Recently, I spoke to a group of business owners about how men and women make buying decisions very differently. I told this kind-of-funny story about the couple shopping for a BMW 540i: After months of research, this particular couple finally found their dream car. Striding into the dealership they knew within a few short hours they’d be leaving with 3,000 pounds of fine German steel.
The husband jumped behind the wheel, the salesman rode shotgun. They talked torque and performance engineering. So far, so good. The test drive was going fantastically. But then the wife, sitting in the back, noticed something that really bothered her. It seemed so trivial, but the more she thought about it the more it bugged her. So, wincing inwardly at the scorning that was likely going to come from the front seat, she asked the sales person, “So, what’s up with the cup holders?”
The salesperson shot her a pitiful stare. “They’re right there.”
“Yes,” she replied, “but they’re so tiny. And those claws look flimsy. There’s no way they’d actually hold a coffee mug.”
Deathly silence from the front seat. Her husband did his best to keep a straight face.
“Well, that’s because Europeans don’t eat or drink in their cars,” the salesman retorted curtly.
“Yes, but I do,” the wife insisted. “And so do my kids.”
Another irritated look from the salesman, “Well, you could just hold your drinks between your legs.”
The salesman went home that day with only moths in his wallet. And the husband and wife team went home without their new car, although theirs was only a temporary set back.
After doing some research online, they found the pathetic cup holders were a common complaint of many BMW owners. The answer was to buy an attachment to fix the problem. Happy to have a solution to their problem, the husband and wife team went back to a different dealership and this time, came home with their new Beamer.
You’re not alone if you’re reading this thinking that it sounds pretty stupid that a $50,000 deal could be blown because of some flimsy cup holders. But the car salesman made the very common (and very costly) mistake of assuming that the woman didn’t have any say in the buying decision. According to the most recent statistics, not only do most women influence 80% of all car purchases, they also buy the majority of cars (including trucks).
Welcome to the New Economy my friend. There are two sexes in the human race and only one of them does most of the shopping.
Women account for 85% of all consumer purchases
91% of new homes 66% computers 92% vacations 80% healthcare decisions 89% bank accounts 93% food 90% insurance, investments and retirement accounts
(Percentages of women that participate in decisions affecting their household’s retirement and investment accounts.)
Women also are the biggest online consumers. 22% of women shop online at least once a day.
Source: Mindshare/Ogilvy & Mather
But, here’s the rub.
Most marketing is aimed squarely at the male consumer, even though it’s women who make most of the buying decisions. Even for products considered traditionally for men like deodorant, men’s clothing, and yes, even your 6.6L V8 turbo-diesel Duramax truck.
As a marketer, here’s what’s most important for you to realize: women make buying decisions very differently from men. Women prefer practical benefits to features. They don’t care how many settings a freezer has – they want to know if it’s big enough to store frozen pizza. Men on the other hand, tend to love features.
Women are story driven. They want to feel a connection, empathy, with the company they are buying from. Telling the story of a business or a product becomes a very powerful sales tool. Men on the other hand, are more influenced by facts and figures. Give me the info and I’ll make the decision. Women want to know who you are first and foremost before deciding whether they’ll buy from you. Stories are also very powerful when selling to men, but typically to demonstrate outcome.
For women, it’s much more about the relationship. Does what you’re offering work for the kids? The rest of the family?
These are just a couple of critical differences you need to take into account when you’re creating your marketing. More and more big companies are realizing who holds the purse strings and are scrambling to change their marketing, and their businesses, to accommodate it. Lexus offers free massages while your car is being serviced, and a local rescue repair team in case of breakdown. Ryland Homes completely changed their floor model so the back yard could be viewed from the kitchen and all living spaces.
Marketing to women is not about excluding men. It’s about gaining a deeper understanding of your target market and, specifically, how to make your marketing message strike a chord and spur action from a prospect, whether they’re XX or XY chromosome.
Avoid marketing strategy that relies on clichés or stereotypes. A direct mail piece in a pink envelope won’t win you new female customers. Ad campaigns that speak exclusively to men will alienate women, and vice versa. Aim instead for gender-neutral design and packaging like Apple’s. Steer clear of insults, don’t oversimplify consumer preferences, and avoid generalizations about your customers.
Increasing your market share involves designing marketing pieces that appeal to both sexes. Set out to create a marketing campaign that speaks to both men and women.