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Monday, September 29, 2008

Mary Lou Quinlan, Whole Truths, Half Truths and Marketing With Women

Mary Lou Quinlan - Founder/CEO Just Ask a Woman was a panelist from the Marketing to Women... Online seminar earlier this summer. Hearing her then reminded of previous times when I have enjoyed her insights.

Not at the inaugural M2W conference, but shortly thereafter at a 2005 ANA event in NYC [note membership requ'd to access archives], then at a Columbia Women in Business event and another ANA event all about marketing to [and with] women I saw Mary Lou in action, sharing case studies and perspectives. I'll try to track those notes down to share them here.

At all of these events, I've been taken with how insightful and grounding her perspective is. In the introduction to her 2003 book Just Ask a Woman: Cracking the Code of What Women Want and How They Buy, Quinlan says "I believe in marketing with women, treating them as business partners and listening to them throughout every step of the marketing process. The greatest marketers are not the best sellers or talkers. They are the best listeners."

Points she made at the Marketing to Women... Online seminar.

In her book, Quinlan identifies and develops seven themes all based on the careful listening she has done over the years [interesting how the number 'seven' crops up here as well as with Grant Schneider's 7 New Rules for Marketing to Women]:

+ Stress represents the number one issue that influences all other issues.

+ Women make decisions deliberately - taking their time and after doing a great deal of research.

+ Women are vigilante shoppers. Says Quinlan: "Vigilante captures the attitude of today's female shopper, who is tired of waiting for retailers to respect her needs. She sometimes feels angry and ignored, so now she is taking customer service into her own hands. She is on a mission to get satisfaction, and you are in her sights."

+ The complex way in which women view themselves affects how marketers connect with women. In other words, how well does your brand match up with her image of herself?

+ Technology enables. It can save time, simplify and diminish stress. It can also frustrate if it is too hard to use, not-user friendly, and doesn't let her be in charge of the experience.

+ She demands respect, for herself, her decisions, her intelligence, her research, and her causes.

+ She craves comfort and needs it defined on her terms, as it relates to her life.

Note: Each chapter features a 'cracking the code' section. For retailers reading this, here is what Mary Lou offers in terms of Cracking The Code on Shopping from the Vigilante chapter:

1. Make a good first impression; she is watching

2. Your service should be democratic even if the merchandise is not.

3. Beware of the so-called bonding behavior of your staff.

4. When she is ready to check out, she is already checked out -- hurry!

5. She will come back to stores that like her and are like her.

At previous events, Mary Lou referred to 'whole truths [WT] and half-truths [HT]' of women, underscoring the nuances associated with truly connecting successfully with women consumers. Albeit briefly, during the Marketing To Women... Online seminar she referred to ones recently uncovered while doing research with About.com. Per the brochure we received titled "Women & the Web: The Search for Truth and Trust," those consist of:

+ HT: She's super-stressed, time-pressured and has no time to waste.
+ WT: She makes time for what she wants to do and the Internet is a high priority.

+ HT: She's totally convinced that the Internet is a life-saver.
+ WT: She's in a tug of war between loving what it's done for her... and feeling guilty for her obsession.

+ HT: She feels like she has the longest to-do list, so online research is just one more job.
+ WT: She secretly gets ego rewards out of being counted on for answers and the Internet becomes her ally.

+ HT: In her 'real life,' she listens and consults with her "Board of Directors," close family and friends.
+ WT: She is just as likely to trust virtual strangers.

+ HT: Technology has allowed her to minimize undesired contact in her busy life, even with overly chatty family members.
+ WT: She is still hungry for personal connections that are attuned to her needs.

+ HT: She loves the independence of searching her way, no matter how much sifting and time it might take.
+ WT: She could really use someone to filter, edit and vet so that she could learn more, faster.

What I take away from this is how important it is to truly listen to your customers - particularly women customers. The value you offer the marketplace holds meaning only if it valued by your primary customers. So ask them what's important Listen carefully to the answers so you can figure out how what you do offers value to women. Then, deliver that value and continue to listen so you stay grounded and readily determine how best to maintain that consistently high level of value over time.

It may seem like an awful lot of work, but, when you remember how women make or influence over 85% of the purchasing decisions, it's worth it.

On top of that, if you figure out how to satisfy your most demanding customer, you can rest assured that you will exceed the needs of those other important customers responsible for the remaining 15%....

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