August 23, 2010
Nation's Building News

The Official Online Weekly Newspaper of NAHB

Women Home Buyers, a Major Economic Force in the Industry, Have a Language All Their Own

The success of builders and remodelers depends on tapping into the economic power of women.

By Karen Dry and Linda Hebert

Rising female consumer power is changing the way companies design, make and market products — and it’s more than just adding pastels.

Women are a force not to be underestimated, pushing 80% of consumer spending in the U.S. alone.

They also are the deciding factor in 87% of all household purchases and, according to the marketing research firm Smith-Dahmer Associates, nearly 91% of all new home purchasing decisions are made or influenced by female buyers.

And should a man make the final purchasing decision, well, his tastes and buying influences are determined by how he was raised by his mother or other prominent women in his life.

Women are the driving force of our economy. According to Northwestern Mutual, high-net-worth women account for 39% of the country’s top wealth earners; 2.5 million of them have combined assets of $4.2 trillion. More than 1.3 million women professionals and executives earn in excess of $100,000 annually. Nearly half — 43% — of Americans with more than $500,000 in assets are female.

Over the next decade, women will control two-thirds of consumer wealth in the U.S. and be the beneficiaries of the largest transference of wealth in our country’s history, according to Claire Behar, senior partner and director at the public relations and marketing firm Fleishman-Hillard in New York. Estimates range from $12 trillion to $40 trillion.

Many boomer women will experience a double inheritance windfall from their parents and their husbands. Luxury branding resonates with boomer woman.

The biggest mistake often made by marketers — and 68% of marketing executives in the U.S. are men — is assuming they know what women want without even asking.

“If the consumer had a sex, it would be female,” says Bridget Brennan, author of “Why She Buys: The New Strategy for Reaching the World’s Most Powerful Consumers.” “If the business world had a sex, it would be male. And therein lies the pickle.”

Taking a woman-centric approach means designing from her perspective, Brennan says. “At its core, it means understanding the female so innately that you can actually anticipate what she wants even before asking — especially during the buying experience,” she says in her book.

If you want to coax a woman buyer to your new or remodeled home, you might want to ask several women their opinions about your building ideas before you even start to design your product.

The Language of Women Buyers

A woman’s experience with buying that home starts the minute she drives into the model home park and with the way the signage and the sales office make her feel.

Once inside the model, she will run her hand along the kitchen and bathroom countertops. She’ll open just about every door and drawer in the home and comment on how she anticipates using that space.

If you listen carefully, she’ll tell you exactly how she can —or more often, cannot — live in the home. She knows which window will have the most light in the morning. She’ll notice uneven steps and sliding doors placed in an area that would make it impossible for her kids to move around her furniture to get to the door to the backyard.

According to She-conomy.com, 91% of women feel that advertisers and marketers don’t understand them.

The following are six simple steps to take when marketing to women:

  • Use language that evokes feeling and thought. For example, describe a granite’s origin in a way that helps her visualize where it came from. Use words like, “Santa Cecilia granite, honed to perfection from the rich, fertile lands in central Brazil.”

    Don’t ever underestimate the power of description. She will probably use many of those same words when describing her new home's granite to friends over cocktails.

  • Use color and textures in your collateral. Unlike men, women will actually read every word of a marketing piece, hang on to it and show it to their friends. And, when they can’t find it on their desk or in the file, they’ll describe the piece as “this really cool brochure that has this beautiful artist’s rendering of my dream home on it.”

    They may or may not remember the name of the model complex — because they often see 20 or 30 of them — but they will remember the pieces they collected from the sales office as long as those pieces are equal to the experience they felt as they went through the model.

  • Engage all five senses. The experience of buying or remodeling a home is the most personal journey a woman encounters in her lifetime. If you want her to remember her experiences in your home, appeal to all five of her senses.

    Engaging her sight is imperative, followed by her keen sense of smell.

    You don’t just have to use candles as air fresheners — there are all types of air fresheners on the market that are sight unseen without being overpowering. Then invite her to touch everything. Let her explore the appliances and open the closet doors.

    Accentuate spaces in the home that give her ample storage. Have music playing throughout the home she’s visiting. Finally, to appeal to her sense of taste, have snacks she can nibble on available throughout her buying experience.

  • Do something extraordinary. Women like to be pleasantly surprised, so take ordinary activities and make them extraordinary.

    For instance, if your demographic has a high percentage of single working mothers or down-sizers, it’s likely they work long hours so hold your grand opening in the evening. Be sure to have candles in the rooms and offer her a glass of wine as she unwinds from her day.

    Or, if the demographic is primarily young families, have a reading of a children’s author at your grand opening and send the children home with autographed copies. She’ll never forget the effort — and she will tell all of her friends.

  • Educate her. Today’s woman wants to know how her house works. Show her where the electrical panel is and label each connection.

    If you are a green builder, showcase the process with see-through panels to show her the insulation. If you feature Energy Star products, give her the supporting material in your sales office.

