I wrote Marketing Credit Unions to Women - Getting Men on Board. Roger Conant wrote Marketing to Women Requires Cultural Change.
Ron Shevlin at Snarketing 2.0 had a really interesting response - You Can't Market Financial Services to Women.
What's interesting is, I agree with some of Ron's points (not all, but some). But I, of course, have reached a different conclusion.
Marketing financial services products to “women” is doomed to fail, and simply not a very good idea.
He goes on to talk about why he thinks it is doomed to fail:
What I’m trying to convey here — and I’m worried that I’m not articulating this clearly — is that “women” is not a manageable, marketable consumer segment. It’s simply way too broad (oh geez, no pun intended).
In response to Roger Conant's comment about the majority of the industry leadership being male:
Roger’s comments bear some analysis here, as well. In the history of consumer products, many companies have successfully sold feminine (or female-oriented) products via male product managers.
Should Fisher-Price fire everybody over the age of six because they’re not the primary users and audience for the products (toys) they produce?
Of course not.
And in response to Roger's remarks to the Verity Credit Union effort to target moms:
It’s also important to note (I’m talking to you, Roger) that Verity did this without firing the entire leadership staff, and replacing them with Moms. At least, I don’t think Verity did this.
Finally, Ron ends with this:
Bottom line: “Women” is not a viable, realistic consumer segment for financial services firms to market to. There are other attributes and dimensions of the market that better determine how financial services firms should design products, and take those products to market.
To summarize the argument of why you can't market financial services to women:
- Women are too broad a group to target effectively
- Financial institutions don't need to have leadership made up entirely of women to effectively market to women
- There are more important factors than gender in understanding how different segments buy financial services and products
So let's take these one at a time.
1. Women are too broad a group to target effectively
I agree women are an incredibly broad and diverse group. I don't agree you can't target them effectively.
If you try to talk to "all women" you are likely to stereotype, and stereotyping is the kiss of death when marketing to women.
In my book Selling Financial Services to Women I talk about the different types of women. In my Women and Finance Survey I found big differences between how women under 50 and women 50 plus feel about money and why hey buy financial services and products.
I also found there were many different types of investment styles/money priorities. I narrowed them down to four styles. (More than that would have been too hard to work with). We looked at top concerns, top goals, the customer experience each wanted, and what questions to ask each type to talk about what each type cares about.
Bottom line - this is incredibly actionable stuff. All a financial advisor has to do is ask some specific questions, listen to the answers, and he or she will close more business.
This is crucial - any time you segment your audience any insights you learn about different segments must be actionable - you must be able to use those insights to create better marketing materials and a better sales process.
2. Financial institutions don't need to have leadership made up entirely of women to effectively market to women
I agree with this as well. If you want to be more effective in your efforts to market to women, the answer is NOT To fire all the men. And just for the record, that was NOT what Roger Conant was suggesting.
But there IS a problem when the leadership is made up entirely of men or women are an extremely small percentage of the leadership team.
When you are targeting different audience segments, the further away you are from that segment, the harder you have to work to truly understand them. This is why diversity is SO important in your marketing department and in your boardroom. Different segments bring different perspectives and understanding to the table.
Imagine a marketing team of all 50 plus women creating video games aimed at 13-24 year old guys. You're shaking your head, right? Imagine a marketing team of 25-40 year old single guys creating ads for women 50 plus. (This is actually not an uncommon scenario).
Can women 50 plus create kick-ass video games for 13-24 year olds? You bet. But they're going to have to work really hard at putting aside their natural preferences and getting inside the heads of their audience. Same thing for the 25-40 year old single guys. They're gong to have to work hard to put aside their natural preferences and get inside the heads of their audience.
In both of these scenarios, wouldn't the end product be better if members of the target market were actively involved in the creation of the product and marketing?
Another important reason you need women on your leadership team - Credibility - Women pay attention to these things. If you reach out to women, saying you value them and want their business, but they don't see any women on your leadership team - there's a disconnect there. If companies really value women, they will walk the talk and have women in key positions. Again, not ALL key positions, but a decent percentage of them.
3. There are more important factors than gender in understanding how different segments buy financial services and products
There are many important factors for understanding how and why people make buying decisions. But gender is an extremely important factor.
In her book Why She Buys, Bridget Brennan has this to say:
“Gender is the most potent determinant of how a person views the world and everything in it—more powerful than age, income, race and geography. While there are mountains of research done every year segmenting consumers and analyzing why they buy, it doesn’t take into account the one piece of information that trumps all else: the sex of the buyer. It is stunning how many companies overlook the psychology of gender,when we all know that men and women look at the world so differently.”
I have to tell you, 10 years ago I would not have agreed with that statement. But in over a decade of research into the differences between men and women, brain differences, communication style differences, decision making differences, I have been converted.
I am WAY more successful in my business now that I understand how men think and make decisions. I made significant changes in how I sell my products and services to men and it has made a huge difference. I see the same results for men (and women) who better understand the differences between how men and women buy.
In retirement planning ads, there is a consistent theme among the images - it is the middle -age to older couple, and the woman is leaning her head on her husband's shoulder, he is gazing into the distance while she stands lovingly behind him, or he is carrying her, usually on a beach (don't ask me why). I can see why these images would be effective for marketing to men. They hit his "protector provider" button. But I wanted to know if they would be equally as effective for women. In all my research one of women's greatest financial desires is NOT to be dependent. So in my Women and Finance Survey, I showed women 50 plus (since they are the target market) images from actual financial services ads. Here's how they responded:
- 78% I don't relate to these images. I don't want to have to rely on someone else (my husband or otherwise) for financial security.
- 12% Loved and supported. I can rely on my husband to take care of me.
- 10% Sad. I've lost my husband and I miss him.
So images that work really well for men can actually backfire for women. As a financial services marketer, this kind of insight is incredibly valuable.
You can see the actual images here - Women and Finance Survey - What Marketing Images Do Women Prefer?
At the end of the day, Ron and I are in complete agreement on one thing:
Marketing is about learning about consumer needs, designing products to meet those needs, and implementing marketing programs that reach and influence the target market(s).
I've found understanding the differences between men and women to be one of THE most valuable tools in my ability to do the above. This is followed closely by understanding that you can't market to all women the same way.
What are your thoughts? Can you market to women? Is it effective? Why or Why not?