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10/19/2003

Freud clueless on women

By Stacy Cornay
Special to the Times-Call

When it came to women and marketing, Sigmund Freud was clueless in Vienna.

You’d think that with his endless probing of the human psyche and his intense interest in why people do the things they do, he would know how to position products and promote services.

But he just didn’t get it when it came to one of the biggest consumer audiences out there — women.

“Despite my 30 years of research into the feminine soul, I have not yet been able to answer the great question that has never been answered,” Freud admitted. “What does a woman want?”

If you’re in business, that question has to be answered.

Currently 51 percent of Americans are of the female persuasion. By 2010, they will control $1 trillion, or 60 percent of the country’s wealth. Fifty-five percent of all new web users are women. Women purchase 85 percent of all consumer goods and influence the purchase of over 95 percent of total goods, everything from stocks and bonds to computers and cars.

The statistics are endless and overwhelming. The conclusion is inescapable. If you’re going to succeed in business, your marketing and promotions have to address Freud’s unanswered question: What does a woman want?

Instead of answering the question, some compound the situation by assuming that all women fit in one niche group. We all know what happens when we assume. A better first step is audience targeting that leads to customer identifications and a better understanding of their needs.

Another common mistake made by those trying to market to women is to simply pitch pictures of women using your products or services. That one-dimensional approach misses the point. While imagery is important, it can’t stand alone. Your customers or clients — current and potential — have to know that you understand them and their needs.

Multiple studies confirm that women choose to do business with businesses that embody their values and beliefs. Women often face multiple challenges as mothers on the home front and professionals in the business sector. More often than not, they determine — or at least influence — how much is spent on what. Beyond that, women tend to be very loyal. They will stick with you if you meet their expectations.

Here’s the best way to answer that question — What does a woman want?

Ask her.

The car companies did that years ago. They asked, they listened, and before long vehicles incorporating what women want were rolling off the assembly lines. Women not only got their place on the design teams, they share equal billing on sales teams. The result was a resurgence in automotive sales.

The same tactics will work in any other marketing endeavor. Ask. Then listen.

Here’s some more tips for marketing to women more effectively:

•Polish your approach. Cutesy won’t cut it.

•Provide background. Women tend to gather and process more information before making a decision.

• Aim for clarity, but remember there is a difference between being simple and being clear.

•Integrate your message. Be sure your sales pitch matches your target audience.

•Above all, don’t talk down.

If you still don’t have an answer to what women want, take a tip from Gloria Steinem. “We can tell our values by looking at our check stubs.”

By way of explanation to my male friends and colleagues, I was asked to focus this column on women and marketing. I apologize for not giving you a bigger role. Therefore, this final tidbit is just for you.

Be sure you know what a woman wants, or you may end up like Freud — clueless on the couch.

Stacy Cornay is owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising in Longmont. Her web site, which contains previous marketing columns, may be found at www.ccpr.cc.