Profit Minded

When Women Execs Are Your Target Market

Branding experts Lalita Khosla and Lubna Abu-Osba

Here’s something a lot of brands don’t get about marketing: When your ad campaign targets men, you don’t capture women. But if you target women with authentic branding, you’re likely to win men too. So say Lubna Abu-Osba and Lalita Khosla, partners in the branding agency The Influence Bureau.

In an earlier interview, the two experts shared what businesses need to know about marketing to women consumers. Here in part two, they tell how B2B companies could target women-owned businesses.

YSB: What's your branding or marketing advice to B2B companies that want to target women-owned businesses or female executives?

Lubna Abu-Osba: More women are opening businesses than men right now. If you’re trying to appeal to a woman business owner or female consumer, don’t look at women as a monolithic group, because they’re not one.

Realize it’s about the holistic experience of speaking to women. It’s about tapping into female core values and creating an authentic relationship with that female owner, versus going in and telling her you know what’s best for her.

She wants to know that you care what matters to her, which is anything that’s going to simplify her life or save her time. It’s likely that she has a whole other job when she gets home from work. She wants simple, not because she’s not smart, but because she’s doing 20 other things today and what you’re selling her needs to be easy to use.

Women also want transparency. Take FreeConferenceCall.com (a service we used to conduct this interview): You wondered, what’s the hitch? Why is this free? Are you going to do some sneaky thing to me once I sign up? Wouldn’t it have been great if they said up front, “We offer it for free for this reason.”

Women discuss purchases with other women and search out credible opinions. That is going to influence their decisions more than what companies say.

Steve Jobs was brilliant at this. Apple is a brand that people think of as gender neutral, but the company has really embraced female core values—a range of beautiful colors, simple to use, not overly complex, with transparency and credibility. Apple is a great example of how to understand those things women value and not alienate men.

Lee Clow was the man behind the Apple advertising. Men can get it right; it's not that women make better marketers.

YSB: What's your biggest challenge in helping your clients develop brands for women?

Lalita Khosla: The biggest challenge is this societal paradigm shift. Our global society is changing because of the power of women. We’re going from a male-centric value system to a female-centric value system, and success is not based on brute strength anymore. It makes people uncomfortable.

Take the TrueCar.com commercial. I thought that ad captured the reality of car shopping for a single woman. But it got a lot of negative feedback for portraying women car buyers as clueless. The company pointed out that its creative director is a woman.

Or look at GoDaddy. Their Superbowl ads have been so maligned for being sexist, and now their 2014 Superbowl campaign portrays men in a sexist way. Meanwhile, GoDaddy is considered a great workplace for women. It’s a minefield out there.

Lubna Abu-Osba: Another of our challenges is to get our clients to understand that it’s good business. It’s not that we have some political agenda to empower women, though we do want to do that; it’s that it’s really smart business.

It comes down to this: you will make more money if you really tap into the core values of women, and you won’t lose the men. When you’re totally going for the guy, you lose the women. But if you go for the women authentically, you win the men too.

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