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What men need to know about women PDF Print E-mail
Written by Joe Carroll   

ImageIt seems everywhere I turn I'm reading something about the importance of understanding that our marketing efforts should be directed to the female consumer. I've always thought this was a given. After all, what husband would dare challenge his wife on how she wants to decorate her nest? Women generally make the final buying decision so manufacturers should pay more attention to what they want.

Several years ago I was attending an industry conference of American furniture manufacturers. The first speaker to begin the afternoon session was Connie Post, a well-known showroom and retail store designer.

Connie looked at the almost entirely male audience and said, "OK gentlemen, listen up. Today I'm going to teach you to think like a girl." This opening line got the immediate and undivided attention of the audience.

While we had been having lunch, Connie had placed several home magazines at each person's place. Following her opening remark she asked us to quickly leaf through the pages of each magazine, and fold the corner of the page if there was a picture of furniture or accessories on it.

"If you will look through all these pictures you will find common style and design themes, colors, finishes, and fabrics. Now you will know what women are looking for when they buy furniture."

Women get most of their decorating ideas from looking through these magazines. They are stimulated by what they see in the photographs and mentally start to decorate their home. My wife, like many other women, will tear out the page of the magazine when she sees an accessory, or a room decorated in a manner that catches her eye. She has several file folders of ideas she has gleaned from these magazines. I am told this is a rather common practice.

Connie's suggestion to manufacturers is to look through the home magazines on a regular basis to make sure we are incorporating the styles, finishes and colors that women see in our designs. Doesn't this sound like good, basic marketing?

I once attended a seminar made up of female retailers and female manufacturers who each offered their views on how to market to women. Here's what these ladies had to say about marketing to the female psyche: First, have a conversation with your customer. Try to find out her needs with openings such as: "Who is going to use this room?" or "What other furniture and colors do you have in this room?"

Today's successful sales person moves from being purely transactional to understanding that emotions govern the buying decision, particularly with women.

Most men approach color in a different way. Women react emotionally and intuitively. When a man shops for furniture, he has a goal: get in there and get out. He thinks of functionality, style and cost. So does a woman but in a different way.

The secret to effective marketing is to appeal to the needs of both men and women. IKEA uses this technique very effectively on their hangtags. On one side of the tag are the price and a few selling points. On the other side is more detailed information, such as foam density and other construction features that might appeal to the husband.

Instead of giving the customer "visual candy" when they walk in the store we stuff as much furniture as we can on the retail floor that amounts to nothing more than "visual noise." Women relate better to room settings.

For many people there's a fear factor to overcome in buying furniture. One retailer told me: "I see people wearing leather coats on their backs that cost more than the sofa they are looking at - yet they don't equate the similarity."

However, another retailer sad she had to mark up the upholstery furniture in her store because he customer won't pay less than US$1099. "These customers are not shopping price, they are shopping a REASON TO BUY."

This recalls some time-tested advice: In today's highly competitive marketplace the most important skill we can develop is LISTENING TO OUR CUSTOMER.

Joe Carroll, former publisher of Furniture/Today, is now president of McNeill Communications, a High Point based agency specializing in marketing, advertising and public relations. He can be reached at

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