What do women want? Damn if we know say the men in our office. Putting aside the Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus concept, marketing managers and researchers are anxious to know what women are thinking about regarding today’s stalled economy, healthcare and changing global activities (war, illegal immigration, national security) that have transformed and disturbed everyone’s lives in one way or another.
It’s not like women are any more special than men nor do they play a more important role in solving our problems. The reason so much research and surveys focus on women is that women comprise more than half of the U.S. electorate and have influenced electoral outcomes for more than 40 years and in addition they are the largest consumers of products and services in the global marketplace.
Women’s role as caregivers means they play an essential role in buying things that provide sustenance for home and family. Studies show that women are responsible for buying 85 percent of consumer goods and influencing over 95 percent of total goods and services purchased. In addition, women make up almost half of first-time web buyers.
As consumers, women live under a good deal of pressure even more so with today’s economic crisis. Women in the workplace face the added challenge of managing their time and balancing their responsibilities.
The average woman in the United States wakes up each morning to a myriad of concerns, all of which are affected by political and governmental actions.
So for obvious reasons corporations, business owners and marketers want to know what they think about, what they want to buy, how to influence their vote.
The workplace is also a changing environment that provides added interest in women as women-owned businesses are a fast-growing segment of our national and state economies as noted by Anne Arathoon and Heather Hepburn of Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt in an article in this issue. According to the 2002 U.S. Census Bureau, there were over 88,000 women-owned businesses in Oregon generating more than $10 billion in revenue. Oregon ranks 10th in the nation in percent of women-owned businesses according to the same data (that was seven years ago and the number of women-owned businesses continues to increase).
As a woman who owns a business in this crazy economy I can tell you what I think about (in case it matters). I wake up every morning and immediately begin to focus on cash flow, deadlines and increasing revenues. I’ve already slashed my budget to accommodate the necessionary climate so for our company I figure that there’s nowhere to go but up. But, without a crystal ball, I want to know when and how?
Yes, I am worried about the healthcare crisis and my family and friends’ wellbeing, but other than my golf swing, I think about the economy and how my company will survive it.
An online website, www.betterconfidential.com, keeps tabs on women and takes the pulse of women daily by compiling what women think about regarding today’s biggest news stories.
For instance when it comes to legalizing gay marriage 42 percent say it should absolutely be legalized, agreeing, “It’s a basic civil right,” which leaves the majority — 58 percent — opposed to legalizing gay marriage. 32 percent do not support gay marriage, but do support civil unions with all the same rights as marriages.
Most of us could care less about who wins American Idol or whether the voting process is fair. In fact 60 percent of the women surveyed about the popular television show responded with: who cares? And women felt about the same when they asked if AT&T did indeed alter the outcome of the vote — a whopping 51 percent admitted to not caring at all.
As for the continuous stream of outrageous political sex scandals 47 percent of women responded that Elizabeth Edwards should do whatever she wants, including standing by her man if she wants, after all “she’s very ill with cancer and we should just leave her alone.”
When asked about the 66–year–old woman who was expecting her first baby, the majority (63 percent) said it’s “hard to imagine, but it’s her choice.” (32 percent aren’t as understanding, choosing: Disgusting! It should be illegal.) The woman has since died and there may be a stronger response yet to come.
But back to much more important matters. Overall, women are feeling optimistic about some of the major issues in the world today — the economy and swine flu. In May women were asked how they were feeling about the economy, and 48 percent said they were “cautiously optimistic that things are already getting better.”
As for swine flu — women scoff in the face of swine flu! On May 8, 60 percent of respondents agreed, “It was — and is — a bunch of overblown hysteria about nothing.”
A more recent survey by The Center for Women’s Business Research and KeyBank noted that women business owners said their businesses had been significantly or considerably negatively impacted by the current recession. More than half (56 percent) reported lower net earnings and 18 percent had decreased employment levels in the first quarter of this year. However, 90 percent of the respondents don’t think the economy will get any worse during the rest of 2009; 48 percent of the respondents said they expect the economy will improve over the next six months and another 42 percent think it will remain about the same.
It is impossible to divide the life experiences and attitudes of American women into simple conservative or liberal categories. As women take more than their political ideology to the polls, politicians must be cognizant of the life stages, as well as the demographic categories, into which women fall.
A women’s educational background, her marital status, even her sexual preferences and family history will have a major influence on how she votes, where she shops and what she ultimately purchases. A woman at 48 might be single or married, a mother or a grandmother, a business owner or a college student. Campaign strategies cannot simply place women in an age category and expect her to vote a certain way. Voter preferences are all-encompassing where women export their life experiences, attitudes and expectations.
Women still make most of the purchasing decisions in today’s marketplace. So one would think there would be nothing about the buying habits of women that American businesses don’t know. However, marketing expert and author Mary Lou Quinlan says American businesses are dolefully uninformed about women buyers, “sometimes to the point of paying millions for advertising and sales strategies more likely to annoy their target audience than attract them.”
So what do you do as a business owner/marketer to entice women to your products or services? Whatever you are selling, from financial services to a limousine, chances are a women will be involved in the decision making process. Either she buys the product herself or she influences the person who does.
The person who really understands what makes women of today buy can give a product a competitive edge by knowing how to design and sell products, direct a successful sales team and write advertising copy directly to the point, with less guessing . . . less hunching . . . less spending.
Recognize that women are not a niche market, but the primary consumers in the United States. Identify the best ways to strengthen your customer service to appeal directly to women. Listen to women via small gatherings, focus groups, forums, e-mail surveys and customer feedback. Remember that marketing materials that use cliché women’s colors (filmy pinks and purples) or focus on “women’s topics,” will not only alienate your male customers but women are insulted by that approach as well. Reaching women more effectively may seem complicated, but will pay huge dividends if properly executed.
What do women think? We think we’re important consumers and voters and hope you can figure out how to capture our complicated brain patterns and attract us to your cause. We’d love to hear how you’re doing with it! pha