Once upon a time, when the world was very young, people looked out at the horizon, shaded their eyes with their hand, and nodded. Yep, they said. Flat. Then, along comes Christopher Columbus who, despite finger-pointing and laughter at his folly, sets sail out of Spain to discover...a new world. We know he had the last laugh because he did not fall off the edge of the earth as everyone predicted. He didn't discover gold, either, which is what I think he was after, but as poet Robert Burns would remind us, "the best laid plans of mice and men, often go asunder. "
My point, which I may have dulled by floating along like a piece of driftwood in the Pacific, is that sometimes seeing is not believing. Let me be more specific. When the business world decided this "Internet" thing wasn't merely a fad, that e-commerce could actually be profitable, it begat the dot-bomb crash, which begat the more thoughtful approach to sales and marketing we have today. Yet, because online marketing is still pretty much unchartered territory, much like the new world Columbus "discovered" back in 1492, success continues to elude many new businesses who set up shop online.
Their problem is that they are ignoring a gigantic part of the online market. The women's market. (Now we get into the good stuff). The women's market is getting lip-service by some offline brands, but online, women are still treated as second to men. Yet, there are hundreds of women's communities online, full of thousands of women. Places women go to get advice, community, and networking,and respect.
Dottie Enrico, the IT Director of Better Homes and Gardens online, is a case in point. Her introduction to an online community came when she was adopting a child from Korea and couldn't find a group offline to share her concerns with. She calls the Internet a "mobile society" and she admits that while the BHG.com site markets to men through home improvement advice and how-to books, the majority of visitors are women; women who come for the community and the attention BHG gives them.
Better Homes and Gardens is a familiar name to baby boomer women. For the record, the U.S. Census bureau says that families where women are the head of the household rose from 10.7% in 1970, to 17.8% in 1998. Put together with the fact that 60% of women today are employed outside the home, it's easy to see that women should be a focus of your online marketing. They are not merely shopping for booties, slippers, shoes, or lipstick. They're shopping for household items, cars, houses, computers, furniture, financial services, and so much more. These are boomers and seniors, and according to Clickz (which used to be Cyberatlas) they should command a lot of respect because many of them have invested wisely and they now own their homes outright, both of which gives them significant buying power.
Let's look at Moms. Moms can be any age from 18-80. A report by comparison shopping site Bizrate noted in April of 2003, that Moms go online to do many different things. Things like: research information, research purchases, and...shop. In fact, the Online Publishers Association, in a 24 page white paper distributed in January of this year, writes about the proliferation of computers in the home, computers with wireless networking. The white paper says, " One woman--my bolding--reported that she had purchased a computer for the kitchen when the family decided to install a wireless network. While the main Web computer was in a downstairs den, she wanted Web access in the kitchen, where she spent a great deal of her time."
The moral of the story is: the world is not flat, my friends. If you continue marketing only to men, your sales message may fall flat on its face. Round out your focus. Sell to the woman with a wireless computer connection in her kitchen! If you do, she'll tell all her friends, and they'll tell their friends, and so on and so on. And that, my friend, is called viral marketing. Without sneezes.