Saturday, January 5, 2013

Beyond the Pink: Taking Hold of the New "Sheconomy"

re: women- influence growing in all segments- how can you TAP into it?

by Tammy de Leeuw
Blended Marketing Grand Poohbah

If you're a male business owner looking for more clients and you continue to be transaction focused (as opposed to relationship-based), I have some news for you...

The women are coming!

Consider for a moment these statistics recently published in TIME magazine:

  • Women now hold about HALF of all non-farm jobs in the United States
  • They own nearly one third of all companies
  • 35% of all women ages 25-29 hold a bachelor's degree or higher
  • In 47 of the 50 largest US metro areas, single, childless women earn MORE than their male counterparts
  • They spend over 58% of all retail dollars spent in the US
  • They make 80% of all healthcare decisions
  • They comprise 44% of the NFL fan base

According to Harvard Business Review, women represent a growth market bigger than China and India combined—more than twice as big!

The Nielsen Company has been paying close attention to this trend.   

Doug Anderson, SVP, Research & Development, writing in the Nielsen Wire, points out:

"Over the next five years, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) estimates that the global incomes of women will grow from $13 trillion to $18 trillion. That incremental $5 trillion is nearly twice the growth in GDP expected from China ($4.4 to $6.6 trillion) and India ($1.2 trillion to $1.8 trillion) combined. Globally, women are the biggest emerging market ever seen. Overall, men earn nearly twice as much money as women today, but that gap will shrink as more women enter the labor force and at higher wages than ever before. The vast majority of new income growth over the next ten years will come from women."

Anderson (accurately, I think) observes that in spite of growing awareness of this closing gap, marketers still don't get the implications of a female-dominated economy.

Even though women influence 65% of buying decisions, says Anderson, they..."feel vastly undeserved by marketers," with few solutions and products designed specifically for them.

Michael Silverstein and Kate Sayre of the Harvard Business Review lament marketers' feeble attempts to reach out to women by "beautifying" their marketing messages and products.  In their 2009 article, "The Female Economy." they write:

“Despite the remarkable strides in market power and social position that they have made in the past century, they still appear undervalued in the marketplace and underestimated in the workplace. Few companies have responded to their need for time-saving solutions or for products and services designed specifically for them”, write Silverstein and Sayre in the Harvard Business Review. In many cases, rather than truly listening to their female consumers, marketers have opted for the “make it pink” strategy." (

It's the World's Largest Opportunity... to FAIL

Pointing again to the "make it purty and them gals will buy it" attitudes pervasive in sales and marketing, Silverstein and Sayre observe that even large companies who ought to know better, such as Dell Computers, have failed in their efforts to successfully market products and services to women.

In an ill-fated bid to attract more women customers, Dell attempted to make laptops especially for women.

"...  The company fell into the classic “make it pink” mind-set with the May 2009 launch of its Della website. The site emphasized colors, computer accessories, and tips for counting calories and finding recipes. It created an uproar among women, who described it as “slick but disconcerting” and “condescending.” The blogosphere reacted quickly to the company’s “very special site for women.” Austin Modine of the online tech publication The Register responded acidly, “If you thought computer shopping was a gender-neutral affair, then you’ve obviously been struck down by an acute case of female hysteria. (Nine out of ten Victorian-age doctors agree.)” The New York Times said that Dell had to go to the “school of marketing hard knocks.”  

Pumped Up by The Recession- A New Sheconomy Arrives

Other business writers are documenting similar failures of companies to understand the implications of the new "sheconomy."

Writing in Forbes, Nancy Bauer, Marlene Greenfield, Stephen Kraus urge companies to acknowledge and profit from new ascendency of women in the new economy.

Businesses must, first and foremost, stop pretending. The reality is that many marketing campaigns are still terribly out of step, and continue to be designed on the premise of the bread-winning male head-of-household. She’s here. She’s in charge. Get used to it. Whether you are selling a car, a vacation, a mutual fund, toothpaste, or health care – you’d better talk to her."

But, say the Forbes writers, businesses better do a whole lot more than just talk to women- they need to carefully craft products and services that help them organize their time, take care of  their health and fitness, and lead their families to make important financial, educational, and  lifestyle decisions.

Businesses have to stop acting as if  this is a passing fad and that women don't really have control over purchasing decisions.  They need to stop churning out outdated marketing that promotes female stereotypes and talks down to women and provide both great quality and value.

The New Frontier- How Will YOUR Business Profit?

Beyond the stereotypes is the reality that today's women as a whole expect companies  to offer SUBSTANCE over STYLE and real engagement over superficial interactions.

“Sell the sizzle, not the steak” was sales advice invented by a man in the 1930s, when predominantly male salesforces sold to predominantly male clientele, say  Bauer, Greenfield, and Kraus.

Women want and need a whole lot more than sizzle.  Multiple surveys and polls confirm the idea that women prefer to make decisions based on science, research, and sound information versus fluff and hype, perhaps a direct reflection of the fact that more and more women are completing higher levels of education.

Marketers and business owners simply cannot afford to ignore this gravitation toward utility, functionality, and systematic approaches to problem by female decision-makers.

Women are, are according to a study by the Center for Women’s Business Research, quite happy and willing to be risk-takers, provided they thoroughly understand how a loan or investment strategy works and they know all of their options.

They aren't afraid to turn to others for advice, and are, amazingly to some, more likely than men to embrace technology to help their businesses become more productive,efficient and profitable.

So, knowing all this, is your business prepared to re-tool its' marketing efforts accordingly?  Are you willing to do what it takes to capitalize on the increasing influence of women in the marketplace?
Will you embrace new ideas and methodologies that will help tell your story in a way that resonates with women?

Or, will you continue to "think pink" and flounder in a dramatically changing marketplace?

In future blog posts, I will give you, step by step, some real solutions to help you take hold of and profit from, one of the biggest worldwide demographic shifts ever- the transition to a "sheconomy."

PS: Want a peek ahead?  Go here and see one of the ways you can learn to reach out to the millions of women who can profit from having a relationship with your company.
It's social media...done the RIGHT way.

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