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Industry Spotlight > Women in Wealth

Marketing and Selling to Women Clients and Their Families

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It’s actually ironic that I’m the one teaching businesspeople how to market and sell to women. Ten years ago, when I was in business school I took a course on gender issues, not because I was keenly interested in the topic but because I needed what I thought would be an easy course for the semester.

And…I failed my first paper. I argued in my paper that men and women are no different and that any business decision based on gender was outdated, and I failed my paper. The professor gave me another chance to rewrite the paper. It was clear to her that I wrote the paper based only on my personal opinion–which I perceived as fact–and hadn’t properly done the thorough research needed to support my paper.

At that point I made the decision to put my own personal assumptions aside and actually read the research. I found something very strange, which probably most of you already know–that women and men, in many ways, are indeed very different.

Alvin Toffler said, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

There are many industries right now scrambling to “relearn” what it means to market and sell to women. It’s not about putting pink flowers on your brochures or about hosting fashion shows for your female clients. It’s about learning how women think about buying, how they build trust with their advisor, and how they think about money, and understanding that these are usually very different from her male counterparts. And by now we have more than enough research to support the facts.

In business, why do we care what women want? In North America, women buy the majority of all cars and trucks and the majority of consumer electronics, and women initiate the vast majority of home improvement projects-in fact, in most categories, women are the major purchaser or influencer. According to a 2009 global research study by Boston Consulting Group, “Women worldwide make or influence at least 64% of all purchases in a wide variety of categories, and a much higher percentage in many of them.”<e>1

But it’s not just about what women are buying, it’s about their rapidly increasing economic power–globally-that is gaining on, and even surpassing, the traditional male breadwinner.

For example, in the U.S., between 1997 and 2006, majority women-owned firms grew at nearly twice the rate of all U.S. privately held firms.<e>2 According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2007 nearly 35% of women now outearn their husbands.<e>3 Women far exceed men’s participation rates in higher education; by 2004 in Canada, for example, women represented more than 60% of all university degrees awarded.<e>4 We must note that it’s not a North American phenomenon. On a global level, the World Bank reports that women own or operate 25% to 33% of all businesses. According to Unesco’s 2009 Global Education Digest, women outnumber men globally, in university enrollment and graduation. According to Boston Consulting Group, “women will drive an incremental US$5 trillion in global spending in the next few years.”

In other words, as The Economist put it, “Forget China, India, and the internet: economic growth is driven by women.”

So if women are such a big economic force, why don’t we know what women want? I think there are two reasons. First, I think we get fooled into believing that because we speak the same language, our words mean the same thing. This is entirely untrue. Men and women use language quite differently, and we’re going to discuss this today. For example, when a man says, “I’m fine,” it typically means he’s okay, he’s fine. But when a woman says, “I’m fine,”…well, you know that’s not necessarily the full answer. Men and women also make decisions differently, build trust differently, and have a different experience with time pressures. All of these impact how women think about money–and how they think about you.

Second, in our total preoccupation with trying to be politically correct, we have trained ourselves to think that it’s more acceptable to treat everyone the same, regardless of their sex. Financial professionals are proud to tell me that they don’t treat men and women differently, that they believe in treating everyone the same. I know it’s more politically correct–and safe–but in business and marketing, safe isn’t always the right path. You might think it’s best to treat everyone the same, but if your market segments have different needs and approaches to considering and using your services, then it’s in your and your clients’ best interests to understand and adjust your approach.

Now, I realize you’re already selling to women and their families. My job is to help you do it easier and help you see why knowing how to market and sell to women is more than just “interesting”–it is potentially your biggest opportunity to grow your business.

We know financial advisors are leaving money on the table. Time and again, we’ve seen or heard of times when financial professionals are not winning business from the women who have a lot of business to give. In 2009, Boston Consulting Group launched a major research effort on the women’s market, conducting a survey of more than 12,000 women in 22 countries around the world, coupled with comprehensive one-on-one interviews. Their final report stated that “Financial services win the prize as the category least sympathetic to women-and the one that offers the greatest opportunity.”<e>6

My purpose today is to make sure you have the tools to not let that opportunity pass you by. You’ll leave this session not just with a theoretical understanding of how women think, but with a game plan to gain their and their family’s business–business that most of your competitors are leaving on the table.

