As a hobby blogger in the "mom" realm, I often get swamped at conferences by companies looking to market their products to women. These companies have figured out that women are online en masse and they're communicating their likes, dislikes and daily lives with friends and strangers. I applaud their initiative in trying to reach out to women on the web, but sometimes I wish they'd take a step back and think a little harder about how they approach these women.

With that in mind, I think it's essential for marketers who target women to take a trek over to Church of the Customer Blog to read Jackie Huba's latest post: "5 things you need to know about women and word of mouth."

There's no doubt word of mouth works well with women; after all, we're social creatures. None the less, there are a few subtle differences in how marketers should push word of mouth to us if they'd like us to pass things on to our friends. Jackie shares some insight and a handful of tips from Michelle Miller, co-author of "The Soccer Mom Myth: Today's Female Consumer: Who She Really Is, Why She Really Buys."

Huba starts with some stats on how women spread the word.

Women are three times more likely to share personal stories with a friend than men. Ask any woman how she found her hairdresser, doctor, or favorite wine, and she is likely to tell you that it was from a friend. Women are natural word of mouth spreaders. They are wired that way - with four times as many connections between the left and right hemispheres of the brain, women tap deeply into that area that is responsible for bonding and connecting with others.

Most marketers read a paragraph like the one above and rejoice; they've finally found the key to getting their product in front of legions of buyers. They just need to convince some mom to blog about it.

Except...that's not quite right.

See, one of the points I push home hard when I teach about viral marketing is the need to create a campaign or offer that someone is willing to stake their own reputation on. After all, if you want them to tell their friends, you're asking them to evangelize your product. If they are evangelizing your product to someone who ends up disliking it, they risk losing credibility. While you've got to look at things from the "will they risk their reputation on it" angle for all forms of viral marketing, you have to give it extra consideration when you're trying to work via women.

Huba writes:

If you are doing business with her, and she values your relationship, it may seem perfectly acceptable to ask her for a list of friends who might benefit from your services. But that may not be a good idea, even if she thinks you're the best thing since Starbuck's drive-thru. She is the gatekeeper of her relationships. She's not being stingy, she's being protective. A better idea might be to give her a few of your business cards and say, "if you know of anyone who might benefit from my service, feel free to give them my card."

In other words...

Don't expect women to spread the word for you, enable their ability to do so.

Don't ask them for access to their friends and family, give them access to YOU so they can share that access.

Don't tell them what to offer or what to say, make them happy and let them create the offer or pitch themselves.

After all, women know their friends better than you do. If you impress them enough to make them want to tell their friends, they'll find a far better way to spread the word than you would have.

May 13, 2008

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.

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Search Engine Guide > Jennifer Laycock > Reaching Women via Word of Mouth Marketing