  • Ask for her feedback. This is perhaps the scariest thing for a builder or remodeler to do, but your best return on staging or modeling your homes is finding out what you may have missed and, better yet, what you got right.

    If you’ve done a great job, ask if you can use her testimonial in your campaign. If you missed the mark, ask her back after you’ve incorporated some of her ideas.

    According to She-conomy.com, 51% of women buyers will give a company a second chance if they feel the product or service missed the mark the first time.

Finding Where Women Buyers Live

Now that we know who these influential buyers are, here are several statistics to help you reach her:

  • Over the past 10 years, the number of women ages 25-34 who were single or living with a significant other increased from 8% to 38%.

  • 55% of women spent time reading literature within the last year.

  • 61% of women influence household consumer electronic buying decisions, which totaled $90 billion dollars in 2007.

  • The percentage of women who had an undergraduate or graduate degree increased from 28% to 41% over the past 10 years.

  • A fourth of all products in a woman’s shopping cart are environmentally friendly, with 50% of all women saying they want more green choices; 37% of all women buyers say they pay attention to brands that are committed to environmental causes.

  • Women are sports fans, even sports that are typically considered male-only. Women purchase 46% of official NFL merchandise and spend 80% of all sport apparel dollars. They comprise about one-third (34%) of the adult audience for all ESPN sports event programs.

Armed with this information, it makes sense to do co-op marketing with industries that already have your buyer’s attention.

Many home builders go it alone, without ever considering that their buyer may actually respond better to being approached through an event co-sponsored by Barnes & Noble, a mommy blog on the Internet or at a university graduate program seminar.

It’s a good strategy because the woman buyer is not really a segmented buyer. Your marketing needs to acknowledge that a woman is a mother, friend, sister, business person and a female every day.

When you market to women, even if you’re trying to attract her “mommy” side, don’t forget she may be the CEO who has a tremendous influence over 30 other women in her company who may also be able to afford your new home.

Segmenting a woman buyer into a category without first treating her as a woman could be lethal to your marketing efforts.

Connect with women buyers. They like being part of the daily, on-going conversation available through blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networking sites. Builders would do well to offer a forum that will enable women to talk and share information with their friends, thereby increasing the marketing reach without much effort.

Blogs and forums that promote interaction are valuable marketing tools because women trust what they hear from other women. Twenty-two percent of women from the ages of 25 to 62 shop online at least once a day, and virtually all women will pass along information about great deals to others they care about. Women have, on average, 171 contacts in their e-mail address books; men average less than half that number.

With women being strongly identified as the principal shoppers in business and in the home, every core decision on building and marketing a home should have a woman’s input. It’s no wonder the most successful home builders have a female perspective on their design and marketing teams to help lead the way.

Karen Dry, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., is a financial representative with Northwestern Mutual Insurance Services. For more information, e-mail Dry.

Linda Hebert is president of Diversified Marketing & Communications, of Pleasanton, Calif. For more information, e-mail Hebert, or call her at 925-577-5300.

 This article originally was published in the spring issue of NAHB's Building Women Magazine.



‘Trillion Dollar Women’ Give Viewpoint, Objectives of Female Buyers

Though written for the female consumer, “Trillion Dollar Women: Use Your Power to Make Buying and Remodeling Decisions,” available at BuilderBooks.com, is a valuable resource for housing professionals to gain perspective on ways to better serve and market to this growing segment of customers.

According to a recent Harvard University study, women control 91% of home buying or remodeling decisions. “Trillion Dollar Women” provides builders and other housing professionals with a detailed look at the motivations, objectives and viewpoints of female buyers.

To view or purchase this publication online, click here, or call 800-223-2665.



‘Social Media for Home Builders’ Available at NAHB BuilderBooks

Social Media for Home Builders: It’s Easier Than You Think,” available at NAHB BuilderBooks, demonstrates the power of social media through case studies and online outlets created specifically for the home building industry.

Learn how to use social media sites to build your brand, engage new and existing consumers, manage your online reputation and sell more homes.

To view or purchase this publication online, click here, or call 800-223-2665.



In Today’s Market, 'Think Sold!' With Help From NAHB BuilderBooks

Think Sold! Creating Home Sales in Any Market,” available at NAHB BuilderBooks, is a practical, how-to guide for developing the self-awareness, knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the competitive field of new home sales.

The book covers everything from the home buying process and new home financing to strategies for making better sales presentations and sizing up the competition. It teaches readers how to overcome customers’ concerns and provides specific examples of how to explain the benefits of new home features in customer-friendly language.

“Think Sold” provides insights on how to approach sales and life from a position of optimism that will create successful outcomes; how to improve upon potential customer prospecting and follow-up skills; and how to communicate effectively with various types of buyers and learn how to adjust communication strategies to increase rapport and alignment with buyers’ motives.

To view or purchase this publication online, click here, or call 800-223-2665.

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