We’ll discuss steps you can take 365 days a year, in the three areas that professional advisors concern themselves with:

o Attracting prospects

o Gaining new clients

o Retaining the clients you have

Marketing to Women Framework

Perhaps the easiest way for us to understand the whole story of marketing to women, and where we will be going from here, is for us to have a look at the model I’ve developed for more than six years of studying women’s consumer behavior.


Look Language Logistics


Empowerment Ecosystem Essential Self Ease of Life


Communication Decision Making Socializing Time Pressure

This model is the foundation of all the decisions you are going to make when marketing and selling to women. I’ve designed this model to be as simple as possible. It’s not just intuition or guessing; there is a clear methodology.

At the bottom of the model is a section called “Behavior.” This is the baseline about how women communicate differently, how they make their decisions, how they socialize and build trust, and the reality of their lives–and the time pressures. These behaviors are not necessarily socialized into women, but are often the result of their physically being “wired” differently, which science has now proved. So whether you’re in India, Spain, or Canada, these behavioral differences can emerge.

Behaviors are the source of why marketing to women is different from marketing to men. Behaviors drive themes that are woven into the design of your marketing and sales strategies: “Empowerment,” “Ecosystem,” “Essential Self,” and “Ease of Life”. I’ll explain these as we go through the presentation.

The bottom two levels of the model–”Themes” and “Behavior”–are more about theory, the “why” of marketing and selling to women. Theory is interesting for marketing people like me, but what I believe matters to you is “Implementation”: Why am I telling you this? What does it mean to you? How can this theory make your life easier? This is where the third, top level of the model comes in. My commitment is that in each section of this presentation, I will explain the theory and then show you takeaway ideas you can implement 365 days a year in your marketing and sales actions.

Whether it’s advertising, your sales presentation, or your client events, there are three ways to implement your strategies:

o Look: For example, the images you use in your brochures

o Language: The copy you write in your advertising, the words you use in your sales presentation

o Logistics: How you are getting to your female clients, where you are advertising, which networking events you attend

In a nutshell this model provides the framework in understanding how to make decisions, organize insights, and spark your ideas, and it gives you a sense of comfort that you aren’t missing anything. So, long after this conference, if you’re thinking of a new advertisement or a new initiative, you can run it through this model and be sure you’re on the right path. Spend less time concerned with how or what to market to women, and spend more time doing it.

So please keep this model in front of you, as we’ll be referring to it continuously through our time together.


Let’s expand on this model, and what better place to start than with the foundation of marketing, sales, and of being an effective financial advisor-”Communication.” No matter how brilliant you are as an advisor, and how many great client events you put on, you will need to be able to communicate well. Communication is the absolute bedrock of being a great financial professional.

Nelson Mandela said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” In order to be a great communicator, you need to connect with the heart.

Has anyone noticed, by any chance, that men and women communicate differently? I’m willing to bet that every one of us has had experiences of communicating with the opposite sex that has left us puzzled and feeling as though men and women speak a different language.

Well, you’ll be pleased to know it’s not just you. We actually do communicate differently. A well-known linguist, a professor at Georgetown University, Deborah Tannen, says that men are “report” talkers and women are “rapport” talkers.<e>7

Men tend to talk more about data, statistics, facts, and information to demonstrate their expertise, whereas women tend to use language more often to do three things:

1. To share their experiences

2. To find things in common

3. To truly feel as though they’ve been understood

And you know it takes a lot of words to feel understood. Did you know that according to Louann Brizendine, a neuropsychiatrist and author of The Female Brain, women use on average 20,000 words per day versus men’s 7,000 words per day?<e>8

Claiming in a magazine ad that you speak and listen well might bring a woman in the door, but I want you to succeed past bringing her in the door; I want you to gain her business, and for that you have to know how to speak “in her language,” as Mandela says.

