From the April 2008 issue of Entrepreneur

When women look at your advertising, do they see themselves? For decades, advertisers have depicted an idealized version of women. But now, women are looking for their true selves mirrored in advertisers' messages. So abandon outmoded and unattainable ideals and positively portray real women. Also, understand that female shoppers approach the buying process differently than men. It's not about dumbing down the message or coloring the campaign in shades of pink; it's about creating a campaign that reflects women the way they see themselves, plus following these important guidelines:

 

Show real benefits to real women. Women consumers are not monolithic, and an effective marketing campaign must be based on a clear understanding of your female prospects' unique characteristics. Look beyond basic demographics and discover their hobbies, their habits, and how, where and what they buy. Women make purchases based on the relationships they develop with your company or brand, so listening carefully and fostering an exchange with women customers is vital. Uncover what they really want from companies or products and services like yours, then communicate with them based on the issues or selling points they care about most.

 

Develop womencentric marketing methods. There are important characteristics that define a more feminized shopping experience. Value and price are critical, but they're often merely opening salvos in the decision-making process. Women tend to require more detailed information than men when considering a purchase, and that information is best received if presented on a peer-to-peer level, so address women from a "we" point of view. Expect women customers to look for deep content on your website, thoroughly examine the benefits of your products or services vs. those of your competitors, read product reviews and seek input from family, friends or co-workers.

 

Go for a complete makeover. Integrate these womencentric marketing methods into all your campaigns and materials. It's not enough to just add deeper content to your website or produce a few ads that target women. The best campaigns integrate their marketing messages across multiple channels and feature an equally fine-tuned sales effort. Work with your salespeople to incorporate this attitudinal and contextual change into day-to-day sales activities for a completely integrated approach.

Contact marketing expert Kim T. Gordon, author of Maximum Marketing, Minimum Dollars: The Top 50 Ways to Grow Your Small Business, at smallbusiness now.com. Her new e-book, Big Marketing Ideas for Small Budgets, is available exclusively from Entrepreneur at smallbizbooks.com.