By Jim Gilmartin –
Men and women are as different “shop-ologically” as they are biologically. What’s important to men is typically not important to woman. In addition, keep in mind that women don’t buy brands; they join them. Think about the things we join — clubs, political parties, organizations, even religions; they are the institutions in our lives that really matter. The ones we stick with through thick and thin. The ones we cherish and value.
Understanding a female Baby Boomer’s communications approach is essential for marketers. Why? Tom Peters says, “The numbers are unequivocal, the gender differences are undeniable, the opportunity is inarguable and the market is enormous… economic opportunity No. 1”. Add in women’s role as “purchasing officer” for consumer goods and for corporations and agencies, and, in effect, you have an American women’s economy that accounts for over half of the U.S. GDP, about $5 trillion. Trillions of dollars in the United States alone is waiting. Remember, what women buy, they sell! Women buy for themselves, buy for their families and buy for businesses.
In May, I published Part I of this topic. I referred to the book Vibrant Woman: What Boomer Women 50+ Know, Think, Do & Buy by Stephen Reily and Carol Orsborn. What follows is more of their findings based upon recent research summarized here:
1. Don’t forget the purchasing power of self-employed Boomer women. Recognize that she is working and wants to find meaning through work as long as she can.
2. Avoid using the word “retirement.” She wants to connect with her aspirations through the increased freedom to choose how and where she will contribute through the full utilization of her skills and abilities.
3. Engage her in dialogue. She wants to establish an authentic relationship with you and your company.
4. Don’t make assurances on which you can’t deliver. Tell her what you’ll do for her, not how great you, your product or company is.
5. Listen to learn what is motivating her. The most important question you can ask is “What are you hoping your planning for the future will allow you to achieve.”
6. Don’t be afraid of a spiritual slant in your messaging. Survey results show 44% of Boomer women are turning to sources other than organized religion for spiritual guidance.
7. Although not very happy about it, she can laugh at the physical effects of aging. You can successfully use a “women like her” to comment humorously on conditions and circumstances only one of her own would fully understand.
8. Baby Boomer women are more active than you may think. Your images should reflect her full level and range of engagement in life.
9. Avoid using a single relationship to define her. She may be managing health care for her parents but she’s not only a “caregiver.” She’s also “grandma” but she would define her life much broader. The brands of suppliers who best support her multi-relationships underlying her purchases will win her business.
10. Cater to her desire to learn. Link your brand and products to opportunities to learn more about issues and concerns she faces every day. Her focus has shifted to experience, rejuvenation and personal growth.
11. Don’t talk down to her. What she didn’t gain through formal education she gained through experience. Insult her intelligence at your peril.
Women are different from men, but not only in obvious ways. Some examples are: A woman steps into an elevator, hits the button for the 10th floor and before she reaches her destination, she is busily chatting with some woman standing next to her; she sits down in a restaurant and by the time the glass of wine arrives, she knows the name of the waiter’s acting coach and the next play in which he has a bit part.
A woman knows all about who in the office, who on the community board, who in the book or investment club, is seeing a therapist, being investigated, or thinking about changing jobs. It’s not gossip! It’s connecting! John Gray, author of Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, claims that such behavior is encoded in their very chromosomes. The point: Women look to connect.
Finally, Rebecca Maddox says, “To be successful with women, it’s not enough to be good at your job. You also have to be good as a person. This means being honest, being authentic, having integrity and consistently doing the right thing. The way most organizations are accustomed to marketing and selling is not in harmony with the way Boomer women want to buy. And nowhere does a company reveal its attitude towards Boomer women and women in general more vividly than in the messages projected and the behavior of its sales force.”