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Are You Missing the (Marketing) Boat?

by Renee Fellows

Renee Fellows

May 9, 2006—Marketing to women is hot. Really. According to a recent survey, women control a spending power of approximately $85 million in consumer purchases and influence over 95% of total goods and service purchases. That’s some significant clout. And what’s even more shocking is that until the late 1990’s women were primarily targeted as domestic experts and mothers hipping babies and toting diaper bags. Today marketers are flocking to advertising channels trying to gain a piece of the over $7 trillion (yes, I said TRILLION) dollar total market spending that they control. But are they really considering the best way to approach and capture this audience?

Choose a smart marketing strategy versus a women’s marketing strategy. I specifically used the word audience above and not market for this very point. Remember that there is no real ‘women’s market’ there’s just your market. If women are a major constituent in your target audience no differently than if tweens or Baby Boomers were in your target, you’ll need to develop clear and consistent messaging to engage, service, and meet their needs to keep them returning time and again to your business. The competition stands at the ready to usurp your clients, are you prepared to keep them?

That being said, I will now step off my soapbox and provide a few tips on how to adequately tackle this powerhouse of spending. There are a few do’s and don’ts of marketing theory that you should consider especially when addressing the feminine persuasion.


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Treat women with respect. That isn’t some flashback statement from the 1950’s but basic common business sense. All potential customers should receive your utmost respect, but bear in mind that women will instantly drop your brand and worse yet, tell six of their friends about their negative experience. First and foremost, women command and deserve our respect for their keen sense of shrewd decision making and power spending. Women are no longer viewed as some small niche market like say, affluent men who smoke cigars and like yachting. Today women represent a full-fledged 52% of the U.S. marketplace buying more than 50% of what was once traditionally viewed as male-dominated purchases including electronics, cars, and computers. If those numbers don’t earn your respect nothing will.

Make budgeting for marketing efforts a priority. If you’re truly serious about attracting women in your marketing efforts, you and your key staff need to be committed to the strategy and goals. Like any target market, do your homework and research the audience before you spend a single ad dollar. Don’t just assume that all women will respond well to pink as a matter of fact, don’t use pink at all unless you’re promoting a breast cancer benefit and frilly font faces in your marketing materials. Marketing to women is about understanding how they think, what they need to make their lives easier, better and more efficient and most importantly, how your product or service responds to their unique needs. Set a plan into motion that includes how you will reach out to women, answer their questions and concerns, and direct your advertising dollars to speak to them.

Consumer behavior is key. The most strategic way to target any audience is to inherently understand its members’ behaviors, trends, and underlying motivations for the decisions they make. Women, like men, can be better identified and segmented by their interests and personal identities, e.g., mother, scrapbooker, business owner, interested in foreign travel. Learn as much as you can by using focus groups and survey tools. If you’re on a limited budget (what small business owner isn’t?) try customer feedback via your web site, comment cards included with a purchase, and mini focus groups where you invite your frequent flyer customers into your store or business for a special members only event. Make your guests fully aware that you’re motivation is to learn from them and provide as many incentives as necessary to encourage a great turnout. Once you’ve gotten them to attend the event, be welcoming and then listen. I mean really listen for problems that need solutions, customer service wishes, their passions and interests and what is truly important. Now you’re on the road to shaping a strategic message and strategy for this audience.

Be prepared to answer questions – lots of questions. Radio Shack recently reinvented itself as the technology store that wasn’t afraid of answering questions with the ‘You’ve Got Questions – We’ve Got Answers’ campaign. Their whole premise for the effort was to make customers feel that it was OK to not know the answers to technology questions, that technology was complicated, and that Radio Shack stands ready help. How reassuring is that? While men seek answers with concise and limited questioning, the opposite species wants to make informed, educated decisions based on in-depth investigation. Be patient and understand that the questions aren’t a method for slowly driving you insane, but rather a different style of mental processing. Which leads me to my next point.

Women do think differently than men. Piles of articles and millions of dollars in research studies later and what have we discovered? Women are different than men. Sound the trumpets! While men tend to be more abrupt and single process-oriented than women, a man may ask one or two pointed questions to gather information while a woman will relay her personal experiences in order to feel assured that you fully understand her position, rationale, and decision making process. To effectively engage the female demographic, your strategy will need to communicate the value and benefits of your product versus its features. You’ll also want to direct your energies on developing messaging that answers her concerns with your product or services.

The web isn’t just for geeks anymore. Women have become the majority of web users (surprised?). According to the U.S. Census (2000) the Web now touts a 51% female user base with almost one-half of first time web purchases made by women. The convenience of online shopping, delivery right to the doorstep and access to research are key factors in their preferences. What should your business do to attract women online? First and foremost, depict women using your product or service. While this may seem like a basic assumption, you’d be amazed at how many web sites have no photos at all on their sites. These sites don’t engage anyone never mind women. People need to relate to the online shopping experience and women need to feel that the company has an emotional commitment to meeting their needs. By the nature of the process, online shopping is more distant and unengaged than shopping at the mall. Your job as an online business is to expand that gap with personality, imagery and messaging that speaks directly to your visitor. Web sites like are written by women for women and cover topics ranging from dating to child rearing, business ownership to shopping. guru and owner, Patrick Bryne shaped his entire online overstock merchandise outlet around a female demographic with strategic advertising of the O-Girl. While you may not need to build your entire strategy around women, consider some of his tactics as they are shrewd to say the least.

Opt-in for better results. Use online tools to expand your reach. Offer to send emails to friends on areas of the site that interest the visitor, craft email reminders when key items go on sale or create newsletters featuring topics that they have previously shown an interest. Use online surveys and blogs as a window into your female target’s inner most wishes for your brand. Offer special coupon promotions to frequent web buyers and even venture into Podcasting and cell phone text messaging of sales and promotions for those that opt-in. Never, never abuse her email address or the sanctity of personal information as it will negate any efforts you make ten fold. The technology exists, now you must decide how to best include it in your own business model.

If you’d like to learn more about ways to expand your current marketing strategy to attract the single largest growing audience, give us a call. We’re happy to discuss marketing and community relations campaigns that will help grow your business.

Renee Fellows is principal and owner of ClearPoint Marketing Communications, a freelance creative agency located in Derry, NH. She works with small to medium-sized businesses to build solid branding and marketing communications efforts that achieve winning results. She can be reached by calling (603) 434-9433 or via email at


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