Speaking at the recent M2W Conference, Marti Barletta made an important comment
“Stop treating women as targets and start treating them as assets. We should look at ways we can help women rather than ‘target’ them and make them do stuff."
If brands, marketers and agencies are going to be successful in the new digital age, they need to look at customers and clients as assets, as partners, and trusted allies. They need to get rid of adversarial language and tactics. In short.....
The ad industry needs to start communicating like a woman, rather than a man.
Male Vs. Female Communication Style
For over five years I've been researching the difference between male and female communication style.
Men focus on hierarchy. From the time they are little boys they are steeped in competition. You are either one up, or one down. There is a set pecking order. (Think of the military). Life is a battleground. Men often thrive on this competition. In interactions, there is a winner and a loser.
Women are focused on connections. Instead of trying to differentiate themselves, they look for similarities. They focus on building cooperation and relationships. Life is a social interaction where you look for ways to help each other. In interactions, women try to create win/win situations.
Just for the record, some men have female communication styles and some women have male communication styles, but these are the styles you typically see.
Move from "Us vs. Them" to "We"
Look at the language used by companies and advertisers. It is often adversarial.
As Marti Barletta pointed out - consumers are looked at as "targets" rather than "assets".
Men often talk about ways to "disarm" clients, while a females talk about ways to"engage" clients.
When talking about clients or consumers, put-downs are often far more common than compliments. I've personally sat in on meetings where clients or consumers are routinely referred to as, "idiots," and "morons,"
Read this article in Ad Age about how to fix the agency client relationship. Talk about adversarial! I know there are real problems and growing pains in this industry and both sides bear the blame. But will this "us vs. them" mentality improve matters?
Folks, we've all worked with a difficult client. We've all sat in a focus group with a consumer who cost us our will to live. But I hope these are the exceptions rather than the rule.
Win by creating relationships - as defined by women
Here are specific things you can do to get better results by building stronger relationships with your clients and consumers:
- Focus on how you are similar to your client/consumer rather than on how you are different.
- Move from being adversarial to being on the same side
- Lose the battleground language
- Look for ways to make your client/consumer feel smart. What does he/she do really well? Point it out.
- Focus on attributes of your clients or customers that you genuinely like. Get to know them as individuals, as real people, rather than abstracts or titles.
- Ask what you can do for them before you try to get them to do something for you.
For those of you who think this is a bunch of warm and fuzzy B.S., I suggest you read a little book called, "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie. The book preaches these same principles. There's a reason it's sold over 15 million copies. This stuff works.
Learn more about the differences between men and women and how it affects your marketing and client relationships.
P.S. One final note on male vs. female communication style - I've always referred to the book as "How To Make Friends and Influence People." "Making" friends is more female communication style. But the publishers created a more male communication style title using "win" friends. Smart since the original intended audience was largely male.