Thinking Pink?
Rushika Bhatia
SME Telecom

Thinking Pink?

Be forewarned:
Pinky pinky donkey Woe betides any small business owner or marketer who does not have a purposeful business strategy targeting women. I have often noted that small business owners and SME marketers ignore this most important macro segment.

Most assume that glossing pink all over their business premises or marketing collateral is all they have to worry about when marketing to and targeting women. Going pink is not a business strategy! SME owners and marketers should ensure that their propositions and services are targeted to meet the unique needs of women. This is not about a pretty colour!

My observations
I have observed that in many small businesses and even large companies, the folks responsible for marketing, sales and overall business leadership are almost always overwhelmingly more male.

If you do not believe me, look around – the majority of owners, marketers, creative folks, advertising, design teams, product development, sales and service teams and others are all mainly men, especially in certain regions. Does this make sense? Why is this so? Aren’t we all missing something here?

Men really don’t get it nor do they understand the unique needs and perspectives of women. They assume that they could get away with just plastering pink all over the place and putting girlie stuff around, and that is enough to woo women to their business.

This reminds me of a quote: “A woman can say more in a sigh than a man can say in a sermon.” Imagine that sigh reverberating across the world of social networks and you get the picture. Ignore your women customers at your peril.

Why is it relevant?
SME owners and marketers should know that there are major global demographic, social, economic and technology shifts and marketing trends that are altering the traditional landscapes of small businesses. Understanding these changes is essential to the survival of your business and therefore the sustainability of your business model.

Demographic trends
Look around you! There is a one in two chance that you will see a member of the “fairer sex”. Women make up about 48% of the population in the world. What this means is that one out of every two potential consumers for a small business is a woman.

Look at most businesses of any size. I am flabbergasted as to how we cannot represent in the workplace of any business, some level of proportionality to the female population around us!

I am sure that you would also agree that, ignoring or not, really understanding half of your potential customers is definitely not a good business strategy.

In some age groups, globally women make up much more than half of that population group. In the over 65 years in age group, women make up about 56% of the population. This could be explained due to women’s longer life expectancy. This means that older women are healthier and more active in later life than men. In many developed and developing economies, women over 50 have evolved from being a homemaker to being a purchaser of high ticket items.

This is not surprising and makes perfect sense as, once the college tuitions fees are paid and their kids move out, these older but healthier and empowered women have a much higher disposable income.

Who makes the purchasing decisions? Who rules the roost?
Globally, women decide, influence or account for about at least 85% of all purchases. This includes large ticket items like houses, cars, and the selection of healthcare and financial services providers as well as white goods and more.

Most men, (despite their personal experiences as a partner and or husband), assume that this is only for household and food items. This is certainly not true. In fact women make the decisions or highly influence the purchase decision in almost anything ranging from vacations to the purchase of technology items like PCs, to over-the-counter pharmaceuticals. This is not a truism for the developed economies alone; this is true for any part of the world. Women exert a high influence on any purchase.

Therefore, if you are a small business owner or marketer retailing or distributing almost any item, it makes sense for you to pay special attention to women.

Women in the workforce
All over the world, from Dubai to Dhaka to Dallas, the number of women entering the work force is increasing. What this means for SMEs is that women have independent and more disposable incomes and that they can spend more than ever before.

This also means that women have less time with their family. This has implications on how a small business meets the needs of household goods and grocery items versus “stuff” like clothes, handbags, perfumes and the like that women buy or use for their personal use.

This also means that SMEs must differentiate the experience when women shop during work days versus the weekends. Given their lack of time and hectic schedules; balancing home and work life, affordability, convenience and efficiency, should almost always rule the design of any proposition, when women shop for their household or “personal” items. It would also be wise to note that women do appreciate their “me time”. Shopping during their “me time” will require businesses to ensure designing a different experience.

Decreasing birth rates and increasing divorce rates
There are two other important and often ignored demographic trends that businesses should note. They are the decreasing birth rates and increasing divorce rates in developed and developing economies. What this means for the small business owner or marketer is that the women have more time for or by themselves, higher disposable income and lesser influence by a third party. Women are more detailed oriented

Women are more detailed oriented than men.
They look at the nuances of a sale, a deal or an offer. This is a double-edged sword for businesses. As an SME, you will have a better chance of success at promoting discounts, coupons and trade-ins. It is a known fact that women are more likely to use coupons than men. However, if your proposition design is incomplete, they would also see the flaws in it.

Women are digital
Most women in the developed and developing economies are digitally savvy. They use the Internet for shopping, keeping in touch with their friends through e-mails and instant messaging, and are very active on social networks. This has a lot of implications for SMEs; the obvious one is that they have a huge potential online shopper base. Given that women nurture relationships with friends better than men, they are more likely to pass on deals or savings that they have come across to their friends.

Women are more appreciative of a business’s intent to serve them better. Therefore women are more like to respond positively to requests to serve on a select online product or service panels.

This is important for a small business owner or marketer as women are not only your best chance for referrals but they can better help you improvise your proposition to serve them better.

Women are more loyal customers than men

Women focus on relationships better than men. Women see themselves as interdependent and more connected then men. They will put in extra efforts to connect with people, society or even a business. Women focus on maintaining a relationship more than men. Businesses have a better chance of promoting loyalty-based propositions to women than men.

Women are more likely than men to give a business a second chance than men. Women do not give loyalty to an organisation but rather to people in the organisation. This has huge implications for SMEs, who have a better chance of having close relationships with their customers than large organisations. SME marketers should ensure that they treat women as individuals and encourage one-on-one interaction.

However, small business owners must be aware that retaining key service employees must be an integral part of their strategy.

Women feel misunderstood
Research has shown that women feel misunderstood in most marketing campaigns ranging from food to healthcare, automobiles and financial services. This is a tremendous opportunity for SMEs to garner insights and develop propositions that women understand and need.

The last word
Any business that ignores purposeful, structured and targeted marketing to women is making a huge mistake. Most SMEs have a tremendous opportunity and potential to market to women, irrespective of their product or service categories.

A good start would be to hire more women in your workforce. Men don’t really understand women and women feel that most marketers miss the mark.

So whatever your business, do ensure that your business strategy and personal leadership takes women into account.

As someone said: “Women get the last word in any argument. Anything a man says after that is the beginning of a new argument.”

John Lincoln has over 20 years telecommunications experience in the USA, Japan, Europe, India, Dubai, Malaysia, Latin America and various other countries. He has extensive senior expertise in international telecommunications sales, marketing, business development and customer service delivery. John also has executive experience with general management, marketing, P&L, product development and revenue management responsibilities in both consumer and enterprise segments for both the fixed and mobile sectors. In addition John has an impressive operational and management portfolio of established proven expertise in incremental business value creation and management of large multi-cultural teams in Vodafone Global in the UK, Japan Telecom in Tokyo, AirTouch and Pacific Bell (now AT&T) in San Francisco and Tokyo, Airtel in Delhi and other telecom and technology companies. Additionally he has extensive large scale business development, M&A and operational project experience across the USA, Europe, Asia and Latin America. John has an MBA and MS in Telecommunications from the Golden Gate University in San Francisco, California, USA. You can find John’s personal blog at com. He can be contacted via:, Twitter: @lincolnjc.