Language is used in many ways–printed on your website, used in casual networking events, and in conversation at your sales meetings.

Let’s look at your conversation during your meetings with prospects. Here is a “report” style question often used in the industry: “How much do you have in investable assets?” Now, I realize financial professionals need this data point. But you can use this opportunity to pose a “rapport” style question to get to her heart. Something like this: “Tell me about your experience with budgeting and savings.” This allows her to open up, tell about her experiences, and feel that she’s been understood, not just as a data point, but as a person. In her answer you’ll still get the data you’re looking for and a lot more information that will allow you to position yourself as a solution provider.

Another example is this typical report style question: “How much money would you like to have when you retire?” This kind of question, again, prompts a report style answer that provides data, stats, or facts. How can you ask this question in a way that will allow her to use rapport style language and share her experiences, find things in common with you, and truly feel understood? How about this: “What’s keeping you up at night, with respect to your finances?” or even “What event, or idea, caused you to take time out of your schedule to meet with me?” This type of question opens up a safe environment for dialogue beyond the data, stats, and facts about money, and goes into her thoughts, feelings, and beliefs as a person.

Now, why would this rapport style question work well with female clients, but not so well with male clients? Generally, men are not that eager to expose their vulnerabilities and fears, whereas women are more eager to share their “Essential Self”–their authentic self, complete with fears, vulnerabilities, and dreams–when searching for solutions.

This difference between men and women is evident even in childhood. Leonard Sax, author of Why Gender Matters and a leading expert in the science of gender differences, reports that “Self-disclosure is the most precious badge of friendship between females….They confide in each other about their most personal doubts and difficulties….Most boys don’t really want to hear each other’s innermost secrets. With boys the focus is on the activity, not on the conversation.”<e>9

Language gives women a chance to express their essential self, a crucial theme for the women’s market. Essential self is about authenticity, that is, showing who you really are and allowing her to be who she really is. Women feel the need to share their essential selves in order to feel that they have been truly understood–not just as a client, but as a human being. Otherwise, women think, how can you possibly advise them on financial decisions if you don’t truly understand how they think-not just understand their financial numbers? Using rapport style language enables you to create a trusting and safe environment for her to share her experiences and find things in common so that she can feel truly understood. Also, it gives you a crucial advantage, by understanding and therefore being able to enter the conversation that is already going on in her head, and to position yourself as a solution provider.

When you leave this conference, evaluate the questions you ask in your sales presentation. Identify report style questions, the ones that guide the client to answer with data, stats, or facts. Consider, as we’ve practiced here, how you can translate those report style questions into rapport style questions. Try shifting the question to ask about experiences, or discussion of the question’s topic, rather than the data point. One easy way is to add “tell me about…” at the beginning of the question. For example, instead of asking a client to complete a series of multiple choice questions to profile their risk tolerance, try this: “Tell me about…your risk tolerance with investing.”

When you are designing your marketing materials, try and lean a little into rapport style talking. Don’t paint it pink. Use language to demonstrate–not just claim-that you are listening and want to hear her experiences so that she feels that she can truly be understood by you.

Rapport style communication is also used through body language, like eye contact. Have you ever noticed that women need eye contact in order to feel listened to? Men communicate shoulder-to-shoulder, while women communicate face-to-face. That’s why men can bond just perfectly while watching a game or playing golf together, never looking at each other, communicating shoulder-to-shoulder, while women will choose lunch or face-to-face conversation to bond. Eye contact is fundamental to communicating with women.

When meeting with women and couples, there are two scenarios you must know how to navigate. One is when she says she’s in control, and the other is when she says she’s not. Both can trip you up, so let’s navigate these together.

First, when you are meeting with a couple, and the woman clearly states that she’s the decision maker and her husband nods in agreement, there is one thing you absolutely must do before you do anything else. Believe them. This seems obvious, but the majority of stories I hear from dissatisfied women clients-and husbands-include instances of when she had clearly stated (and her husband agreed) that she was the decision maker but the financial professional continued to treat her husband-usually by body language, eye contact, and balance of speaking time-as the decision maker.

