Selling to Women Business Owners - with Gerry Myers
The Myers Group
Michael Platt: Gerry Myers is President of the Myers Group, a Texas-based firm that specializes in marketing and selling more effectively to the female consumer. As an author, consultant, professional speaker and trainer, Myers works nationally and internationally with companies to understand the purchasing power of today's women and how to best meet their needs. She advises corporations on the motivation, trends, gender specific traits and buying habits of women, as well as creates a more a more female-friendly work environment by developing Women's Advisory Boards and other internal and external programs.
Considered an expert in her field, Myers has written articles for, been featured in, quoted in, or spoken for Broker World, Independent Agent, Mirabella, Elle, Working Woman, Lifetime Television, Marketing News, American Demographics, The Financial Post, Honolulu Weekly, Women's Enterprise, and numerous other publications, as well as, a guest on a variety of radio and TV talk shows. In addition, Myers is the author of “Targeting the New Professional Woman: How to Market and Sell to Today's 57 Million Working Women” and is currently working on her second book, “Understanding the Opposite Sex by Walking in Their Shoes.” Gerry, thank you for joining us today.
Gerry Myers: It's a pleasure to be here.
The women's market, especially women business owners, is a tremendous and growing market segment. Women today are different from their mothers and grandmothers. They are taking responsibility for their lives and their financial independence.
According to Tom Peters, American women are the Largest National Economy on Earth, larger than the entire Japanese economy. Last year women earned in excess of a trillion dollars. 65% of women are projected to earn an income in 2000 double 1960. Women spend in excess of $3.3 trillion annually. More than 47% of Americans with assets of half a million dollars and more than 1/3 of people with wealth in excess of $5 million are women.
One reason for their increased wealth and occupational levels is their educational achievements. More than 1/3 of medical and Ph.D. graduates, 40% of law students and 55% of university enrollment are women.
Women business owners are an increasing important segment. WBO generate $3.6 trillion in revenue annually. In 1987, WBO employed 6.6 million workers; by 1999, that figure had climbed to 27.5 million workers. They employ 35% more workers than all the Fortune 500 combined worldwide. One in four workers are employed by a WBO. Half of all new jobs in this country are created by WBO.
On the flip side, 75% of the elderly poor are women. Nine out of ten women will be responsible for managing their own finances at some point in their lives. Given their traditional investing and savings patterns, women retiring in the next 20 years will have less than one-third the income they need to live comfortably. According to Money magazine, only 6% of women are confident they will live their golden years in comfort.
Men and women are different in their financial responsibilities and views. Women do more research on financial matters than men and generally handle the day-to-day household finances, while men buy investments more impulsively and generally do the family taxes.
Men and women see money differently. Men view money as status, a game, and a way to keep score. Women see money as security for their future. They fear the Bag Lady Syndrome.
As investors, men assume they know more than they do; women assume they know less. When successful in their financial endeavors, men credit their own cleverness; women attribute it to smart advisor or luck. When they loss money, men blame the incompetence of their advisors, women blame themselves.
Michael Platt: The "uninitiated" would presume that selling to a female business owner should be no different than selling to a male business owner. Is it these preferences that make the difference??
Gerry Myers: Yes, they see things differently. They want to build relationships and value their treatment more. Women and men communicate differently. Women share much more information with many more people than men do. Women value extraordinary treatment and professional service. They want a relationship with the people they do business with. They want someone with integrity and product knowledge that they can trust. It is important to realize that little things matter to women. How they are treated, if you take them seriously, if you value them as a client and let them know, etc.
Accountants should target women because they:
Michael Platt: Does that translate into the desire to have more women as part of your referral network?
Gerry Myers: Yes it is very important to have women as part of a referral network. They actually refer more than men do.
Women business owners are a particularly attractive group. Their numbers and wealth are increasing and they have multiple financial and accounting needs. These include succession planning, bookkeeping, audits, tax work, P&L statements, budget development, capital expansion funding, 401K plans, pension plans, investment and retirement options, trust funds, mergers and acquisitions, ongoing consultation, etc.
There are many myths surrounding women and women business owners. One is if your practice aggressively targets women, you will lose male customers. Nothing has proven to be further from the truth.
Other very dangerous myths are: there is no difference between marketing to women and to men; women aren't a viable market; and men can't sell accounting services successfully to women. These myths are merely excuses when firms are not targeting women and WBO aggressively and successfully. However, by not targeting women and WBO, they are leaving a lot of money on the table.
Max: Are you a CPA, sir? What is your expertise please in discussing this topic?
Gerry Myers: I am not a CPA, but a marketing specialist. I am also a woman.
Vickey Johnson: How do we find the female business owner?
