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Mistakes to avoid when marketing to women

How not to market to women

By Orsi Parkanyi

Yesterday, I attended an invite only lunch event exclusively for women fully sponsored by an insurance company (I do not wish to name). Sydney centre location, gorgeous venue, friendly hospitality, drinks, wine, amazing food and divine dessert! A room filled with over 250 gorgeous, young, powerful business women! The highlight of the event was the 1 hour keynote talk given by one of Australia’s most amazing, most inspirational and high profile female entrepreneurs Mia Freedman, and a great goodie bag including her latest book, Mia Culpa.

Doing some mental math based on the little event management experience I have, the costs of the lunch would have been quite substantial! Talking serious, tens of thousands of dollars! The company organising the event must have thought that they would get return on their investment, which made sense, given that the topic was fantastic! Raising awareness of the unfortunate fact that many women are not on top of their finances, and are in fact left in a difficult position after the unexpected happens. Insurance policy, or rather the lack of it, is an interesting topic we don’t necessary talk about in a setting like this, and I looked forward to learning more about it.

Unfortunately, this particular company that really had the opportunity to take advantage of their promotion and make a huge profit out of the event, failed badly. I looked around during the dry, boring, long, meaningless power point presentation sales pitch given by a man after the uplifting Mia-speech, I saw no one who was connected. He was nice, competent, his intentions were obviously good, but just could not sell it to the women present, in that space, at that particular point in time.

To be honest, the experience left me in shock for the rest of the day. I’m certainly not the biggest expert on marketing, but just can’t help to wonder: How? I mean, HOW is it possible to disregard your audience and target market this much if you are in business? How can somebody spend so much money (that could basically feed a whole town for a week elsewhere) and not think the strategy through?

I’d like to acknowledge first, that the company did an amazing job with the event and guest speaker, everyone had a really good time. However, it is a shame they did not do a better job with their sales pitch. I surveyed some of the ladies after the event, and as a result, below, I collected some of the biggest mistakes they made, and some important facts about women they overlooked.

Mistake No1: If you are familiar with Mia and her blog Mamamia, you can imagine that her 1 hour talk was about female problems highlighting the many differences women and men have and emphasizing the strengths and power and beauty of women. In that setting, amongs the energy of 250 women and a hit, emotional keynote speech by Mia, let’s be honest, what man could possible have been able to stand up to the challenge to be credible? Men just did not stand a chance there! Choosing a woman with exceptional communication skills would have been a much wiser choice in establishing trust and connection with the brand and keeping the energy high after Mia’s amazing talk.

Mistake No2: The guy kept giving examples about women in a family setting. If he’d done some research on his target market, he would have come across with the statistics that about 60-70% of the women present were single, separated or divorced. The assumption, that the majority of female business owners who have the time to lunch with their friends on a Thursday are all married and have kids is just far from reality. Moreover, emphasizing over and over again that insurance policy gives security to our spouses and children to women who don’t have a family, is probably not the right selling point and marketing strategy.

Mistake No3: The guy mentioned at the beginning of his speech that one problem is that the typical age women start taking up insurance policies is 49. Following on from this, he decided to invite a woman on stage at the age of 49 to share her personal experiences with the audience in an interview format. What was the point of that move? If you want women to take up policies at an earlier age, why don’t you ask someone young to share why they decided to it?

Mistake No4: Impress us! Take the time to research innovative and new technologies and use them. An idea: use Prezi instead of Powerpoint. If you want to impress – and you should! Especially given having 250 potential female customers in the room! – find something different and exciting to capture attention.

Mistake No5: Probably the biggest mistake of all! There was no official Twitter hashtag # for the event! If you know a little bit about women in business, you’d know that listening Mia speak would make every single one of us share her wisdom on Twitter! What an amazing opportunity you guys have missed out on that one!


I’m really looking forward to reading your comments!

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13 Responses to Mistakes to avoid when marketing to women

  1. Fi Bendall says:

    Seen it so many times Orsi. “Women” are a big ticket item to most companies and yet research out of Boston Consulting shows we feel most under valued and under served by organisations. These guys just don’t get how to connect and “engage” in a real sense

  2. I think Mistake 2 pretty much sums life up for most of us business women – many men assume that it’s something you do on the side, when you’re not busy with the kids or cooking and cleaning.

    I had an unpleasant event at an expo I recently attended. I asked for a demonstration of MYOB and the salesman was extremely condascending and constantly made comments belittling my business.