Second, what if you are in that scenario in which you are meeting with a couple, and the woman says, “Oh, I just look after the day-to-day bills. I’m here to meet you but my husband makes the investing decisions.” But in the car ride home from your office, you know what is happening. She’s telling him how it’s going to be-influencing the decision. When faced with the scenario, continue to treat her as an equal decision maker in terms of 50% or more eye contact, a balance of rapport style questions, and greeting her first. Why? Because even if she is not making the decisions about investing now, she is influencing the decision about whether to hire you. And the reality is women outlive men. If she’s not making decisions now, she will be-when that couple’s assets are at their peak. If you haven’t been able to connect with her, you are at great risk of losing her as a client when her husband passes away. So treat her as a valued opinion provider during your entire relationship with them as a couple.

Time Pressure

Let’s work the model through with another behavioral element–”Time Pressure.”

Have you ever had trouble getting the woman on the phone, or asked her to fill out forms or attend a client event because she…just…doesn’t…have…time? There’s a practical reason for that. Remember that at the beginning of this presentation we talked about how women outnumber men in university, 30% of women now out-earn their husbands, and there is a majority of women in the workforce. Well, the other side of the story is that, for whatever reason, women on average continue to shoulder the vast majority of housework and child-care burden, in addition to spending their time as men do-in the workforce.

Remember the Boston Consulting Group research project, which surveyed 22,000 women across the globe? It found that, globally, “demands on time were cited as the number-one challenge by 47 percent of . . . survey respondents.”<e>10 It said, “Above all other issues, women everywhere intensely feel a lack of time in their lives and the pressure of trying to contort time to accommodate everything they want to achieve. The time pressure is very real, and nearly all of our survey respondents mentioned it.”<e>11

So you are not her first priority. Her husband thinks he is her first priority; her children who have a school project due the next day think they are her first priority, her mother-in-law, who needs a prescription filled but can’t get it herself, thinks she is the first priority.

The result is that women are much less tolerant of service providers who don’t understand or don’t consciously respond to their time pressures.The good news is: women fall in LOVE with service providers who understand and are ultraresponsive to her time pressured reality.

Tony Hsieh knows this. Tony is the 35-year-old CEO of Zappos, the online store that started out by selling shoes, has more than $1 billion in gross sales annually, and was sold to Amazon in 2009 for $1.2 billion. Zappos is a perfect example of how to build a gold mine by truly understanding women’s time pressures. Zappos seems to have deconstructed every single step of the client experience and found ways to “give” them their time back. For example, if Zappos doesn’t have the shoe you want in stock, it will shop online for you, on their competitors’ sites, and tell you where you can buy it. Zappos shows every conceivable angle of the shoes on its website so that you know exactly what you’re buying, thus saving you the time you would need to return something that wasn’t what you thought it would be. They’re not selling to you; they’re helping you buy. Zappos is delivering ease of life. “Ease of Life” is the theme on the far right of the model. Ease of life is about finding ways to respond to women’s number one challenge–feeling pulled in a million different directions and feeling extremely time pressured. Ease of life is about joining her team, by changing your basic thinking from “What can I sell her?” to “How can I help her?” Simple, but not easy.

Advertising is necessary to attract her with claims that will bring her in the door, but I want you to capture her business. You’ll need to do three things to make her fall in love with you, like clients do with Zappos:

1. Acknowledge and validate her time pressured reality.

Start all meetings by saying, “I know you must have a million other priorities…” or “Do we still have an hour for our meeting?” or “I know your time is in short supply, so I did X (whether that’s filling out a form on her behalf or calling a colleague to get an answer she needs”).

2. Deconstruct each step in her experience of working with you.

Find ways to reduce the time she spends-from navigating your website, to interpreting and assimilating the information you give her to read, to taking time out of her life to attend your client events. Stop and consider what she will need to do in her life, to make this work. Ask yourself, How can I cut that time in half?

For example, is she spending time reading materials that are not in her normal, everyday language? Find a way to write your materials and add tools so that they are easy and fast to read and understand. Add a glossary that helps her quickly read through the document. How do you know if your materials are in her language? If she uses your language to describe to her friends what she bought from you, then it’s in her language. If not, look at the language she is using, and try writing in the customer’s language.

