If Women Are A Target Market, So Are Men

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You’ve seen the stats. Women already control most of the wealth in America, and our share is only going up (1). Boomer women have started inheriting their husbands’ assets. Millennial women are outpacing men in academic achievement (2). So, if you’re an advisor looking to ramp up growth, it makes sense to target women as clients, right?

Wrong.

If you’re a guy, turn this around for a moment. Imagine you get a phone call from some other kind of professional advisor you might consider hiring—say, an attorney, or a CPA, or a small business IT consultant. The voice on the phone explains the offering, and then tells you, “I think you’ll definitely like our tech support, because we specialize in serving male advisors.” What does that even mean? Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?

Women are not a “target market”. Besides their gender, they share no more relevant commonalities than their male counterparts. A woman investor could be accumulating or decumulating. Her biggest worry might be setting up her first adult budget, or finding ways to generate income in retirement. She could be risk-averse, or risk-happy.

What does gender actually tell you?
Gender tells you very little about how a given individual makes buying decisions.

Let me give you an example. It’s becoming a “thing” for financial businesses to target female entrepreneurs—as if we all think alike. Well, I’m a female entrepreneur. So is Angie Herbers, whom you may know from FourPointe Consulting, Investment Advisor and ThinkAdvisor. I am fortunate to know Angie personally, and she’s absolutely awesome. However, I can tell you we have completely different approaches to making decisions. We would never, ever choose the same advisor.

In fact, I don’t even make decisions the same way my own sisters do. I’m from a family of three girls. My older sister is a teacher with three kids, and her biggest dilemma is cash flow planning, budgeting for her family, and buying a house. My younger sister works for Google as a recruiter and has her first baby on the way. She wants to know what account to tap for childcare expenses, and how to maximize her company incentives. I’m a business owner. I’ve worked since I was 15, I’ve always been interested in finance and always paid attention to what’s in my savings account. I am very process driven and perform careful due diligence, but am quick to make informed decisions. My sisters and I would never choose the same advisor. If you can’t get the three of us to agree just because we’re women, how are you going to get 51% of the population to want the same thing?

The right way to do it
So, the question isn’t how you can target women. The question is, what kind of women are you the right advisor for?

Before you can answer that question, you need to start where I always tell you to start: your ideal client persona. Look at your top clients—the ones with the longest tenure. Why have they stayed with you for so long? Their longevity isn’t due to investment performance. No; it’s because you solved their unique problems in a way that no one else could. Given the way they make decisions, you were the best match. And anyone who makes decisions the same way would probably choose you as well. That’s how to define your target.

If you decide to market to women, look for people whose problems you’re uniquely qualified to solve. Young, time-starved millennials in tech. Financial decision makers who aren’t in the workplace. Armed services veterans who want to take advantage of government preferences offered to women- and veteran-owned businesses. Retired educators looking for income.

Those are the kinds of individuals you can target. Not “women.”

1. BMO Wealth Institute, 2015.
2. National Center for Education Statistics.