlocking at their outermost borders to form even bigger groups. At a certain point, those groups will merge to form the “women’s market” master puzzle — but I doubt we will ever get there completely in our lifetimes. Up for the challenge?

First, I’ll discuss the idea of connecting women to one another on the smaller scale and how smaller groups of people with mutual interests can develop into powerful large networks. In two weeks, I’ll take a look at some of the larger women’s community Web sites and explore their successes, and failures, in connecting women to one another.

With an ideally presented product or service, the connecting of women to one another is bound to start without much effort from you. Remember my article on the cheese puff phenomenon? I shared how my friends and I bonded over the taste of “Cheese Puff Bakes” with zero outside connection to the brand — other than that we had noticed them (organically made, organically branded) on the aisles of our local food co-op.

Take note: If women are already buzzing about the product or service you offer, the marketing puzzle will solve itself in no time.

Let’s examine the business/cottage industry of Cheryl Richardson, a “life coach” and author of “Life Makeovers.” Unless you’ve been under a rock, you know that coaching is an extremely hot topic right now. The market for such self-help books, especially for women, is tremendous, and Cheryl has perfected her approach.

Why do we care? Cheryl likely started as just a regular old coach in a typical town like yours, but her business has had explosive growth, mainly as a result of connecting women to one another around her brand. As in many cases of self-promotional success in the self-help arena, Cheryl began with one book, started an e-newsletter, wrote another book, and appeared on “Oprah” as an expert. This all meant that lots of women started talking about her methods and wanted to become involved somehow.

Of course, Cheryl has a Web site and an e-newsletter, but she also hosts bridge phone calls and retreats with groups of her readers and has branded her life-makeover groups. She has mastered keeping her name or her latest book title front and center, all the while empowering women to empower themselves by connecting with one another around shared experiences and concerns. This cottage industry, also known as “Cheryl Richardson,” is a self-perpetuating brand builder’s dream.

Fastcompany.com and Fast Company magazine’s global readers’ network, called “Company of Friends,” are further examples of connecting people to one another around similar interests in a way that reflects positively on the brand.

The technology Fast Company developed for this networking tool gets people meeting and sharing in small groups first and then provides a fairly adaptable framework through which to grow the conversation group or form new breakaway groups. I visualize, in the puzzle of my mind, a little yellow blob of people connecting in Seattle, a bigger red blob of people connecting in New York, a teeny green blob of people connecting in Rotterdam, and a slightly larger purple blob getting together online in Barcelona. All of these interconnecting “pieces” may be discussing different topics, but one thing is for sure: “Company” members appreciate the brand that pulled them together into a colorful, zillion-part master puzzle.

As the marketing geniuses I know you all are, you should be continually exploring ways to identify missing pieces that will ease connectivity among women consumers. Keep them talking, and help them put their own puzzle pieces together around your brand.

Now, what of those top online women’s-interest sites we keep reading about in these slow times? Are they powerful, well-connected, ever-developing seashore puzzles (you’ve noticed my water and sailboat subtheme), or dusty and complex cityscapes with stunted growth and missing pieces?

We’ll take a look next time.

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