Follow the purchasing power

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by Al Wahnon

I had dinner with a friend, a retired floor covering industry executive. We meet from time to time and, as is our wont, we drift into discussions about our industry, the people, the companies, the progress. He believes retailers can do a more professional job increasing store traffic and closing more sales. Really? Yes, he said, it’s a matter of focusing on the right target, aiming at a specific goal rather than marketing to a random audience. Why don’t the marketing mavens realize older women are the most influential and affluent demographic in the country? Women 50 and older have the most purchasing power and they control or direct 80% of all purchases of both consumer and business goods and services. My friend slid back in the plump black leather armchair and mused, those “mature” women not only disproportionately decide where a family’s funds will be spent, they also have sole or joint ownership of 87% of homes and buy 61% of home improvement products—that includes floor coverings. Our retailers should know this and press the advantage. These women are bright, resourceful, he said. Did you know they start 70% of all new businesses? I didn’t. They are more sophisticated, more savvy and tough to fool, he added. He explained they are not easy to reach. You have to play on their terms.

My friend listed seven steps to gain the confidence and patronage of women 50 and older:

1) Be straightforward. Any hint of duplicity and it’s over. These women are smart and they’ll see through you like a pane of glass. So, be honest; tell it like it is.

2) Do your homework. Expect questions and if you don’t have the answers, forget it. Before making a buying decision, they dig deep and expect to get the information they need, and if it’s not forthcoming, they move on and you lose the sale.

3) Don’t promise miracles or anything you can’t deliver. This is a pragmatic group and if you are less than realistic, they will detect it and their departure will reflect it. They don’t believe in sales offering discounts of 60%, 70%, 80%. They do believe in good value at a fair price.

4) It’s not necessarily about them. Classic communications strategy suggests that you find a connection with the prospect that offers her a personal benefit. Women in this group, however, are more likely to make buying decisions to benefit their children, their families or someone else.

5) Take them seriously, especially for serious products, which include floor coverings. To connect with them, you have to speak to them, not at them. They have little patience for meaningless chatter and relish candid explanations and sincere concerns for their welfare.

6) The details count. Don’t dole them out sparingly; be lavish with them. Women see things differently than men; they have better peripheral vision, literally, and they absorb lots of details. If they see something that’s amiss, it sets off an alarm and they become disenchanted. That surely will diminish your chance of making a connection.

7) And ultimately, that is the goal, making a connection. A retailer’s focus and commitment is all about making that important association. The vital link between the customer and the merchant is essential to making the sale. These women will ask you for all the details on why your product or service is better, but that’s not what drives them. They’ll also be asking if they can trust you, if you understand them, and if you have their interests at heart. If you can say yes, yes, yes, you’re perfectly positioned to annex the lucrative market of mature women.

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