Three biggest mistakes when marketing to women

“OMG – I can shop for a loan in my PJ’s, while drinking wine, so that I can go on a shopping trip with my girlfriends and buy new shoes and eat at nice restaurants and totally pamper myself!”

Said no woman, ever.

This is just one of the many reasons why New Zealand credit union NZCU Baywide didn’t get the accolades they were hoping for  after launching their Loans for Ladies” marketing campaign and microsite targeting female customers.

The name alone gives you some idea of what the problem was.  But let’s take a look at the Loans for Ladies  program and the three big mistakes they made in marketing to women.  We’ll also look at what does work when marketing credit unions to women.

Mistake #1 – Creating a “women only” product.

NZCU Baywide created a separate website “Loans for Ladies” for women applying for loans.  The first question women ask is, “How is this different from loans to men?”  Too often, these “Just for women” attempts come across as pandering rather than understanding.  It’s too easy to stereotype and appear condescending.  More on that next.

The one exception to this is financial education.  Women love to learn about finances with other women. They enjoy the safe space, non-judgmental atmosphere and camaraderie of learning about money with women like themselves.  See Summit Credit Union’s Red Shoes Program for an example of a successful educational program created specifically for women.

What DOES work

A better way to appeal to women is to incorporate what they want into a product or experience, rather than trying to create a whole separate experience just for women.

Look at everything through the eyes of your female customers, from your marketing material, to your sales process, to your branch décor.  She will be judging you on her entire experience, not just a one-off visit to a website.

Mistake #2 – Condescending to rather than connecting with women

The copy on this website is desperately trying to convey, “Hey, we get you girls! (wink).”  It seems they are going for a tongue-in-cheek approach, but it’s sending the wrong message.

Examples from the website:

“I went out for milk and bread and came home with new boots and a bag.”

“If your loan is approved you’ll be able to start making plans for your girls weekend away shopping, getting pampered and fine dining in Sydney.”

If you are a financial company who wants to reach out to women, do NOT portray them as being frivolous.  This will not end well for you.  Portray women as being smart.

What DOES work

If you want to connect with women, be relevant.

What are the top reasons why women get loans?  Reading the “Loans for Ladies” website one would think it is to go shopping, get pampered or go to dinner with your girlfriends.   My research shows the top reasons are:  To pay for a car or car repair, unexpected medical expenses, home improvements or to consolidate high interest credit card debt.

Look at the top reasons why people get a loan at your credit union, and talk about those reasons from a female point of view.   For example, a top reason for getting a loan might be to trade an old car for a newer more reliable one.   Car safety is very important to women.

Sample copy:

There’s a difference between getting as many miles out of your car as you can, and driving a car that isn’t safe.   A newer more reliable car may be more affordable than you think.

As a bonus, use an unexpected (aka non-stereotypical) image, like a mother looking under the hood of a car and showing her daughter how to check the oil.

Show women making smart decisions about their cars.  This will win you more business than portraying women as frivolous.

Mistake #3 – Stereotyping women

I’ve written before about the dangers of stereotyping women in your marketing material.

At best, women ignore marketing that contains stereotypes.  At worst, they are offended by it.

Example from website:

“Off with your bra, hair up, PJ’s on, pinot at the ready, laptop on your…erm, lap.  From applying to approval to funds in your account, there’s no need to leave the house.”

I laughed out loud, out loud I tell you, at this copy.   They managed to fit four stereotypes into one sentence.  Impressive.  While I do think there is merit in highlighting “shopping from the comfort of your own house,” I think it could be presented differently.

What DOES work

What are women’s top fears/desires when it comes to applying for a loan?   Their top fear is that they won’t qualify.  Another is that they don’t know what information they’ll need.   Another is that the process could take a lot of time and involve a whole lot of judgment.   Do they like to shop online?  Absolutely.  They can usually get more information with less sales pressure and less judgment.

So for women shopping for a loan, benefits to highlight include:  The entire process can be done online, quick approval process, simplified application process, all you need are the following documents…….

One more thing

One final piece of advice…just because the women in your office like something doesn’t mean your female customers will.  Loans for Ladies was created by a group of women.  I kid you not.  Test your ideas and material outside of your organization.

Marketing to women can be incredibly effective.  Just remember to portray women as being smart, not frivolous.  When you respect her, she’ll respect you.

Holly Buchanan

Holly Buchanan

Holly Buchanan is the author of Selling Financial Services to Women – What Men Need to Know and Even Women Will Be Surprised to Learn. She is the co-author of The ... Web: Details