How much time does she spend preparing and thinking about your meetings? Can you reduce that time by sending her agendas and checklists in advance so that she knows what to prepare, or questions to think about in advance?

I recall that a financial advisor in one of my workshops had a “financial binder” system in which each meeting’s materials would fit into a tab system in the binder-a place for everything and everything in its place. When clients met with him, they knew to bring their binder. They didn’t have to go looking around their house for the pieces of paper or forms or brochures he gave them at different meetings. I thought that was a great idea for making a client’s life easier. To come up with this idea, the advisor really had to put himself in his clients’ shoes. He had to ask them detailed questions and learn that it took time and was stressful for them before every meeting to find the forms and papers and statements that they wanted to bring to the meeting.

It’s difficult to deconstruct each individual step of the client experience and truly see it from a woman’s reality. To save your own time, focus on the big issues by asking your female clients about very specific steps in the process. Really dig to find out how you can make her life easier. How can you–instead of selling to her–actually help her?

3. Find time pressure solutions in the details.

You don’t have to create huge gestures to show you are attentive to her time pressures. Just like when a man brings home a little bouquet of spring flowers for his wife, it’s in the tiniest gestures where hearts are won.

As recently as a few years ago, when the post office increased the price of stamps, everyone would have to go out and buy books of one cent stamps. I read a story about a financial advisor who, when the price of stamps went up, went out and bought a bunch of books of one cent stamps and mailed them to all his female clients with a sticky note that simply said, “I realize that the last thing you have time to do is another errand, so I did it for you.”

Now, why did he not mail books of one cent stamps to his male clients? That’s right, because although men are time pressured they would think, oh yes, this is nice, but then not give it too much thought. But women? Women see through this gesture to the meaning and their hearts melt for this person, who truly seems to understand how time pressured women’s lives are.

What are your one cent stamp ideas? What can you do when you get back to your office? My challenge to you is to carve out just one step in the whole client experience to start, say, your quarterly meetings or your sales presentations or your client events. Just choose one step, and deconstruct it from her life experience to find ways to save her time. Whether by validating her reality, adding tools, removing steps, or offering the small details, keep an eye on this and you will win her heart.

Decision Making

Has anyone ever noticed that men and women seem to shop differently? When men shop, they seem to have one thing on their mind-how quickly can I get in and out of this store?-whereas typically women, when they shop, place more emphasis on three things:

1. Gathering information

2. Evaluating all the options

3. Making a “perfect” decision

Paco Underhill, a global expert on retail consumer behavior, notes that “when a man takes clothing into a dressing room, the only thing that stops him from buying it is if it doesn’t fit. Women, on the other hand, try things on only as part of the consideration process, and garments that fit just fine may still be rejected on other grounds.”

An example of capitalizing on the fact that women and men shop differently is Harley-Davidson. Harley-Davidson matches its selling process to women’s buying process. Harley knows that women take more time evaluating, needing to fully understand what they’re buying, and aren’t as afraid to show their lack of knowledge by asking lots of questions. Harley hosts Garage Parties–women-only events–where women can try the bikes, ask all their questions, learn how to properly pick up a bike that’s fallen over, and evaluate all the details about the bikes. Garage Parties (a) give women all the information so that they can (b) evaluate the options and (c) make a perfect decision; in other words–Harley empowers women to buy. The “Empowerment” theme is one of the contributing factors to women being the fastest growing part of the motorcycle business.

Empowerment is an essential theme of marketing to women in virtually all industries, particularly in financial services. Empowerment is about self-esteem, finding confidence in one’s own abilities, and blowing the doors off what you thought you could possibly do. Contrast that with power, a more masculine construct for marketing–competitive, aggressive, blowing the other guy off the road. Empowerment is about your relationship with yourself, and power is about your relationship to others.

Empowerment also has to do with how comfortable we feel with risk. Risk is an important consideration in purchasing financial products. We know from research that women and men, boys and girls, deal with confidence and risk differently.