  3. Thanks for sharing this Orsi. That shows how crucial it is for us to really understand and know our target audience. What an excellent example of mistakes to avoid, great lessons to show that really the main thing sometimes is simply awareness (and doing your research first).

    I started a business that was in a foreign field where 98% of our customers are women. I have to constantly learn more not just about connecting on different levels, and not just customers, but to also relate. I still have a way to go, but I know it’s a constant learning curve…so every bit of info helps. I find it’s as much about building relationships as anything, and to not pay attention to that is surely naive. It’s almost comforting to know big companies still stuff it up so badly so I can learn from them…

    Surely it’s dangerous to assume just because your product is great that it will sell ‘itself’…

  4. Karl Castan says:

    These articles frustrate me no end. Good communication is good communication. It matters no one wit the sex of the communicator. What matters is the ability to communicate. When she was with the SMH i read Mia’s articles on a regular basis and i was able to understand what she was saying, even though I have the misfortune to be a male. My wife reads the FitzFiles and is perfectly able to understand what is conveyed in those articles. And why, because they can communicate.

    As for point 4 about PowerPoint – god help us if we all need to constantly display “bling” to get peoples attention. Why is it that we seem so focused on the medium instead of the message? If you need a “glitzy” medium to gain your attention, then you only have yourself to blame when you are taken in by glib statements dressed up in fancy clothes!

    • I think you’re missing the point Karl.

      It doesn’t matter what sex the company’s representative was, they should have done their homework and realised that their target audience are not all married women with children(see point 2).

    • Bec says:

      You just demonstrated that you don’t understand their target market. You need to take a cue from Rob (above).

  5. Nicole O'Brien says:

    Do you think he still has a job? Me thinks he didn’t make his monthly quota!

  6. Pam Brossman says:

    Best advice I could give is to personally send him a copy of PurseStrings by Amanda Stevens which teaches businesses how to market to women. Emotive marketing is the key to connecting, engaging and taking women on a journey where at the end of the story they just have to do business with you.

    It is the power of story telling and emotional connection that will convert every time.

    I am sure it will be a big lesson learnt for the next event.

    Thanks for sharing.
    Pam Brossman

  7. Marney Perna says:

    Hi Orsi
    Great article and very relevant. We do work and function differently from men…and that is great on both sides.
    It is like the old fashioned salesman who targeted the male during a car buying experience, it gets both sides very emotive.
    I am sure the points you are making are valid regardless of who presents… take the time to consider and know your audience and present accordingly.

  8. Bek says:

    If the presentation was boring, why does it have to come down to gender? C’mon- aren’t we passed that kind of crap yet?

    As a woman, I don’t agree with the whole “men shouldn’t market to women”- the gender of a person has sweet fanny adams to do with how they can relate. It actually comes down more to audience, the content chosen and the delivery. Some people suck at presenting. It’s got nothing to do with what’s in their underpants!

    As for the whole “geared towards kids, family life etc” content, seriously, when I go to business networking drinks and mixers, its the women who ask me if I have kids, its the women who ask about whether I am married, it is the women who make me feel like an alien for not being married and not having children and being female, straight and 37.

    When I meet men in business situations, they ask what I do, how I am doing, my plans for the business. It’s the women who actually create the environment of difference, segregation and frankly, sexist measurements of achievement.

    If we want to be taken seriously, if we want to be seen as business people as opposed to gender, we need to get over ourselves first and foremost and fix our own culture. It’s one thing to run the banner of “yay, women smash the glass ceiling!”- it’s another thing entirely when the same thing is coupled with a slaying of anyone who falls outside your expectations.

  9. Darien says:

    Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there that have no idea how to market a product/service to women. It takes quite a bit of preparation in order to have a good understanding of why women buy and why not.

  10. Excellent article. I will be dealing with many of these issues as well.

  11. Hi everyone, thank you for commenting! There is actually something I don’t mention in the article but now remember, it was a lunch, the audience consisted of women in their late twenties early thirties who don’t have kids yet (it is my experience that those young women entrepreneurs who have kids (and from the age they would have young kids) can hardly make lunch meetings, they usually come to our evening events whenever their husband can babysit), and the presenter invited a customer to interview on stage about their product: this woman was much older thank the audience with several older kids, and she kept talking about why it’s important to women like her to take on business insurance. The women in the audience could not relate to her at all..big mistake.

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