Women influence well over two-thirds of all consumer purchases in the U.S.—and perhaps even more when the economy tanks and households tighten their budgets. Simply put, women wield incredible purchasing power, according to Yvonne DiVita, president of Windsor Media Enterprises and author of several books on the topic of marketing to women.
That Clinton and Palin reshaped the presidential races and public discussion this year is yet another indicator of women’s rising power and influence. The upshot: This is one macro demographic that marketers and communicators alike can’t afford to alienate. So how can you best reach out to women during these times, what hot buttons do they respond to when it comes to PR campaigns and even communication styles—and what miscues must you avoid at all costs?
We checked with DiVita for a few answers. Considering the title of her book outlining smart marketing tactics for reaching women online, we were pretty sure she’d shoot straight and not hold back. We weren’t disappointed. Her insights start here:
What is the purchasing power of women—how can you quantify it?
Let’s look at some information from Ask Patty!—a website and blog that talks to women about cars: (this information is elsewhere, also, but I think Ask Patty! is a fabulous women’s site to share). Here are some facts on the purchasing power of women: (mind you, I wrote about this in my book, where I call women CEO of home, hearth, garage and backyard—and let’s not forget Dr. Mom!):
Women account for 85% of all consumer purchases, including everything from autos to health care. Specifically, they account for the following percentage of purchases:
• 91% of New Homes
• 66% PCs
• 92% Vacations
• 80% Healthcare
• 65% New Cars
• 89% Bank Accounts
• 93% Food
• 93 % OTC Pharmaceuticals
American women spend about $5 trillion annually—over half the U.S. GDP. Among these women are the vast group we call Mom! In a recent conversation, I mentioned seeing an ad for Fisher-Price toys. "Did you know," my friend said, "that when Fisher-Price began, Herman Fisher was asked how he came up with all those great toys for kids, and he answered, ‘I don’t make toys for kids. I make toys for Moms.’" Even today, when it comes to toddlers and babies, Fisher-Price knows it has to appeal to Moms, first. We want toys that are safe, educational, and fun.
How does will current economic climate impact marketing to women?
It’s interesting how the current economic climate is affecting women—women are worried about finances, about the coming holidays and about being able to take good care of their families. The companies that offer solutions to help women deal with smaller budgets—that offer tips on how to manage this sudden shock, will be the ones women share (we call that viral marketing). Women are eager to connect to big brands on blogs—where they can actually talk to the PEOPLE behind the products. Brands that are willing to open up will cement loyalty in their women customers. Plus, everyone knows that when a woman finds a good buy, she can’t resist sharing. It’s not "show me the money" with women. It’s "show me the people." A blog is a perfect customer service option, and many companies are recognizing that power.
What makes women (a generality, I know) buy?
From my research, and my experiences talking with women all over the U.S.—women buy for other people more than they buy for themselves. So, learn about the holidays women celebrate. Find out where she "hangs out" and listen to her talk. Note that offline women will walk all over the mall, in and out of stores, before taking out their wallets, while online…they will go to favorite sites, trusted sites (usually introduced by their trusted circle of friends, via social networking ) and buy quickly, so they can get back to their daily tasks, like Twittering what they just bought.
Once again, the brands that are engaging women in conversation, and allowing women to create the color or design of the company’s products via online social media tools, are winning favor with women. It also pays to take that experience offline, on a regular basis…I routinely recommend inviting women to a special offline event—something she can bring her friends to—and then, following up with a reach-out online for feedback about how to make the next event even better. Social media is good for this, but so is email.
How are women using social media—which tools are most popular?
Women are all over social media. More women blog than men. More women keep their blogs current than men, and last year, Blogher did a survey among thousands of women, the majority of whom said they would give up newspapers and magazines (and alcohol) before they would give up their blogs. Twitter is now helping women reach new heights. NOW we can talk to each other in 140 character soundbites, all day long. NOW, we can share news, information, shopping tips, Mommy tips, places to go locally and nationally, and ask questions, again…in 140 character sound bites. REAL TIME conversations happen on Twitter, and women are eager to connect with each other in this way—moment to moment, to receive advice, to give advice, to share stories and just to connect. In fact, there’s a new site call TwitterMoms.com that is getting a lot of attention. I use Twitter to keep up to date on conferences I can’t attend. All the women there Twitter the conference, step by step, for me.
How can PR people use those social media channels to reach women?