A recent study by the University of Boston set out to answer this question: Why are the majority of drowning victims male? After extensive research, they realized it wasn’t that men couldn’t swim as well as women. The researchers concluded that “a major contributor was that the men consistently overestimate their ability to swim.” In other words, men’s confidence exceeded the actual risk.

Researchers at the University of Missouri conducted a study to see how boys and girls respond to risk. They set up a simulated bike riding experience in which the bike was connected to a screen that showed a challenging and often dangerous route, which varied from basic obstacles to extremely dangerous situations, such as a car swerving into the bike’s direct path. The stationary bike was wired so that researchers could monitor how quickly the boys and girls used the brake to avoid collision. Boys were much slower to brake than girls were. Researchers noted, “If the simulation had been real, many of the boys would have sustained life threatening injuries.” In other words, boys overestimate their ability, and at the same time underestimate the risk.

In parallel, in the financial industry, studies report that men more often believe they can out-strategize the market by overestimating their ability and underestimating the risk, whereas women do the opposite. Men are more likely to buy a hot investment without doing any research and less likely than women to ask for, or listen to, advice. I don’t think women are risk adverse. But I do think they plan more carefully, they are more thorough about their decision process, and perhaps they are more likely to in fact underestimate their own abilities.

Back to how this ties into financial services. One success story in implementing the theme of empowerment is Women & Co., a membership program designed to support and educate women on financial topics. Empowerment is one of the pillars this company is built upon.

The language used in Women & Co.’s advertising reflects the empowerment theme:

o “(women) have their own ideas…”

o “where women build financial confidence and knowledge”

o “The strength of women, backed by Citi”

How can you implement empowerment? First, ensure that you match your selling process to her buying process as follows:

1. Gathering Information

Use language to demonstrate that you’re matching your service approach to her decision approach, by specifically acknowledging and validating all her questions and comments.

o “Barb, that’s a great point…”

o “Sue, that’s an excellent question…”

o “Jackie, I wish more people would ask that question…”

2. Evaluating Options

As we said earlier, women need encouragement, empowerment, and tools to completely understand your products and services, in order to take risks-the right risks. In other words, women will typically not buy something unless they completely understand it.

Work at her pace. Offer to meet with her separately to cater to her questions, priorities, and knowledge interests that are different from her spouse’s.

Again, try matching your “selling process” to her “buying process” by not “driving straight to the objective” or “solving the problem” as quickly as possible. Try what I call the “best friend test.” If your best friend were about to buy a product from your industry, what are all the things you would tell him or her? How could you help him or her make the best possible decision? What would you want him or her to watch out for? How would you explain the options in his or her language? This best friend test is a frame of mind to use when marketing to women. Instead of selling to her, empower her to help her buy.

3. Making a “Perfect” Decision

Keep communicating and supporting her decisions, not by sending her hard-to-interpret jargon and indecipherable industry charts and graphs, but by offering practical advice to answer the questions that are already going on in her head.

As Harley-Davidson and Women & Co. do so well, match your selling process to her buying process. See what you can do in your practice to observe and match her more thorough process of gathering all the information, evaluating all the options, and making a “perfect” decision.


Being a great financial professional, as we all know, is all about relationships. To be a great financial professional you must create, strengthen, and maintain relationships–with your prospects, clients, and centers of influence. You can do everything else well–communicate, respect time pressures, match the decision-making process. But if you can’t build trust and relationships, it will be difficult to grow your business.

Have you noticed that men and women build relationships and trust differently? We know they do, and we see it from early on. As Leonard Sax observes in his research: Friendships between girls are different from friendships between boys. Girls’ friendships are about being together, spending time together, talking together, going places together. Friendships between boys on the other hand usually develop out of a shared interest in a game or an activity.<e>16

So as children, boys are bonding by playing games in which there are winners and losers-a hierarchy–and girls are bonding by playing games, such as dolls, house, and school, in which there are no winners and no losers. Neither is better or worse, just different. Girls are creating their web, their ecosystem-their community-at a young age, whereas boys are creating their hierarchy. This “Ecosystem” theme is all about leveraging women’s propensity to create and value “community” and “connection.”

