I recently read In Women We Trust by Mary Clare Hunt (read her blog here) at the urging of Yvonne DiVita (it is one of her company's books). Yvonne was putting together a virtual book tour and I was happy to help. It has taken me a little longer than I had hoped to publish this review, as impending motherhood has gathered most of my attention. I thank Mary and Yvonne for their patience! I had the opportunity to correspond with via email and talk via phone to Mary, and really enjoyed our conversations. There is much to learn from this book, and I recommend it – particularly for those marketers who are seeking to use word-of-mouth techniques to reach female audiences.
Mary captured the key to success in marketing to women in her title: Trust. Related to this (part of building this trust) are things like respect and community. “But wait!” you say. “Men want these things as well.” Of course they do, and the techniques Mary writes about will work for men as well. But as we women know intimately, marketers have done a rather bad job dealing with us. It is time to focus on how to improve the relationship between brands and women.
The book is full of examples that I am sure most of my female readers can relate to: shopping for electronic equipment or cars are two iconic ones. I still seethe when I think about how I was treated at a major electronics chain a few years ago when I went there to buy a digital camera. Standing at the outside of the square counter, with the (male) clerk behind it, I was ignored completely while he waited on at least four other men (some of whom arrived after me), then when he finally asked me if he could help with a sigh, I launched into my questions, which he really didn't listen to (he barely looked at me) and then, when he was interrupted by another man with a “quick question” that turned into a lecture on the benefits of pixels, I simply walked away, left the store, and vowed never to buy anything from them again. And I spread the word among my female friends. I bought the $600 camera at another store.
Women will make or influence decisions on over 80% of all consumer purchases. This statistic is one of many that will be found in the first part of the book. As Mary wrote, “Money talks.” Here are a couple of other data points I found interesting. Women make or influence decisions on:
- 83% of all consumer products and services
- 50-60% of all auto purchases
- 51% of consumer electronics (this number is from 2003 – from recent news I think it is increasing)
- 81% of riding lawn mowers.
Women cannot be ignored in the business-to-business arena either. They own 45% of all companies in the US, with more than $1.2 trillion in sales. They employ 18 million people.
So, how do marketers learn how to better tap this market rich in resources and possibilities? Mary believes a cultural shift is necessary “to the softer side of business.”
After talking to many women about their experiences, she discovered they have some key desires in common. Mary wrote to me in an email:
“What was a defining moment for me was when I asked a group of women the question, “If competency wasn’t a factor, who would you rather work with, men or women?” The majority said women, but it wasn’t because of the sisterhood, it was because “they answered the phone, returned messages, didn’t treat them like idiots…” soft skills that were part of their culture. That’s a competitive difference for marketers and speaks to the trust issue more so than what companies have to offer. It’s not that they didn’t trust men, it’s that they trusted what women provided them, more.”
In her book, Mary provides several lists of “trust points”, questions that marketers need to answer carefully and honestly to better prepare for successfully marketing to women. Here's a couple of examples:
- Ask your female employees to list examples of someone being considerate towards them. Can you incorporate any of their examples into your offering or training?
- How will she know if something is physically safe to use? Whose word does she take? Yours? The opinion sites? The government site? Blogs? Do all sites say the same thing? What are the women on those sites saying?
- Do you keep your products straightforward and simple, so that there is less to break, less to fix and less to compare with other products?
- If your offering fails, how many things get added to her to-do list?
I love that last question. Mary emphasizes time and again in the book how pressed for time the average woman is. We are scheduled from the time we wake up to the time we fall asleep, with a zillion things on the to-do list as we juggle family, work, friends, errands, unexpected issues, and so on. The failure of something can throw a horrible wrench into the whole works! I have found myself in tears at the prospect of dealing with something that breaks (usually technology), knowing how difficult it is going to be to get things fixed and knowing I simply don't have the time to deal with it.
