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Marketing Mojo

Nov. 1, 2007
Here are three reasons your company and your clients should be wowing the female customer — right now.

by Dr. Andrew Goldsmith

Here are three reasons your company and your clients should be wowing the female customer — right now.

Women are responsible for more than 80 percent of all buying decisions in the United States today. This accounts for $7 trillion in buying brawn. This fact makes American women the largest economy in the world, eclipsing the entire Japanese economy. U.S. women currently control 51 percent of private wealth, and this number is expected to rise simply due to demographics. You may also be surprised to learn what else ladies are up to.

Women ...

  • Make 94 percent of home furnishings purchases
  • Make 92 percent of vacation decisions
  • Make 70 percent of adventure travel vacation decisions
  • Spend $55 billion on travel equipment
  • Purchase 91 percent of houses
  • Purchase 80 percent of home improvement projects
  • Purchase 68 percent of cars
  • Purchase 51 percent of consumer electronics
  • Purchase 66 percent of home computers
  • Open 89 percent of bank accounts in the United States
  • Make 67 percent of household investment decisions
  • Promulgate 70 percent of small business loans and start-ups

To whom is your marketing directed? Due to this economic phenomenon, focusing your care, practice, techniques, and marketing toward women simply makes sense.

Since you now know that women make most of the financial decisions in America, you need to know why you should focus your efforts on this group. Currently U.S. women make 80 percent of all health care decisions. This means that only two in 10 men decide which doctor to see. The Pareto Principle outlines the 80:20 rule and could be used here, but for simplicity, let’s just say if 80 percent of your customer’s patients are coming from decisions made by women, then your customer’s efforts should be focused on the women making those decisions. Specifically, here are three reasons why your customers — and your company — need to market to women.

Reason No. 1 — Women are in control

By the year 2010, it is expected that women will control over two thirds of U.S. wealth. Based on a spending wave articulated by Harry Dent, it is simple to predict the productivity, spending, and earnings of a generation. The largest generation in American history (Baby Boomers) will reach its peak spending years between 2007 and 2010. When this happens, we will see the most significant economic boom in U.S. history. If you are female, this is great news, since the average age of females exceeds the average for males. In her book “When Baby Boom Women Retire,” Nancy Dailey states that on average these women will be widowed at age 67 and outlive their husbands by 15 to 18 years.

This is the time for clarity. Allow no confusion to enter your cerebral cortex. Women will control a majority of the wealth and continue to make a majority of the decisions. Many companies are taking notice of this trend. Take Kodak, for example, a company that has recently completely transformed its business model. Kodak was convinced that its primary demographic was males buying gadgets, and they were wrong. By slanting their marketing toward women, Kodak was able to become the top digital camera company. It is time for a shift in traditional marketing. Successful companies have access to and utilize different information to alter their strategies.

According to the Consumer Electronics Association, “A meager 1 percent of women surveyed thought manufacturers had them in mind when creating products.” This is astounding when you consider that the same survey found that women accounted for $55 billion in electronics spending of the total $96 billion. What do your clients think about your business and services? Would your clients think that you have them in mind? Do they see you as a basic price-driven commodity or as a brand worth their loyalty?

Reason No. 2 — Women love to talk

This may be debatable to some, but you cannot argue with the facts. According to Deborah Blum, school-age boys score in the lowest group for verbal skills while twice as many girls score in the top group. Remember your last family reunion? The men ended up playing some sort of game while the women sat around and “caught up.” The reason for this difference is not exactly understood. However, research indicates that due to the hormone oxytocin, the “caring chemical,” women are more likely to want to foster relationships. This may explain why baby girls are more likely to maintain eye contact than baby boys. All that said, women love to have meaningful conversations, build rapport, make powerful connections, and talk to other women about their lives. Unfortunately, what most dentists do is give a quick introduction, perform an exam, then give a report — snip, snap, just like that. Women want rapport, not reports. Sociolinguist Deborah Tannen states that what is often missing is creating connections. Women want connection, relationship, empathy, and love.

If you have the ability to deliver the goods, then you’re sitting on what Russell Cromwell calls an “acre of diamonds.” Women represent the largest referral base in your customer’s practice. If your customer can give them what they want, the practice will grow. Imagine basing the entire practice on word-of-mouth referrals from women. It may seem scary to put all those eggs in one basket, but it can work. Take the oil industry, for example. Conventional wisdom would lead you to believe that large oil companies dominate in the area of oil discovery with their teams of geologists. According to the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, reality is that 80 percent of oil in the U.S. was discovered by wildcatters. Tom Peters reports that one stockbroker receives, on average, 2.6 referrals from his male clients and 21 referrals from his female clients. Just imagine 80 percent of your business coming from women. Men buy based on facts. Women buy based on what their friends say, then put it into context with the facts. Bottom line? Women talk, so give them a good reason to talk.

Reason No. 3 — Women represent the biggest business opportunity

Women are not a niche, they are the majority. In her book “The Power of the Purse,” Fara Warner states, “We (women) are the majority of the population. We control or influence 90 percent of all consumer purchases in this country.” Those of you who think this could only apply to traditional female products, think again. A manufacturer of riding mowers found that 80 percent of their sales were made to female consumers. Women represent the majority, are treated like the minority, and continue to hold the dice.

Considering that each woman is more likely to refer clients than men, this represents a significant return on investment (ROI). Now we can use the 80:20 rule and assume that 80 percent of new clients come from 20 percent of marketing efforts. You are most likely not spending much on your word-of-mouth referral program, but your best patients probably come from this category. It is only logical that you invest more in your word-of-mouth marketing program and focus on women. This would essentially create a business relationship with the women of your practice. You will need to develop, foster, and embrace these relationships with your new partners.

Furthermore, if the client can facilitate a connection between his or her female clients, then the synergy is magical, converting the practice from a commodity to a brand. Harley-Davidson is doing this now. Harley dealerships hold garage parties for women to teach them things like how to pick up a 750-pound motorcycle. The connection is working, and this year Harley Davidson will sell about $300 million worth of motorcycles to women. Harley is developing their brand with the female segment of the market through powerful connections. Once a connection is made, loyalty and trust enter the equation and the result is an army of loyal, referring business partners. A headline in the April 15, 2006, Economist states, “Forget China, India, and the Internet: Economic growth is driven by women.” All right, you get the point, but just to hit the position home, look at what Goldman Sachs in Tokyo did -- developed an index of 115 companies poised to benefit from women’s increased spending power. In the last 10 years, the value has risen 96 percent, compared to the Tokyo stock market’s rise of 13 percent.

It is clear that the time is now. If your client does not have a marketing plan, he or she needs one. Be sure that plan includes a comprehensive strategy for the practice to embrace women as business partners. There are many resources available, starting in the practice itself. Have your clients talk with their female patients. More importantly, listen to what they have to say. Just about the time you feel like you need to say something, bite your tongue and listen some more. Women make a majority of the financial decisions and this directly affects the dental practice. Ask your clients to foster the relationships he or she has, and watch the practice grow.

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Dr. Andrew Goldsmith practices in Colorado Springs, Colo. He is a member of the American Medical Marketing Association and the American Marketing Association. He conducts seminars and private consulting to help others capture market share using the latest strategies. You can reach the author at [email protected].