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A Ready-Made Market

Reputation?not low-cost products?will win the business of women business owners.

By Maggie Leyes

Would you like a pool of prospects that numbers in the millions—6.2 million to be exact—and is hungry for your expertise? If so, women business owners are your answer. The Center for Women’s Business Research estimates that these 6 million-plus, women-owned businesses employ 9.2 million people and generate $1.15 trillion a year. Despite this economic clout, these women say they are underserved.

While grouping women business owners as a potential market for your services may not be news, the best way to reach them—and sell to them—is. A brain trust of experts in marketing financial products and services to women met in late summer in New York City at the Institute of International Research’s conference, Women in Charge. They had plenty to say on how insurance and financial advisors consistently miss the mark when selling to women business owners.

When choosing a financial advisor, reputation heads the list of what these women value, followed by service. Fee structure pulls up in last place. In addition to reputation, how you, as an advisor, are viewed in the community counts. Women look to see if advisors support other women-owned businesses, and if they are involved in the local community.

Quality—not price
Plugging inexpensive products is not your best foot forward with women business owners. When choosing products, they look for quality, not necessarily the least expensive product, as well as after-sales support. “Women look for perceived value in products, something that will save them time. … They lead much more complicated lives than men, juggling work, family, taking care of the home,” says Michael Marx, vice president of Market Intelligence for VISA.

How you can reach them
If you decide to advertise to reach this market, make sure you use the right medium, advises Delia Passi Smalter, president of Medelia Communications and former publisher of Working Woman magazine. Radio works, television doesn’t. When watching TV, women multitask and tune commercials out.

You must also make sure you time your advertising right, or it may fall on deaf ears. “Women listen to drive-time radio in the morning, but not in the evening, as they are focused on what they need to do when they get home,” says Passi Smalter. “If you choose print, the morning edition of the paper is a good venue for your advertising, as that is the source they most often use to get their news.”

Retaining your clients
Debra Nichols, director of women’s financial advisory services for Wachovia, says that reaching and retaining women business owners as clients--or women in general—can be accomplished with some old-fashioned techniques. According to Nichols, the four best ways to reach, acquire and retain female clients are: taking an information-based approach to selling, providing one-on-one counseling and educational opportunities, demonstrating premium service and using existing customers as a referral network. The bottom line: Women business owners, although busy, prefer the high-touch, personalized service approach.

Two for one
What is the benefit of tapping this market? According to Vanessa Freytag, president of W-Insight, “You can double-dip with women business owners. If you get their business for their business, you can also go after their personal financial business.”

For more information on marketing and selling to women, read The 10 Keys to Success: Winning Strategies for Doing Business With Women Business Owners.

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