According to Marti Barletta, author of Marketing to Women and PrimeTime Women, when men and women buy as partners, women control at least four out of five stages of the purchasing process.
Five stages of the purchasing process
1. Kick-off – women
2. Research – women
3. Purchase – men
4. Ownership – women
5. Word-of-mouth – women
And further, Barletta notes that even though men are present and appear in control during the purchasing stage when they pull out the credit card or sign the contract, they are not really in control of that stage either – they just think they are. A lot happens way before then that actually determines the decision of what is bought.
Stage I – Kick-off
When deciding to buy, it is typically the woman who pulls the trigger to take action. Whether prompted by a friend, or a need or an advertisement, the woman initiates the thought and sets up for the next stage of investigation.
Stage II – Research
Once the decision has been made to make a purchase, it is the woman who does research to develop the short list. She may begin with numerous options, but she is very detail oriented as she narrows the field. “Before women go shopping, they go CROPing, or looking for CRedible OPinions,” maintains Kelley Skoloda, Partner and Director of Ketchum’s Global Brand Marketing Practice. They consult with close friends and family, as well as experts, Web social networking, local news and magazines. Once she feels she has investigated all of her options thoroughly, she compiles the short list or makes a final decision.
It is this list or choice that she shares with the man. So if your product or service doesn’t make it on this list, it is very unlikely it will be considered when it comes time to make the purchase. After all of the research and time she has put into it, she typically knows exactly what she wants.
Stage III – Purchase
Most companies focus on the purchase stage because that is what they are exposed to. Because this is the only stage they witness, marketers and salespeople have the impression that the since the man pulls out the credit card or signs the contract, he is leading the process. This is especially on big-ticket items. But interestingly, Barletta would argue that this is the least actionable stage. All of the work has already been done. Although it appears the man is in control, women will actually step back so as to not correct or address conflicting thoughts in front of others. This mistakenly further verifies the sales person’s misconception that the man is actually in control of the purchase.
Stage IV – Ownership
For the post purchase stage, women are the ones who pay the bills, make the health care appointments, deal with the warranties, arrange the vacation, etc. They will judge companies by how their products or services perform, but should there be a problem they are quick to judge by how their situations are dealt with. One thing to keep in mind at this stage is to love your whiners. Customers who have had a complaint resolved are more likely to use you again as well as more likely to tell others good things about you. Customer service is the new sales.
Stage V – Word-of Mouth
Understanding the value in solving problems during the ownership stage leads to powerful word-of-mouth advertising. But contrary to popular belief, women are actually more reluctant to give a referral than men are. Because women tend to keep personal and business separate, they take giving a referral much more seriously. Men do business with friends all the time, but women need a reason to give a referral–something worth talking about.
If women feel strongly enough about a product, service or company they will recommend you, and because they take this role so seriously, they will be convincing. And then the cycle begins. When they talk, another woman’s buying cycle is kicked off, research begins and so on. Make sure you are paying attention to all of the stages.