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"Marketing to women" has become the new buzz phrase for many companies. Corporations are creating high-level positions with the title of director or VP of the Women's Marketing Initiative; forming Women's Advisory Boards; hiring consultants to help them; and employing and promoting more women.

While these moves may be seen by some as politically correct, there should be a sound business basis for recognizing this influential market segment and trying to capture its loyalty and dollars. How would capturing just 1% more market share impact your bottom line? 3%? 5%? 50%?

Accessing how women are impacting the economy, your business, and the competition's is the first step. As Tom Peters says, "This 'Women's Thing' is...unmistakably, in my opinion...Economic Opportunity No. 1."

Women are wired

"Women spent more on technology last year than men," according to the Consumer Electronics Association. "They are involved in 89% of all consumer electronic purchasing decisions and accounted for more than $55 billion in revenue in 2003." Though this figure continues to spiral upward, more than three-quarters of surveyed women complained about being ignored, patronized, or offended by salespeople when shopping for electronics.

Since 2003, women have been the majority online shopper. It is a myth that only Gen X and Y are interested in technology. Women 55 and older increased their spending online 129% in the last few years.

Determine your investment? Calculate your ROI. Are you getting your share of this market? If not, what are you doing to change that picture?

Travel services matter to women

Hotels that provided female-friendly room amenities and designed physical changes to the facilities to make them more appealing to women early on began reaping big benefits.

Wyndham Hotels increased its share of women business travelers 59% when it implemented the Women on Their Way program and its Women Advisory Board. American Airlines is focusing on providing more services that women want... and ones they are willing to pay for.

The best thing is that successful programs for female travelers have enhanced male customers' experiences and loyalty as well.

Wine and women go together

As the beer industry, believing its only critical market was men 21-27, focused its marketing and advertising dollars on scantily-clad women, it lost a valuable component to a good marketing mix—women. Its core market began slipping dramatically as men followed women's lead in selecting wine and liquor. "Spirits enjoyed a stronger image among twenty-something consumers, beating beer on taste, quality and sophistication....Women, in particular, have been drawn to the cocktail as an alternative to beer," according to

From 1995 to 2004, spirits and wine jumped (32% to 34%, and 17% to 20%, respectively) while beer fell below its once proud 50% market share (51% to 46%). Women account for only about 25% of beer drinkers.

Calculate what the ROI could have been for the beer companies if they had recognized and marketed to women.

Ms. Fix-it spends

Women buy 61% of major home fix-up products according to The Wall Street Journal, accounting for 80% or more than $70 billion worth of home improvement products.

While wives have traditionally been the buying force in home sales, today single women are buying homes at twice the rate of single men. Within one year of the purchase, many spend an average of $9,000 on home improvement projects.

Women are spectators and participants

Virtually every industry is affected. In sports, more than 80% of NFL products are sold to women; 40% of the fan base is women. Susan Rothman, vice-president of consumer products for the NFL, said the organization's revenues from selling women's merchandise tripled between 2003 and 2004, and doubled between 2004 and 2005.

NASCAR has similar statistics. Women make up 40% of the estimated 75 million NASCAR fan base, and spend millions more on merchandise to support their favorite driver and sport. One fourth, or 6.9 million, U.S. golfers are women, and that number is increasing annually according to the National Golf Foundation.

Women have the power—money

Why have women became such an important market segment? Because they control the money. According to Oppenheimer Funds: "In dual income families, 30% of working women out-earn their husbands." A special report by BusinessWeek Online affirmed that in three decades men's medium income has barely budged, while women's has soared 63%. The number of women earning $100,000 or more has tripled in the last 10 years, and 43% of people with assets in excess of half a million dollars are women.

And women outlive their spouses; 90% of women will be solely responsible for their finances and for those of their children at some point in their lives.

All women aren't created equal

Understanding that women are a diverse group with many similar traits doesn't make them one-size-fits-all consumers.

There are women who are fascinated and knowledgeable about the Internet and all it has to offer, and other who use it only because it provides the information they need quickly. There are women who seek adventurous travel to exotic places, and those who want to relax on a nearby beach and curl up with a good book.

Some women receive gratification from completing do-it-yourself projects around the home from light maintenance to heavy construction. Others would just as soon hire a local handyman to do the work. Exercise and fitness is a growing industry with women, yet many prefer the workout of lifting a chocolate bar than lifting weights.

In developing your strategies and allocating funds, understand that women are purchasing agents... personally for themselves, for their families, and often for their companies.

To get the money, you have to get in the game

Know your market and what your competition is doing to attract women. Be an advocate within your company to help them better market and sell to women.

To market successfully to women, you have to...

  • Understand how important the market is
  • Don't rely on partial data or out-of-date statistics.
  • Be willing to assess how your company is doing with women
  • Be ready to make changes in the short and long-term marketing strategies
  • Know how to do it without falling into numerous pitfalls
  • Bring in consultants who specialize in the women's market
  • Design and implement programs designed to attract women
  • Have buy-in at every level, but especially at the top
  • Be cost effective, but spend the money necessary.

Your efforts need to have a clear direction, an expected ROI ,and measurable results. Just allocating dollars without a true business strategy is foolhardy, and will likely fail.

In Part 2, Gerry Myers writes about how to create a successful program, including...

  • What are women looking for?
  • Strategies for attracting women
  • Some questions you should consider
  • Cut your spending, increase your sales

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Gerry Myers is CEO, president, and cofounder of Advisory Link ( She is co-author of Leading the Way to Success and specializes in marketing and selling more effectively to women.