They Represent (at least) One out of Five of Your Potential Clients
I’m not sure who first came up with the idea of trying to understand how women shop, but I like to think the process began with David Ogilvy, the legendary ad guru, who had the guts to tell arrogant advertising creatives in the late 1950’s:
“The customer isn’t a moron, she’s you’re wife.”
While men once were the decision makers in financial matters, in today’s environment, this no longer holds true. Women, and in particular, single women, make up a large and growing segment with significant buying power and specific marketing needs.
Since then there’s been a lot of research on how women shop for almost everything, but very little, at least as far as I’ve seen, on how they shop for real estate. Probably the best proxies can be found in other financial services, and general shopping traits.
Real estate is a fiercely competitive business where success is driven by many factors: business strategy, knowledge, quality, efficiency, and technology. All are critical to success. Perhaps the most important consideration is that real estate is relationship-driven. Given the increasingly competitive nature of the business coupled with a difficult economic environment, developing stronger relationships with your customers is more vital than ever. Targeting sales and marketing to specific niches can help stimulate growth in this rough market.
With more unmarried women in the population and more women delaying marriage, more women are forming their own households, according a study by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. As a result, more women are buying homes – many for the first time. In fact ~20% of homes are purchased by single women.
First-time female buyers accounted for 41% of all unmarried female buyers of homes. Another Harvard study revealed that women now control 91% of home buying or remodeling decisions.
Process and Marketing Approach
The marketing approach for this segment must to be tailored to what we know about behavior. Women approach the purchase process differently from men, particularly in the area of financial services.
Research: Women will have done their homework before seeing you. When women are interested in a product, they will do extensive research, relying on the Internet, personal finance publications, friends and advisors. For instance, I’ve read surveys that report women spend 40% more time researching a mutual fund than men.
But don’t make the mistake of thinking these customers’ proclivity for research means your work is done. Women may perform research in part as a defense mechanism because they have had a negative buying experience with another service provider who ignored, patronized, or mislead them.
Women tend to want an available list of options, thus multiple listings with comparisons between neighborhoods is a great way to address this need.
Communicating with Venus
I’m sure we all agree that women and men communicate differently. In financial discussions, the phase “I’ll think about it” can mean something very different between men and women. In any circumstance, “I’ll think about it “can be a tactic to delay a decision or avoid confrontation. With women this may mean that the process of arriving at these decisions involves consultation with a personal “board of advisors” before making important purchase decisions.
Also, when a man is nodding along with what you’re saying, he means, “I agree” whereas a woman means, “I understand, please continue.”
To make it convenient to communicate, ask her preferred method: calls to the office, cell phone, e-mail – what works best for her? However you communicate, keep in mind: She would also prefer to hear from you directly, or at least have a reliable, dedicated contact. Responsiveness and a single point of contact are critical to building and maintaining the relationship.
R. E. S. P. E. C. T. – What it means to her
Perhaps more than any other factor, respect for a woman’s time is paramount. In her book EVEolution, Faith Popcorn outlines eight truths of marketing to women. The fifth “truth,” and the most easily adaptable for agents, is “go to her.” If you save her time, do business where it is most convenient for her, you will score major points. This might mean going to her office, meeting her at the gym or at Starbucks – wherever it is convenient for her.
Cause Related Marketing
Women tend to be more impressed and influenced by good deeds than men. Active, sincere community involvement can definitely pay dividends with women prospects. Consider aligning yourself with a local women’s or children’s organization or charity. Contributing to a cause can certainly pay dividends, to your conscience and your wallet.
As with any type of cause or event related marketing, though, be cautious of jumping on the bandwagon if there are already a number of “name” sponsors. For maximum impact and brand awareness, consider creating and owning your cause.
Similarly, participation in local community organizations can bring in leads and build goodwill. If you are a parent, consider getting more involved with the PTA at your child’s school. These organizations are still made up primarily of women and can be an excellent source of leads and referrals.
Events. If you are sponsoring a first-time home buyer seminar or participating in a real estate related event, give the event an exclusive feel and consider targeting a small group. You are likely to generate a much higher percentage of leads from a small group that allows the women more freedom to interact with each other.
Women are likely to use the Internet for research and very well may visit your website before meeting you. In addition to being professional, women are more likely to be impressed by having access to information about you, your company and the home buying process. Interestingly, women also enjoy quizzes and surveys, so including some on your site may increase their interest in your company.
To the extent you are considering sponsoring or advertising on other websites as a lead generation tool, focus on sites that are tied to major life events, like graduation, marriage or having a baby. Investigate if there are service providers in your market – daycare centers, wedding planners, limousine companies, etc. – that have websites you could use to reach the female audience.
Women tend to be very loyal consumers and, if you serve them well, they are three times as likely as men to refer others to you
By focusing on the parameters of your market segment and understanding its size and needs, you can create greater success in any relationship-driven business.