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What women want is the eternal mystery, and we can't all tweak our product lines to fit a woman's top ten desires (true love, regular pedicures and sculpted upper arms, among others). So, if you want to reach women with your wonderful widget, and they don't yet realize that they need your widget at all, what do you do?

Savvy Buying Minds

If sculpted upper arms came in a can, but none of a woman's friends had heard of it or used it, and there wasn't well-placed information on the Web, she likely wouldn't trust it. Women engage in an involved decision-making process that goes beyond seeing a lawnmower once in a newspaper ad or passing a cute red dress in a store window, in most cases.

The buying mind of a woman is a sophisticated and powerful tool. Marketers should try to tap into the characteristics of her buying mind that will guide her to thinking that what your company provides is, indeed, what she wants. Those characteristics are:

1. Women Develop and Use Smart Shopping Skills.

First of all, it is old-fashioned hands-on experience that teaches women to be smart shoppers right from the start. They grew up watching their mothers manage households and now it is second-nature for most women to shop wisely. Whether selecting a stock or finding a doctor for their child, the majority of women go through a typical buying process that involves comparison shopping, consulting several sources, and getting validation from trusted experts or word-of-mouth sources (including their family). A woman's pre-purchase mulling-over process, particularly for big ticket items or emotionally significant or first time purchases, can seem overly thorough (and feel like it takes forever to salespeople or family members), but once she does choose a product or brand, she often stays loyal longer.

Tap into this smart shopping mindset by:

• Helping women determine their best choice, as opposed to focusing on the quickest sale

• Equipping, encouraging and empowering the sales and customer service staff to go the extra mile for customers and prospects.

2. Women Are “Constituent-Driven.”

It is no surprise that women set their priorities according to the needs of the people most dear to them. No matter the topic, a woman's field of concern leads her to focus on her spouse, significant other, children, grandchildren, aging parents, employees, friends, and yes, even her pets. So, rather than being “all about me,” the purchases a female consumer makes (or directly influences) are more often for or about their loved ones.

Tap into this constituent-driven mindset by:

• Providing solutions that meet the needs of the people for whom women assume responsibility as well as their own.

• Recognizing women's values and how they affect their buying, giving, investigating and investing.

3. Women Seek “Insider” Information and Validation.

When a woman is ready to make a new type of purchase, she believes she'll learn the most from someone who already owns the product. Women want to hear it from the “insider” -- a person who provides credible, hard-to-find information that they consider unbiased and trustworthy. In most cases, the insider is a fellow customer, although some exceptional sales people and specific personalities (like Oprah Winfrey and her book recommendations) may earn this coveted role.

Tap into this insider-seeking mindset by:

• Maintaining some level of human interaction (“live” or via email) with women through all phases of the marketing, sales and customer service cycle, giving them a sense of access to inside information and validation.

• Recognizing, respecting and utilizing the power of a woman's personal network by using pass-along devices (online and print), and by encouraging referrals. Today's customer may be tomorrow's “insider” for another.

4. Women Comparison Shop Through Reading and Research.

Just as women put feelers out via their networks, they also gather data through reading and research. Especially around major purchases, women educate themselves on the features, benefits, price range, and reliability of the brands available. In addition to traditional information resources like magazine articles, television programs, and buying guides, a large number of women now look to the Internet for additional help, including the peer and expert recommendations available on sites like Their goal is to find sources that provide that “insider” type information. Women are looking for trustworthy information sources that not only make purchase suggestions, but also warn of products to avoid.

Tap into thid comparison shopping mindset by:

• Providing specific educational materials and programs that will give women greater confidence in their decision-making.

• Offering a comparison matrix of your product's features against those of its competitors.

• Including testimonials, expert reviews, awards and seals of approval in your company materials.

• Providing links to helpful Web sites and relevant printed or online content.

Whether you market a multi-million dollar brand or have started a small business, if you give the above some consideration it should guide your strategy beyond the “what.”

So, if "how women buy" is savvy--not simple--should we be scared? No. This article should serve only as a reminder that reaching women is often more about tapping into their decision-making process than it is about the product itself.

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image of Andrea Learned
Andrea Learned is a noted author, blogger, and expert on gender-based consumer behavior. Her current focus is on sustainability from both the consumer and the organizational perspectives. Andrea contributes to the Huffington Post and provides sustainability-focused commentary for Vermont Public Radio.