Gerry Myers: NAWBO--National Association for Women Business Owners is one way. They have chapter is in most major cities. They have monthly meetings and many have corporate partner programs. My company works strictly in the field of marketing and selling to women. We work with many large companies. For instance, Ford, New York Life, ClubCorp, General Motors, financial planners, banks, etc. I have written a book, “Targeting the Woman's Market” that was published in 1994. I speak at numerous meetings.
Create materials that feature professional women as your clients--brochures, newsletters, etc. It is important for accountants to show women in ads, brochures, newsletters, etc. Accountants/accounting firms who are successful with women, think outside the box. They develop a game plan or strategy to attract and retain women clients.
Max: Specifically, what do you recommend as a systematic plan of action to sell to women? All of this info is nice but we need specifics.
I will get to some more specifics in a minute.
Gerry Myers: They understand the basic and diverse needs of women; establish one-on-one relationships; ask questions, then listen; are honest and upfront about fees and costs; Accounting firms need to be female-friendly and aggressively hire and promote women. To reach women and WBO, they should get involved in community issues, professional organizations and women-oriented events. They can speak at WBO and executive women's meetings, write columns, target direct mail pieces, customize brochures and provide meaningful educational seminars.
Does that answer your question?
When serving women, accountants need to remember, it is better to build rapport and relationships rather than to focus on selling products and services; and listen rather than doing all the talking. Women are a loyal, underserved, enormous market. Their wealth is increasing.
Max: Okay, I see that featuring women in brochures, etc, would be indeed valuable. Then what?
Gerry Myers: Attend a NAWBO meeting. Get to know the women in the organization. Participate in community events that target women. Look for trade shows that target women or small business owners and have a booth, be a speaker. Put on seminars that deal with things important to women in business. Co-sponsor with a bank that has WBO as a priority Wells Fargo and Bank One both have women initiatives. Use their mailing list as a combined effort.
Michael Platt: Gerry: would female-to-female sales efforts work better than male-to-female sales efforts? Or does it matter?
Gerry Myers: It generally doesn't matter. What women want is someone they can relate to and trust. That is knowledgeable. Someone that helps them get loans if they need capital. That has contacts and referrals they share. Someone that helps them develop a business plan or financial statement if they need that.
There are millions of successful WBO and high-level executive women who have multiple accounting needs. You just have to look for them, work with them and provide excellent service and services. Does anyone out there have a significant number of WBO clients? If so, share with us how you got them?
Michael Platt: Gerry, a number of our readers have significant niches in WBO. Can you comment on the tactic of assigning women to develop these niches versus assigning men?
Michael Platt: What kind of practices do the rest of you have for attracting WBO? Leesa? Max?
Gerry Myers: Women tend to relate to women more because they form relationships first and seek business second. This doesn't mean that a lot of women aren't very good business owners. They are. Many are running multi-million dollar companies but women value relationships. In business they also want to be taken seriously. Many feel they still aren't.
A male accountant who is sensitive to the differences can work extremely well with women.
If I was assigning someone to develop the niche as you asked, I would probably choose a woman if possible.
Michael Platt: A lot of what you discussed is good advice for client relationships in general. Is there a specific tactic to take -- or to avoid -- to ensure the business relationship with a WBO will be successful?
Michael Platt: Any advice on what should be avoided when dealing with WBO?
Gerry Myers: You are absolutely right. Most of what I talk about will enhance your relationship with men clients as well. However, women are more sensitive to their treatment. If you are in a meeting with two partners--a man and a woman, you need to speak equally to both. Sometimes women feel neglected in meetings and that can lose you business.
Don't assume they are either financially literate or illiterate. Ask them questions to determine where they are. Then LISTEN. Most WBO feel that they are not listened to enough. Make your recommendations based on her needs. Try to partner. Your recommendations should come across as recommendations, but they should include a lot of input. Partnership is the key. Don't just tell WBO what they must do. Respect their time. They are usually busy juggling many tasks.
Mike, do you work with many WBO?
Michael Platt: Many of the accounting firms that we deal with have a significant number of female partners. Many are trying to develop WBO niches
Gerry Myers: Another thing is listen to the women in the firm. Get their opinions. Ask them for women they know in business. Also, ask your present women clients and WBO for referrals. If they are happy with your services, they will be happy to refer to you. A woman client who is not a WBO probably knows several, especially if she is an executive woman.
Michael Platt: We are approaching the end of the hour. Are there any other questions for Gerry that she has not addressed yet?
Gerry Myers: I have really enjoyed being with you today and hope you have gained some valuable insights.
Leesa Petrie: Thanks Gerry and Mike. The session was most informative.
Michael Platt: Gerry, any final thoughts?
Gerry Myers: WBO are a dynamic, growing group who have many financial services needs. Good luck. They are well worth the effort.
Michael Platt: Gerry, thanks again. We appreciate your insight!