But don't get the impression that all is doom and gloom here. One very important aspect that Mary emphasizes is FUN. There is a chapter devoted to it in the book, ending with a list of 10 Fun Trust Points. As she talked to women, she realized that fun was a difficult topic for them. She found that women, “had so many obligations to work and family that personal fun didn't seem like an option.” But when she asked the panels she talked to to define fun, the number one thing on the list was “learning.” She writes, “Learning was a way to expand their world. The way they were learning was what made it fun – it was hands-on, explore-at-will learning.” One important thing that came out of this research was that fun is defined differently for men and women. She wrote to me,
“What’s fun for women isn’t the same as what’s fun for men. A primary fun thing for women was not playing, but learning – and of course learning and sharing with others increased that. How does that translate from intangible to tangible? Look at all the networked women’s groups like Avon and Pampered Chef – they represent women having fun by learning how to put on makeup and cook.”
One of the quotes I appreciated in the book was, “Women also see loyalty as a mutually beneficial thing. They're astounded when companies want their loyalty, yet feel no need to reciprocate." Over the past months I have participated in some online debates about loyalty. Everyone wants to know how to "ensure" it...but it always seems to be a one-way street! I asked Mary, “How can companies reciprocate?” She replied,
“They do what I recently witnessed at Best Buy's WoLF conference - make sure the individual knows that they matter, but put caveats on the behavior. In the case of the Best Buy Women's Leadership Forum, those in a group know that they must be committed to Best Buy, willing to network and willing to give back to society. If they agree to that, then Best Buy will support their personal and professional growth. The workshops I just attended did that. They provided education for re-organizing your personality first, then your personal life and then your business life. It was a clear message that they wanted your WHOLE self at work, not a job description of your self.”
Word-of-mouth marketing (WOM) is the new hot tool for marketers trying to reach varied audiences. Mary distinguishes between what she calls “organic” WOM and “enhanced” WOM. I asked her to elaborate on this via email, and here is her reply:
“Organic is when people talk without prompting about things and Enhanced is when they are prompted through videos or other reasons to pass something along. I’d like to add another layer to the definitions.
They say that there are only two kinds of customers, the ones who “know, they don’t know” and the ones who “don’t know, they don’t know.” Organic word of mouth resides in the “know, they don’t know” land. They already know they need X, now it’s just a matter of looking up who has it and for how much. Before the social search sites, you could look it up, in a yellow page like directory, but had no point of comparison. So what did women, do? They asked for each other’s opinion and cut down on the shopping cycle. That's the kind of comments that are going on these sites - they are all freely written.
Enhanced word of mouth is based in the pass along factor, not in the opinions on sites. It’s creating reasons for people to pass along information that entertaining or useful when they aren’t in a shopping mode – its purpose is to create awareness. The problem is, once they are aware, they go back to – you guessed it, the buying sites to get that last layer of opinion, just like they did in Thomas Register.
We are at the front of this curve now, but that is where it will end up. Consumers are already shopping on a “need-to-buy” basis and using criteria first to determine product and then the store.”
In Women We Trust is chock-a-block with great advice. It is arranged in an easy-to-read format, enabling one to pick it up for 20 minutes or spend a couple of hours with it. Its lists of questions alone will be valuable to marketers seeking to test and develop new methods for reaching women. It is full of anecdotes and stories that will make you laugh and cringe in recognition. I enjoyed reading it, and predict you will find it valuable as well.
About the Author:
Mary Clare Hunt is a marketer by trade, but a consumer by birthright. In her ad agency and business marketing roles, she has motivated customers in retail, services, and business-to-business environments. At the same time she's purchased 10 cars, furnished 7 homes and bought groceries for over 24,000 meals. As a “female consumer,” she lived among the disgruntled. Today, as the Word of Mouth Marketing director for Interpret-her, she works to put trust back into the buyer/seller relationship.
Get the Book:
You can order the book at WME Books: http://www.wmebooks.com/In_Women_We_Trust_by_Mary_Clare_Hunt_p/0977729729.htm