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What men need to know about women

There Is A Whole Art And Science Behind Marketing To Female Consumers. A Good Place For A Man To Start Would Be ‘Thinking Like A Girl’and Relying On Visual Candy As Bait

By Joseph F Carroll

Today’s successful sales person moves from being purely transactional to understanding that emotions govern the buying decision, particularly with women

It seems that everywhere I turn I am reading something about the importance of understanding that our marketing efforts should be directed towards the female consumer. I’ve always thought this was a given. After all, what husband would dare challenge his wife on how she wants to decorate her nest? Women generally make the final buying decision so manufacturers should pay more attention to what they want.

I recall that several years ago I was attending an industry conference of American furniture manufacturers. The first speaker to begin the afternoon session was Connie Post, a well-known showroom and retail store designer.

Connie looked at the almost entirely male audience and said, “OK gentlemen, listen up. Today, I’m going to teach you to think like a girl.” This opening line got the immediate and undivided attention of the audience.

While we had been having lunch, Connie had placed several home magazines at each person’s place. Following her opening remark, she had asked us to quickly leaf through the pages of each magazine and fold the corner of the page if there was a picture of furniture or accessories on it.

“If you will look through all these pictures, you will find common style and design themes, colours, finishes, and fabrics. Now, you know what women are looking for when they buy furniture.”

Women get most of their decorating ideas from looking through these magazines. They are stimulated by what they see in the photographs and mentally start to decorate their home. My wife, like many other women, will tear out the page of the magazine when she sees an accessory or a room decorated in a manner that catches her eye. She has several folders containing ideas she has gleaned from these magazines. I am told this is a rather common practice.

Connie’s suggestion to manufacturers is to look through the home magazines on a regular basis to make sure we are incorporating the styles, finishes, and colours that women see in our designs. Sounds like good, basic marketing, doesn’t it?

I once attended a seminar made up of female retailers and manufacturers who each offered their views on how to market to women. Here’s what these ladies had to say about marketing to the female psyche: First, have a conversation with your customer. Try to find out her needs with openings like, “Who is going to use this room?”, “What other furniture and colours do you have in this room?” Today’s successful sales person moves from being purely transactional to understanding that emotions govern the buying decision, particularly with women.

Eight percent of men approach colour in a different way. Women react emotionally and intuitively. When a man shops for furniture, he has a goal: get in there and get out. He thinks of functionality, style, and cost. So does a woman but in a different way. The secret to effective marketing is to appeal to the needs of both men and women. I thought IKEA used this technique very effectively on their hang-tags. On one side of the tag, were the price and a few selling points. On the other side was more detailed information, such as foam density and other construction features that might appeal to the husband.

Instead of giving the customer ‘visual candy’ when they walk into the store, we cramp as much furniture as we can on the retail floor; stuff that amounts to nothing more than ‘visual noise’. Women relate better to room settings.

For many people, there’s a fear factor to overcome in buying furniture. One retailer told me, “I see people wearing leather coats on their backs that cost more than the sofa they are looking at – yet they don’t equate the similarity.” However, another retailer said she had to mark up the upholstery furniture in her store because her customer wouldn’t pay less than US$1099.

“These customers are not shopping for price; they are shopping for a reason to buy.” In today’s highly competitive marketplace, the most important skill we can develop is listening to our customer.

Joseph F Carroll, is the former publisher of Furniture/Today and one of the original founders of the IAFP (International Alliance of Furnishing Publications). He is an international marketing consultant.