[Mannes on Marketing] Have you considered "Sheconomics"?

Columns - Mannes on Marketing

February 28, 2011

In November I had the privilege of speaking at the Kentucky Short Course program to a wide range of pest control companies — companies from the Midwest (primarily) ranging in size from one-person operators to larger companies. Dr. Mike Potter with the University of Kentucky, who organizes this meeting, had asked me to talk about women as customers and employees — and is there a different way we need to consider when selling our services to women? Consider this about today’s women:

I’m better educated, more individualistic and more discriminating than my predecessors were. I expect you to know what I want and I expect you to know what I am willing to pay for it. If I call you on the phone to make any type of inquiry, I want you to be able to give me an answer in no more than 3 seconds. I am extremely computer literate, so I want to be able to find you and communicate with you on the Internet. I don’t want to be put on hold and if you can’t deliver what I want for the price I want when I want it and how I want it, our networked society will tell me where else to go get your services.

Welcome to 2011. Welcome to "sheconomics."

TIMES HAVE CHANGED. I think it is fair to say that we’ve all known or suspected that in today’s economy women are making the home purchasing decisions. It is repeated from a variety of sources that they make 85 percent of the buying decisions and, according to Time magazine, are the "chief purchasing officers of their households." The one difference today is that women are also the earners. In October 2009, the U.S. workforce became nearly half female. And this is most likely not going to change anytime soon. For every two guys that graduate from college three women do. And as we move from a manufacturing-based society to an information/knowledge-based society, women will be poised to move into those jobs.

That being said, women still earn less than men. However, in some markets that is changing as well. In Atlanta for instance, women are at 121 percent of men’s pay and in New York City 112 percent. Women are our #1 economic opportunity. A recent Booz & Co. report called women "the Third Billion," meaning globally they are the next emerging economy.

The American Women’s economy accounts for over half the U.S. GDP — about $7 trillion dollars. It is the largest "national" economy on earth, larger than the entire Japanese economy. As stated previously, women buy or influence 83 to 85 percent of all consumer goods and have sole or joint ownership of all homes. And, women represent the majority of the online market. Women are catching up to men in salary and spending power and making more major financial decisions. One expert says that if businesses don’t actively market to women, they’re leaving cash on the table.

AN OPPORTUNITY FOR YOU. Why an opportunity? There are many reasons but No. 1 is that according to all the research that’s out there, women are twice as likely to spearhead the pest control (home services overall) decision-making process — from research, to hiring and rehiring a company. So a few tips on marketing to women:

  1. Once you’ve got her — don’t let her slip away! Keeping customers is cheaper than buying new ones.
  2. Women process information and make purchasing decisions differently than men.
  3. Single women — homeowners — are becoming more influential.
  4. Satisfied female customers have a "customer multiplier effect" far beyond their own purchases. Women generate word of mouth and referrals.
  5. Communicate value instead of listing features.
  6. Understand that she is ALWAYS watching!
  7. Respect her.
  8. Embrace high standards.
  9. Be willing to commit.

"One of the biggest mistakes companies make is assuming women are all about the warm and fuzzy and they’re not," states Marti Barletta, author of three books on marketing to women. They want all the same things men do and then some. "Women have a more comprehensive decision-making process." For a woman, secondary characteristics are key: clean uniforms, booties in the house, clean trucks, sustainability. If you get the guy right, you sold a pest control job. If you get the woman right, you have a customer for life.

Women are better customers. They are more loyal and evangelistic. They will talk about you and your company — positively or negatively — depending on the service you provide. The bottom line is you don’t need to be a female mind-reader, you just need to be aware. Women want their pest problems solved. They want to be part of the decision-making process and if you embrace this you will be successful.

The author is chief marketing and strategy officer for Arrow Exterminators, Atlanta, and can be contacted at cmannes@giemedia.com.