This flows into adulthood. Research-and observation-reveals that men’s social structure is a hierarchy, that is, who’s ahead, who’s behind, who’s winning, who’s losing, who’s up, who’s down, who has a bigger flat screen TV, who has a bigger truck. On the other hand, women’s social structure is more of a web: Let’s make sure we’re on the same level, that we’re connecting, that I’m allowing others to share their vulnerabilities and show I understand by sharing mine. That’s not to say that women aren’t competitive, that they don’t want to succeed, but sometimes hierarchy techniques you might use to connect with men, such as jockeying for position, demonstrating where you are in the hierarchy (“we’re the biggest company in the region,” “we only deal with the highest net worth customers”), should be balanced with creating a web with your female clients and prospects, by digging more into who you authentically are, exposing vulnerabilities and imperfections, being your essential self, and allowing her to be her essential self, as we discussed back when speaking about communication. Being her authentic self is a crucial part of how women build that web of trust, relationships, and their ecosystem.

This isn’t just social conditioning in North America; this is the way women generally are physically designed. Women’s need for human connection is actually a physical need. Hormones are involved in women’s need to connect with their friends. A University of California study revealed that when women experience stress, a hormone called oxytocin, otherwise called the “nurturing hormone,” is released . This causes women to seek human connection with others, which is why women’s reaction to stress is to pick up the phone and call a friend, which further releases more oxytocin that continues that feeling of the need to connect. Men, on the other hand, release testosterone when stressed, which creates a more aggressive reaction.<e>17

Women & Co. perhaps knows this, which is why it brings women together to share issues, be vulnerable, and find solutions together. Men just wouldn’t typically be attracted to round-circle forums in which they talk about in detail their financial fears and hopes, and share together.

Back to our benchmark of Women & Co.’s advertising, you can see the “Ecosystem” theme clearly in the words in their advertisements:

o “You may have something in common with…”

o “where wisdom, wealth, and women meet

o “Women & Co. is a financial community…”

In the past we’ve succeeded in a male-dominated industry like financial services with a male-dominated market by promoting hierarchy-who’s biggest, best, top of the hierarchy. How do we bring that into a woman’s world? What do you do when this conference ends and you’re back at your desk wondering how to grasp the opportunity of the women’s market?

1. Use women’s ecosystem to your (and your clients’) advantage.

Get comfortable with creating and leveraging platforms for women to connect with like-minded women within your client base or your network. And you do this in the “Implementation” level of the model-”Logistics.” Host dinner parties and invite a group of people you know who will add value to each other’s lives. Send the RSVP list in advance to attendees so that they see who they can connect with at your event. Create a LinkedIn group where you connect ideal clients who have the same issues. Speak, attend, sponsor, and promote women’s networks. You don’t have to be a woman to do that. Men who truly want to empower women are often invited to speak, sponsor, and promote at women’s groups. Use your ecosystem as a platform to provide more value and access a broader client base. Ensure your message survives transmission within her ecosystem by making it easy for her to share your message; be clear, be present, and be online. Share value-add information that can easily survive transmission within her network. Capitalize on, and contribute to, women’s propensity to create and value community and connection.

2. Play in the web (at least) as often as the hierarchy.

Consider balancing the hierarchical language often used in the industry with language that creates a “same-level” web with your client base.

Use images and stories in testimonials, client success stories, and role models throughout your marketing pieces that allow her to “see herself” in the situation. Use pictures of real clients and true stories of challenges and how they were overcome. Women want to see themselves so that they can identify with you and the essential self of your clients. Instead of focusing your marketing materials only on being the “biggest,” the “best,” the “most prestigious,” which you might very well be, blend that hierarchical language with vulnerability, the human touch of challenges, and commonality. In other words, balance web with hierarchy.

3. Create client events that educate, empower, entertain, and connect.

Are your client events educational? Empowering? Entertaining? And do they connect her with others who can add value to her life?

