The Feminine Touch

If you build it, they will not come — unless you craft a marketing plan to reach and keep women customers. So what do women want? By Jody DeVere

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One of the basics I’ve learned about marketing to women is that marketing, in the traditional sense, is just one step. You can create a fantastic advertisement or marketing promotion, even incorporate compelling features based on feedback and input from women, but if the experience at the shop is uncomfortable or stressful, you won’t get their business, or they’ll never come back.

In their book “Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?: Persuading Customers When They Ignore Your Marketing,” co-authors Brian and Jeffrey Eisenberg help marketers understand how to deal with the reality that the customer is in control. They suggest becoming your own customer and going through your own mystery-shopping process. For example, pretend that you’re a prospect just at the beginning of a purchase, searching for information. Which search terms would you use? Which stores would you visit? Which questions would you ask the shop? Then, ask yourself how your business lines up with those criteria.

Shop owners who want to succeed – and which of them don’t? – must take every interaction into account and understand that for today’s consumers, action, not words, motivates people, especially women who make 80 percent of the family’s purchasing decisions. “The experience has become the brand,” write the authors. “It’s about the experience … theirs,” and I couldn’t agree more.
According to the Eisenbergs, today’s consumers are independent, unpredictable and finicky – like cats. But many marketers still approach them as if all they have to do is create a compelling message and consumers will come to them like Pavlov’s dog. But that’s wrong. So here are some simple-but-effective suggestions for attracting and retaining women customers.

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Jody’s Top 10 Marketing Tips

  1. Be Patient. Women are a lot more cautious and careful than men, and they usually take longer to make decisions. Women will bring their car to your shop if they’re happy. And happy women are very loyal. So refrain from high-pressure closing tactics, be patient and don’t rush their decision-making process.
  2. Listen. Women buyers like to tell their “whole story” at the counter. Having outstanding listening skills helps build a relationship, and understanding their needs creates a friendly, enjoyable experience.
  3. Build Trust. Women represent nearly every family’s chief purchasing officer. They look for a shop that wants to become a member of their other highly recommended service providers. They want to do business with a shop that shares their values regarding honesty, respect and trust.
  4. Go Green! Eco-conscious living is on everyone’s mind, particularly women’s minds, and it should be a part of your marketing strategy every day. As an automotive service professional, you’re already practicing green principles just by recycling your tires, engine oil, plastics and metals. Extend that practice into your community by organizing a recycling drive. Couple this event with a car checkup that includes all of the components that govern fuel efficiency and emissions, and you’ve got a noteworthy green event.
  5. Support a Cause. To boost your brand image and broaden your shop’s exposure in the local community, a cause-related marketing effort will virtually guarantee drawing some much-desired attention and help earn the trust and respect of your current and potential customers. Especially with women, who are 28 percent more likely to purchase from companies that support causes that resonate with them. Whether you’re supporting a local organization, a national charity or just a great idea, cause-related marketing serves as a powerful tool that can redefine the way your business is perceived as a brand throughout your community.
  6. Use Social Media. Four out of 10 women believe the primary benefit of social media is to connect with family and friends. But 37 percent of them think the primary benefit involves the alerts about coupons, promotions and deals they receive by connecting with branded entities on social media. Therefore, humanize your brand to create a social media presence that women will want to connect with and share with their friends. By offering tips on maintenance and repairs on your social media site, you send a powerful message that you can help educate and empower women to take care of their vehicle.
  7. Be Mobile Friendly. A mobile-device friendly site attracts more interactions from women to book appointments, get directions, download coupons or sign up for loyalty programs.
  8. Know the Demographics. Learn the demographics of women in your local community and market to groups you’d like to serve as customers. Your marketing messages should resonate with each specific demographic. Understanding the different drivers of Baby-Boom generation women compared with those of the Millennial generation, or those of Gen Y as compared with Gen X, is vital to your marketing strategies. Direct your messaging to each specific demographic segment, depending on whom you’re trying to reach.
  9. Fine Tune Your Site. Think of your shop’s website as a company résumé aimed at attracting customers. Ask yourself if the text, images and graphics send a strong message that you welcome women and families. It’s best to include pictures of a clean waiting area, a female staff member, a happy female or family oriented customers rather than just wrenches and cars. Including pictures of your staff and their bios help women consumers see you as a family friendly shop.
  10. Improve Your Shop Talk. Nine out of 10 women who responded to a recent Car Care Council survey said they believe auto repair shop operators treat them differently because they’re women. You’d be wise to invest in employee training to improve overall communications with women at the counter, on the phone and in your marketing and advertising.

So here’s the bottom line: Delivering an outstanding experience for women is the best form of marketing. A study, “Elevated Expectations: The New Female Value Equation,” found that 97 percent of women expect quality customer service everywhere they shop. And the good news is that 83 percent say they buy more in a store that offers good service.

The study also reported:

• 89 percent of women choose one store over another, given similar merchandise and prices, if it offers better customer service.
• 94 percent said they tell other people about their bad experience.
• 58 percent of those ages 18 and older shared both their good and bad experiences online.
• 80 percent said they won’t go back if they’ve had even one bad service experience.

Women expect Nordstrom-quality service everywhere they shop, but they rarely find it. That gives shops a great opportunity to raise the bar by focusing on how to improve the experience of women customers and enhance their business’s brand image, grow market share and increase positive word-of-mouth, on- and off-line.

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