PR folks need just start Twittering. Be polite. Keep your content focused (inform, educate, entertain, inquire) and women will respond. Learn a little bit more about us by joining the conversations on Twitter or blogs—the REAL conversation. You know, by being relevant to the topic that moment. Don’t pitch! If you have product you think we might like, ASK…don’t TELL. Every time a PR professional emails a woman blogger with a canned pitch, they lose thousands of opportunities because each woman blogger is connected to hundreds of other women bloggers and many of them are Twittering. You’ll become the butt of jokes if you aren’t thoughtful about reaching out to these women. BTW, allow the women to decide how to talk about your product. Give specifics, but don’t dictate. If the conversation is going the wrong way, join in and gently nudge it the right way.
Can you think of an example of a campaign that married online and offline to reach women?
Last year, Method products (environmentally friendly cleaning products) told this story at the Blogher Business Conference: They did not have a budget for TV or magazines. They decided to do a blogger outreach. (BTW, women are the leaders in the green space. Check out Diane MacEachern and The Big Green Purse: http://greenwoman.typepad.com/.)
Method created several Green Houses in cities around the U.S. and invited local bloggers to bring their "bad" cleaning supplies to a Green Party, where they could trade for "good" cleaning supplies. The campaign was a big success. Mind you, there were only a dozen or so women at each "green house," but they blogged about this event and Method got a lot of attention. Women loved it.
Recently, Ford did this, also. The Detroit company invited a select group of bloggers, including a number of women, to visit the Ford plant and learn about new Ford models, to the extent of allowing us to drive the 2009 models.
I was one. And yes, I blogged it. No one told me what to say—this is key. I wrote what I felt. That’s good publicity for Ford. I learned a lot while I was in Detroit, and I now have a new, positive image of Ford.
Your tips for pitching blogs—what do people do right or wrong when pitching you?
It takes more than calling us by name (you can get our name off of our blog in a millisecond). It takes building a relationship. When I get a pitch that starts, "Hey there…" I know it’s a broadcast email, and unlikely that the writer even knows who I am. When I get a PR pitch that starts, "Hi, Yvonne," then proceeds to pitch me off-topic (video games and movies are not bad, lots of women play video games and watch movies, but I do not write much about those topics, unless they are women focused), then I know I’m on a list and the writer doesn’t know who I am.
The best pitches are ones that ASK if I might be interested in the topic, or if I would consider a new book or new product? A polite email asking me if it’s okay to pitch me, before pitching me, goes a long way. Die hard bloggers will Twitter or blog a bad pitch. I have not done so—but I’ve thought about it. So, do contact and make friends with the right bloggers for your products and services. Do not contact bloggers blindly—you will do more damage than good. Bloggers can be an unforgiving group. A good rule is to check the blog you are thinking of pitching, and see if they have guidelines. Many do today.
What do you love most about your work?
Meeting new people, both genders. I learn from my connections, and in response, I often go out of my way to help a newbie. It’s a great world where you can help influence someone’s progress in their business, just by sharing some stories or passing along research (often sent to you by someone else who, after getting to know you, said, "I thought this might interest you."). I tell the world that doing business online isn’t about the technology, or the tools—it’s about the people.
Can you tell me something about you personally (hobby or something) that informs the way you approach your work?
Well, I’ve been a writer since I could hold a pencil. So all of this blogging and Twittering is second nature to me. In my business, I help people who don’t like to write (they have flashbacks of term papers) learn how to reach their customers online effectively, using social media (I teach them how to create an editorial calendar for themselves, along with other tips and tricks). It’s easier than they think, and, at the same time, it’s harder than they think, because writing is only part of it. The truth is most people in business need guidance on how to write in a conversational tone. My background in English literature and creative writing serves me well in that area. And, as many women do, I have an innate desire to see other people succeed. In the world of marketing to women, women shine at helping other women do well. For example, check out this new women entrepreneur’s blog sponsored by the Simon Graduate School of Business: www.webatsimon.com.
I’ve also seen how women respond to presentations that include women—as opposed to men by themselves, who tend to "lecture." The current trust factor that says people "trust others just like me" applies here. That means we aren’t turning off the male viewpoint and we’re not ignoring men, but if a man wants to reach the women’s market today, he should bring a woman on board. At that point, we’ll be sitting up tall, paying more attention because now he’s touched us where it counts: not in our pocketbook, in our heart. I like to quote Harriet Beecher Stowe who said, "Women are the real architects of society." Help us do that and…you win our attention and our trust.