Marketing to a specific gender can be politically sensitive in 2023. As society crawls towards equality between men and women, this is also being reflected in marketing. Gone are the days of a general acceptance of misogynistic messaging in adverts (and good riddance). In its place are the basics of marketing: choosing a target audience and ensuring you are communicating with them clearly.
On International Women’s Day 2023, this post considers the importance of segmenting your market and why women can be a crucial segment for financial services to target.
As easy as STP
When devising a successful marketing plan, it goes without saying that finding the right audience is a crucial part of the process. Before creating any kind of marketing material, you should always consider who you are marketing to.
Segmentation is the first stage of STP, an easy three-step process that can be useful when developing a marketing plan. Segmentation is all about grouping together customers with similar needs in order to determine their characteristics. Women (or men) could represent a segment, just as high-net-worth (HNW) people or urban dwellers might. It is common to end up with more specific targets, such as HNW women – or even HNW urban women.
A clearly defined segment helps you focus your messaging and imagery and decide where to market for maximum efficiency. Of course, segmentation is not the same as saying ‘all women want X’, just as it does not mean ‘all urban dwellers like Y.’ Using STPs is simply a (very helpful) way to focus your marketing attentions.
After segmentation comes targeting, which involves choosing the segment of customers you want to focus on. And, finally, positioning means creating a value proposition that will appeal to your selected segment. Let’s break that down a bit further.
Speak to your audience
Your chosen target audience might be based on factors such as geography, demographics or behaviour, all of which can also overlap. Once your audience has been defined and selected, you need to create the right marketing materials for the group you are targeting. Positioning your brand in such a way that it attracts the right customers requires skill and perseverance.
If you are aiming at women, how can you make sure you are speaking to them? How can you make sure that when they see your brand, they feel like they are the intended audience?
First, by knowing how your chosen segment consume media and marketing, as well as understanding in which forms they are most receptive to it. Second, by understanding which sorts of messages they respond best to and making a genuine effort to engage with issues that are relevant and important to them. And third, by crafting quality marketing materials that demonstrate your knowledge of and commitment to your target audience.
On International Women’s Day 2023, let’s look at how financial services can consider women as a key segment in their marketing strategy.
The financial habits of women
Women have long been underserved by financial services. From the outset, women are hampered by societal norms: the gender pay and pensions gaps limit women’s lifetime earnings and make them less financially resilient than they should be. Women are more likely to take a career break to be a parent or carer than men, a decision that can have a major impact on earnings and pensions.
Indeed, according to a study from Phoenix Insights and the Institute for Employment Studies, just one in three women who reduced their weekly working hours considered the impact on their monthly workplace pension contributions, while a similar percentage also thought about how reducing their hours would influence their overall pension pot.
As well as earning less, women generally take less risks with their money. Women are less likely to invest their money than men: internal staff research at Natwest showed 55% of women do so, compared with 80% of men. Not investing comes from mentality as much as means: of the non-investors, 47% of women felt they could afford to invest, compared with around a third of men.
As well as investing less, women have been shown to be more financially responsible than men. A survey by eToro found that men (£65 a month) spend more money on impulse purchases than women (£54 a month), with the latter more likely to set a budget and stick to it. Similarly, women are more prudent savers: the median savings balance for women is 79% of the median balance for men, according to a report by Nest Insight and Vanguard. After adjusting for earnings, however, women have higher median contributions and higher median account balances than their male counterparts.
Despite being better at budgeting, however, women generally feel more anxious about covering bills and household costs. A study by the British Psychological Society found that women are more concerned by the cost-of-living crisis than men, with 61% of women stating that they were more anxious about paying bills than they were a year ago, compared with 47% of men. Women (77%) were more likely to worry about affording household costs over the coming year than men (65%).
Why financial services need to target women
The gap between potential and actual investors brings into relief a market that remains neglected. On top of the structural disadvantages that women face in the workplace, the financial services industry is geared towards the male customer by default. When promoting financial services products, providers that haven’t taken women into account as a major target demographic have exacerbated the divide.
In short, women are a major segment that your marketing strategy could be missing out on. First, because women account for 70-80% of all consumer spending. Even for spending that women do not transact directly, they are often heavily involved in deciding how a household budget is divided.
Second, because there is an ever-growing number of wealthy women. By 2025, 60% of the UK’s wealth is expected to be in the hands of women, according to Barclays. Likewise, more investment is flowing into female-founded start-ups. Between 2011 and 2018, the share of startups raising equity that were founded by women rose from 11% to 21%.
How financial advisers can market to women
In this context, forgetting to tailor your marketing plan for women does not make sense. When deciding how to market your services, it is important to:
- Understand your audience
This can be split into two stages. First, what is your current audience? And second, what would you like your audience to be?
If you currently have a male-dominated client base, this could be because of how you have advertised your services in the past. Your male clients might also be more likely to refer more men to you. That’s not a problem in itself – but it does mean that you could be missing out on potential female clients.
Think about whether your current audience is well positioned to support your overall strategy. For example, it could be that you are missing out on female clients because, by relying on referrals, you have not made an active effort to speak to women. To address this imbalance, you could directly target women.
- Demonstrate your knowledge
At the heart of your marketing, you need to prove to people why they should trust you with their money. To develop this relationship of trust, it is crucial to prove that you understand your audience’s needs.
One way to target a campaign towards women is to highlight your knowledge of their specific requirements. For example, mentioning the gender pay or pensions gaps shows that you are more likely to understand the financial situation of your female clients. If you demonstrate your (genuine) engagement to fighting gender inequality, you are saying something about your values and proving to women that you are knowledgeable and passionate about helping them with their finances.
- Avoid stereotypes
Having identified your audience, you might quickly come up with examples of how that demographic behaves. It might sound obvious but it’s important to make these ideas don’t tip into stereotype.
Stereotypes in advertising can have a negative impact by showing that your engagement with the consumer type is superficial. By relying on lazy generalisations, you are showing that your knowledge of their needs is limited – and you might offend your target audience to boot.
Women have been portrayed with abundant stereotypes over the years. Always using the colour pink as shorthand for all things female has (thankfully) fallen out of fashion, but other stereotypes endure. Whether it’s a busy mum doing household chores or a cheerful retiree pottering around her well-spruced garden, certain advertisers continue to reduce women to familiar and domestic roles.
Instead of falling back on stereotype, think about what you are actually trying to say to your target audience and how you can add value to their lives.
How TOMD can help
Making your brand well suited to your target audience is one of the first pillars of successful marketing. Gender, like any other demographic, should be considered as a key segment of a well-constructed marketing strategy. Taking gender into account in a way that is meaningful and productive, while steering clear of lazy stereotype, can help position your brand for success.
At TOMD, we are a diverse team of women and men here to help with your every marketing need. Whatever demographic your company is targeting, our expert marketers can help you identify your audience, build your brand and communicate your knowledge. Get in touch today – phone 01279 657555 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.