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Connecting to the female consumer is not easy, because there is no one magical way to target women. They are a diverse group, and in many ways it is harder to reach them than their male counterparts. If you have designed marketing plans that have been unsuccessful, you need to try something new. There is a difference in marketing and selling to men and women, and maybe your first plan wasn't the right plan.

Before you can implement a strategic winning program with women, you need to understand that women are not a one-size-fits-all category. While many of the traits women demonstrate set them apart from men, each consumer is an individual with her own unique experiences, skills, thought processes, and buying patterns. Women, however, are generally more...

  • Loyal customers
  • Relationship-oriented
  • Interested in soliciting consensus from a group
  • Thorough in their research prior to the purchase
  • Worried about the feelings of others
  • Value-oriented
  • Appreciative of respect and integrity in a business relationship

Visualize a sliding scale with totally male traits at one end and totally female traits on the other. Even though most women will fit from the middle to the feminine end, not all will. On the scale, both men and women will be scattered throughout, demonstrating that all men and all women are not created equal or the same.

If you don't take the risk, you can't get the biggest reward

Taking chances should be part of your plan to capture the women's market, but they should be based on educated, solid strategies.

To develop a sound plan, you need to know the following:

  • What are industry competitors doing?

  • What has your company tried in the past?

    • Have you previously developed programs to attract women consumers?
    • What has worked, what hasn't and why?
    • How much are you willing to invest in time and dollars to get the number one market in the country—women?

  • Does your company want to be a leader on the cutting edge or a follower?

Be creative, but demand results

If you create a promotion or event to attract women and it is well attended, but doesn't lead to sales now or in the future, was it a success?

The answer would depend on what goals you have set. If the goal was strictly to let people know about what you do, your products and services, where you are located, and gain  you coverage in the local media—and that happened... then the event was a success. However, if your goal was to receive tangible, bottom-line results for the dollars and time you spent, then your event was a failure.

The fact you are targeting women doesn't change that general premise. If you aren't getting a reasonable ROI, then you should rethink what you are doing.


Extraordinary service, exceptional customer service, convenience, and value are top on most women's lists. Extraordinary service involves a sales staff that's knowledgeable and professional. It requires being able to balance being helpful with knowing when to give her space. When the sales personnel listen to what women want, ask them questions, and provide product recommendations that fit their needs, they furnish a service. Exceptional customer service means being there after the sale is made and delivering more than is promised, at a reasonable price, in a timely fashion.

Because women's time is so limited, convenience plays a big part in most women's decision-making process: where they shop and when. Good selections with great prices are two key factors. Women will pay more for an item if they understand the additional value they will receive in services, features, benefits, and reliability.

Know what your customers want

Though many of Starbucks customers are men, women make up 60% of the clientele. Women are attracted to the relaxed, stress-free atmosphere, the tasty products, and the convenience of the numerous locations.

Barnes and Noble, frequently adjacent to Starbucks, also understands that the experience is key to its majority shopper—women. Its facilities provide comfortable, attractive settings where customers can browse at their leisure, enjoy the ambiance, have meaningful experiences, receive help from knowledgeable sales associates, and make purchases quickly.

It, like many other organizations, has also created a loyalty program to keep customers returning, rather than going to the competition.

The value of a women's advisory board is priceless

The best results-oriented program I know of is the creation of external women's advisory boards. A women's advisory board (WAB) is a unique vehicle that provides corporations with invaluable insights, feedback, and contacts. WABs increase a company's bottom line by learning critical information directly from the source and gaining introductions to board members' expansive networks.

Many companies shy away from them because they are pioneering, rather than mainstream practices. These companies prefer traditional methods that often fail to capture the trillions of dollars spent by women. This "better safe than sorry" mentality prevents sales from soaring. Companies continue to ignore unfamiliar programs even though they have a proven track record.

To be a leader in the industry, marketers must lead. If they fail to lead, they will always have a low percentage of loyal women clients and the most desired female customers will be spending their dollars elsewhere.

You can create your own external WAB or hire a consultant to help you. The keys to a successful program are these:

  • Making sure resources are available

  • Having commitment to the program from the top and at all levels

  • Knowing whom you need on the board and how to approach them to serve

  • Making sure that the women on the board are receiving benefits for their service

  • Spending the time it takes to create and run the program

If your company isn't looking at the latest trends, focusing a significant amount of your resources on this market, and generating innovative marketing ideas, you are missing out on a substantial amount of revenue. Women have the power, the money, and the will to work with companies who recognize them, appreciate them, and truly want to serve them.

Wyndham Hotels and Resorts (now Hilton) created a WAB, developed and implemented a Women on Their Way program, and increased its market share with women 59%.

Next: Specific ideas to increase your business

If you have done some creative promotions, events, and training or have been successful in reaching the women's market, please let me know so I can share your stories with other marketers.

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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.