Its Time To Turn The Potential Of The Womens Market Into Real Sales

The vast and largely untapped womens market represents an enormous and rapidly growing opportunity for producers in the financial services industry. But thats not news, since most financial services professionals have been hearing about it for upwards of a decade.

Sooner or later this begs the question–is the womens market really as lucrative as its cracked up to be or is “marketing to women” just one more arrow in the quiver of some companies marketing programs?

Certainly the demographics are in place: According to U.S. Census Bureau 2001 estimates, more than 62 million women are now working outside the home; nearly 8 million women own their own business, according to LIMRA 2001 figures; and more than half of all associates, bachelors, and masters degrees being earned today are being earned by women, according to LIMRA 1999 figures.

But thats not all. According to a 1999 study by LIMRA International, Windsor, Conn., women are closing the income gap with men, and among married couples, more than 20% of women are now earning more than their husbands.

Whats more, an estimate in the United States Census says that in 2002 nearly 1.3 million women were earning $100,000 or more per year. And, the Washington-based Center for Womens Business Research (2002) reports that over the past five years, women-owned firms with employees increased by 37% nationwide, with much of that growth taking place in traditionally male-dominated industries, including construction (36% growth), agricultural services (27% growth), transportation, communication and public utilities (24% growth), and insurance, finance and real estate (14% growth).

So if all of this is true, why are we still reading articles–year after year–about the vast potential of this growing marketplace instead of success stories by the agents and brokers whove tapped into it? What are we doing wrong?

We are failing to approach the womens market just as we would any other target market. We need to focus on their needs, objectives and challenges–just as we would any potential marketplace–and we should formulate our marketing plans from there.

Can we define the needs, objectives and challenges facing todays professional women? Thanks to the Internet, our own experience and studies like the one done by LIMRA in 1999, we can.

For example, we know that women comprise more than 51% of the U.S. adult population, according to LIMRA 2001 figures.

We know that a large number of them still balance work with household duties–planning meals, arranging for childcare and maintaining the family budget. We know that more and more women are taking on the burden of managing a parents financial responsibilities. And we know that many of todays working women simply do not have a lot of time to spend planning for their own financial future. So there is opportunity.

We know that, in general, women tend to seek out financial advisors based on recommendations made by people they trust. We know they are more interested in long-term relationships with their financial advisors, rather than infrequent contacts. We know from LIMRA studies that close to 50% of those who are saving money shy away from risky investments because, by their own admission, they are either “not very” or “not at all” knowledgeable about investments.

And we know that at least half of all women between the ages of 25-64 say they are concerned, or even very concerned, about outliving their assets, according to LIMRA figures from 1999.

Finally, we know that women in general have longer life spans than men do–women generally outlive men by six years, according to 2001 figures from LIMRA.

How do we turn our knowledge into a plan that will help us identify and approach this market on a favorable basis? Follow these easy steps:

Identify your market. Determine which women you want to work with–business owners, professionals, high net-worth individuals, etc.

Determine where youll get the names. For example, if you are working with advisors, you may want to work in partnership with them to target their women clients that meet your profile. Or, you may select a specific group of women–such as those who own a family business.

Create an approach process. One method may be to send a letter of referral, followed by a phone call to schedule an appointment to introduce yourself and your services. Or, consider a seminar approach where you invite a targeted group and present a topic that addresses a need you know they have.

Know what you are going to say–and how you will present the information. In a face-to-face situation, a brochure highlighting your experience, specialties, and the products and services you offer would serve as a good introduction piece. You would then want to identify what their specific financial goals and objectives are. Remember to stay focused on them and dont be pushy–be particularly careful not to “talk down” to them.

Provide ongoing service. Once you have a woman as a client, continue the ongoing relationship that they are expecting. Have service built into your schedule for an annual review, a birthday luncheon, etc.

Monitor your activity. Develop processes and systems that will help you monitor your activity and measure your results. Modify your plan as appropriate.

This, of course, is a very simple example of how to begin the process of working with women, but it will be key to having a detailed, in-depth, plan–just as you would for any other market.

Tapping into the womens market–especially in light of its fast growing potential–is not only smart, but for those who do it right, lucrative.

But lets not kid ourselves. As a target marketplace, women business owners and professionals are no different from men. They want, need and deserve sensible, affordable financial solutions; solid, innovative products and programs; a company that understands their needs and objectives; and an agent or broker whos willing to give them exemplary service.

If you can offer all of this, youll soon be writing your own success stories.

Patricia L. Carbee, CLU, is vice president of Marketing and Business Development for Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company, Philadelphia. Her e-mail address is Carbee.Patty@pennmutual.com


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, January 13, 2003. Copyright 2003 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.