Changing Needs Define Approach To Womens Market

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A marketing strategy that targets women should include sub-strategies based on the various stages of a womans life, according to interviews with National Underwriter.

Because no one characteristic is true of all or even most women, companies find it more strategically advantageous to market financial services to womens needs at different points in their lives rather than focus on a specific trait, priority or reality that might be true of one woman, but not another.

A woman who is pregnant has a different life insurance need than a woman who has children in college, says Karen Noel, associate advertising director, State Farm, Bloomington, Ill. The company uses different ads and media placement for targeting single mothers, mothers with teen-age children, mothers with college-age children and so on.

“All women need the products we offer,” Noel says. What State Farm focuses on is “how do we reach them at the best time.”

“We respect women whatever stage theyre in, we know theyre juggling a lot and their time is important.” The message State Farm wants to send is “heres how we can help you during this life stage youre in.”

State Farm assumes its would-be women clients have much to do in their daily lives, so it keeps its financial services messages simple, Noel says. This helps the company stand out from other print and TV ads, she says.

“It gets so confusing people may block ads out,” Noel says. “We hope our ads make it easier for them so they dont feel this is way too complicated, I cant invest. “

For example, State Farm runs an ad that says a client can open a mutual fund with $50 a month, Noel says. The message is “we can help you easily to start saving and meet your financial goals.”

State Farm also emphasizes the positive side of saving and insurance protection in its ads targeted at women, she says. Rather than use scare tactics, the company shows a couple vacationing or something similar, Noel says.

“We show that they get to take that great trip theyve been saving for rather than gloom and doom, like youll need a second job if you dont save, ” she says.

John Hancock Inc., Boston, also takes a needs-based approach in its advertising, says Lisa Scannell, general director, advertising and marketing services.

“Our strategy is to show that we understand the various situations people face,” she says. “We try to depict real-life situations and be inclusive.”

Susan McGory, chief operating officer at CNA Life and Long Term Care, Chicago, says CNA doesnt have a codified philosophy on targeting women, other than being in the right place in order to get its message across.

The message CNA tries to convey to women is that “women more times than not end up being in the role of caretaker, whether of children, parents or extended family,” she says. “And more and more women are the predominant financial provider as well as the caretaker.”

It is CNAs objective to help women understand how to prepare financially for these roles throughout their lifetime, McGory says.

As at State Farm and Hancock, womens needs at various stages of their lives drive CNAs marketing efforts toward women.

CNA considers “whether its early and women are protecting their family, if theres a two-spouse earnings platform, or if in fact, theyve become solely responsible financially for their family and preparing for the care,” McGory says.

“I think women are more conscientious now and in a better position than theyve ever been to take advantage of the products and services that help them meet the needs of their future.”

Northwestern Mutual works from the premise that attracting the womens market depends largely on having a significant number of women sales representatives, says Jessica Borgmann, assistant director, field recruitment, Northwestern Mutual, Milwaukee, Wis.

Northwestern implemented the Womens Integrated Network in 1996 in order to remain competitive in the changing marketplace, Borgmann says. The program joins the companys recruiting and development team with the marketing department in an effort to attract women as representatives and consequently as clients, Borgmann says.

The reasoning for the integration stems from the idea that women are entering the financial services field and/or seeking financial services more and more frequently than they have in the past–a trend that will likely continue.

Additionally, people who are either looking for a career or to do business with an organization expect to see themselves reflected in the people they work and do business with, Borgmann says.

“Its an extreme turn-off when they dont see themselves reflected,” she says.

Out of Northwestern’s desire to remain an industry leader, the Womens Integrated Network was born.

The other key factors that led to the programs inception include remaining competitive in the marketplace.

“If you look at all the people graduating from colleges and universities, more than half are women,” Borgmann says. “Over half the graduates entering professional occupations are women. At some point these women are going to (impact) both sales and recruitment, so if we dont align ourselves to attract this market, well lose the market.”

The last reason for the program was to tap into the best talent pool, according to Borgmann.

“The pool has dramatically changed from 20 years ago,” she says. “If we arent proactively targeting women and people of color, we are missing over half the talent pool. Recruiting people is difficult enough and even more difficult if were ignoring 50% of our pool.”

Four key strategies are the basis of the program: to continue to recruit women into the opportunity of financial representatives; to continue to advance womens leadership and positions within management; to continue to advance womens productivity and retention; and to increase the number of sales to the professional womens marketplace.

The integration of the two departments has been a boon to productivity, Borgmann says.

Since the beginning of the program, the number of women representatives has increased about 63%; about 60% more women have entered management positions; and productivity of newer representatives has grown dramatically, she says.

Although Northwestern has had demonstrable success in the womens market since the start of the program, “certainly, like everyone else, we are nowhere near where we need to be,” she says.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, April 22, 2002. Copyright 2002 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.