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What Women Want (in Technology)

I’m a woman who talks tech, and my audience is mostly women. That makes me a good resource if you’ve got a product or service you want to market to the chief household officer, the female owner/operator of the house who makes the majority of purchasing decisions and is often the primary breadwinner. If you’re a tech startup out to capture the mindshare of this desirable demographic, it means you know that women are fast followers of technology, which we use to run our schedules, fuel our businesses and entertain our kids.

So you want to grab our attention before we hoist our wallets and head out the door (or online)? Do you know what to say to make an impression?

Most of the marketing copy I see is decidedly off the mark, and apparently I’m not alone in thinking so—studies show overwhelmingly that women feel misunderstood by marketers, especially in traditionally male-dominated product lines such as consumer electronics. Much of the gear that comes across my desk is great—it can truly make life better, and I want my audience to know about it. Unfortunately, no matter how much I praise these products, the marketing copy that accompanies them is a total turn-off to the audience that these companies desperately want to reach.

So where’s the disconnect? And how can your company improve its communication skills (and bottom line) without pandering or stereotyping? I offer these tips to help bridge the gap between women and tech marketers, with the hope that it will help more great products wind up in the hands of great customers.

Pink? Don’t think so.

This might be the epitome of lazy marketing behavior—just paint it pink and suddenly it’s “for women”! While there might be some portion of the female market that appreciates a hot-pink laptop, to most it feels marginalizing and alienating.

Even more frustrating is that the pink laptop almost always has a smaller hard drive or slower processor than the man’s laptop in sleek blue-black. Ever seen a mom’s photo collection? It will outgrow the hard drive on a pink laptop before Junior even learns to walk.

If you assume that your product’s pretty color is all the information a woman needs in order to whip out her credit card, expect to get a proverbial slap in the face. Create a product that solves her problems, and you’ll have a lifelong relationship that transcends color.

Get to know her.

It might seem obvious, but “women” is not a niche market (the Census Bureau says there are more than 158 million in the United States alone), which means it’s hard to speak to all women effectively. Think of it this way: Will a 42-year-old Oklahoma City mom and a 23-year-old single Manhattanite respond to the same marketing messages? Not likely.

Because no business wants to waste money, energy or good ideas, it’s important to begin strategizing by thinking critically about the specific kind of woman you want to reach. Building customer avatars for each type of woman you’d like to engage with your marketing is a helpful exercise. Map out her demographics (age, geography, marital status and household income), but then go deeper: What are her fears, interests and beliefs? What does she like to read or watch on TV? Get as detailed as you can; the more information you have, the more likely you are to craft messages that resonate with her. It does take time, but once you’ve created these avatars you can use them as a compass to guide your every marketing move.

Women aren’t stupid, but they are busy.

According to a study done by Parks Associates, 32 percent of women versus 26 percent of men say “ease of use” is their first priority when choosing consumer electronics. Why? Because women are far too busy to tinker with your product or read lengthy instruction manuals. Juggling home, work, relationships, kids, bills and parents doesn’t leave much time for troubleshooting with a buggy app or a half-baked product. In other words, women aren’t tech-challenged—they’re time-challenged.

If your product is easy to use, sets up in a snap and solves a real problem better than anyone else’s, you should have no trouble getting women to install, adopt or purchase it. Raise the bar on your customer experience, and you’ll have her fierce loyalty—not because her pretty little head can’t handle complicated technology, but because it shouldn’t have to.

Tell her a story.

You’ve created a mind-blowing product or service that will improve the lives of busy women everywhere, so the next question is: How will you capture her attention? Bullet points of features are an important part of the purchasing process, but introduce those later. First, hook her with a good story: How is this product going to make her life better? What problems will it solve? Why should she give it a try? (Hint: “Because it’s cool/new/shiny” won’t cut it.) Use practical examples that she can identify with, ones that draw on all the work you’ve done to learn about who she is, what her problems are and how your product will solve them. Be compelling; be creative; be personal.

If your marketing copy is full of features and not really capturing the benefits, you’ve got some work to  do.

Let the ladies in.

If you’re designing a product you want women to adore, I think it’s much easier if you have a woman or two on your core team. If women are integral to making your product’s business, design and development decisions, then a woman’s preferences will be woven into the fabric of your product (not simply spray-painted on top).

Marketing is always a piece of cake when you’ve built a great product, and women are going to organically gravitate to yours if it feels authentic and germane to their lives. Think of all the money you’ll save on shallow or misguided marketing because you have a woman in the conference room to help steer the ship.

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