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It Takes Feminine Brain Traits to Market to Women

Posted on | May 16, 2008 | No Comments

by Andrea Learned

We’ve all got them.  Whether you are male or female, you have the ability to tap into your feminine brain traits to better understand a woman’s buying mind.  You just may be out of practice. 

After a month of speaking to several traditionally male-dominated industry audiences and a day at the M2W Conference in Chicago last week, this realization hit me.  Business is often approached in a linear, set, “we’ve always done it this way” manner.  Since patriarchy is our history, it makes sense that the way we all think as business people tends to default first to our masculine traits: What are the numbers?  What is the research?  Just give me the six steps and I’ll get it done!”

But, what all the sessions at M2W and my own experience have shown me is that the first big hurdle in marketing to women is in remembering that it cannot be a linear process.  If you want to reach women at the curves along their buying paths, you’ve got to first curve out of your own business comfort zone to get there yourself.  Yikes – this is so hard for so many of us!

Rather than wondering which exact questions you need to ask your customer advisors before you  interact with them.  Relax.  Then, gather a manageable number of them, provide for their eating/drinking/sitting/milling around comforts, and then just listen to their initial conversations with one another as your first step.  Ideas for topics to raise will emerge for the next gathering, never fear.  Remember – women tend to take a bit longer to buy, so you need to allow for more time getting to know them. (It’s more about the process than the goal!)

As well – the next time you are planning a new web site launch, ad campaign or promotional event, back away from those task checklists.  Instead, invite women, and their not-so-tied-up-in-a-bow insights into that process before you even write that list.  Otherwise, if you tend to your linear ways first and only THEN allow for their input, it may be too late.

Marketing to women may look messy and give you pause because doing it well just can’t be contained in a page of bullet points.  Try to get over it.

So, I’ll close with a non-linear, cross-industry moment of my own in pulling from Michael Pollan’s latest book, In Defense of Food.  In it, he writes about how so many nutrition scientists seem to take a reductionist view of food and then lose sight of the larger, and yes, way more complex picture.  This one sentence sums it up nicely:

“The problem with nutrient-by-nutrient nutrition science,” points out Marion Nestle, a New York University nutritionist, “is it takes the nutrient out of the context of food, the food out of the context of the diet, and the diet out of the context of lifestyle.”

In the same way, the problem with line item-by-line item marketing to women is that it can’t handle the holistic, complex buying paths of women – which are influenced by so many immeasurable and subtle things.  But, use those feminine brain traits of yours to walk that path yourselves, guys and gals, and you’ll see exactly where to go. 

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