Typically in North America, with client events it’s all about the golf tournaments. Golf tournaments are largely in tune with men’s typical social structure: A golf course is not the appropriate place for lengthy conversation, so talking and sharing is limited. You’re shoulder-to-shoulder (not face-to-face) on the course, following the more male-style body language. The basis for bonding is doing an activity together in which there are winners and losers-a hierarchy. Golf tournaments are not typically empowering or educational, and unfortunately for the hosts, golf tournaments rule out potentially lucrative clients who happen not to play golf, or can’t spare the four hours it takes to play the game.

I’m not saying women don’t like golf, and I’m not saying you can’t do golf tournaments, but run it through these four criteria to broaden the appeal to women, without painting it pink:

o Make it empowering, by including events for non-golfers and noncompetitors, such as a fun putting tournament or golf swing lessons for any level.

o Make it educational and entertaining by including non-golf options in the clubhouse, such as a great speaker, a wine tasting, or a cooking course.

o Use the tournament to help connect her with others who add value to her life, by balancing shoulder-to-shoulder networking on the golf course time with face-to-face connecting time, before and after the game. Send the attendee list to all participants in advance so that they can prepare or plan to connect with others who will add value to their lives.

o Make the event accessible even to time-pressured women who don’t have four hours to play one game of golf; consider playing 9 holes in your tournament instead of 18.

Just about any client event can be run through these four points to broaden its appeal and attract women as well as men.

For example, I remember speaking to a lawyer whose law firm had recently cancelled a client event-a day at the race track learning how to drive race cars-because it was felt it was too “masculine” and might alienate, or even offend, their female clients.

I think the law firm missed a golden opportunity to launch a client event that empowered women. It just didn’t know how to do it. Let’s run it through the four-point framework with a focus on implementation to see what they could have done with this great idea:

Look: In their invitation and support materials promoting the event, they could have filled the empowering theme, by having equal balance of images of real men and women experiencing a racetrack event, and an equal balance of real men and real women race car driver champions.

Language: They could have written the event invitation and support materials in a language that offered empowerment through education–without painting it pink. Something like: “Have a great time learning driving techniques used behind the wheel by world champions like Danica Patrick! Sharpen your response time, learn how to corner safely at 120 mph, and learn race car techniques on how to avoid and even foresee collisions. Take these lessons from the exciting environment of our controlled racetrack back to your day-to-day driving, and benefit from your improved response time and sharpened driving skills.”

Logistics: They could have ensured the racetrack offered driving gear, gloves, and helmets in women’s sizes and designs so that women attendees to the event would feel equally welcome. They could have sent the attendee list out in advance so that everyone could plan on connecting with particular people who could add value to their network.

Just about any client event can be designed to broaden its appeal to women and men, without painting it pink, by following the checklist: Is it empowering, educational, entertaining, and does it connect her with others who add value to her life?


Let’s look at the journey we’ve taken. We’ve pointed out the opportunity in the women’s market, and the reasons why we need to approach men and women differently. We’ve considered the core behavioral differences between men and women: communication, time pressure, decision making, and socializing. We followed these behaviors up through the four essential themes of marketing to women, and discussed other companies who are implementing these themes well. We also discussed specific takeaways that you can implement 365 days a year, in look, language, or logistics.

This is just the beginning of your journey.

I have provided a handout that considers three areas that you can work on 365 days a year: (a) attracting prospects, (b) gaining new clients, and (c) retaining the clients you have.

My challenge to you is to choose the 20% of activities that most impact your success, and walk them through the marketing-to-women framework that I presented. Where can you communicate differently? How can you provide a platform for her to build her ecosystem? How can you change the images in your marketing so that she can see her essential self in your message?

I know our time here is up, but I want you to know that I am very serious about helping you. I will be around during the entire conference. I urge you, if you have any ideas or questions you want to discuss, to please just approach me. It would be an honor and a privilege to help you. I look forward to meeting you.

This is a published version of a focus session presented by Cristi Cooke at the 2011 MDRT annual meeting in Atlanta. Cooke is founder of Majority Marketing, Vancouver, B.C., Canada


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