Marketing to women begins after the sale

I wish I had said that. I found it in a great blog I just discovered by Holly Buchanan.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

After reflecting on the Super Bowl ads this year, I was struck with how dumb so many of them were. One of the dumbest, by the way, was the Inferno video game ad… featuring a breathtakingly beautiful woman who seduces a would-be rescuer, who then swirls to the depths of the inferno to defend her. Guy bait. The original final tag, which probably got voted out by a couple of sensible women on the committee, was “Go to Hell.”

In my own comments on the Dodge Charger ad , I mentioned how insulting that whole spot was to women… and really to men as well. What, I’m supposed to feel henpecked because I eat healthy, shave, listen to my wife, or carry her lip balm (not that she’s ever asked me to). Give me a break. What I learned from living with 5 women (one wife and 4 intelligent, sensitive daughters) is that women want shared understanding. They like to express themselves, and they aren’t satisfied unless they feel heard. Here’s an example of the daily tutelage I gained:

or, native male stupidity on the female need for understanding

This is an iPhoto snapshot of a photo I keep framed  in my office. We were having our picture taken, and some direction I had offered to Lydia, my youngest had struck her as a tad insulting. Something like that. So Shelley, her bigger sister, is giving “that look” … “How could you be so insensitive, dad?” Meanwhile Emily, Becky, and Beth are saying to themselves, “He really IS from Mars, isn’t he?”

So back to Holly and her article on marketing to women. She points out that “women have a more deliberate decision-making process.” Boys are simple. Sex and cars. (please don’t flame me for exaggerating) šŸ™‚  Women often want to know what we’re doing to make the world better. (please don’t flame me for stereotyping!) šŸ™‚ But seriously, as Holly Buchanan points out, women are more risk averse, more cautious, I would say more practical and more empathetic. They are better at thinking through how this thing we’re considering would work for them, for their children, and yes, for the man of the house too. They’ll also consider its impact for good or ill on the neighbors. Women are wired for empathy, and men need a lifelong relationship with a woman or two to even start thinking that way.

While I could get in trouble for making impulsiveness a gender issue, my experience makes me think that it is. My gut says that men tend to go with either the high or low bidder out of ego-driven impulses. It follows the economic wiring of the guy: is he the type who is proud of how much he paid, or proud of how little he paid? Either way, it’s an ego thing. I’m sure some women have similar tendencies… but their reasons tend to be more complicated than simply the prestige of price or the satisfaction of savings. They want to know how it will wear, how versatile it is, whether there’s a place for it in the garage.

Shopping for me has always been something I prefer to do alone, rather than run the gauntlet of my wife and kids’ questioning of every buy. They are all terrific shoppers … value conscious, frugal, and with tremendous delayed-gratification instincts. They can thank me for that, of course… I’ve never provided enough for them to get to splurge. I’m the one who is much more likely to drown his sorrows in a shopping spree. Always had pretty much the camera I wanted or the computer I “needed”. And I suspect that I’m not the only guy in the forest who acts that way.

Another distinction I think Holly correctly makes is that women tend to value transparency more than men. She says, “One of the most important things that defines your brand in the eyes of women is how you handle mistakes and address concerns/objections.” An example from my business experience: when my first business failed after 9 years, the guy who was running it had not admitted any fault … and he wanted me to sign a non-compete before he would agree to buy the video assets at a discount.

It was weird, really. I hired him for fiscal management; he runs it into the ground without telling me. Yet he doesn’t trust me when I offer to let him buy the assets in a fire sale. Bottom line, I still trusted him; my wife and (female) bookkeeper did not. They saw that his lack of transparency was evidence of lack of trustworthiness on his part.

In hindsight I was suffering from a common male problem: I couldn’t admit that my judgment had been bad all along. By agreeing to his “deal”, and disregarding my wife’s correct intuition, I put our family through the greatest trial of all our lives … because sure enough, he defaulted on the purchase and other promises, and I was left with all the debt that had been run up under his management. It took me 7 long years to emerge solvent again.

But I did gain one thing: I learned to trust feminine intuition … the fair sex’s demand for transparency in all business dealings, and their nose for who to trust and who to walk away from.

And then there’s the issue of loyalty. As Holly points out, women are much more tuned to the faithfulness of a brand. The character behind the claims. I can’t improve on what she says:

Loyalty is a two-way street for women.    The best way for you to show your loyalty to her is in your behavior AFTER the sale.

I love my dentist for many reasons, but one of the main ones is that he genuinely cares.   I had some oral surgery ā€“ and that night he called me at 9 pm to see how I was doing.  Not an assistant -him ā€“ the owner of  the practice.   He was clearly at home, but wanted to check in on me.  We will be together until Iā€m in dentures.

My cleaning service calls once a month to ask specific questions about the performance of their employees and my satisfaction with the service.

My favorite clothing store regularly invites me to special nights open to loyal customers only where I get to enjoy a special reception, see the brand new styles and get a valued customer discount not available to the regular public.  Once, when I was in there, the clerk told me to hold off buying the blouse I wanted until the next day because it was going to go on sale for half-price.  How cool was that!

Degrees of empathy, impulsiveness, loyalty, feature-shopping rigor, desire for transparency. These are the major fault-lines where distinctions can be observed between men and women in the marketplace.